Oral Sex: The Big Surprise

Jane Jimenez

Jane Jimenez

September 19, 2005

Oral sex is a leading story this week.  The Centers for Disease Control announced last Thursday that oral sex is a common practice among U.S. teens.

Once again, this report has spawned a public response filling column inches in newspapers and hours of air time on talk radio.  Evaluating the rate of oral sex among teens, Kristin Moore, president of Child Trends, declares to The Washington Post that, “…these numbers indicate this is a big concern.”

Indeed, radio talk show hosts are concerned.  They have picked up the story and are talking with listeners around the country.  Their listeners are concerned.  We are all concerned.  But are we surprised?

Not anymore.  One decade earlier, oral sex was a term largely confined to medical journals and sex-friendly publications.  It was a term limited to descriptions of private adult relationships.  Never did people link this behavior to adolescents.  Today Professor of Pediatrics Claire Brindis tells The Washington Post, “…we’re talking about a social norm.  It’s part of kids’ lives.”

If there is any surprise left about teens and oral sex, it is the surprise that so many adults and authorities on teen sex now consider oral sex a normative behavior for teens.  It is surprising to hear a radio listener tell Michael Medved that he would rather have his child  engage in oral sex than sexual intercourse.  “Is your child a son?” Medved asks.

“Yes,” the caller admits.  Medved pursues.  Would the caller sanction oral sex if his child were a daughter?  “No, I guess not.”

Dr. Brindis thinks we should give teens a stronger message about the risks of oral sex.  The surprise here is what she considers the stronger message.  “Maybe we need to do a better job of showing them they need to use condoms,” Brindis advocates in The Washington Post.

Meanwhile, the poster man and woman for oral sex are making news half way around the world.  As reported on Independent Online, “a rubber company in China has begun marketing condoms under the brand names Clinton and Lewinsky.”

Spokesperson Liu Wenhua of the Guangzhou Rubber Group, in a pre-sale promotion, was handing out 100,000 free Clinton and Lewinsky products.  Eventually, when sold in southern China, a box of 12 will cost $3.72 and $2.35 respectively.  Liu, obviously a clever marketing strategist, points out, “The Clinton condom will be the top of our line.”

The big surprise of the CDC story on oral sex and teens is that there is no surprise.  As we tally up the news stories and commentary, the real surprise is that we appear to have lost our resolve to consider oral sex a blight on the sexual innocence of our children and a threat to their health and welfare.

A father endorses oral sex for his son because it can’t cause pregnancy.

A health expert and professor declares our best strategy to counter the fad of oral sex is to do a better job of teaching teens how to use condoms for oral sex.

And our nation’s highest officer, known around the world as a proud proponent of oral sex as a method of avoiding “sexual relations” and adultery, now has his own name on a line of condoms in China.

Where, in all of this, is the clear and authoritative call to teens, “STOP!”?  Clearly, we have lost our ability to be surprised.  But have we also lost our ability to cry out to our teens with absolute concern for their emotional and physical health?

Have we sunk so low that we assuage our pain at seeing young people engage in risky behaviors by helping these teens justify the risks as manageable and preferable to making a baby?

Preferring the path of least resistance, we have abandoned our children because it is just too much trouble to hold the line of defense for their protection.  The big surprise about teens and oral sex is that there is no big surprise.


September 10, 2004 – Duh

October 29, 2004 – Food for the Brain

See Archives for more past editorials.