Sexual Health Q&A

Q&A
Female Sexual Health Male Sexual Health
How common is oral sex?

Oral sex involves stimulating a partner’s genitals with the mouth and tongue. Some couples include it their foreplay, while others bring their partner to a full climax.

Oral sex on a man’s penis is called fellatio. When a partner perform oral sex on a woman’s genital area, it is called cunnilingus.

Sometimes, one partner performs oral sex on the other’s anal area, a practice called anilingus.

Worldwide statistics on oral sex are not widely available. However, studies from the United States and United Kingdom have provided some insights.

The National Survey of Family Growth, a study of Americans between the ages of 15 and 44, found that between 2011 and 2013, 83% of men and 82% of women reported having had oral sex with an opposite-sex partner at some point in their lives. About 6% of male respondents had had oral sex with another male. (Data on oral sex between females was not provided.)

In 2016, Netdoctor.com.uk reported on the National Survey on Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles, a study of people in the United Kingdom between the ages of 16 and 54. The survey found that between 67% and 80% of the participants had engaged in oral sex during the previous year.

Older people are having oral sex, too. The UK survey found that while rates fell as respondents got older, 30% of men and 19% of women age 65 and older had had oral sex in the past year.

While a woman cannot get pregnant from oral sex, it is still possible for partners to spread sexually-transmitted infections that way. HIV, syphilis, herpes, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and human papillomavirus (HPV) can all be transmitted through oral sex.

In addition, infections like hepatitis A and B, intestinal parasites like Giardia, and bacteria like E. coli can be spread through anilingus.

Couples are encouraged to use condoms or dental dams to reduce their risk of infection. A dental dam is a piece of latex – sometimes from a cut-up condom – that covers the anus or vagina during oral sex.

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