Nothing sheds more light on the life of our ancestors than the myths they believed in. Let's transport ourselves to the warm banks of the Nile River, where one of the greatest civilizations on Earth blossomed. The ancient Egyptians worshiped Osiris, the God of the afterlife and resurrection, and one of the main and most powerful deities of this culture's pantheon. However, his brother Seth –the evil god of chaos, storm, and the underworld– was extremely jealous and decided to get rid of him. Seth cut his brother into fourteen pieces and spread them all over Egypt so that no one could find him and give him a proper funeral. But Isis, Osiris' wife, was determined to gather all the pieces. Nonetheless, she could only find thirteen, because the last one, his phallus, had been eaten by fish. Then, she created one artificial penis she attached to the rebuilt body and brought him back to life by blowing through the clay phallus.
Blow job, fellatio, cunnilingus, anilingus, or whatever name or type you prefer, oral sex is one of the most common sexual activities in the world. Unlike the importance it had in ancient myths, such as the aforementioned one, it’s generally thought that oral sex is perfect for those who seek an uncommitted relationship, or even for those quick and passionate drives we sometimes experience. The thing is that, behind this perception of oral sex, there are lots of myths, misconceptions, and risks many ignore or choose to ignore. One of those perceptions is that, since it’s not intercourse, you’re not really exposed to sexually transmitted diseases, and this couldn’t be more wrong. Here are some of the STIs that can be easily spread through oral sex and many people don’t know about:
This is the most common STI in sexually active people. Genital herpes is provoked by two main viruses: simplex type 1 and 2. While this disease doesn’t always show symptoms, or they appear some time later, it’s easier to carry it and spread it without knowing. This viral disease is spread through contact. Performing oral sex without any protection can increase the risk of catching it. It can manifest on lips, mouth, and/or throat when they’re in contact with an infected area. There’s no cure for herpes, but antiviral drugs can help decrease the symptoms and reduce the outbreaks. More than the risks of the disease itself, it’s important to know that it also increases the chances of being infected by HIV.
Also quite common, chlamydia is a bacterial disease that can affect both men and women. It’s also spread through contact, so it’s easy to get it through oral sex with an infected person. Unlike herpes, in most cases, chlamydia doesn’t show any symptom, so it's almost impossible to know you have it if you don’t get regularly tested. However, there’s one common symptom you might get but easily discard, which is a sore throat, pain when urinating, and genital discharge. This infection can be cured with medication, but it’s important to not have sex until you’re tested again to confirm you no longer have the disease. Again, not treating it can increase the risks of being infected with HIV, but it can also lead to severe arthritis, rashes, and conjunctivitis.
Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection that can be transmitted through oral, anal, and vaginal sex. Just like the previous infection, this STI doesn’t show any symptom, which makes it easier to spread. If it’s not treated on time, it can provoke severe issues in the prostate and penis such as epididymitis. In women, it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease. It can be treated with antibiotics yet it's become far more difficult to cure, since the strains have evolved and become more resistant. Moreover, it’s been proven that the infection can reach and cause severe damage in other regions of the body, even the heart. The best way to avoid gonorrhea, just as any other STI, is by wearing protection all the time.
HPV (Human Papillomavirus)
While many think this virus can only affect women, it’s been proven to be passed to and by both men and women. The only difference is that women present more symptoms. When it’s spread through oral sex, the main symptoms can involve warts in the throat that can provoke a difficulty in speaking or breathing. The most important thing to bear in mind with HPV is that it can turn into cancer, and not only vaginal and cervical, but also penile and in the neck. The best way to prevent it is through a vaccine. However, this only protects from certain strains of HPV, so condoms are the best aid to prevent it.
Also a bacterial infection spread by contact, syphilis can develop many symptoms like soreness in the infected region, rashes, chancres, and flu-like symptoms. It can be easily treated with antibiotics or penicillin. However, if left neglected it can produce severe and fatal damage, such as heart and circulatory problems, blindness, issues in the nervous system, and rotting of the skin (the most common is on the nose).
All the STIs mentioned above, when not treated, can increase the risk of getting HIV. This viral disease affects the immune system and has no cure yet. There are cases where the disease is latent for years, not showing any sign or symptom. It's crucial to be tested regularly for any STI to reduce the risk of spreading it. When symptoms appear, they resemble those of flu, so they can be easily mistaken.
No matter how fast and spontaneous oral sex can be, remember it’s also a gate to many diseases that can be easily prevented with condoms. There’s no need to put yourself at risk when you can just take a couple of seconds to be protected. Always be informed about the risks before engaging in any sexual activity. Yes, there’s information everywhere, and it doesn’t hurt looking at it just to be informed.