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How Risky Are Blowjobs Without Condoms?

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From BUST's print magazine's February/March 2018 issue, sexologist Carol Queen answers your sex questions.

Bareback blowjobs—should I not be giving them? Is it just as risky as unprotected sex? –Tongue Tied

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It’s complicated. Blowjobs are never as risky as unprotected vaginal sex, insofar as vaginal sex (with a penis) is associated in some cases with unwanted pregnancy. But I’m guessing you’re thinking of STIs. Any penis coming into contact with any mucous membrane (oral, anal, vaginal, or whatever you would prefer to term that bodily region) runs the risk of passing on sexually transmitted infections if the penis in question has one. Some do, some don’t. Back in the day, when I studied HIV safer sex strategies, the accepted wisdom was that the oral environment was somewhat less hospitable to such bugs. But recent research into infections like HPV make it pretty clear that we are still susceptible, under at least some circumstances, to orally-acquired STIs. 

You shouldn’t be giving bareback blowjobs as if they pose no risk at all. Nobody ought to be substituting oral for other kinds of sex with the assumption that they can do it without thinking. We should all think, all the time, about our sexual options and choices. Does this mean we must condom up for all fellatio? Some people make that decision. Others prefer to accept the (probably somewhat lesser) risk of a skin-flute blowjob. Those risks include HPV and gonorrhea for sure, and maybe also HIV if an infected penis comes in contact with mouth cuts or sores.

Get the HPV vaccine if you haven’t already, and urge your younger siblings to get it, too. If you’re worried about HIV, there’s PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis). And there are always condoms. You might find you like the polyurethane kind like Trojan Supra, which have no latex-y tang and may feel slicker in your mouth. You might want to slather a condom with something tasty before you go down. (Not oil-based, though, unless it’s a poly condom you’re using.) There are also flavored condoms out there if it’s too much trouble to seek out condom condiments. For your penis-possessing partner, add a couple of drops of lube to the inside before putting it on so that the sensation carries through the condom and adds to their pleasure.

Some people choose to have their doctor test them for all the things when they become partnered, and then become fluid-bonded to that partner. That’s a fine choice if you are monogamous and both are happy to stay that way. For those who stray, or are sexually free by nature, safer sex knowledge should be part of your arsenal as you make decisions about preferences and boundaries.

Carol Queen's latest book (written with Shar Rednour) is The Sex & Pleasure Book: Good Vibrations Guide to Great Sex for Everyone.

Got a sex or relationship question you need answered? Submit it here.

This article originally appeared in the February/March 2018 print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!

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