I’m the education director of a large AIDS prevention organization. You recently received a question from a man who asked about the latest on the dangers of oral sex. Your response was very well written, citing various studies that have looked at HIV transmission via oral sex. And I agree with your assessment—that oral sex poses minimal if no danger.
However, you were remiss not to discuss other sexually transmitted diseases. Gonorrhea is easily transmitted during unprotected oral sex, and I find that many gay men do not know that one can get gonorrhea in the throat. Furthermore, syphilis can also be transmitted during unprotected oral sex.
Unlike HIV, these two diseases can be easily cured with antibiotics; however, having either one of these two diseases puts a person at a much higher risk of contracting or transmitting HIV. In Houston, for example, in almost 70% of the syphilis cases the person is also HIV positive.
I have come to expect your column to always present the facts so that gay/bi men can make informed decisions. In this instance, you left out some really important facts.
— Licensed to correct you
Your letter reminds me of a joke someone told me last week. A woman goes to the doctor’s office and says, “Doctor, I’ve got a strange problem and I need your opinion.”
“Can you describe the symptoms to me?” he asked. “Well, it’s easier if I show you,” she said, as she undressed to her underwear, sat on the edge of the examining table and spread her legs to reveal two small green circles on her inner thighs. “They don’t hurt or anything, but I was a little worried about them.”
The doctor peered closely at the two circles and asked, “Are you a lesbian, by any chance?”
Embarrassed and slightly taken aback by this question coming from a man with his head between her thighs, she replied, “Well, yes, I am actually. Why do you ask?”
“Well, I’m afraid you’ll have to tell your girlfriend that her earrings aren’t real gold.”
My point, and you know I always have one, is that you’re right—my advice fell short of the gold standard. Technically, anyway. There really was a reason I left out the other STDs and it wasn’t just that my cheap-ass editor limits me to 650 words: It’s because I don’t want to overload people with cautions and qualifiers.
I’m here to promote and celebrate sex while honing my breathtaking gift for gratuitous insults. Information overload has a way of making guys throw up their hands (and their legs) and say, “F–k it, I’m just going to do whatever the hell I want.”
But if I give clear advice (“Have all the oral sex you want”) with clearly understood parameters (“as long as you don’t have cuts, irritations or gum disease”) I have a much better chance of keeping my readers safe from dying of AIDS, and more importantly, delivering a bigger readership for advertisers to exploit.
Compared to the ravages of AIDS, other STDs like gonorrhea and syphilis are positively quaint, don’t you think?