DALLAS (ABP) — Young adults appear to be turning to oral sex as a way to remain sexually “pure” as they wait longer for marriage, according to sexual-health experts.
Dallas psychologist Dan McGee and Joe McIlhaney, director of the Medical Institute for Sexual Health in Austin, said oral sex is becoming an increasingly popular alternative to vaginal sex, especially among teens.
Young adults today fight their sexual desires longer because they are marrying later, said McGee, director of Counseling and Psychological Services for the Baptist General Convention of Texas. While it was the norm for earlier generations to marry in their early 20s, young people are now commonly getting married in their late 20s or early 30s.
Observers also argue the social stigma that was associated with oral sex has lessened. Though McGee remembers his generation viewing the act as perverted or primarily practiced by homosexuals, younger adults view it as acceptable behavior in the wake of the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky affair.
Like the former president, many teens and young adults believe oral sex is not sex.
A recent study by Northern Kentucky University, which revealed 61 percent of students who made abstinence pledges broke them, also found that among the 39 percent who said they kept their promise 55 percent indicated they had engaged in oral sex.
And a University of Wisconsin study reported 78 percent of new genital herpes cases could be linked to a virus that causes cold sores.
Rather than narrowing the definition of sex, young adults need to broaden it greatly, warns McGee, a clinical sexologist. Not only is oral sex sex, but so is any sexual touching with the intention of arousal, he said.
“Just because the president of the United States says it isn't sex doesn't make it so,” he said.
McIlhaney agreed. “Young people need to be taught physical contact for the purpose of arousal is sexual intercourse,” he stated.
McGee outlines three stages in the human sexual response cycle. The first, desire, triggers the second step, biological sexual arousal. Up to these points, individuals have some power over their sexual actions.
People can control their actions largely by avoiding situations where they will be sexually tempted, McGee noted. But adolescents are particularly susceptible to moving on to arousal because their hormones are highly sensitive and they feel the societal push toward sex.
“You can't help it if you have interest in sex or desire for sex. [But] we do have control over how much we let ourselves go into arousal,” he said.
Though individuals can fight against acting on their desires, once the orgasmic reflex is triggered, control is no longer an option, McGee continued. That God-given design can be beautiful inside marriage, he said, but destructive outside it.
McIlhaney noted a relationship that includes oral sex can be damaging to a young adult's self-esteem if the individual feels used or unloved.
Young people often make the incorrect and dangerous assumption they can't get diseases through oral sex, they said. Both experts pointed out the numerous sexually transmitted diseases that can be contracted through oral sex.
“Every risk you have, except pregnancy, is still there with oral sex,” McGee said.