Just how popular is oral sex among American youth? A new survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that a whopping 75 percent of young people from ages 15 to 24 have engaged in oral sex.
Now let’s keep it real: This isn’t a huge shocker.
But what’s interesting is that the data also showed that young folks tend to believe that oral sex means “risk-free” sex, in comparison to vaginal or anal sex. Yes, oral sex presents lower risks than other forms of penetrative sex, but sex is never “risk-free.”
"Studies looking, for example, at patients visiting STD [sexually transmitted disease] clinics have shown that 5 to 10 percent have gonorrhea in the throat,” Dr. Christopher Hurt, a clinical assistant professor at the University of North Carolina told Health Day. “And it's often asymptomatic and can be transmitted through oral sex."
Now 5 percent to 10 percent may seem like a low number in terms of gonorrhea rates, but here are some important things to keep in mind:
— Gonorrhea is growing increasingly resistant to antibiotics, and that can pose some serious health risks, especially to African-Americans, who account for 69 percent of these cases each year.
— Unprotected oral sex has been linked to human papillomavirus (HPV) transmission, which has been linked to the huge increase in oral and cervical cancers. African-American women are 40 percent more likely to develop cervical cancer caused by HPV and are 20 percent more likely to die from it compared to white women. It’s also been well-documented that Black women and girls infected with HPV have a harder time clearing it up — and that puts them more at risk for developing cervical cancer.
— Other STDs that can be transmitted by oral sex include: herpes, syphilis, genital warts and hepatitis A, according to the CDC. Most of these diseases have disproportionally high infection rates among African-Americans.
Now while abstinence is one option in protecting yourself, that isn’t the reality for many young people. So what can you do to have safer oral sex?
Using latex condoms during oral sex can help decrease your risk. (There are even flavored condoms!) You can also use a dental dam, which serves the same purpose as a condom. The dam, which is a thin, square piece of rubber, can be placed over the vagina or the anus during oral sex.
Granted, these suggestions may not be sexy, but they can protect your health, which in the end is the most important thing.
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(Photo: GNL Media / Getty Images)