Oral Sex as the Intimacy Alternative

I knew that Shannon liked me. After all, she had given me a whole box of cashews! More importantly, she sent me a Valentine’s Day card through our high school mail, for everyone to see. But I was 16. How could I know how serious she was about a geek like me, my dreamy Marsha Brady clone with the waist-length golden tresses?

About a week later, Shannon drove me home from the Freedom Foods supermarket where we both worked for $2.90 an hour. Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot (Fire Away)” was playing. I was about to get out of her ’74 Pinto when she pulled me over toward her. Our eyes locked. Then it happened: my first kiss. I didn’t even mind that my mom was peeking through the Venetian blinds.

More than the tunes have changed since the late ’70s. According to a new study on teen sex by Los Angeles pediatrician Dr. Mark Schuster, oral sex has become the equivalent of a first kiss—a casual gesture that doesn’t imply any commitment beyond simple affection. “Oral sex doesn’t seem like sex,” a 15-year-old girl from Manhattan told The New York Times. “People may see the first time as a rite of passage, but after that, it’s nothing much.”

A 14-year-old boy agreed, saying that “oral sex did not necessarily imply a real relationship.”

Said New York psychologist Dr. Carol Perry: “It is incredible how casual oral sex has become for some adolescents. With older people, it was something that usually came further along in a relationship, when two people had been comfortable with each other and intimate for a while. But many of the adolescents see it as safer than intercourse, and not as intimate.” If a time warp were to transport me back to Shannon’s Pinto, I probably wouldn’t want my mom to witness that first, er, kiss.

Kids certainly didn’t learn this stuff from their elders. In a 1994 study of sexual habits in America, fewer than half of the women over 50 claimed to have ever performed oral sex. Maybe that’s why mainstream reaction to the rise of the BJ-and-a-movie date—to encourage teenagers to use mint-flavored condoms and dental dams during oral sex—is so absurd. Who in their right mind would perform oral sex on latex? No, if we adults are ever to provide useful information to adolescents, we have to accept their weird new sex habits the way they are. As Dr. Cydelle Berlin, founder of the Adolescent AIDS prevention program at Mount Sinai Medical Center said, “For girls, ‘Do you spit or do you swallow?’ is a typical seventh-grade question.”

With that in mind, here’s how to answer questions teens may ask you:

• Is it OK to administer oral sex on the first date?

Certainly. After a nice evening together, there’s absolutely nothing inappropriate about planting one on your date’s privates on the front porch. It doesn’t mean you’re going to get married or anything.

• Can I get pregnant from oral sex?

Yes. If your “humors” become amorous, and a black cat crosses your path at the stroke of midnight, look for twins in the morning.

• The fascists who run my high school have banned public displays of affection in the halls and locker areas. Does this include 69ing?

It depends on your state. In Mississippi, for example, you could be donated for vivisection at a cosmetics lab or forced to participate in school prayer. In California, on the other hand, 69ing is completely acceptable, even in class, but only so long as it doesn’t interfere with the learning process.

• A boy I like has asked me to the homecoming dance, but I’ve never had oral sex before. How can I avoid embarrassing myself?

Any number of excellent films on the subject can be found on community-access cable television. Ask your parents to disable their V-chip, or try surfing the World Wide Web, which is chock-full of just the kind of obscenity you’re looking for.

• I’m confused. My girlfriend is pressuring me to “go all the way” with her, but I feel that I’m not ready. She says she’s tired of “oral sex, oral sex, oral sex, always oral sex,” and that if I loved her, I’d do it.

That’s a dilemma, not a question. But you’re too young to know the difference. Anyway, your girlfriend may be ready for a level of commitment that you’re just not comfortable with. Don’t allow yourself to be pressured into having real sex. If she wants more than just oral sex, tell her to find it elsewhere.

• On Valentine’s Day, everyone in my school gets oral sex except me.

Don’t worry about it. Because teenagers are shallow, they’re only sexually attracted to people based on their physical appearance. Adults, on the other hand, will also consider how much money you earn. After age 18 you’ll be able to pay for it.

• I wear braces. Is this a problem?


(Ted Rall, a syndicated cartoonist and freelance writer based in New York City, was a 1996 Pulitzer Prize finalist in editorial cartooning.)

© 1997 Ted Rall, All Rights Reserved