Whether you’re looking for tips to improve your performance between the sheets, answers to a question or two, or help with an issue you can’t take to even your most trusted friend, our expert can help. It’s time to get schooled.
By Martin Downs, MPH
Can you get genital herpes if someone with a cold sore on their mouth gives you a blowjob?
Yes, you can. A cold sore (also called a fever blister) is a blister on the lip or near the mouth caused by the herpes virus. When a herpes virus infects the mouth, it’s called oral herpes. When herpes infects the genitals, it’s called genital herpes.
Simple enough, so far. But it gets complicated. There are two types of herpes viruses that commonly infect the mouth and genitals: herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and type 2 (HSV-2). Most cases of oral herpes are caused by HSV-1, and most genital herpes are caused by HSV-2. However, HSV-1 can be passed from the mouth to the genitals, or from the genitals to the mouth. It is possible for HSV-2 to infect the mouth, but it rarely does.
This means you can get genital herpes by receiving oral sex from someone who has a cold sore (probably HSV-1). You can also get genital herpes by receiving oral sex from someone who has the oral-herpes virus but doesn’t have a cold sore.
A cold sore is an obvious symptom of an infection caused by either HSV-1 or HSV-2. But the virus can be present on the surface of the skin, and passed onto another person’s mouth or genitals, even when there are no visible symptoms, like a cold sore. What’s more, it’s not always easy to tell a herpes blister apart from a zit or some other kind of skin irritation.
Well, shit. Maybe you got genital herpes from contact with that person’s cold sore. But maybe you’ve had genital herpes for years without knowing it. Maybe the person with a cold sore who sucked your dick got oral herpes from you. How would you know? What can you do?
In the case of herpes, the bad news is good news, and vice versa. The bad news is that herpes is extremely common, and most people who have it don’t know they’re infected. It’s estimated that over half of all adults in the United States have HSV-1, and about one in six people between the ages of 14 and 49 have HSV-2. The vast majority of those don’t know they are infected. The good news is the same. Most people aren’t aware of it because they have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. Therefore, few people take precautions to prevent getting it or passing it on to others, which is why it’s so common.
If you’re really worried about your herpes status, you can get tested for it. Public-health authorities don’t recommend routinely testing everyone for herpes because the tests aren’t always accurate, and because at least half of the population would test positive.
Now, I feel duty-bound to tell you that you can reduce—but not eliminate—your risk of getting genital herpes from oral sex by always wearing a condom when receiving oral sex, or abstaining from oral sex completely. I know what most men will do with that advice. You’re welcome.
A more palatable suggestion would be to assume you have HSV-1. After all, it’s a coin toss. With that assumption, avoid giving oral sex to anyone during the time when you have any herpeslike symptoms, and ask the same of your sexual partners. While it’s true that herpes can be contagious even when no symptoms are present, having symptoms such as sores increases the likelihood of infecting someone else.
If you don’t know if it’s a herpes sore or a zit near your mouth, just hold off on giving oral sex till it clears up, whatever it is.
From the June 2015 issue of Penthouse