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Thoughts About Women and Oral Sex After Visiting the NYC Sex Museum

By Terri Wilder, M.S.W.

March 15, 2009

Time: 11:26 p.m.
Place: NYC

I was on my spring break and felt like I should do something "wild" since historically, spring break is the week that college students are supposed to "let loose." Since I am a 41-year-old student and not 18 anymore, I felt like making a visit to the New York City Museum of Sex was about as wild as I was going to get during spring break. So, for the price of $11.50 ($3.00 coupon deducted from the original price), I spent two hours roaming the exhibit halls of the Museum of Sex fantasizing about the life I wish I had.

The first floor of the museum had an exhibit about the sex lives of animals. Although it was interesting and challenged the whole notion of what people believe to be natural versus unnatural in relation to sex and sexuality (i.e., heterosexuality/homosexuality, two genders versus more than one gender, etc.), I found it a little theory-heavy and less kinky than I had hoped for.

I quickly moved to the second floor to view the "Sex and the Moving Image" exhibit and found a porn fest happening. Hello! This was basically the history of sex in movies, television, etc. It was awesome and I really enjoyed looking at the exhibit. I also found that it made some of my co-patrons a little "in the mood," if you know what I am saying. I guess it is a challenge to watch porn and not feel aroused!

The final exhibit was the permanent collection. It consisted of a wide array of artifacts. I saw an original Sheik condom display case, a booklet entitled Pussy Eating for Everybody, and one booklet on HIV/AIDS. I have to admit that I was tempted to break into the display case and take a look at the Pussy Eating for Everybody book, but unfortunately I was under the scornful eye of a security guard. Damn it!

Ironically, one of my favorite parts of the museum was the gift shop. Besides the rockin' music played by the staff (read: Guns N' Roses, Mötley Crüe, etc), they had the coolest items for purchase. They had condom lollipops, condom key chains and even a book entitled Make Your Own Sex Toys. This book explained how to make your own sex toys out of the most common household items. Who knew that you could make a sex toy out of a bar of soap ... or your cell phone?

As I was walking through the museum, I saw lots of references to oral sex. There was information on oral sex between animals, oral sex between humans and even a Japanese anime video in which the characters perform oral sex on one another.

All of this oral sex imagery flying at me made (me) think about a few things. For one thing, from my perspective as an HIV educator, I realized that most "safer sex" information is provided in relation to vaginal-penile intercourse and anal sex. It is hard for most people to find detailed information on oral sex. This is pretty sad given that lots of women (and men) love receiving and giving oral sex.

In fact, I think oral sex is one of my favorite things in life. I rank it up there with my love for food and music -- and I rank those activities fairly high! However, I really don't like giving oral sex. I have given oral sex in the past but if I have the option, I usually decline. At this point in my life, I really think I would have to take a class on how to give a good blow job to feel confident in my skills. Honestly, I just don't have the time or money at this point to consider it as a serious academic option.

Neuropsychiatrist Dr. Louann Brizendine writes in her book, The Female Brain, that men think about sex every 52 seconds, while women tend to think of it just once a day. I think about it more than once a day ... at least when it comes to oral sex. I think oral sex is one of the greatest inventions ever made, and since it is considered a lower-risk behavior for HIV, I feel more inclined to engage in it than other sexual behaviors.

Giving good oral sex is a talent. I have had the pleasure of being with several men who should have won several Academy Awards for their oral performance in a romantic comedy! I have also met some people who could have benefited from some type of instructional manual (a really informative manual is The Ultimate Guide to Cunnilingus: How to Go Down on a Woman and Give Her Exquisite Pleasure by Violet Blue.)

So given my love of oral sex -- and I am joined by millions of other women -- it's too bad that when you do find information on oral sex, it seems to be focused on someone performing oral sex on a penis. So what do we do with this hard-to-define risk category of oral sex ... and more importantly, what information is out there for people who love to go down on a woman?

I decided to see what was out there on the Internet. I searched for several hours. I had no problem finding information on giving males oral sex. I found lots of tips on giving a man oral sex.

  • They suggest that you use a non-lubricated latex condom without spermicide when performing oral sex on a man. And if you don't like the taste of condoms, try flavored condoms.
  • If you really don't want to use a condom while performing oral sex on a man, some experts suggest a few alternatives. They suggest that you avoid taking cum (ejaculate) in your mouth. And if you get cum in your mouth, spit it out.
  • Avoid sucking if you have bleeding gums, sores, abscessed teeth, or have just visited your dentist. If you have just returned from a dentist appointment, it's best to wait until your gums have healed before performing oral sex.
  • They also tell us not to brush or floss our teeth right before or after having oral sex. Instead, we should try chewing gum or rinsing with mouthwash for fresh breath.
  • Additionally, we should look closely for sores or blisters on the genitals, mouth or lips. And if sores or blisters are visible, avoid oral sex.
  • Finally, avoid "deep throating" (a sexual act in oral sex in which the entire external erect penis down to the testicles -- and sometimes including the testicles -- is taken into the mouth and throat of another person) because this may irritate the lining of the throat, making it easier for HIV and STDs to enter the body.

So what about going down on a woman?

I really don't believe that most people think about safer oral sex when it comes to going down on a woman. They would be surprised to read that the Brown University health education Web site reports that a woman receiving oral sex is much more at risk for getting herpes or gonorrhea from her partner than HIV during this sexual behavior. This is because a woman is just exposed to someone's saliva while receiving oral sex and saliva can't transmit HIV, thus unless someone has bad bleeding gums, a woman cannot get HIV this way.

