Is oral sex sex? Teens’ attitudes put them at risk.

Our Amplify educators often ask students what exactly they think we’re talking about when we talk about sex.  Often, there is debate.  You see, teens typically don’t think that oral sex “counts.”   A 2007 survey of college students indicated that while 98% consider vaginal intercourse to be sex, only 20% believe the same about oral-genital contact.  In 1991, about twice as many people believed oral sex was indeed “having sex.”  Of course, our  generation remembers President Clinton’s 1998 “I did not have sex with that woman” testimony, so it’s not just teens who have trouble with this concept!

So, is this just semantics?  The study concluded that students’ perceptions “may leave them unmindful of its potential health risks.”  It suggested that “Sex education programs, which generally focus on penile-vaginal contact, could help STD prevention efforts by explaining the risks associated with oral-genital stimulation….”  Since oral sex can spread a majority of the most common STDs (HPV, herpes, chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhea, and HIV to name a few), Amplify makes sure that young people understand these very real risks.  Knowing these facts, you, as a parent, can emphasize that abstinence is the healthiest choice if they want to avoid ALL kinds of risky sexual behaviors…oral sex included.

Can’t imagine bringing up oral sex with your teen?  If they are older than 13, they probably already know about it.  How about something like this?  “Gosh, I just read this disturbing article about something risky that teens are doing, and they have no idea what they’re getting into. You know how we’ve talked about sex before…well I hope you understand that even the ‘base’ that comes before ‘home’ put teens at risk for STDs.”  Chances are they’ll know what you’re talking about, without the actually having to say “Oral Sex.”  You could be slightly bolder and simply say:  “I know you wouldn’t do this, but I hope your friends know that mouths spread STDs too….”  Of course, if you are the fearless type, you can just jump right in and say it, and when they look squeamish you can say…”What?!….It’s important, so let’s just get over the fact that I said it, OK?”