The Risk of Oral Sex In Teenagers

Protecting Your Teen in the Age of Tinder

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In an age where dating apps like Tinder have facilitated a culture of no-hitch sexual encounters, teens as young as 14 have started to embrace many of the same behaviors. In fact, the teen app Yellow was accused in 2017 of allowing minors to swipe right to connect and swipe left to forget just like adults, normalizing sex-only encounters in a way previously thought inconceivable.

Today, teens who hook up for sex do not consider themselves to be either dating or in an intimate relationship. Moreover, they often consider oral sex to perfectly acceptable in casual relationships, so much so that some consider themselves to be "technically virgins" after an encounter.

A study published in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology surveyed a group of 10th graders about their thoughts and perceptions of sex. The fact that teenagers in the 10th grade were sexually active was no surprise to the researcher.

What was surprising was that teens were having oral sex more often than intercourse and with many more partners. Most disturbing yet was the fact that a majority of the teens surveyed said they did not use condoms or consider it necessary during oral sex. 

Factors Influencing Sexual Behavior

While peer pressure is an extremely strong influence in a teen's life, there are other factors that play into the decision-making process. Among them:

  • Popularity can be intoxicating to teens struggling with identity and self-esteem. Many believe that if they engage in sex, they may be viewed as more mature or worthy of association.
  • Teens often believe oral sex is the "safe" alternative to intercourse, both in terms of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The statistics prove otherwise. Millions of teenagers become infected with STDs each year, including oral infections from chlamydia, gonorrhea, and herpes.

Oral Sex Risks

Oral sex is any in which a mouth comes into contact with a penis, vagina, or anus. Each carries different risks of infection. 

Oral-Penile Sex

Performing oral-penile sex (a "blow job") carries a theoretical risk of transmission for the receptive partner, both from the pre-ejaculate ("pre-cum") or semen (cum). Any cuts, open sores, or abrasion can provide a route by which the virus or bacteria can enter the bloodstream

For the insertive partner, there is a theoretical risk of infection from a partner's bleeding gums or an open sore that comes into contact with a scratch, cut, or sore on the partner's penis.

Oral-Vaginal Sex

Performing oral sex on a woman (cunnilingus) carries a theoretical risk of HIV infection for the insertive partner because infected vaginal fluids or blood can get into your mouth.

Likewise, there is a theoretical risk for the receptive partner from oral sores or bleeding gums that come into contact with vaginal cuts, abrasions or sores.

Oral-Anal Sex

Oral-anal sex (anilingus or "rimming") carries a negligible risk of HIV to either partner but a significant risk of infection from an exposure to feces, leading to dysentery, intestinal parasites, and gastroenteritis. Many STDs can also be readily passed through anilingus, as can hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and human papillomavirus (HPV). 

Prevention Tips for Teens and Parents

Prevention should not be solely left in the hands of the teen but be an effort for which the parents actively participate. It's not always easy but, with open, honest discussion and a non-judgmental attitude, safe behaviors can be discussed and reinforced.

Among the safer sex tips for teens:

  • Don't assume that you can tell if someone has an STD by the appearance of the genitals.
  • Don't assume that having oral sex without ejaculation is "safe." There is still a risk of infection.
  • Don't drink or take drugs if you are in a sexual situation or one where sex is possible. Both can affect your judgment or place you at risk of non-consensual sex.
  • Do not avoid condoms or dental dams if you engage in oral sex. Know how to use and store them.
  • Do not avoid asking about a partner's sexual history and experience before a sexual encounter. If the partner rebuffs you because of it, you may miss a sexual opportunity but may also avoid an STD.
  • If you think you have an STD, speak to your parents if you can. If you can't, talk to your school counselor, a teacher you like, or your family doctor. You can also call the free CDC National STD Hotline at 800-227-8922 for advice and referrals. 

Among the tips for parents:

  • Stress the risks of oral sex for boys and girls.
  • Help your child understand that being popular is the not the same thing as being liked.
  • Encourage them to discuss any sexual problems or questions they may have with you, regardless of how uncomfortable it may be.
  • Use parental control software to monitor and/or restrict your child's laptop and cell phone, including the apps that can be downloaded.
  • Keep tabs on the types of chat rooms and websites your child visits, especially younger teens. 
  • Don't ignore teen sexuality and pretend that it's not there. It is better to discuss condoms and birth control with your teen than deal with the consequences if they are not used.
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