How oral sex just became high risk.
I often wish I was born in the era of flower power and free love, happy birth control pills (who knew then the estrogenic-cancer side of things) and sex that could not kill you.
But I came into my sexual years just as HIV/AIDS was making headlines, first as the homosexual disease and then as a death sentence for hetero free love. And just recently, the World Health Organization revealed that in several first-world countries the once easily treated gonorrhea has gone drug resistant.
Gonorrhea is transmitted through contact with an infected vagina, penis, anus, or mouth. It is spread through semen or vaginal fluids during unprotected sexual contact with a partner who has gonorrhea. Touching infected sex organs, like the vagina or penis, and then touching your eyes can also cause an eye infection. However, gonorrhea cannot be passed by shaking hands or by sitting on a toilet seat.
Phew. At least my mother’s worst fears about toilet seats aren’t a part of this new sex-threat, unless I suppose I kiss or lick the seat.Photo: Centers for Disease Control
In the meantime, the way I see it, my fun-loving oral sex life depends on a deep committment to monogamy with a partner who values fidelity as much as say, the Pope values celibacy.
Good news is I managed to get solidly partnered up two years ago with a man I insisted do full STD testing before I would have intercourse with him. In fact, with my obsessive compulsion around safe sex, the last four lovers have all had to show me their clean bill of health before we moved past heavy petting to the main event.
Still, oral sex fell into the lower-risk foreplay category in my mind. For lots of younger friends in the dating world, I know that fellatio and cunnilingus are considered safer options than unprotected intercourse.
Not any more.
Women who bargain with their health by just giving him head will now have to downgrade to a manual approach. Oh wait, that’s not so safe either. It looks like you can contract gonorrhea should you rub your eyes after giving an infected guy a hand job.
You’re getting the picture—it’s like a really bad sci-fi movie with the bug-from-planet-X killing our oral play freedom (and despite health recommendations, did anyone ever really use a dental dam to go down on a woman?)
Although you might be symptom free for months, within ten days of gonorrhea exposure women might experience the following symptoms:
- Pain or burning sensation when passing urine
- Vaginal discharge that is yellow or bloody
- Bleeding between menstrual periods
- Heavy bleeding with periods
- Pain during sex.
For men the symptom list includes:
- A burning sensation when urinating
- A white, yellow, or green discharge from the penis
- Painful or swollen testicles.
- Bleeding or itching of the anus
- Painful bowel movements.
That’s not including the symptom lists for gonorrhea of the throat, eyes or anus.
Longterm untreated side-effects are severe (and if you contract the superbug version this is your untreatable life sentence). In men and women, infertility is possible. For women, you can add the chance of spontaneous abortions and ectoptic pregnancies. For both men and women, if the bacteria spreads to other parts of the body, chronic joint pain, swelling and stiffness are likely.
On that warning note, a nostalgic reminder of the Summer of Love days when sex of any kind was not so damn scary.