It’s the first time underwear has been authorized for this purpose, and it provides a new choice for protection where the few options have been unpopular.
This is a story about infections, sex and underwear. More specifically, it’s about sexually-transmitted infections, oral sex and ultrathin, super-stretchy, vanilla-flavored panties.
The Food and Drug Administration has authorized the panties to be considered protection against infections that can be transmitted from the vagina or anus during oral sex. It is a first for underwear.
The undies are part of an understudied but important area of sexual health where the few options for protection are considered cumbersome and hardly used.
“Oral sex is not totally risk-free,” said Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, director of the division of infectious diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She said the need for protective methods was of growing importance because more “teenagers are initiating their first sexual activity with oral sex.” For people of all ages, she added, a protective barrier that is enjoyable to use could “reduce anxiety and increase pleasure around that particular behavior.”
Infections like herpes, gonorrhea and syphilis can be transmitted through oral sex, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The risk of transmitting H.I.V. from a vagina through oral sex is considered very low, the C.D.C. said. But HPV — human papillomavirus — is more easily transmitted that way, and mouth and throat infections from some types of HPV may develop into oral or neck cancer, the agency said.