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http://daily.stanford.edu/article/2005/1/20/oralSexNotAsSafeAsYouMightThink (Link updated - Rajah)
Oral sex not as safe as you might think
by Lauren Gong
Thursday, January 20, 2005
last updated January 19, 2005 10:23 PM
After a wild Saturday night, it’s not rare that you hear, “Yeah, we hooked up . . . sex? oh god no . . . I would never do that. I just gave him head.” Or, “So did you spit or did you swallow?”
Milkshake, tea-bagging, lewinsky, fellatio, giving head, blow-job, cunnilingus — all common words for an increasingly common practice: oral sex. Many girls and guys on college campuses everywhere use oral sex as a supposedly safer alternative to intercourse. But whether it is truly safer when it comes to STDs or emotional attachment is debatable.
According to student volunteers at the Sexual Health Peer Resource Center at Vaden, there are many risks associated with unprotected oral sex. Some STDs that are passed on from oral sex include oral herpes, chlamydia of the throat, yeast infection, gonorrhea, syphilis, hepatitis A and E, HIV, and in rare cases HPV, which can be transmitted as blisters on the vocal cords.
Some of these STDs are more common than others. According to Senior Elise Hunter, co-director of the SHPRC, the two most common STDs passed through oral contact are Herpes I and II, and chlamydia.
A common misconception is that Herpes I is restricted to the oral area and Herpes II is restricted to the genital region. In reality, the two can appear in either location. HIV is a fatal disease that can be transmitted through oral contact. The risk is increased if the person giving oral stimulation has sores in his or her mouth.
In terms of STD risks, oral sex is about as dangerous as sexual intercourse without a condom. Heterosexual intercourse carries the risk of pregnancy, unlike any form of oral sex alone. Of course, overall risk depends on the communication level between partners, sexual histories, frequency of contact and whether or not they are regularly tested.
If one doesn’t know the STD status of his or her partner, the SHPRC suggests using protection when engaging in any sexual activity.
To keep safe, there are many options. The best way to prevent STDs is to use protective barriers such as condoms or dental dams, which are little squares of latex that can be spread over genitals during oral sex. Most barriers are made of latex or polyurethene, and many flavored varieties are made specifically for oral sex.
Also, never have sex during breakouts, symptomatic of viruses such as HPV and Herpes. You should also wait for curable infections such as gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis to clear up before you engage in any sexual activity.
“It’s so easy to carry a condom or dental dam, and they’re not as unsexy as people seem to think,” said senior Sara Weekly, co-instructor of the SHPRC sex class. “You can make a condom sexy, so try it. And one night is not worth warts on your vocal cords or yeast infection discharge running down your throat.”
Weekly also informed me that 25 percent of college students have an STD. And for those of you who are thinking, “pshh, these national statistics don’t apply to a place like Stanford,” think again. The top three STDs on the farm are, in order, HPV, herpes and chlamydia.
STDs are the primary medical risk when engaging in unprotected sex, but there are other dangers to hook-ups such as emotional attachment. A fair number of people I have talked to define a hook-up as “anything but intercourse.” So why is oral any different? Why are more emotions attached to one bodily orifice than another?
Oral sex is still a sexual activity like any other. There is still intimacy, pleasure and emotion, not to mention the risks associated with actual sex.
I guess what it comes down to is psychology: how people perceive what is sex and what is not — often a very a personal definition. Many students agree there is a way to mentally detach yourself when you feel you are not giving all of yourself away.
“It’s totally cool and healthy as long as it’s consensual and people make healthy, protective decisions emotionally and physically,” Weekly said. “People can make their own decisions about when and with whom to do it, and whether or not they’ll consider it ‘real sex.’ ”
So whatever stance one takes on this subject, it’s just good common sense to be informed about exactly what he or she is getting themself into. And if I can offer one last piece of advice: Remember the golden rule — always do unto others as you would like others to do unto you.