Sex talk
Speaking of Sucking Safely

Simon Sheppard,

To suck or not to suck, that is the question.

Let's face it: there's a whole lot of unprotected cocksucking going on out there. Decades into the AIDS epidemic, it's become pretty clear that oral sex – up to and including letting someone shoot off in your mouth – is fairly low on the sexual-transmission risk scale. But "low risk" is most assuredly not the same as "no risk." There are documented cases of HIV being acquired by giving head, though they're rather rare. Unlike either truly dangerous stuff (unprotected anal sex) or thoroughly safe activities (from mutual masturbation to bondage), unprotected oral sex falls into a gray zone that leaves some guys nonplussed.

In the best of all possible worlds, using a condom for fellatio would feel as good to both partners as doing without, and everyone would run the minimum of risk. But the fact is that many queer men just hate rubbering up for oral sex. As one fellatio fan says, "I can deal OK with safe anal sex. But getting blown in a condom really is like taking a shower in a raincoat. And going down on a stiff piece of latex? No, thanks."

There are non-rubber-related factors that apparently make oral transmission more likely, including a large number of partners, and the presence of breaks in the oral lining that make it easier for virus to make contact with the bloodstream. To lessen the risk from sucking unsheathed dick, don't brush or floss shortly before going down, and think twice if you have bleeding gums or mouth sores. Some men use astringent mouthwash right before sucking, which theoretically tightens up small breaks in the mucus membrane. Getting vigorously deep-throated, as much fun as it might be, can damage the delicate lining of the mouth. And even if you have decided, on the basis of available evidence, to let guys fuck your mouth without protection, you might want to make exceptions for sex parties, where nasties can be passed around in the blink of an eye.

Most important of all for risk reduction, keep cum out of your mouth. (Precum theoretically might transmit the virus, but it's a really remote possibility.) Swallow or spit? In terms of HIV, it seems that it doesn't matter, since the virus doesn't thrive in the gut. The real risk happens while the jizz is in your mouth.

In addition to HIV, other sexually transmitted diseases, including syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and herpes can indeed be passed through oral sex. Both ways. "I was surprised to come down with the clap," says one man who likes getting sucked. "But then I found out that someone can get gonorrhea in his throat, and pass it on to the guys he goes down on." And for all you happy sluts out there, there's also the orgy-related health risk of sucking unwashed meat that's just been in somebody's butt.

While most of that nasty stuff can be treated, some infections might be asymptomatic or, in the case of herpes, recurrent. They can also make HIV transmission more likely, or impair the health of guys already HIV-positive. If you're having unprotected oral sex, you should be getting tested for STDs.

Though we'd all like it otherwise, the very safest way to get your face fucked is with a condom installed. Use a thin, nonlubricated rubber. Lube tastes lousy, and lube with non-oxynol 9 can cause allergic reactions that turn the most tempting mouth into a puffy disaster area. Yick. (Some condoms even are flavored, in case you've ever wanted to suck peppermint dick.)

Many of us just love cocksucking, and it's important to keep things in perspective. If you're happy having protected oral sex, more power to you – it's the smart thing to do. If you're not using rubbers, be smart and aware. And remember – no teeth!

Simon Sheppard is the author of Kinkorama: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Perversion

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