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Fellatio performed in 69 position

Fellatio, also called fellation,[1] is oral sex performed upon the penis. It may be performed to induce orgasm and ejaculation of semen, or it can be used as foreplay prior to vaginal or anal forms of intercourse.

Fellatio is commonly referred to as a blowjob or BJ.[2] Fellatio is also sometimes referred to as "giving head" or "going down".[3] Other terms include "sucking dick" and "sucking off".



The English noun fellatio comes from fellātus, which in Latin is the past participle of the verb fellāre, meaning to suck. In fellatio the -us is replaced by the -io, an alternate form of the suffix -ion. The -ion or -io ending is used in English to create nouns from Latin adjectives and it can indicate a state or action wherein the Latin verb is being, or has been, performed.

Further English words have been created based on the same Latin root. A person who performs fellatio upon another may be termed a fellator. Because of Latin's gender based declension, this word may be restricted by some English speakers to describing a male. The equivalent female term is fellatrix.


A woman deep-throating a man

Deep-throating is an act in which a man's entire erect penis is inserted deep into the mouth of a partner, in such a way as to enter the receiving partner's throat. The term was popularized by the 1972 film Deep Throat. It may be difficult for some people to perform due to the requirement of suppressing the natural gag reflex.

Cultural significance

Illustration by Édouard-Henri Avril.

Many people have negative feelings about performing or receiving oral sex, and may refuse to do so.[4] In ancient Greece and modern Japan, fellatio has been referred to as "playing the flute"; the Kama Sutra has a chapter on auparishtaka (or oparishtaka), "mouth congress".[5]

The opposite position can also be argued, namely the receiver of oral sex is in a position of psychological if not physical vulnerability, and thus is potentially weaker. Bringing a person to climax is a form of exerting control over that person's physiology and emotions. Tantric traditions of sexuality[citation needed] refer to the possibility of losing prana during orgasm. The experience of fatigue can be part of postorgasmic illness syndrome.[6]

Oral sex depicted in the Kama Sutra.

Religious significance

Galienus called fellatio "lesbiari" since women of the island of Lesbos were supposed to have been the introducer of the practice to use one's lips to give sexual pleasure.[7]

The Ancient Indian Kama Sutra, dating from the first century AD, describes oral sex,[8] discussing fellatio in great detail and only briefly mentioning cunnilingus. However, according to the Kama Sutra, fellatio is above all a characteristic of eunuchs (or, according to other translations, of effeminate homosexuals or transwomen similar to the modern Hijra of India), who use their mouths as a substitute for female genitalia.

The author states that it is also practiced by "unchaste women" but mentions widespread traditional concerns about this being a degrading or unclean practice, with known practitioners being evaded as love partners in large parts of the country. He seems to agree with these attitudes to some extent, claiming "a wise man" should not engage in that form of intercourse while acknowledging that it can be appropriate in some unspecified cases.

The religious historian Mircea Eliade speaks of a desire to transcend old age and death and achieve a state of nirvana in the Hindu practice of Tantric yoga. In Tantric yoga the same emphasis is placed on the retention and absorption of vital liquids and Sanskrit texts describe how semen must not be emitted if the yogi is to avoid falling under the law of time and death.[9]

In Islamic literature the only form of sex that is always explicitly prohibited within marriage is sex during menstrual cycles (see islamic view of anal sex).[10] But the exact attitude towards oral sex is a subject of disagreements between modern scholars of Islam. Authorities considering it "objectionable" do so because of the contact between the supposedly impure fluids emitted during intercourse and the mouth.[11] Others emphasize there is no decisive evidence to forbid it.[12]

Moche Ceramic Depicting Fellatio. 300 A.D. Larco Museum Collection

The Moche culture of ancient Peru worshipped daily life including sexual acts. They depicted fellatio in their ceramics.[13]

Ingestion of semen

Nancy Friday's book, Men in Love - Men's Sexual Fantasies: The Triumph of Love over Rage claims that swallowing ejaculate is high on the intimacy scale.

As late as 1976, doctors were advising women in the eighth and ninth months of pregnancy not to swallow semen lest it induce premature labor,[14] even though it is now known to be safe. Fellatio is sometimes practiced during pregnancy as a replacement for vaginal sex by couples looking to engage in a sexually pleasurable activity while avoiding the difficulty of vaginal intercourse during the later stages of pregnancy.[15]

Semen ingestion has also had central importance in some cultures around the world. In Baruya culture, there is a secret ritual in which boys give fellatio to young males and drink their semen, in order to "re-engender themselves prior to marriage".[16] Among the Sambia people of Papua New Guinea, beginning at age seven all males regularly submit to oral penetration by adolescents in a six-stage initiation process, as the Sambia believe that regular ingestion of an older boy's semen is necessary for a prepubescent youth to achieve sexual maturity and masculinity. By the time he enters mid-puberty he in turn participates in passing his semen on to younger males.[17] [18]


Fellatio alone cannot result in pregnancy; there is no way for sperm from the penis to enter the uterus and fallopian tubes to fertilize an egg. In humans, there is not a connection between the gastrointestinal system and the reproductive tract. Sperm is killed and broken down by acid in the stomach and digestive enzymes in the small intestine.

