The Risks of Oral Sex In Teenagers

Oral Sex in the Age of "Technical Virginity"

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Photograph © Russavia

While talking to a group of teenagers recently, I heard a term that was completely new to me. Many talked about have "friends with benefits". Being a naive father of three teenage daughters, I had to ask what that meant exactly. I was thereafter shocked to find out that many teenagers from 14 to 18 years of age were developing this new type of sex-only relationship.

Today, many boys and girls "hooking up" for sex do not consider themselves to be either dating or in an intimate relationship. Moreover, they often consider oral sex somehow more "acceptable" in casual relationships—so much so, in fact, that some still consider themselves to be "technically virgins" after engaging in oral sex.

A recent study published in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology surveyed a group of 10th graders about their thoughts and perceptions on sex. The fact that teenagers in the 10th grade were sexually active was no big surprise. What was surprising was the survey found teenagers were having oral sex more often than intercourse and with many more partners. Most disturbing was that a majority of those teens surveyed said they did not use condoms during oral sex .

Factors Influencing Sexual Behavior in Teens

Peer pressure is a very strong influence in a teenager's life. But that is just one factor in a teen's decision to engage in sexual behavior.

Reasons include:

  • Teens want to be popular among their peers. Teens believe that if they engage in sex, oral or intercourse they will be viewed as more popular. Studies show just the opposite. While they may be viewed as "popular" those teens who engage in unsafe sex are not well liked among their peers.
  • Teens often believe oral sex is the safe alternative to intercourse, both from pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. The statistics prove otherwise. Millions of teenagers become infected with STDs such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV, and herpes each year and oral sex is a route by which teens are becoming infected.

What Are the Risks of Oral Sex?

Oral-Penile Sexual Contact

Theoretical risk: Performing oral sex or "giving a blow job" carries a theoretical risk of transmission for the receptive partner because infected pre-ejaculate ("pre-cum") fluid or semen (cum) can get into the mouth. Any open sores, cold sores, etc. can be a route by which the virus or bacteria can enter the bloodstream and infect. For the insertive partner, there is a theoretical risk of infection because infected blood from a partner's bleeding gums or an open sore could come in contact with a scratch, cut, or sore on the penis.

Documented risk:  Although the risk is many times smaller than anal or vaginal sex, HIV has been transmitted to receptive partners through oral sex ("blow jobs"), even in cases when insertive partners didn't ejaculate (cum).

Oral-Vaginal Sexual Contact

Theoretical risk - Performing oral sex on a woman carries a theoretical risk of HIV transmission for the insertive partner (the person who is licking or sucking the vaginal area) because infected vaginal fluids and blood can get into the mouth.

(This includes, but is not limited to, menstrual blood). Likewise, there is a theoretical risk of HIV transmission during oral sex for the receptive partner (the person who is having her vagina licked or sucked) if infected blood from oral sores or bleeding gums comes in contact with vulvar or vaginal cuts or sores.

Documented risk - The risk of HIV transmission during oral sex is low compared to vaginal and anal sex. However, there have been cases of HIV transmission and STDs resulting from oral-vaginal sex.

Tips for Teenagers

  • Remember that HIV and some STDs are forever, meaning they cannot be cured.
  • While you may seem more popular, having unprotected oral sex does not make you more liked among your peers. In fact, studies show that people like you and respect you less when you have unprotected oral sex.
  • During oral sex, both the boy and girl are at risk for the disease.
  • Getting a reputation for being "promiscuous", "slutty", or "easy" will stay with you long after high school is over.
  • If you can't talk to a parent about oral sex, talk to your school counselor, a teacher you like or your family doctor.

Tips for Parents and Counselors

  • Stress the risks of oral sex for boys and girls.
  • Make them aware that being popular does not mean they are well liked.
  • Stress that they can come to you and discuss anything, regardless of how uncomfortable it may be for you.
  • Know what your teen is doing, where they are going, and who they are going to be with.

Learn more about the per-incident Risk of HIV from Oral Sex.


Uecker, J.; Angotti, N.; and Regnerus, M. "Going Most of the Way: "Technical Virginity" among American Adolescents." Social Science Research. December 1, 2008; 37(4):1200-1215.