Oral Sex

Oral sex involves using the mouth, including the lips, tongue, and teeth, to stimulate a sexual partner's genitals (i.e., his or her external reproductive organs). It often involves kissing, licking, sucking, nibbling, and blowing.

Oral sex is performed by heterosexual couples, by men who have sex with men (MSM), and by women who have sex with women (WSW). When oral sex is performed on a male, it is called fellatio (pronounced fĕl-ā’-shē-ō) and when it's performed on a femaile, it is called cunnilingus (pronounced kŭn-ĭ-lĭn-gŭs).

Fellatio involves using the mouth to stimulate the penis and scrotum. Cunnilingus involves using the mouth to stimulate the vulva, the clitoris, and the vaginal opening. Oral sex that involves the anus is called analingus (pronounced ān-ă- lĭn-gŭs).

Oral sex is an important part of many healthy sexual relationships; however, as with other sexual behaviors, it is important to practice safer oral sex to reduce the risk for sexually transmitted disease (STD) and HIV/AIDS.

Safer oral sex practices involve the following:

  • Avoid oral sex when there are open sores (e.g., cold sores), cuts, or broken skin in the mouth or the genital area
  • Avoid oral sex when one partner has an active sexually transmitted infection (e.g., genital herpes, genital warts)
  • Wait at least 30 minutes after brushing the teeth, flossing the teeth, or having dental work (including dental cleanings) before performing oral sex (brushing, flossing, and dental cleanings can cause gum irritation and bleeding)
  • Wear a latex condom (flavored condoms are available), female condom, or a dental dam (flat, latex barrier worn in the mouth)
  • Withdraw the penis from the sexual partner's mouth prior to ejaculation

Oral sex between consenting sexual partners often is extremely pleasurable and satisfying. In fact, for many women, cunnilingus provides just the right amount of stimulation to produce orgasm. Oral sex does not carry a risk for pregnancy.

Open communication is an important part of any sexual relationship, including relationships that involve oral sex. Many men and women enjoy performing and receiving oral sex, but serious problems can develop in the relationship if one partner enjoys oral sex and the other does not. Sex therapists can help couples resolve a number of sexual issues, including issues involving oral sex.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 06 Dec 2008

Last Modified: 13 Oct 2011