Parents: Teens are having oral sex and it’s time to talk about it.
About half of teens ages 15-19 have had oral sex at least once. Some teens see oral sex as less risky because it can’t lead to pregnancy or don’t consider it sex at all.
“Oral sex is sex and it has consequences,” said Dr. James Meyer, a Marshfield Clinic adolescent medicine specialist. “It may not be an easy conversation topic, but it’s an important talk for parents to have with teens.”
HPV, herpes and other infections
Unprotected oral sex doesn’t cause pregnancy but it does have other serious health consequences teens should know about.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) isn’t just the leading cause of cervical cancer. It’s also a leading cause of throat cancer and it can spread to males and females through oral sex. Boys and girls should get the HPV vaccine regardless of current or future sexual activity.
Getting the HPV vaccine doesn’t make oral sex safe, however. Herpes is easily spread through oral sex. HSV1 (the type that causes cold sores) can be spread to the genitals and HSV2 (the type that usually causes genital herpes) can be spread to the mouth.
Chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis also can be spread through oral sex. Sexually transmitted diseases don’t always cause symptoms and can be passed to other partners even if you don’t have symptoms.
Oral sex has emotional consequences
“Teens can get head over heels and become involved in intimacy very quickly,” Meyer said. “They think starting a sexual relationship makes sense because they love their partner intensely but later regret the decision.”
Teens may be subject to a power imbalance where they feel pressure from their partners to perform oral sex.
Participating in any kind of sexual act when they’re not ready can damage teens’ self-confidence and affect their ability to trust future partners.
Look for a chance to have an honest conversation
“Look for a window when your teen brings up intimacy to talk about all types of sexual behavior,” Meyer said.
Telling teens that oral sex has health consequences or that they may regret it is important but it may not be enough to deter them or change their behavior.
Help them develop the confidence and communication skills to reduce or eliminate their risks when it comes to sexual behavior. Emphasize their valuable skills and traits, talk about your family’s values and encourage them to have friendships outside their significant other. Talk about less risky ways to show affection.
Let your teen know he or she can talk to you about being pressured or forced to perform a sexual act.