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Oral sex is sexual activity involving the stimulation of the genitalia by the use of the mouth, tongue, teeth or throat. Cunnilingus refers to oral sex performed on females while fellatio and irrumatio refer to oral sex performed on males. Analingus refers to oral stimulation of a person's anus. Oral stimulation of other parts of the body (as in kissing and licking) is usually not considered oral sex.

People may engage in oral sex as part of foreplay before sexual intercourse, or during or following intercourse. It may also be performed for its own sake.


Oral sex may be practiced by people of all sexual orientations. In heterosexual contexts, oral sex is used by some couples as a method of contraception and may be chosen as an alternative to sexual intercourse for this reason. Oral sexual activities are not effective methods of preventing sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), although some forms of STD are believed to be less easily spread in this way.

A report issued in September 2005 by the National Center for Health Statistics was the basis of an article in the September 26, 2005 issue of Time magazine. The report comes from the results of a computer-administered survey of over 12,000 Americans between the ages of 15 and 44, and states that over half the teenagers questioned have had oral sex. While some headlines have interpreted this as evidence that oral sex among teenagers is "on the rise," this was the first comprehensive study of its kind to examine the matter.

As with mutual masturbation and other forms of outercourse many people do not consider oral sex to be "sex" in the same way as penetrative intercourse and regard it as "third base." Thus, for many people, oral sex can be seen as one way of experiencing sexual pleasure before losing one's virginity.


Facesitting is a form of oral sex in which the receiver sits on the giver's face and pushes into it with his or her genitals. Oral sex can be performed by both partners at the same time in the so-called "sixty-nine" position.

Spitting and/or swallowing of the ejaculatory fluids or giving a pearl necklace may cause different sexual stimulations.

Autofellatio is a possible but rare variant; autocunnilingus may also be possible for women with extremely flexible spines.

An act of group sex restricted to one woman giving oral sex to several men is referred to as a gangsuck, blowbang or lineup, all derivatives of the slang expression gang bang for group sex. Bukkake and gokkun may also involve oral sex, though not necessarily.

Cultural attitudes

An artistic rendering, clandestinely against the background of a "respectable" party seen at the back.

Cultural attitudes towards oral sex range from disgust to reverence: in Ancient Rome, fellatio was considered profoundly taboo, whereas in Chinese Taoism, cunnilingus is revered as a spiritually fulfilling practice that is believed to enhance longevity. In modern Western culture, oral sex is widely practiced among adolescents.

Oral sex had been considered to be a taboo or at least frowned upon in many cultures and parts of the world. Reasons mentioned are that this sexual act does not lead to procreation, or that it is a humiliating and/or unclean practice (an opinion that is, at least in some cases, connected with the symbolism attached to different parts of the body). This has been more or less the case in Christian and Sub-Saharan African cultures, in Ancient Rome, and Ancient Indiamarker. Similar lines of reasoning have been espoused by some modern religious authorities in Islamic cultures.

In pre-Christian Ancient Rome, sexual acts were generally seen through the prism of submission and control. This is apparent in the two Latin words for the act: irrumare (to penetrate orally), and fellare (to be penetrated orally). Under this system, it was considered to be abhorrent for a male to perform fellatio, since that would mean that he was penetrated (controlled), whereas receiving fellatio from a woman or another man of lower social status (such as a slave or debtor) was not humiliating. The Romans regarded oral sex as being far more shameful than, for example, anal sex — known practitioners were supposed to have foul breath and were often unwelcome as guests at a dinner table. The practice was taboo for public health reasons, as well. In Rome, the genitals were considered to be unclean. Oral sex was thought to make the mouth dirty, and (ultimately) to present a public health risk.

"Cunnilingus is very wide-spread among all primitive peoples and from Kubary's reports on the Sonsolans, it can be seen that even the children are already prepared for this".

STD risk

Chlamydia, human papillomavirus (HPV), gonorrhea, herpes, hepatitis (multiple strains), and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)—including HIV—can be transmitted through oral sex. While the exact risk of transmitting HIV through oral sex is unknown, it is generally tough to be lower than other sex practices. Any kind of direct contact with body fluids of a person infected with HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) poses a risk of infection. The risk from most of these types of infection, however, is generally considered far less than that associated with vaginal or anal sex.

If the receiving partner has wounds or open sores on their genitals, or if the giving partner has wounds or open sores on or in their mouth, or bleeding gums, this poses an increased risk of STD transmission. Brushing the teeth, flossing, undergoing dental work, or eating crunchy foods such as chips relatively soon before or after giving oral sex can also increase the risk of transmission, because all of these activities can cause small scratches in the lining of the mouth. These wounds, even when they are microscopic, increase the chances of contracting STD that can be transmitted orally under these conditions. Such contact can also lead to more mundane infections from common bacteria and viruses found in, around, and secreted from the genital regions.

HPV and oral cancer link

In 2005, a research study at the College of Malmömarker in Swedenmarker suggested that performing unprotected oral sex on a person infected with HPV might increase the risk of oral cancer. The study found that 36 percent of the cancer patients had HPV compared to only 1 percent of the healthy control group.