Over and over again, almost everything I read reinforced this point saying that a woman receiving oral sex is only at theoretical risk for HIV. A woman's primary risk when receiving oral sex is for herpes infection, since the person giving you oral sex could have an oral herpes lesion on their lip and transmit it to your vagina. And despite the fact that health educators tell people to use dental dams or Saran Wrap, or to cut a condom open to use as a barrier when performing oral sex on a woman, I wonder how many people actually use these products.

I really wish there was one place women could go to get information on safer oral sex (and cheaply priced dental dams -- those bad boys are not so easy to find in my 'hood). It is too bad that there isn't a "one-stop shop" Web site for oral sex information and products for women.

It would be nice to read information, place your order, wait for the mailman, lie back (literally) and enjoy the rest of your evening. So, if anyone knows of any good oral sex Web site(s), shoot me an email! And for the next guy I date, be ready to provide references from past partners on your ability to give good oral sex ... and bring plenty of Saran Wrap!

P.S. TheBody.com has plenty of information about oral sex.

To contact Terri, please e-mail twilder@thebody.com.

Stay tuned for monthly additions to this blog!

See Also
More News on Oral Sex and HIV/AIDS

Reader Comments:

Comment by: Vincent (Middlebury, Vermont) Fri., Jul. 16, 2010 at 2:57 pm EDT
I don't think oral sex should be with just anyone.
You and a trusted mate/partner should know each other well enough to eliminate the possibility of STDs. Then giving and recieving oral sex iis wonderful as foreplay or going for an orgasm.
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Comment by: Don (Australia) Mon., Feb. 1, 2010 at 3:40 am EST
Aids kills so do cars we dont stop driving and sex is a hell of a lot more fun
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Comment by: eze (austell Ga.) Thu., Apr. 30, 2009 at 12:47 am EDT
Thanks for sharing your experience.Just watching your video and reading the text, I feel I personaly visited the museum.You realy went wild.
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Comment by: nakazwe (zambia) Tue., Apr. 21, 2009 at 7:47 am EDT
indeed i agree with the writer. I am hiv -ve married to +ve man, oral sex on me has been done for years with out getting hiv. yet we decided not to do it on him, fearing the semen has we believe it to be highly infectious. if i may ask, where does the fluid come from that is found on the man's scrotum after sex?
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Comment by: Randy (Montgomery, AL) Mon., Apr. 20, 2009 at 5:30 pm EDT
.....hiv started In 1981. don't believe It.
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Comment by: Tracy (Atlanta) Fri., Apr. 17, 2009 at 11:35 am EDT
Terri, check out http://www.cunnilingustutor.com/eat-pussy.shtml

it's a reasonable site to refer your poorly-informed or educated partners.

As a mother of 2 heterosexual boys, I let them read my copy of "The Joy of Lesbian Sex", dated 1978 (or so) for tips on their own love life. But you know me, I would have also told them outright if asked any question, and without blushing.

Wish I could have seen the Sex Museum - it sounds like lots of fun!
Reply to this comment


Comment by: stef (lex, ky) Thu., Apr. 16, 2009 at 2:00 pm EDT
I agree with diana in lindenhurst. I've searched high and low all over the web and cant find any significant information. I believe I heard somewhere that there is little to no proven risk to the male, however I cannot find anything to back that up.
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Comment by: Helena (London UK) Thu., Apr. 16, 2009 at 11:14 am EDT
I agree!
I am HIV+ and still haven't had sex with anyone after my ex boyfriend - the clever guy who gave it to me-. One of my biggest fears about a new partner? How can I reassure him with authoritative references backing me up that he can give me oral sex without catching HIV?
The thought of not ever receiving oral sex again makes me incredibly sad!!!
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Comment by: Brit (Toronto) Thu., Apr. 16, 2009 at 10:20 am EDT
Giving oral sex to an HIV-positive woman is still low risk. Yes there may be virus in the vaginal fluids, but the mouth is a hostile environment for HIV. Men should follow the same basic rules for oral sex - wait a couple of hours after brushing/flossing; don't perform oral sex if you have open sores, etc. The virus has to get into the guy's blood so there has to be a cut/sore/lesion in or around the mouth for that to happen. Whoever is perfoming the oral sex (man or woman), it is low risk for HIV transmission compared to unprotected vaginal/anal sex.
Reply to this comment


Comment by: Omar (Jamaica) Thu., Apr. 16, 2009 at 10:17 am EDT
Great report Terri,
I agree that there is too little information period, on oral sex. And where safe sex is concerned, it's even more limited. I would like to see more info available not just for women but also for men performing oral sex on a woman. Here in Jamaica, oral sex is still like a taboo, but most persons do it 'under the quiet'. So you can imgaine how little constructive discussions are held in the open about the topic
All around, I just think we need more info on oral sex and safe sex practices for both men and women.
Long live Oral Sex!
Reply to this comment


Comment by: diana (lindenhurst, ny) Wed., Apr. 15, 2009 at 8:33 pm EDT
you talked about the risk of a female getting hiv from oral sex but what about the risk to a man giving oral sex to a hiv+ woman? if you think there is little information about female risk there is even less information about male risk.
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Working in the Frontlines of the HIV Pandemic Since 1989


Terri Wilder is a social worker who has worked in HIV for nearly two decades. She has written numerous articles about HIV, and has presented at HIV conferences around the United States. She is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in sociology at Georgia State University.


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Articles by Terri:

Are We Thinking About HIV and Older Adults?

Twenty-Seven Years of Women Living With HIV: Past, Present and Future (January 1, 2008)
To read PDF, click here

The Hidden Epidemic: White Women and HIV (September 2001)
From AIDS Survival Project

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