There’s a pretty good argument why baseball is one of American’s many favorite pastimes. It could be because of its humble beginnings in our backyards, the excitement of the seventh inning stretch, or even the body hugging uniforms. But honestly, what’s not to love? Balls, men and team showers. With paralleling references like that, it’s no wonder that sex is usually described in baseball terms.
I’m pretty sure I know where “first base” begins and what’s considered a “home run,” but what falls in between varies on each of our own moral compasses, including oral sex. And just like the game, a good game plan can make all the difference–especially to your health.
The risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STD) orally varies depending on the disease itself. The most common oral STDs include herpes, gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, and HPV. The rate of contracting HIV orally is debated among experts; however, most conclude that the risks are low. Health conditions of both “players” are key factors. Open sores, compromised immune systems and viral load are all contributing factors.
Interesting enough, we have some naturally built-in defense systems to help protect us from transmitting and contracting diseases orally. Large sugar-protein molecules in saliva (glycoprotein) help prevent diseases from being transmitted. Our mouth also has a protective (yet fragile) membrane that safeguards us. In addition, gastric acids in our stomach kill most bacteria and viruses. Again however, a person’s health condition is a contributing factor, including such diseases as oral, throat and stomach ulcers. Now, when was the last time you checked for that?
That being said, there are risk-reducing precautions one can keep in mind. Of course there’s good ‘ole abstinence (at least long enough to get to know your partner), followed by testing. “Suiting up” for the “big game” is another option; this includes using a barrier method, such as a condom. Some complain of a lack of sensation, and others of the taste. However, condoms come in an assortment of textures and flavors for just those reasons. For our extreme, more trusting (or daring) players, who choose to go at it commando (unprotected), you can reduce your risk by limiting your exposure to bodily fluids (such as semen).
The longer you’re exposed, the greater your risk. One option is to move the “finish line.” Preferably somewhere where fluids are less likely to enter your bloodstream. However, you still run the risk of exposure with “pre-game” anticipation. Lastly, in the conventional wisdom and words of Stanford University, “swallow or spit, just don’t let it sit.” No matter how you play it, it’s cle ar you need
a solid game plan ahead of time. This can make the difference between a perfect season and overtime at your doctor’s office.
Sam Knew, MSW is an educator and a local counselor. He can be reached at email@example.com