Dear Dr. G,

I am in my early 20s and started having a few sexual relationships. Truthfully, I have been facing some obstacles about sex with my boyfriends.

Don’t get me wrong; I am not some weirdo who doesn’t enjoy sex.

In fact, I started penetrative sex when I began university, and really thoroughly enjoy sexual relationship (with protection, of course).

The repetitive stumbling block in all my relationships seems to be the common issue about oral sex!

As you can imagine, most guys enjoy oral sex (I think, anyway). On the other hand, I find the whole act repulsive.

I find the idea of “going down” on a man (or a woman) unnatural.

My boyfriend and I sat down and discussed the matter, and realised it is probably due to the fact I have fear of swallowing semen.

In fact, I am so fearful about the whole thing that I become nauseated and vomited on occasions, when asked to do so!

I hate to put Dr. G on the spot, but was hoping if you could clarify a few things about human semen and the fear of swallowing cum.

Is it normal for a woman to be so fearful of performing oral sex?

What exactly is the constituent of human semen? Is it safe?

What happens if someone swallows the ejaculate (intentionally or unintentionally)?

Yours truly,
Emetic Emily

Oral sex is a sexual activity involving the stimulation of a person by the partner using the mouth, tongue or even teeth. In medical terminology, fellatio is oral sex performed on a male subject, and cunnilingus is performed on the female. Oral sex is an erotic and intimate act in its own right, but often performed as part of the foreplay to incite arousal, prior to penetration.

Art depicting oral sex dates back to thousands of years, even during Roman Civilization. In the city of Pompeii, which was buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79AD, archaeologists confirmed that the erotic frescoes on the ancient bath clearly depict images of oral sex. In the 1950’s, when Kinsey began to analyse such practice amongst newly wed Americans, he reported the prevalence of 51% and 50% in cunnilingus and fellatio, respectively.

In modern times, oral sex is evidently more acceptable amongst youth, regardless of initiation of penetrative intercourse. A self-administered National Centre for Health and Statistic survey of over 12,000 Americans, aged 15 to 44, revealed that more than half of the adolescents had admitted engaging in oral sex. The British National Surveys of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyle study also echoed similar findings, revealing increasing prevalence of oral sex with much younger demographic.

Even though oral sex has become more culturally acceptable, it is often still regarded as a taboo. In fact, in some countries such practice is even punishable by law. Oral sex can be considered to be more intimate than penetrative intercourse by many, as it renders negative feelings and inhibitions. The origin of such negative attitude stem from irrational fear of partners’ genital smell and cleanliness. Some may also have unfavourable perceptions of un-groomed pubes or hygiene of uncircumcised penis. The reluctance of placing the penis in the oral cavity resulting in gagging reflex and involuntary vomiting, is also the fear encountered when performing oral sex. Lastly, the negative thoughts of partner climaxing during fellatio, resulting in unintentional swallowing of the ejaculate, can also generate fear of contracting diseases.

In fact, the phobia of providing or receiving oral sex for the fear of contracting sexually transmitted infection is called osaphobia. Like most form of sexual contact, oral sex does pose a risk of contracting sexually transmitted infection. Oral sexual contacts involving the exchange of bodily fluids have the potential of pathogen transmission such as chlamydia, human papilloma virus, gonorrhea, herpes and hepatitis. Thankfully, the risk of HIV and other infections is significantly lower for oral sex, compared to vaginal and anal sex. Therefore, the practice of oral sex in a monogamous and trusting relationship is often considered almost risk free.

The American philosopher and psychologist William James once said: “It is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult task, which more than anything else, will affect its successful outcome.”

The beginning of a sexual journey is never plain sailing and often present as a difficult task for many. Lack of knowledge, unfounded perceptions and negative attitudes can make the difficult task even harder. Fact-finding mission is often the first step to debunk the myths and fear of sex. This should be followed by trust in a relationship, allowing couples to ease into the pleasure of exploring and enjoying each other.

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