Link to reducing pre-eclampsia

It has been suggested that fellatio may, through "immune modulation",[19] have a beneficial role in preventing dangerous complications during pregnancy. Specifically, several research groups[20] have reported that pre-eclampsia, a life threatening complication that sometimes arises in pregnancy, is much less frequent in couples who have practiced oral sex, and even more rare in couples where fellatio regularly ended with a woman's swallowing of her partner's semen.

The results were statistically significant and are consistent with the fact that semen contains several agents that have important roles in the prevention of pre-eclampsia, which may arise out of an immunological condition.[19][21][22] According to that view, preeclampsia is caused by a failure of the mother to accept the fetus and placenta, which both contain "foreign" proteins from the father's genes.

Regular exposure to the father's semen helps cause her immune system to gradually "grow accustomed" to their proteins. Other studies also found that, while any exposure to the partner's sperm during sex appears to decrease the chances of various disorders, women in couples who have practiced "sex acts other than intercourse" are less than half as likely to suffer preeclampsia.

The studies noted that it would be impossible to assume conclusively the likely protective effect of the "other sex acts" including oral sex, or that the correlation between these sexual practices was due to the presence of collinearity induced by some other protective factor not noted in the studies: for example, greater overall frequency of sex.[19] The standard way to resolve such confounding questions in medical science would be through a randomized trial, but there are unique challenges to research in sexual health.[23]

STD risk

Chlamydia, human papillomavirus (HPV), gonorrhea, herpes, hepatitis (multiple strains), and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), can be transmitted through oral sex.[24]

Any kind of sexual contact with body fluids of a person infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, poses a risk of infection. The risk from most of these types of infection, however, is generally considered far lower than that associated with vaginal or anal sex.[25][26]

If the receiving partner has wounds on his genitals, or if the giving partner has wounds or open sores on or in his or her mouth, or bleeding gums, this poses an increased risk of STD transmission. Brushing the teeth, flossing, undergoing dental work, or eating crunchy foods such as potato chips relatively soon before or after giving fellatio can also increase the risk of transmission, because all of these activities can cause small scratches in the lining of the mouth.

These wounds, even when they are microscopic, increase the chances of contracting STDs that can be transmitted orally under these conditions. Such contact can also lead to more mundane infections from common bacteria and viruses found in, around and secreted from the genital regions. Because of this, some medical professionals advise the use of condoms when performing or receiving fellatio with a partner whose STD status is unknown. Flavored condoms may be used for this purpose.

HPV and oral cancer link

In 2006, a research study at Malmö University's Faculty of Odontology suggested that performing unprotected oral sex on a person infected with HPV might increase the risk of oral cancer. The study found that 36 percent of the cancer patients had HPV compared to only 1 percent of the healthy control group.[27]

Another recent study suggests a correlation between oral sex and throat cancer. It is believed that this is due to the transmission of human papillomavirus (HPV).

The study concludes that people who had one to five oral-sex partners in their lifetime had approximately a doubled risk of throat cancer compared with those who never engaged in this activity and those with more than five oral-sex partners had a 250 percent increased risk.[28]

Other species

Cynopterus sphinx fellatio.ogg
Female bats perform fellatio to increase copulation time. This species is the only non-primate known to exhibit this behaviour.[29]

The fruit bat, Cynopterus sphinx has been observed to engage in fellatio during mating. Pairs spend more time copulating if the female licks the male than if they do not.[29][30]

