Everything You Need to Know About Blow Jobs

Whether you call it a blow job, giving head, fellatio, or going down on someone, it all means the same thing: oral sex performed on someone with a penis. Blow jobs can feel incredible, but there’s more to it than just pleasure. Like all forms of sex, it’s important to understand how a blow job works and its associated risks before you dive in. 

How Does a Blow Job Work?

A blow job is a form of oral sex in which the receiving partner has a penis and the giving partner uses their mouth to stimulate it. They can also be referred to as “fellatio,’ “giving head,” or “going down” on your partner.

Typically, blow jobs involve a combination of licking, sucking, kissing, deep-throating, and hand action. Every person has their own preferences, so it’s less about technique and more about what each person likes. 

If you can come right out and ask your partner about their preferences, that's probably easiest. Most of the time, however, it involves putting your partner’s penis in your mouth and stimulating it with your tongue and hands in a way that simulates penetrative sex

You might trigger your gag reflex, and that’s fine! Typically, you don’t need to gag or “deepthroat” to give a good blow job. If you’re having trouble with your gag reflex, take it slow and build up to a deeper blow job. It’s also helpful to use your hands near the penis’ base, both for stroking and playing with your partner’s genitalia. 

Most people focus on the pleasure that the receiver gets, but a blow job can be intensely satisfying for the giver too. You may find it satisfying to be in the submissive position of giving a blowjob, and having your partner’s penis in your mouth can give you a sense of power too. (Likewise, thrusting into your partner’s mouth can be a gratifying act of dominance.) 

A blow job typically ends with an orgasm. It’s up to you whether you want to spit or swallow. You can also choose to have your partner finish on your face or another part of your body. 

Homosexual couple kissing on sofa

John Gress / Getty Images

Risks of STIs

Many people consider blow jobs to be safer than penetrative sex, but this isn’t always true. A blow job is still a form of sex and carries some risks.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and other infections can spread through oral sex. It’s important to have a partner that you trust and to make sure that they have no open cuts or sores in their mouth or on their genitals.

While there is a lower chance of catching an STI through oral sex than penetrative sex, it’s still a significant risk. Many STIs either don’t have symptoms or don’t show symptoms for months, so you can catch and spread them without knowing. 

The most common STIs spread through oral sex are Chlamydia (also known as “the clap”), Gonorrhea, Syphilis, Herpes, and Human Papillomavirus (HPV). It’s also possible to catch HIV from a blowjob.

Here are some symptoms to look out for: 

  • Chlamydia: Chlamydia in the throat is often symptomless, but may cause a sore throat. Genital chlamydia may cause genital discharge, pain or swelling of the testicles, rectal pain or discharge, and a burning feeling while peeing. 
  • Gonorrhea: Gonorrhea in the throat may cause a sore throat. Other infections may cause genital discharge, a burning feeling while peeing, rectal pain or discharge, and pain or swelling of the testicles.
  • Syphilis: Syphilis may cause painless sores or ulcers on the lips, mouth, throat, skin, or near the genitals or anus. It can also cause rashes on the hands, feet, or midsection, as well as flu-like symptoms. 
  • Herpes: Herpes may cause a headache or fever shortly after you catch it. It can also cause painful or itchy sores near the site of infection. Herpes can’t be cured, but treatment can prevent or shorten outbreaks.
  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV): HPV in the throat can cause warts in the throat, voice changes, shortness of breath, or difficulty speaking. In other areas, it can cause genital or anal warts and even eventual cancers. HPV can’t be cured, but its symptoms can be treated and you can get an HPV vaccination to prevent infection. 
  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV): HIV may cause flu-like symptoms, or no symptoms at all for years. Eventually, it will compromise the immune system, leaving the body unable to fight off common infections. There is no cure, but treatments can improve the quality of life.

If you have any of these symptoms and have engaged in unprotected sex of any kind, speak with your healthcare provider as soon as you can, and get an STI test. Just because the symptoms go away doesn’t mean the infection is gone. 

STIs can make a blowjob sound scary, but there are plenty of ways to reduce or eliminate the risk while still enjoying a blowjob. 

Get Vaccinated and Tested

First, there’s no harm in getting the HPV vaccine. HPV often spreads without symptoms, and most people don’t know they have it until it’s too late. It can carry serious health risks, especially if you have a uterus. 

Getting vaccinated against HPV means you don’t have to worry about one of the most common STIs in the world. The younger you are when you get the vaccine, the better your chances of avoiding the disease. 

Many STIs don’t show symptoms, so it’s a good idea to get tested at least once a year if you’re sexually active. It can seem intimidating if you’ve never been tested before, but the medical staff is used to the process. 

Use Protection

Unless you and your partner have both been tested and are exclusive, you should use condoms for blowjobs to avoid infections. Most people don’t like to use condoms for blow jobs, but there are condom options designed specifically for oral sex. They’re sometimes a little thinner, which allows for more sensation. They also come in different flavors that mask or eliminate the taste of rubber and lube. 

It’s important to remember that a condom won’t protect you from analingus—aka “eating ass,” “rimming,” or performing oral sex on the anus. You can stay safe by using a dental dam. Dental dams are thin pieces of latex that go over the anus or vagina to protect from infection during oral sex. They’re essentially open condoms, and you can even make a DIY dental dam by carefully cutting a condom until it opens flat. 

Blowjob Hygiene

Wash the genitals and brush your teeth before and after the blow job to lower the risk of infection. Never give a blow job to someone with open cuts or sores on their genitals, and never receive one from someone with cuts or sores in their mouth.

The longer you’re with one partner, the safer sexual activity will be. This doesn’t mean you can’t have multiple partners, but doing so increases the risk of infection, so it’s even more important to use protection and stay alert for STI symptoms. 

Have Fun

If you or your partner aren’t enjoying a blow job, this is often due to discomfort or pain. Genitalia and mouths are delicate, so any discomfort should be taken seriously.

There’s also no point in a blow job that isn’t fun, so try new things and discover what you and your partner like best. Tease your partner’s penis with your tongue and gently stroke the base with your hands. Use saliva or lubricant to keep it wet; you shouldn’t feel much resistance at all during a blowjob. 

There’s no reason to stop at the penis either. Your partner’s balls and perineum are nearly as sensitive as a penis, so try playing with them delicately and licking those areas when your mouth needs a break. 

Don’t use teeth at all unless it’s something you and your partner have explicitly agreed on. It’s best to curl your lips over your teeth while you suck so you can avoid accidentally hurting your partner. 

A Quick Review

Comfort, safety, and communication are what makes a blow job great. The more you enjoy it, the more your partner will too. 

That said, you should always take precautions before giving one, like never performing oral sex on someone with open cuts or sores, and using condoms until you and your partner have been tested for STIs and/or are exclusive. 

Like all things, blow jobs get better with practice. Experiment with your partner, talk about what you both like and don’t be afraid to try new things. 

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Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Saini R, Saini S, Sharma S. Oral sex, oral health and orogenital infectionsJournal for Global Infectious Diseases. 2010;2(1):57-62. doi:10.4103/0974-777X.59252

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. STD risk and oral sex – CDC fact sheet.

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