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Oral Sex

Oral Sex

The term oral sex refers to any kind of sexual stimulation involving the lips, mouth, and throat in contact with the genitals or anus. Oral sex practices include oral stimulation of the penis, called fellatio (from the Latin verb fellare meaning to suck), oral stimulation of the vulva and clitoris, called cunnilingus, (from the Latin words cunnus or vulva and lingere meaning to lick) and oral stimulation of the anus, called anilingus (from the Latin anus and lingere). Oral sex practices have been a part of human sexual behavior throughout recorded history and around the world. Ancient Greek art, the walls of Roman Pompeii, and Japanese erotic art all reveal images of cunnilingus and fellatio; the Indian Kama Sutra offers instructions in both. Oral sex is practiced in heterosexual, male homosexual, and lesbian sexual activities. It can be either a form of foreplay to prepare partners for intercourse or may constitute a practice pleasurable in itself, as oral sex stimulation can easily produce orgasm in both males and females. Occasionally, individuals are flexible enough to perform oral sex on themselves, called autofellatio or autocunnilingus. When two partners practice oral stimulation on one another simultaneously, the practice is called 69. Because oral sexual practices are not in themselves reproductive, they have been considered to be both gratuitous and contraceptive by those for whom sexuality is only a means to a reproductive end. After the rise of the Christian era, the church condemned sexual practices that did not lead to reproduction, making oral sex a sin. As church dogma became the model for criminal laws throughout the world, oral sex became illegal. Before the 2003 Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas (539 U.S. 558; 123 S. Ct. 2472), which declared that Texas's sodomy laws were unconstitutional, many states in the United States had criminal statutes that outlawed oral sex practices as crimes against nature, gross indecency, unnatural and lascivious acts, or as a subcategory of sodomy itself. Although some of these statutes covered only sexual acts involving male sexual organs, others outlawed contact between the mouth and both male and female genitals.

Fellatio involves the lips, tongue, mouth, and possibly the throat. The person engaged in fellatio may hold the penis and testicles in his or her hands, lick, caress, and use suction on the penis glans and shaft, or take the entire penis into the throat. This latter practice is called deep throating, from the 1973 film Deep Throat that focused on that activity. Fellatio may be a part of foreplay or may result in orgasm and ejaculation into the mouth. It may also involve the ingestion of semen. Recipients of fellatio may actively insert themselves into the fellator's mouth, an activity that is often associated with dominance. Common slang for fellatio includes blow job, giving head, going down on, and sucking off.

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Cunnilingus, or oral stimulation of the vulva, labia, or clitoris of the female, involves primarily the tongue and lips. The person engaged in cunnilingus may focus primarily on the clitoris or provide various kinds of indirect, pulsating, or rhythmic stimulation of the clitoris and surrounding tissue with lips and tongue. Direct stimulation of the clitoris may be painful, as the clitoris is highly sensitive. Cunnilingus may also be accompanied by vaginal penetration with fingers or dildos. Females may enjoy the practice on their backs or by positioning themselves on the face of their partner, a practice called face-sitting. For many women cunnilingus is the most reliable way to reach orgasm. Common slang for cunnilingus includes eating out, muff diving, going down on, and lip service.

Anilingus, or oral stimulation of the anal region, involves primarily the tongue and lips. Called rimming, anilingus is most often a form of foreplay. Taboos about uncleanliness make anilingus the least often practiced form of oral sex.

HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) may also be transmitted through oral sex, although the risk of contagion is lower than it is with vaginal or anal penetration. The person who is most at risk is the person who is using his or her mouth in direct contact with the genital secretions of his or her partner. Such STDs as chlamydia, human papillomavirus (HPV), gonorrhea, herpes, HIV, and multiple strains of hepatitis generally pass to the one who is stimulating orally through small cuts or sores in the mouth or through the ingestion of fluids. To prevent STDs oral sex should be avoided after dental work or when one has sores or cuts in the mouth or on the lips or tongue.

As with other forms of sex, oral sex is safest when participants use protection. STDs may be effectively prevented by using condoms or dental dams or even by covered the genitals with plastic wrap. Because pregnancy is not an issue, any impermeable material will serve to prevent the passage of disease pathogens.

see also Tongue.


Hunter, Miranda, and William Hunter. 2004. Staying Safe: A Teen's Guide To Sexually Transmitted Diseases. New York: Mason Crest Publishers.

Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558; 123 S. Ct. 2472 (2003).

Merrill, Jane. 2005. The Ultimate Guide to Oral Sex: How to Give a Man Mind-Blowing Pleasure. New York: Sourcebooks Casablanca.

Michaels, Marcy. 2004. The Low Down on Going Down: How to Give Her Mind-Blowing Oral Sex. New York: Broadway.

Paul, Jordan, and Brenda Freshman. 2006. Oral Sex. New York: Book Publishers Network.

                                                 Judith Roof

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