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A Brave New World of Oral Sex

Jul. 30, 2009
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This week, I answer a question that I received from a pair of male friends.

[We're] new at this. We both were wondering why gay men have oral sex? The two of us are considering doing it [for the first time] and want to know if it is safe. I have tasted my own cum after masturbating, and it tasted salty. Will his also?

I think it's great that you two are exploring both the nature of your desires and the potential risks before trying something new. This warms my little sex-educator heart.

To get an answer to the first part of your question about why men might have oral sex with each other, I collected responses from a small group of guys who identify as gay, bisexual, queer, or simply men who have sexual contact with other men. Their comments ranged from the slightly snarky ("Why do rabbits eat carrots?") to the philosophical ("Why does anyone have oral sex?").

One theme that emerged was that oral sex can be pleasurable for men of any sexual orientation, not just gay men. Oral sex isn't something that only gay men enjoy, nor is it something that all gay men enjoy. For gay, bi or straight men, giving or receiving a blow job can be hot for many reasonsbecause it allows you to taste, touch and smell your partner in a very intimate way; because of the power dynamic that can be created between giver and receiver; or, as one person said, because "the 'warm and wet' combination can provide a highly unique sensation [for the receiver] that is hard to match in intensity."

One respondent pointed out, "Some gay men like to give and receive, while others just like to give and still others just receive." Newbies may find that they and their partners enjoy different roles, or that they like some aspects of oral sex and aren't as fond of others. That's all normal and part of figuring out your own sexual boundaries.

Another man had this to say about why guys have oral sex: "I truly think that oral sex between cisgendered men is based on a primal need for comfort I think the sensation of having an object in one's mouth to suck, be it a digit, dildo or penis, provides an instinctual happiness that is immediate and direct."

The second part of your question has to do with safety. Again, I'm glad you ask, since many people assume that oral sex carries little or no risks. Most people think of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) when they think of safety, but emotional safety is important too. Talk together beforehand about what you're each comfortable doing. Oral sex can be very gentle, very rough or anywhere in between, so make sure that you're not picturing coy, teasing licks while your partner's imagining deep-throat action.

In terms of STIs, oral sex carries some risk, although less than vaginal or anal sex. Some STIs (gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, and HIV) can be transmitted through semen and pre-cum, while others (herpes, HPV) are transmitted through skin-to-skin contact. If someone has genital herpes, he can infect his partner orally, and vice versa, so beware so-called "cold sores," which are oral herpes lesions. Sores or cuts in the mouth increase your risk of STI transmission, and flossing before oral sex or immediately after oral sex is a bad idea, as bloody gums can provide a point of entry into your body for viruses or bacteria. You can minimize your risk of contracting these STIs by using flavored or unlubricated condoms during oral sex (the lubricant on most regular condoms usually isn't very tasty).

You also ask what ejaculate tastes like. It's great that you've sampled your own, and your description of it as salty-tasting is fairly common. Each person's ejaculate tastes different, and can be affected by smoking, alcohol consumption, how recently someone has ejaculated and diet (pineapple is said to sweeten ejaculate, while broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, garlic or onions may cause an "off" taste). One of the issues that often comes up with oral sex is "spitting vs. swallowing" after ejaculation. Some people find it very sensual to have a partner come into their mouths, while others don't enjoy it. This is another thing that should be discussed ahead of time, because it can be equally upsetting for the person giving oral sex to get an unexpected mouthful of semen and for the receiver to have his precious fluids spat out upon the floor.

Enjoy your explorations!

Want Laura to answer your questions in SEXpress? Send them tolaura@shepex.com. Not all questions received will be answered in the column, and Laura cannot provide personal answers to questions that do not appear here. Questions sent to this address may be reproduced in this column, both in print and online, and may be edited for clarity and content.

Laura Anne Stuart has a master's degree in public health and has worked as a sexuality educator for more than a decade. She owns the Tool Shed, an erotic boutique on Milwaukee's East Side.


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