Another recent study suggests a correlation between oral sex and head and neck cancer. It is believed that this is due to the transmission of human papillomavirus (HPV), a virus that has been implicated in the majority of cervical cancers and which has been detected in throat cancer tissue in numerous studies. The New England Journal of Medicine study concluded that people who had one to five oral-sex partners in their lifetime had approximately a doubled risk of throat cancer compared with those who never engaged in this activity and those with more than five oral-sex partners had a 250% increased risk.


In the US, no barrier methods for use during oral sex have been evaluated as effective by the Food and Drug Administration. However, a barrier protection, like a condom or dental dam offer some protection from contact when practicing oral sex. Oral contact should be limited to the protected areas. A makeshift dental dam can be made out of a condom but using a real dental dam is preferable, because real dental dams are larger and the makeshift version may be accidentally poked with the scissors during the cutting procedure. Plastic wrap may also be used as a barrier during oral sex, but many find that the thickness of the plastic dulls sensation. Certain kinds of plastic wrap are manufactured with tiny holes to allow venting during microwaving, which may allow transmission of pathogens.


Although a common misconception, oral sex (by means of fellatio) alone cannot result in pregnancy. There is no way for sperm from the penis to enter the uterus and Fallopian tubes to fertilize an egg. In humans, there is no connection between the gastrointestinal system and the reproductive tract. Ingested sperm will be killed and broken down by acid in the stomach and proteins in the small intestine. The breakdown products will be absorbed as a negligible quantity of nutrients.

Despite this, oral sex does carry a potential risk of pregnancy if semen from the man comes in contact with the vaginal area indirectly. This can occur if the semen in the ejaculate is carried on the fingers, hands, or other body parts; and comes in contact with the vaginal area. It is therefore still necessary to exercise caution when having oral sex to prevent pregnancy.

Terminology and slang

There are many words describing oral sex, including euphemisms and slang. Like all aspects of sexuality, there exists a very large number of variations on a theme, making it essentially impossible to compose a comprehensive list.

Giving head - A common slang term for giving oral sex to either a man or woman is "giving head," from the term "head job" (in contrast to "hand job," manual stimulation). A play on the slang term "head" resulted in the slang term "brains," or "brain salad surgery," "domes," or "getting domes."

Plate - A once common British rhyming slang for "fellate" that arose in the gay slang language of Polari that spread in the 1960s. The term is less common today.

Cunnilingus is also sometimes referred to as "muff diving," "eating out," or "poon-job," a slang term and a cunnilingus variant of "blow job", where "poon" is short for poontang or punani.

Additionally, in lesbian culture several common slang terms used are "carpet munching," "giving lip," "lip service," or "tipping the velvet" (a faux-"Victorian" expression invented by novelist Sarah Waters).

Additional slang terms for oral sex include "going down on" (female and male), "licking out" (female), "blow job" (male), "dome" (female and male)", "sucking off" (male), "rolling cigars" (male recipient), "lolly-gagging" (gay male-on-male), "gaining knowledge" (male recipient), and "bust down"(male).

Forced fellatio is often called "Egyptian Rape" or simply “Egyptian.” This goes back to the time of the Crusades when Mamluks were alleged to force their Christian captives to do this.

Oral sex among non-human animals

Animals of several species are documented as engaging in both autofellatio and oral sex. Although easily confused by lay-people, this is a separate and sexually oriented behaviour, distinct from non-sexual grooming or the investigation of scents.

Auto-fellatio or oral sex in animals is documented in goats, primates, hyaenas and sheep.

See also



  1. Geffen Testing Center's HIV, Syphilis, and Hepatitis C Information Sheet. Accessed November 4, 2006.
  2. University Health Center, University of Georgia, Oral Sex. Accessed November 4, 2006
  3. Lemonick, Michael D., "A Teen Twist on Sex", Time, New York, September 19, 2005.
  4. Jayson, Sharon, "'Technical virginity' becomes part of teens' equation", USA Today, Washington DC, October 19, 2005.
  5. Irrumation
  6. Octavio Paz. Conjunctions and Disjunctions. trans. Helen R. Lane. 1975. (London: Wildwood House, 1969) p. 97.
  7. "The History of Fellatio",, May 22, 2000.
  8. R. Schidloff : "The Sexual Life of South Sea Natives", p. 289. In :- R. Burton : Venus Oceanica. Oceanica Research press, New York, 1935. pp. 33-318
  9. University Health Center | Sexual Health | Oral Sex
  10. "Oral Sex Linked To Mouth Cancer Risk", MedIndia, November 20, 2005.
  11. Khamsi, Roxanne, "Oral sex can cause throat cancer", New Scientist, London, May 9, 2007.
  12. "How to Make a Dental Dam Using a Condom", UCSB SexInfoOnline, February 7, 2008.
  13. Urban Dictionary: Dome - Many examples of the word "dome" being used to refer to oral sex
  14. Polari
  15. Edwardes, Allen; Masters, Robert E. L. The cradle of erotica, New York: Julian Press, 1963.

Works cited

  • James N. Adams, The Latin Sexual Vocabulary (Johns Hopkins, 1990) ISBN 0-8018-2968-2
  • Jacqueline Franklin, The Ultimate Kiss: Oral Lovemaking, A Sensual Guide for Couples (Los Angeles: Media Press, 2001) ISBN 0-917181-17-4

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