There are many different words for it, for example, oral sex on a penis is sometimes called 'fellatio', 'blowjob', 'sucking off', 'giving head' or 'going down'. Giving a woman oral sex on her vulva is also known as 'giving head' and 'going down' as well as 'cunnilingus', 'eating out' or 'licking out'. Oral sex on the anus is known as 'analingus' or 'rimming'.
The first thing to know about oral sex is that not everyone has, or wants to have it. Some people find it amazing, others may have tried it and found it doesn’t really turn them on. For others, they just may not like the idea of giving or receiving it at all.
However you feel about oral sex, it really doesn’t matter. Just remember that if you don’t want to give or receive oral sex, make sure you communicate clearly with your partner about it and don’t get pressured into something you’re not happy about. Read our page about dealing with sexual pressure and consent if you’re having trouble with this.
It's a common misconception that you can't get sexually transmitted infections (STIs) from oral sex so if you do want to give or receive it, make sure you've understood the risks to your sexual health.
And, if you’re nervous about oral sex, why don’t you start by figuring out what feels good to you, on your own? Masturbation is one of the best ways of getting to know your body and what you want from sex and exploring your own body and learning what feels good is a great stepping stone to having good sex with someone else, because you can tell them what you like or don’t like.
Some people don’t realise that you can get or pass on STIs through oral sex but if you’re exposed to genital fluids or blood (when a woman is on her period or if you have bleeding gums), the risk is always there.
While you’re probably less likely to get an STI through having oral sex than say, vaginal or anal sex, if those fluids come into contact with sores, cuts or inflamed areas on the lips, mouth, genitals or anus. This allows the infection to get into your blood stream. Chlamydia, gonorrhoea, HIV and syphilis can be passed on in this way.
In the case of pubic lice, they can be passed between pubic hair or facial hair (such as beards) during oral sex. The herpes simplex virus that causes genital herpes is also the cause of cold sores. This means that the virus can be passed on through oral sex and can result in cold sores on the mouth as well as blisters on the genitals. Read Gemma’s story of how this happened to her.
Having oral sex with condoms or dams may not sound very appealing but both come in different flavours which can help to enhance the experience.
Oral sex and HPV
This may sound extreme but there is research being done into the link between oral sex and head, neck and throat cancer. This is due to the human papilloma virus (HPV) which causes genital warts. There are over 100 types of HPV and a number of these types can be passed on during sexual contact.
Some types of HPV are known to caused cervical cancer, which is why HPV vaccination of girls aged 12 – 13 was introduced.
The link between HPV and head, neck and throat cancers is less well understood but Cancer Research acknowledges there is a link. Read more about this link.
Generally, the most sensitive area of the penis is the head (the 'glans') but this can vary from person to person. Very simply, giving head involves simulating the head of his penis and the shaft.
There are many different techniques to try when giving head and guys like different things. Here are some tips and tricks to try:
Giving a woman oral sex can be intimidating if you don't have much experience. As with giving a guy head, oral sex on a woman is very individual. It is important to read her body cues and if possible, ask her if she likes what you are doing. Here are some tips and tricks:
Content reproduced with kind permission from University College London's Sexunzipped website.
Page last reviewed: September 2015
Next review due: September 2016