Snowballing is more popular than you'd think—but it's also far more risky than you know. Here's what you need to know about this surprisingly dangerous sexual practice.
By Alonso Martínez
When it comes to sex, all bets are off. What is disgusting for some is outright hot for others, and there's no telling what someone might find appealing given the right circumstances. Many are drawn to unusual practices of all kinds. There's nothing wrong with that, as long as the sexual relationship is between two consenting adults. But, if anything, we should at least be aware of their potential health implications if we're to engage in specific sexual acts continually.
What is snowballing?
Snowballing is the sexual practice in which a person gets someone's semen in their own mouth and then passes it on to the mouth of another through kissing. The practice has grown in popularity in recent years, mostly through the widespread availability of porn sites throughout the internet. This particular form of fluid exchange is appealing particularly in the younger population, and that is worrying—according to many studies, snowballing is potentially dangerous, and very few people are aware of it.
Oral sex without a condom is not a safe practice to begin with. Generally speaking, any contact between genitalia, bodily fluids (like vaginal discharge or semen) and blood can spread a sexually-transmitted disease (STD), like herpes, syphilis, or HIV.
What is the specific risk of snowballing?
Though it's not been possible to assess the specific risk, in numbers, of acquiring an STD through oral sex, experts assure some practices are more dangerous than others. Of course, the more responsible the people engaging in sexual activity are, and the better their mouth health and hygiene is, the better their chances of being safe. But anyone can miss something, no matter how safe you usually are. If there's even a hint of a cut in someone's mouth, then any semen that comes into it can easily enter the bloodstream, resulting in an infection.
Suppose a healthy man and a healthy woman engage in snowballing. Suppose they're both unaware that he has an STD. Even if there's no penetration, if she has some sort of cut in her mouth, the contact between the semen and her wound opens the possibility to get the same disease he has.
How can you reduce the risk?
If performing oral sex, it's best to do it with a condom—especially if you have multiple sexual partners. There are also female condoms that women can use. However, the best general way to reduce the risk of contracting an STD is being responsible about what you do, how you do it, and who you do it with. Keep yourself informed in all of these areas, and know that having sex with random strangers will invariably be more dangerous than if you know the person.
Regardless, there are a few things you could do to minimize risk when it comes to snowballing and other such practices.
It's important not to engage in snowballing just after you floss or brush your teeth, as this can lead to minor bleeding that can cause issues if exchanging fluids.
It's recommended to perform a rather discreet examination of your and your partner's genitalia, just to make sure there's no anomaly. This can be done casually and informally—there's no need to make a big deal about it. Just keep it in mind and don't be afraid to ask if you notice anything strange.
It's advised not to have sexual contact if you or your partner (or both) are on your period.
All these recommendations are for those who enjoy passing or receiving semen through kissing or oral sex. Obviously, performing oral sex without ejaculating is far less risky, though there can still be pre-cum fluids to worry about. Swallowing semen entails the same dangers, as the throat can also have vulnerable lesions.
Most men find snowballing enticing, but keep in mind that reaching the ultimate pleasure doesn't require that you go all the way. For a long time, it was thought that the fluid exchange involved in snowballing was harmless, but it's only slightly less risky than coitus when it comes to contracting an STD. It's important to know your sexual partner. Above all, though, it's key that you have sex only with people you trust, so you're aware of the actual risk of contracting a disease. Only by knowing everything's safe will you be able to fully enjoy sex.
So, yeah. Ejaculating in her mouth is the fantasy of many and it has been highly popularized by porn, which depicts this outcome in many of its scenes. But it is hardly the best way to finish a sexual encounter. Though it was previously considered safe, evidence is mounting that it's actually not, and the STDs you're liable to contract through the practice are hardly worth the risk. Snowballing is just another version of this dangerous practice.
Translated by Oliver G. Alvar