See also


  1. ^ "Fellation - Definition from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary". Merriam-webster.com. 2007-04-25. http://www.merriam-webster.com/cgi-bin/dictionary?book=Dictionary&va=fellation. Retrieved 2010-03-19. 
  2. ^ "Blow job - Definition from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary". Merriam-webster.com. 2007-04-25. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/blow+job. Retrieved 2010-03-19. 
  3. ^ "Dr Melissa Sayer, writing on the BBC "The Surgery" site". Bbc.co.uk. 2007-06-17. http://www.bbc.co.uk/switch/surgery/advice/sex_relationships/sex/oral_sex/. Retrieved 2010-03-19. 
  4. ^ Paley, Maggie (2000). The Book of the Penis. 
  5. ^ "The age-old question: Spit or swallow?". The Badger Herald. http://badgerherald.com/artsetc/2003/04/09/the_ageold_question_.php. Retrieved 2010-03-19. 
  6. ^ Yogani, (2006). Tantra - Discovering the Power of Pre-Orgasmic Sex. AYP Publishing. p. 7. ISBN 9780976465584. http://books.google.com/?id=TbOaE3dFL2QC 
  7. ^ "Irrumation". Sacred-texts.com. http://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/priap/prp105.htm. Retrieved 2010-03-19. 
  8. ^ "The actual kama sutra or kamasutra: Part II: On Sexual Union: Chapter IX. On Holding the Lingam in the Mouth by Kamashastra". Kamashastra.com. http://www.kamashastra.com/kama209.htm. Retrieved 2010-03-19. 
  9. ^ Eliade Mircea. [1954] 1973. Yoga, Immortality and Freedom. trans. Willard R. Trask. (Princeton: Princeton University Press). p. 267-268
  10. ^ Regarding 'Oral Sex'[dead link]
  11. ^ "Articles and Essays". Zawaj.Com. http://www.zawaj.com/articles/fatwa_oral_desai.html. Retrieved 2010-03-19. 
  12. ^ "Islam's Stance on Oral Sex - IslamonLine.net - Ask The Scholar". IslamonLine.net. http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?pagename=IslamOnline-English-Ask_Scholar/FatwaE/FatwaE&cid=1119503543892. Retrieved 2010-03-19. 
  13. ^ Berrin, Katherine & Larco Museum. The Spirit of Ancient Peru:Treasures from the Museo Arqueológico Rafael Larco Herrera. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1997.
  14. ^ Sandra Margot, Tonianne Robino. The Pregnant Couple's Guide to Sex, Romance, and Intimacy. pp. 122–123. 
  15. ^ "Is it safe to swallow semen during pregnancy?". BabyCenter. http://www.babycenter.com/400_is-it-safe-to-swallow-semen-during-pregnancy_510175_1000.bc. Retrieved 2010-03-19. 
  16. ^ "New Left Review - Jack Goody: The Labyrinth of Kinship". http://newleftreview.org/?view=2592. Retrieved 2007-07-24. 
  17. ^ Herdt, Gilbert (1994). Guardians of the Flutes, Vol. 1. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226327493. 
  18. ^ ""Intro to Cultural Anthropology: The Sambia"". Faculty.mdc.edu. 1999-10-04. http://faculty.mdc.edu/jmcnair/Joepages/The%20Sambia.htm. Retrieved 2010-03-19. 
  19. ^ a b c ""Sex 'primes woman for sperm'."". BBC News. 2002-02-06. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/1803978.stm. Retrieved 2010-03-19. 
  20. ^ Koelman, CA; et al. (2000). "Correlation between oral sex and a low incidence of preeclampsia: A role for soluble HLA in seminal fluid?". Journal of Reproductive Immunology 46 (2): 155–166. doi:10.1016/S0165-0378(99)00062-5. PMID 10706945. 
  21. ^ Taylor RN (1997) "Review: Immunobiology of preeclampsia" American Journal of Reproductive Immunology Volume 37 pp. 79-86
  22. ^ Chaouat et al., (2005) "Fourth International Workshop on Immunology of Pre-eclampsia, December 2004, Reunion, France" Journal of Reproductive Immunology Volume 67 pp. 103-111
  23. ^ Schroder KEE, Carey MP, Vanable PA (2003) Methodological Challenges in Research on Sexual Risk Behavior: I. Item Content, Scaling, and Data Analytical Options. Annals of Behavioral Medicine Volume 26, Issue 2, Pages 76-103.
  24. ^ University Health Center | Sexual Health | Oral Sex
  25. ^ By Dan Savage (2008-05-08). "Savage Love - Columns - Savage Love - Dan Savage - The Stranger, Seattle's Only Newspaper". Thestranger.com. http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/SavageLove?oid=572916. Retrieved 2010-03-19. 
  26. ^ "Hand Job / Blow Job Question...". AVI. 2010-02-19. http://avi.org/node/2183. Retrieved 2010-03-19. 
  27. ^ ""Oral Sex Linked To Mouth Cancer Risk"". MedIndia. http://www.medindia.net/news/view_news_main.asp?x=5822. Retrieved 2010-03-19. 
  28. ^ "''New Scientist'': "Oral sex can cause throat cancer" - 09 May 2007". Newscientist.com. http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn11819&feedId=online-news_rss20. Retrieved 2010-03-19. 
  29. ^ a b Tan, Min; Gareth Jones, Guangjian Zhu, Jianping Ye, Tiyu Hong, Shanyi Zhou, Shuyi Zhang, Libiao Zhang (October 28, 2009). "Fellatio by Fruit Bats Prolongs Copulation Time". PLoS ONE 4 (10): e7595. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0007595. PMID 19862320. PMC 2762080. http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0007595. Retrieved October 28, 2009. 
  30. ^ "Fellatio keeps male fruit bats keen - life - 29 October 2009 - New Scientist". www.newscientist.com. http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn18077-fellatio-keeps-male-fruit-bats-keen.html. Retrieved 2009-10-31. 

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