Question: Any thoughts on oral sex and if it’s wrong? I appreciate your insight on masturbation and anal sex. I began to experiment with oral sex with a couple of buddies when we discovered masturbation, but didn’t know how shameful i should feel….
Frank answers: Yes, I gave thought to oral sex while I was thinking about my answer to the question about anal sex. You’ve begun to experiment with oral sex with your buddies after discovering masturbation and you’re wondering whether you should feel shame. It seems that you’re a young guy engaged in sexual experimentation and are “feeling your way,” as it were, both sexually and morally. So let me try to cover both issues.
If you read my Frank Answers about masturbation and anal sex, you know that I don’t think the Bible says anything about masturbation and it is ambiguous about anal sex. It definitely says nothing about oral sex. Early Christianity identified the purpose of sex in the Bible as having to do with procreation. Sexual pleasure was a consequence of that. But the Catholic Church regarded any sex apart from the possibility of procreation as a venial sin (as opposed to a grave sin). Yet the fact that an erotic love song is included in the Bible — the Song of Solomon — suggests that pleasure should be a part of sex too. The sexual revolution of the 1960s (and contraception) put an end to the link between sex and procreation (although Pope Paul VI raised issues about that development in his encyclical Humanae vitae). Some modern Catholic and Evangelical ethicists have opined that anal and oral sex might be part of sexual foreplay leading to coitus. That would suggest that they think there’s nothing morally wrong about anal and oral sex in and of themselves. Their concern would be substituting these practices for coitus.
Women have long been known to pleasure men by giving them oral sex. This was featured in the 1990 film, White Palace, in which fellatio was explicitly practiced by Susan Sarandan on James Spader, although not explicitly shown.
Of course, fellatio is also practiced by men on men, like you have been experimenting with on your buddies. While much of the oral sex teenagers engage in is between boys and girls, since it is considered a safe alternative to intercourse, it’s not unusual for boys to experience giving it to or receiving it from a male friend or a team mate or a college roommate. Some of those boys and men are straight, some may be gay. Stories I have heard indicate that many gay men had not come out as gay during their teenage years. They were still struggling with their sexual orientation in their teens.
But like anal sex, oral sex is often associated with gay men. The only difference between straight men and gay men on this score (although it is all the difference in the world) is that straight men are attracted primarily to the opposite sex and gay men are attracted to the same sex. But all men are focused on their penis. We have to be because, unlike women, our sex organs are external to the body and that makes us vulnerable. We are sometimes assertive in our sexual practices because of our vulnerability.
“We two boys together clinging,” photo by Giovanni_Dall Orto
Let me say further that oral sex is about more than fellatio. Sex itself is about more than the genitals. Oral sex is everything that can be done with the mouth and tongue that is sexual. Kissing, especially inserting our tongues in each other’s mouth, is oral and it can be very erotic. Kissing and licking the breasts and nipples of your partner can be very erotic.
This tongue action can move down to the torso to the genital area. Because of the nerve endings around the genitalia and the anus, those areas are especially aroused when kissed or tongued. When men (and Lesbian women) lick the woman’s genital area (called cunnilingus) and women (and gay men) lick the anal area (called rimming), it is very erotic. Of course, not everyone is turned on by this because of the “ick” factor. These are the areas of urination and defecation. [Full disclosure: this doesn’t appeal to me.]
This leads me to advocate giving attention to bodily cleanliness, especially in those areas. When properly washed and evacuated, these areas are no more “dirty” than other parts of the body. But there’s always the risk of exposure to fecal pathogens, hepatitis, dysentery, and amoebic diseases, as well as the ever-present threat of AIDS and the development of mouth cancer. The failure of the counterculture of the 1960s to observe basic biological hygiene contributed to the spread of these horrible diseases — and to a renewed appreciation for monogamy in sexual relations.
A further issue is swallowing vaginal fluid and semen if your partner ejaculates into your mouth. These body fluids are not harmful if consumed. In fact, in the ancient Indian practice of Tantra, the whole purpose of the ritualized sex was to receive partner’s body fluids. Tantra reacted to orthodox Hinduism by focusing on the body and its needs, like food and sex. The five “Ms,” as they were called, were things forbidden to the orthodox Hindu diet (fish, meat, parched grain, and wine). The fifth “M”, maithuna, is sometimes called sexual intercourse, but it was really about the consumption of sexual fluids, which could only be received by means of oral sex, as these figures on an ancient Indian temple demonstrate.
So is there any benefit to oral sex? Well, the girl or woman won’t get pregnant from engaging in it. Many teenager couple apparently engage in oral sex not only for that reason but also because they can claim that they are still “technically virgins.” Yes, they haven’t engaged in sexual penetration. But they are still engaged in sexual activities. Oral sex is real sex.
Finally, is there anything about oral sex with your buddies that you should be ashamed of? Not necessarily. But you should ask yourself: What’s the purpose of sex? Certainly procreation, but not exclusively. Hopefully pleasure, but not just for oneself. Partners want to pleasure each other. What about love? Sex is an expression of intimacy with another. A bonding occurs that changes you and your regard for the sexual partner. I wouldn’t be ashamed of what you are doing, but I would look forward to being able to use the gift of sexuality for a higher purpose in your life, like experiencing intimacy with one’s life partner. Oral sex could also play a role in that if it is agreeable to both partners.
Pastor Frank Senn