Antibiotic resistant gonorrhea is on the rise but all oral sex isn’t equally to blame.
Oral sex isn’t causing a rise in incurable gonorrhea. Blow jobs are.
Recent headlines have incited yet another sexual panic. This time, we’re told to fret over the rise in antibiotic resistant gonorrhea. “Oral sex spreading unstoppable bacteria,” “Experts Sound The Alarm As Drug Resistant Gonorrhea Goes Global,” “Untreatable ‘super gonorrhea’ on the rise, spread by oral sex,” “Scientists fear oral sex could be spreading new antibiotic resistant gonorrhea.”
But this is nothing new. Antibiotic resistant gonorrhea has been a problem for years, as has antibiotic resistance in general. Nonetheless, it’s irresponsible to call it an epidemic. The recent WHO data shows there have only been three confirmed cases of a strain resistance to all antibiotics. A cause for concern, certainly. The bubonic plague it is not.
Moreover, saying “oral sex” is the problem is misleading and false. The bacteria spreads when an infected urethra comes in contact with the pharynx. Saliva, meanwhile has enzymes that kill the bacteria. As Dr. Peter Rice, a gonorrhea expert at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, told The New Yorker, fellatio “is the only predictable way to transmit gonococcal infection to the pharynx.”
So, yes, putting an infected penis in your mouth puts you at risk of contracting the disease. Cunnilingus, meanwhile, is far safer because you’ll never lodge a vulva in your throat.
Most media outlets aren’t differentiating between the two sexual acts for two reasons. The first is general sex negativity borne out of abstinence-only education. It doesn’t matter that one kind of oral sex is effectively safe. If there’s a slight chance something bad could happen during any sex act, you absolutely should not do it or you’re an irresponsible hedonist.
The second reason for lumping the two into one risky basket is the classic and thriving sexism that says blow jobs are standard but licking pussy is gross or reserved for special occasions.
Which is just offensive.
So suck on those pussies. Luxuriate in the freedom of not getting a super STD. Enjoy knowing you’re (probably) not a clit-phobic jerk.
As for blow jobs, you can relax. Use a condom if you don’t know when or if your partner has been tested. (Fun fact: I once had a partner show up to our first date with a print-out of his most recent STD test. Some friends said that was weird and creepy but to me it was charming and thoughtful.)
Yes, condoms are not ideal for blow jobs. Try non-latex brands that taste better and feel better for the recipient. If you want to keep using the free condoms from your clinic or school, drop some lube in it to increase sensitivity.
And everyone, please remember that STDs and STIs aren’t scarier than other infections. At least gonorrhea isn’t cancer or a zombie fish.