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While using protection during all forms of sex may seem obvious, many people don't think "safe sex" applies to oral.

Oral sex is considered the "safe" alternative to intercourse for many students, but many of the risks of oral sex can be the same as in intercourse.

While pregnancy is obviously not an issue when engaging in oral sex, other risks do apply, says F. Scott Christopher, an ASU Human Sexuality professor. Gonorrhea, herpes and HIV are still considered risks of oral sex.

15- to 24-year-olds account for almost half of new sexually transmitted disease cases, according to an estimate by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, so using protection during all kinds of sex is crucial for college students, even during oral sex.

"The common thought is that condoms are used for stopping procreation as well as STD protection, but people believe there is little risk associated with oral sex," says Steven Garone, a secondary education senior.

There has been an increasing trend in the frequency of oral sex in recent years, Christopher says.

One reason may be a social phenomenon called "technical virginity," which allows virgins to participate in sexual behaviors like oral sex while still believing their virginity is intact, as they have not had sexual intercourse, Christopher says. Many of these women are less likely to purchase protection, because they don't plan on having any kind of intercourse. This denial leads to a higher risk of STDs in this group, Christopher says.

People can protect themselves from STD transmission during oral sex by using a condom when performing on a man. Dental dams — a thin, rectangular piece of latex that is laid over the vagina during oral sex — can help protect from potential oral STDs when oral is performed on a woman.

Jane Evans, a history and French junior, says she doesn't think most people use protection during oral sex for comfort reasons.

"Most girls wouldn't want to be tasting rubber in their mouths and … female protection is thought of as difficult to use to many people," Evans says.

Spontaneous hook-ups also leave little opportunity to look for sores and other signs of STDs, Christopher says. He points out that gonorrhea can be asymptomatic, so using protection like condoms and dental dams are always a good idea.

Though rare, HIV can also be transmitted orally, according to the CDC. In a 2006 study, the CDC found that about half of the study's participants who contracted HIV through oral sex had oral problems which included occasional bleeding of the gums.

Sexually transmitted infections aren't limited to the mouth and throat. There have been cases where ejaculation into the eyes has caused infections from STDs.

Christopher advises people to not give or receive oral sex with people who have obvious infections and says a good way to prevent STDs is to simply ask the person if they have one. While many people are oblivious to their STD standing, Christopher says it doesn't hurt to ask.

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