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Though he never used the words “oral sex,” Patricia M. knew that’s exactly what her 15-year-old son meant. Prompted by a suggestive scene on television, her son turned to his parents with an earnest expression. “You can catch all kinds of diseases that way,” Patricia recalls him saying.
As she and her husband listened to the facts their child shared, gleaned from his hours of school-based sex education classes, they learned an important lesson. “The fact that he is open about it helps with my concerns,” says Patricia, who has another son, age 11. “We set no boundaries when it comes to talking about sex.”
Despite the open communications in her own home, she’s concerned about stories she hears on the news and from other parents that indicate a growing acceptance of oral sex among curious teens who want to avoid pregnancy. “It’s a topic I’m going to have to pay as much attention to as intercourse,” she says. “There’s a lot to worry about.”
As adolescents become more sexually aware and active, they may consider experimenting with oral sex. Of teens who engage in oral sex, some may not use barrier protection to prevent against sexually transmitted infections. Oral sex comes with its own set of dangers. Both viral and bacterial sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can be transmitted through oral sex, including:
Still, talking about sex in general, and oral sex in particular, makes many parents nervous. Creating an environment in which all family members feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and asking questions takes more than a one-time effort—it also takes time. Experts recommend that parents build open, honest relationships with their children so that talking about sex can grow out of natural curiosity and trust.
From using the ambiguities of popular culture as conversation-starters to sharing their own experiences, caring adults can find many effective ways to communicate with their children about all kinds of critical issues and decisions, including sex. Expert advice includes:
Advocates for Youth
Campaign for Our Children
Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc.
Canadian Association of Family Physicians
Canadian Public Health
Albert B, Brown S, Flanigan C, eds. 14 and younger: the sexual behavior of young adolescents (summary).National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.2003. Available at:http://www.thenationalcampaign.org. Accessed June 2003.
Brady SS, BL Halpern-Felsher. Adolescents’ reported consequences of having oral sex versus vaginal sex.Pediatrics.2007;119:229-236.
Campaign For Our Children website. Available at: Available at:http://www.cfoc.org/9_press/9_tpwatch.cfm. Accessed June 2003.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines, 2010.MMWR2010;59(No. RR-12):1-110.
National campaign to prevent teen pregnancy: talking back: ten things teens want parents to know about teen pregnancy. Available at:http://www.teenpregnancy.org/resources/reading/tips/talk_back.as. Accessed June 2003.
National campaign to prevent teen pregnancy: ten tips for parents to help their children avoid teen pregnancy. Available at:http://www.teenpregnancy.org/resources/reading/tips/tips.asp. Accessed June 2003.
Remez L. Oral sex among adolescents: is it sex or is it abstinence?Family Planning Perspectives.2000; 32:298-304. Available at:http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/publications/transitions/transitions1203_10.htm. Accessed June 2003.