13 August 2010
Oral sex study worries health experts
by Kate Melville
According to new research from the University of Alberta, one-third of women find fellatio empowering and half regard oral sex as less intimate than intercourse. More worrying, however, is the finding that less than 20 percent of 18-25 year olds use protection when engaging in oral sex. Researcher Brea Malacad says the findings show that oral sex is becoming a more common activity for young women and researchers, sex educators and marketers of safer-sex paraphernalia need to catch up with the trend.
"From my study, all of the women who had engaged in sexual intercourse had also engaged in oral sex as well," said Malacad, whose findings appear in the European Journal of Contraception and Reproductive Health Care. "This data tells us that oral sex is becoming very much a part of most young people's sexual repertoire."
Malacad's findings reveal that behaviors and attitudes towards oral sex are changing. Her research shows that while 50 percent of respondents viewed oral sex as a less intimate activity than intercourse, 41 percent believe oral sex to be as intimate an act as intercourse and the remaining nine percent view it as more intimate than intercourse.
The participants' emotional response to oral sex was also something that surprised her. "Both intercourse and oral sex were associated with mostly positive emotions overall, which suggests that most young women are engaging in these activities because they enjoy them," said Malacad. "Based on the results of my study, there is a percentage of women (just over 30 percent) who feel powerful when performing fellatio. Apparently some women find it empowering and believe that it can wield a lot of power."
Malacad says this mainstreaming of oral sex is a change in the tide of sexual behavior and sex educators need to catch up. With many young people still ignorant to the fact that sexually transmitted infections can just as easily be passed orally, she believes a whole new topic of discussion needs to appear in the safer sex curriculum delivered to students.
"Eighty-two percent of respondents said that they never used protection when engaging in oral sex, compared to only seven percent for intercourse; it's almost like it didn't occur to them to protect themselves when having oral sex," said Malacad. "I don't think young people are aware that infections can be spread this way and there are options in terms of protecting oneself. In order to provide relevant sex education, we need to get into these difficult topics that have to be talked about. We need to be giving them honest and reliable information in the classroom.
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Source: University of Alberta