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How to have oral sex

Oral sex can be a great way to give and receive pleasure. Some people love it, while others aren’t into it. That’s okay! 

If you’re having oral sex or thinking about it, this page answers some of the most common questions you might have. While there is very little risk of getting HIV infection from oral sex, other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as herpesgonorrhoea and syphilis are easily passed on. Using a condom or a dental dam will help to protect you.

What is oral sex?

'Going down', 'rimming' and 'blow jobs' are some of the many ways of describing oral sex. Oral sex means using your mouth or tongue to lick, suck or stimulate your partner’s genitals or anus.     

Many people enjoy oral sex, but it is a personal thing and not everybody likes it or chooses to do it. If you’re happy and comfortable with someone, oral sex can be a great way to get closer and learn what turns each other on. 

It is important to talk to your partner so you can understand what they like and don’t like. There are different ways to give or receive oral sex. It can take a while to work out what makes someone feel good so keep communicating with your partner. Ask them to tell you what feels nice and let them know when you are enjoying something.  

If you find you aren’t enjoying something, it’s your right to stop any time you want and the same is true for your partner.

How do you give a man oral sex?

When you give someone with a penis oral sex, this is also known as a blow job. A penis does not need to be erect for you to start oral sex but you can use your hand to arouse them first. If you hold the penis during oral sex, you can control how deep it goes into your mouth. You can move your hand allowing the penis to go as far into your mouth as you are comfortable with.  

A penis is highly sensitive, so be gentle at first and slowly work up to a faster pace. You can try moving your tongue, mouth and head in different ways to see what works best for them, but never use your teeth unless asked.  

Remember you can stop at any time. It’s also up to you to decide if you want to let them ejaculate (or cum) in your mouth. If they are wearing a condom you will both be protected against STIs.

How do you give a woman oral sex?

A person with a vulva may find it arousing if you spend some time kissing and touching their upper thighs and the area around the vulva (genitals) before oral sex.  

The whole genital area is sensitive, but the clitoris (with its 8,000 nerve endings) is often the most sensitive part. Gently part the outer lips of the vagina and look for the vaginal opening, and the hooded clitoris just above it.  

Start off softly, using a relaxed tongue to make slow movements and gradually work up to faster movements with a firmer tongue. You can try moving your tongue in different ways and using different rhythms – ask your partner to find out what she enjoys most.

How do you give oral-anal sex (rimming)?

Performing oral sex on your partner’s anus (also known as rimming) can be part of any sexual relationship, whatever your sexuality.  

If you are concerned about hygiene, ask your partner to wash first. You could also bathe together as part of foreplay.  

Your partner may like it if you gently kiss and touch the area around the anus including the perineum (the area of skin between the genitals and the anus) to arouse them before oral-anal sex. You can then focus on the anus, moving your tongue around the outer area and finally inserting your tongue. Remember to listen to your partner and do what they enjoy, whether that’s licking, sucking or gently probing.  

If you are giving oral sex to a woman, don’t move from the anus to the vagina as this can transfer bacteria and cause infection.

Can I get HIV and other STIs from oral sex?

The risk of passing on HIV through oral sex is very low unless the person receiving oral sex has an STI or sores on their genital area, or the person giving oral sex has sores in their mouth or bleeding gums. If the person with HIV is on medication and has undetectable levels of HIV, then there is no risk of passing the virus on. 

However, other STIs can easily be passed on during oral sex, in particular herpes, gonorrhoea and syphilis. Certain infections and viruses that are found in faeces (poo) can be passed on through oral–anal sex - this includes hepatitis A and E.coli. 

How can I prevent infections during oral sex?

The most effective way to prevent STIs during oral sex is to use a condom if you are giving oral sex to a man or a dental dam for oral sex on a woman or oral-anal sex.  

A dental dam is a thin, soft plastic cover that acts as a barrier. If you don’t have one, you can cut a condom lengthways from bottom to top to make one piece of material that can be used instead. Hold one side of the dam against your partner’s vagina or anus and lick the other. Never turn the dam over - just use one side. 

If you are having oral sex during your or your partner’s period, using a dam is even more important because menstrual blood can carry bacteria and viruses, just like other blood.

Other steps that prevent infection:  

  • don't brush your teeth straight before oral sex as this may make your mouth or gums bleed  

  • avoid getting semen (cum) or vaginal discharge in your mouth.  

  • avoid oral sex if either you or your partner has sores around your mouth, genitals or anus, damaged or bleeding gums, or an infection in your throat or mouth. These mean a high risk of passing on STIs. Be aware that you may not know if you or your partner has an STI, as infections can be passed on even if there are no obvious signs or symptoms. If you do have sores around your mouth, genitals or anus, you should get them checked out by a healthcare professional as they may be a sign of an infection.  

Should I have oral sex?

Deciding whether to have oral sex is a personal choice. Only you know if you are ready to experiment with oral sex. Think about whether it feels right, and whether you and your partner are both comfortable with the idea.  

Talking to your partner about protection before you start having oral sex will help make things easier. This may feel awkward to talk about but taking responsibility for protecting yourself and your partner is an important part of having sex. If you find it too awkward to talk about, you may not be ready to have oral sex just yet.  

You should never give or receive oral sex just because you feel like you should or that you “owe” it to someone - you don’t! Some people will try to convince you to do things by saying things like: 

  •  “it doesn’t mean we’ve had real sex – you’ll still be a virgin”
  •  “if you don’t want sex at least go down on me”
  • “it’s not as risky as having full sex” 

If one of you isn’t comfortable with it, can ruin the whole experience. Oral sex should be fun for both of you.  

Am I ready for sex?

Let's talk about having oral sex!

Here are a few questions to help kick-off discussions on the issues you need to talk about! You can share them on social, on WhatsApp or just get talking.

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How do I talk about safer oral sex with my partner?

Both you and your partner are responsible for preventing STIs so talking about it is a great idea. This is much easier to do before you get intimate. If you’re nervous about talking with your partner, check out our tips for getting started.  

  • Lead with the positives  

  • Be sensitive to your partner’s feelings and start by telling them what you enjoy, and then ease into what you’d like to try or change.  

  • This could sound like: “I really like it when we…, and wondered how you feel about trying…?”  

  • Listen  

  • Good communication goes in two directions. So be prepared to listen to your partner and give them a chance to tell you what they’re thinking about sex.  

  • Keep talking  

  • If you’re having sex, remember that talking about sex is important and helps strengthen your relationship – your partner can’t read your mind, so speak up.  

  • If you find the idea of talking about safer sex with your partner is too difficult or embarrassing, it could be a sign that you aren’t ready to start having sex just yet. This is fine – remember that there are lots of ways to enjoy being together and to explore your sexual feelings. It could also mean you and partner need to talk more. Good communication and good sex go hand in hand!

How to talk about condoms with your partner

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  • Last updated: 04 July 2024
  • Last full review: 01 July 2024
  • Next full review: 01 March 2025
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