How to Go Down on a Woman Safely

Cunnilingus can transmit STDs if you don't practice safer sex

Lesbian couple on bed
Lesbian couple on bed. Tony Garcia/Image Source/Getty Images

Oral sex isn't safe sex. Cunnilingus (oral sex on a woman) can put both the giver and the receiver at risk of numerous STDs. Fortunately for everyone who enjoys "going down" on a woman, there are ways to make the act safer. Safe oral sex is more of an interruption when performing oral sex on a woman than it is when doing so on a man (giving a "blowjob"). Still, safe oral sex may be worth it to be able to maintain your peace of mind.

How to Perform Oral Sex Safely on a Woman

You will need a dental dam (either purchased or made), and optionally a finger cot or latex gloves. You can make a dental dam by cutting open a condom to make it a square, or cutting apart a latex glove.

  1. Ask the woman who you would like to perform safe oral sex on if she would be interested in having you go down on her. If she says yes, the hardest part is over.
  2. Take your dental dam and use it to cover your partner's vulva. You may also want to put on a latex glove or finger cot. Doing so would allow you to safely use your fingers to stimulate her at the same time.
  3. Some people like to hold the dental dam and move it around. This is particularly easy if you choose to use a latex glove as a dental dam (see instructions for how behind link) and construct it so that it has built in handles.
  4. Go down on your partner as usual. Enjoy her body. Have fun. Take your time.
  1. Some people find it pleasurable to put latex-safe lubricant on the side of the dental dam facing the receptive partner. It can be fun to experiment to see if this is something your lover enjoys.
  2. While you may like using food to spice up your oral sex life, make certain not to use any foods that are oil based. They can degrade latex dental dams.
  1. Pay attention to what you're doing. If you accidentally flip the dental dam over mid-cunnilingus, you've just undone all your good work.
  2. Remember that the dam is only protective if it's actually covering the potentially infectious area. Some STDs are passed from skin to skin, rather than just through secretions.
  3. If you have been fondling your partner, it is a good idea to wash your hands (or remove your gloves) before touching yourself. Although the data is not conclusive, it seems likely that fingering can transmit at least some STDs.

What STDs Can Be Transmitted by Cunnilingus?

The CDC has this advice about transmitting STDs through cunnilingus:

  • Oral Herpes: You can transmit oral herpes to your partner's genitals. In fact, HSV-1 may be even more contagious than HSV-2. In general, performing oral sex on a woman is safer than performing oral sex on a man. However, herpes transmission in both directions is a real risk.
  • HIV: The virus ​can be transmitted from the vagina of an infected woman to the partner performing cunnilingus. There is believed to be a slight risk of transmitting HIV from the mouth to the vagina.
  • Chlamydia: The bacteria can infect both the vagina and the throat. It can be passed from the giver to the receiver and vice versa.
  • Gonorrhea: It isn't well-studied, but it is believed possible to transmit gonorrhea by giving or receiving cunnilingus if the other partner is infected.
  • Syphilis: It can infect the lips and mouth as well as the genitals, and it may be transmitted between the partners during cunnilingus.
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV): This virus can cause genital warts. It can be transmitted to the giving partner and may be transmitted if the giver has HPV in the throat, although it has not been well-studied.

Sources:

STD Risk and Oral Sex - CDC Fact Sheet. CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/std/healthcomm/stdfact-stdriskandoralsex.htm.

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