Sex & Sociability

Question and commentary on connections, both sexual and social

But Is It Real Sex?

Oral sex is the most requested service from sex workers.

Then: Morning fog;        Now: Marine layer

Then: Disappeared;       Now: Went missing

Then: You're welcome;   Now: No problem

Then: "Good luck, Mr. Goldstein";    Now: "I didn't like him enough to hook up so I gave him oral sex."

Probably apocryphal, but Neal Armstrong is reputed to have muttered the words "Good luck, Mr. Goldstein" after his storied "one giant step for mankind" statement. When asked about it he refused to explain until recently, stating that he had been waiting until all parties involved were dead. The story goes that when he was a little boy he heard shouting from the window of his next door neighbors, the Goldsteins. "Oral sex?" yelled Mrs. G. "You want oral sex? I'll give you oral sex when the kid next door walks on the moon!'

More than a half century later more has happened to popularize this hitherto most private activity than the publishing of Bill Clinton's peccadilloes. I have no doubt the President had an enormous influence, not only in making the subject mentionable on the 6 o'clock news, but in re-enforcing (with a celebrity endorsement yet) the notion that somehow oral sex isn't real sex.

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This spring I was interviewed by a national women's magazine on a topic that appeared several times on my online Sexuality Forum. That is that young women (some, of course, not all) seem increasingly casual about oral sex, offering it as a thank you for dinner or as a consolation prize for refusing intercourse, for many reasons other than their own pleasure or expressing intimacy. Many women of the Boomer generation and older (by no means all) don't seem as casual about it. Witness not only Mrs. Goldstein but the numerous sad letters my column has received over the years from men whose wives or lovers won't "do that". Research indicates that oral sex is the most requested service from professional sex workers and usually from men who do not get it at home. The women who "don't do that" are usually not in their 20's.

Some years ago when my mother was 80ish, my daughter 30ish and I was 50ish , we had a discussion about the relative intimacy factor of oral, genital and anal sex. (Don't ask me how we got there. The conversations of sexologists do not often run toward small talk, I guess.) The three generations were in agreement that forms of sex other than genital intercourse seemed, if anything, more intimate rather than less.

So even though I knew of the growing trend toward more casual oral sex it jolted me to read such posts on my Forum as "I've been giving BJ's since my 15th birthday. In high school and college you did it on the first date instead of intercourse" and "I'm not sure how it started but many of my friends do think of oral sex as just part of making out. I've even heard guys in their early 20's talk about how they'd let certain girls give them a BJ but would not want to (have intercourse) with them. I know some girls who say the same thing about certain guys."

The theoretical whys of this was summed up by one woman's post: "My son confirmed that most of his friends in high school, male and female, don't think of oral sex as real sex. I asked him why. His answer was that girls can't get pregnant from giving or receiving oral sex. Some of the girls he knew limited themselves to oral sex because it's a 100% reliable form of birth control. Some of them wanted to preserve their technical virginity, and others had tried intercourse a time or two but didn't enjoy it that much. From the guys' perspective, most of them were happy to get a BJ. Another bonus was that the girls didn't make them wear a condom."

As if the new mores were not cringe worthy in and of themselves to a 1970's feminist, recent reports show oral cancer linked to HPV is up more than 200% in the past fifteen years. In the same time period throat and oral cancers due to tobacco and alcohol use were down 50%.

I am all for more people enjoying more sex in ways that promote pleasure rather than unplanned pregnancy but I just don't see this one-sided dispensing of casual sexual favors as much of an improvement over "the old days" of mandated premarital virginity. Not only does unprotected oral sex spread as many nasty diseases as any other variety of sex but "I'll pay my own way on a date and get you off as a bonus" seems like a pretty sad post script to women's fight for equal rights.

 

 

Isadora AlmanM.F.T., is a Board-certified sex, marriage, and family therapist, lecturer, author, and syndicated advice columnist of "Ask Isadora."

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