Oral Sex & Herpes

Oral Sex & Herpes - blog Alexandra Harbushka

What you need to know about oral sex and herpes

One of the common questions I get from the community has to do with oral sex. Oral sex is kind of left out of the equation when we’re talking about sex, sex education or sexual health. Typically what comes to mind when we talk about sex is just the plane old heterosexual vaginal sex. And then when we talk about safe sex or even in sex ed classes, oral sex is kinda just left out. It’s like it’s not really considered sex.  

Ok so here’s the deal, you can get herpes from having oral sex! 

This might be an oh sh!the moment for you or it’s a moment that explains it all. Regardless we need to talk about oral sex and how herpes is just as contagious with oral sex as it is with regular old sex. 

Before you panic I’m going to cut to the point and say that yes, you can still give and receive oral sex with your herpes diagnosis but here’s the deal you’re still putting your partner at risk. Let me explain.

Just a quick herpes 101, so herpes is contagious by skin to skin transmission. That means that if someone has herpes on their mouth, either HSV 1 or HSV 2, and they use their  mouth to come into contact with someone who does not have herpes then they have just potentially transmitted the virus. The same goes for genital herpes, if someone has genital herpes, either HSV 1 or HSV 2, and their genitals come into contact with someone who does not have the virus then they have potentially put their partner at risk. 

Here’s how herpes is NOT transmitted. If someone has oral herpes and does not use their mouth to come into contact with someone. So basically you can have vaginal or anal sex you are not putting your partner at risk. Or the flip if you have genital herpes you can use your mouth all you want and you are not putting your partner at risk. 

Just because you have the herpes virus in your body it doesn’t mean that your entire body is contagious. It’s just the area where you get outbreaks. Also, this is very important to bring up that just because you have HSV 1 it does not mean that it’s oral herpes and just because you have HSV 2 it does not mean you have genital herpes. I go into details here about it.

So back to oral sex and herpes. Let’s be clear and break it down. If you have oral herpes and perform oral sex then you are putting  your partner at risk of getting genital herpes. On the flip side if you have oral herpes you can receive oral sex and not worry that you will transmit it to your partner. 

Here are ways to have oral sex even though you have herpes. 

  1. First and foremost you need to tell your partner. Cold sores are herpes and can be transmitted to your partner and you can give them genital herpes. After you’ve talked about this with your partner then the both of you can decide what you want to do moving forward. 

  2. To protect your partner and yourself for that matter you guys can decide to use dental dams or condoms to reduce the transmission risk 

Once you have talked to your partner and you both have a game plan then enjoy. In my personal relationship with my husband we both give and receive oral sex and do not use condoms or dental dams. It’s because we’re both aware of the risks and we’re both ok with the outcomes. If I’m feeling like maybe something is up then we don’t do it, it’s as simple as that. 

Here's the deal and why I want to talk about this. It’s not to scare you and make you feel like you can never give or receive oral sex again. Please don’t put yourself in that position. It’s not fair to you or your partner. What I want you to know is that oral sex is sex and you can give or receive STI’s  which includes herpes just as easily as you can having sex. In fact, in my opinion you’re more at risk with oral sex because we’re not taught about this in sexed and when we don’t have a condom we typically turn to oral sex for an alternative. I want you to know the facts so that you and your partner can move forward with safe sex practices that work for the both of you. 

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