Oral Sex: Teens’ Casual Opinion is Dangerous
Experts always advise parents of teenagers to talk to their children about sex in developmentally appropriate conversations throughout adolescence. Most parents focus their talks on sexual intercourse and do not specify other types of sexual activity, such as oral sex. Unfortunately, today’s teens believe oral sex is “safer” than vaginal sex, which is not true. Additionally, many don’t consider oral sex to be a big deal, saying it’s not much more intimate than kissing. Consider these findings from recent research:
- The majority of adolescents think of oral sex as less risky, both emotionally and physically, than vaginal sex, and almost 20% think that oral sex has no health risks at all.
- Many teenagers consider themselves to be “technically virgins” after engaging in oral sex. They honestly believe they are “abstaining” – just as their parents wanted – by having oral sex instead of vaginal sex.
- Sexually active teenagers are having oral sex more often than intercourse and with many more partners.
- Oral sex may also be a “gateway” to vaginal intercourse, with most sexually-active adolescents reporting that they began having vaginal sex within six months of engaging in oral sex.
What to Discuss with your Teen
When having a discussion with your teen about oral sex, there are a few key elements you should cover:
Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
Many teens are under the misconception that STDs can only be contracted through vaginal intercourse. In truth, oral sex can transmit bacterial and viral infections, including herpes, gonorrhea, HPV (human papilloma virus which causes genital warts), and HIV (human immunodeficiency virus which causes AIDS). Remind your teen that HIV and some STDs cannot be cured.
Those teens that are aware of the STD risk somehow believe that one gender is less likely to get infected than another through oral sex. This is not true – boys and girls are equally at risk.
In addition, recent studies have shown that the more oral sex partners a person has, the higher their risk of developing mouth and throat cancer in middle age. The reason is HPV, which is the most common STD in the United States. HPV has long been known to cause cervical cancer in women. Thanks to screening via pap smears, cervical cancer has declined. But, the rate of mouth and throat cancer, especially among men, is rapidly increasing, and there are no screening tests. This type of cancer is caused by an HPV infection contracted via oral sex. Currently, once you have contracted HPV, there is nothing that can prevent the development of oral cancer. Inform your teen of this potential health risk.
As a side note, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highly recommends that parents have their children vaccinated for HPV when they enter middle school in an effort to prevent these types of cancer.
Oral sex has the same potential for emotional roller coasters that sexual intercourse does. Any type of sexual activity can cause a bond between too people that can be very strong. When two people are not ready for this type of intimacy, it makes their relationship awkward. It can also dramatically increase the hurt of a rejection if one of the partners treats the relationship more casually than the other. Teens don’t always realize the emotional repercussions of becoming intimate – parents are their best source of information for thinking through how they might feel about themselves after having vaginal and/or oral sex. In addition, discuss how your child might feel if they get a reputation for being “slutty” or “easy.” Advise your teen to make choices in their life that make them feel good about themselves.
Your teen is in a confusing environment where he or she is overwhelmed with a variety of conflicting, inaccurate, pressuring messages about sex from many sources: school, friends, movies, social media, and other cultural influences. Don’t let these sources be your teen’s only education. Your teen might get incorrect information. More importantly, no one can pass down your family values and positive self-images for your child better than you. Take the time to explain what you believe about sexual intimacy and the characteristics of a good, healthy relationship. You should be instilling your values in your child so that they will be better equipped to choose a positive dating partner and not be pressured into becoming intimate faster than they want. Make sure your teen knows how valuable you think they are.
Parents can give their teens a counter argument to the popular culture so that they can make a decision that feels best to them.
If you would like more ideas on the type of information you should discuss with your teenager(s) about sex, please read our previous blog: What Every Teen Must Know About Sex.