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Michael Walker-Thørsvedtt
and Dr. Kate Fordham

September 1997

By Michael Walker-Thørsvedtt and Kate Fordham

Let us start off this month's column by addressing several concerns which we feel are of great importance to our readers. The first is the Oasis-sponsored survey to which we contributed questions concerning sexual health-related practices. If you have not as of yet taken this survey, please do take the time to go through and answer the questions; a process which should take less than twenty minutes of your time and which will be very helpful in providing useful information to people researching the lives of queer youth. We are very excited about this project because it is the first time a survey of this size has been targeted towards queer youth and we feel the data which this survey should yield shall allow researchers and educators to better understand the needs of young gay people worldwide. And reaching a greater understanding is the first step towards finding solutions to the problems that face queer youth and thus making things better for us all.

The next topic which is worth mentioning here is one of general health. With school beginning for those of you in middle or high school (or college), this would be an excellent time for a physical examination with your family physician. It is a good idea to have a "physical" about once a year, just so your doctor can keep up on your health and make certain that you may not have any kind of condition which requires medical intervention. As we have stated in previous columns, a good patient-physician relationship is important and ideally, we would hope that your doctor is someone who you trust and feel comfortable talking to about all aspects of your well-being, including sexuality and being queer. Having a comfortable relationship of this kind can only encourage better health care.

We have an interesting question this month, one concerning rimming, a sexual topic which is rarely discussed, so this is a unique opportunity for us:

Dear Mike and Kate:

What can you tell me about rimming? It's something I've heard about but you can't find much information about it even on safe-sex web sites and my boyfriend and I have thought about doing it to each other, but are not sure if it really is a good idea or not. Your information and opinion would be appreciated.

Mark, age 20,
University of Arizona

Dear Mark:

Rimming is the practice of stimulating the anus with the tongue and lips. Despite being a subject as taboo (perhaps even more so) as anal intercourse, rimming has been around for a long time. It was considered a favored manner of sexual stimulation among the royal courts of fourteenth and fifteenth century France and Spain and has been historically popular with the European upper class (both men and women) for years. The tissue around the anus (perianal region) is extremely sensitive, much like the skin of the penis or vagina. Therefore, stimulation of this area is quite pleasurable and oral stimulation is something like oral sex in sensation.

However, rimming is not, from a medical standpoint, an entirely safe activity. Obviously, the anus is primarily an organ of elimination and fecal material may be present around this area and such material may harbor pathogenic microbes which can be passed to the person who is rimming the other person with his or her mouth. Aside from oral contact with fecal material being unpleasant, there is a strong chance that a pathogen (germ) could be passed from one person to another this way and some such pathogens are the causative organisms of serious diseases. Also, it is theoretically possible for a viral pathogen such as hepatitis or HIV to be transmitted during unprotected rimming. After all, the anal area is rather sensitive and it may bleed slightly from the action of the other person's tongue, in which case there could be anal-oral transmission of blood.

Also, the psychological aspect of rimming should be considered. This is a sexual act, but one which may be unpleasant or even repulsive for the person who is "giving" the rimming with their mouth. It is not something which everyone would enjoy participating in, and like all sexual acts, it is essential that there is healthy communication between both sex partners. If you and your boyfriend are interested in trying this act, consider first cleaning the anal area with a hypo-allergenic, antibacterial soap (don't use any soap which is particularly strong as it might irritate the perianal tissue and encourage bleeding). This will help reduce the chance of transmission of pathogenic organisms and should make the experience more pleasant for all involved. Also, the use of a dental barrier of some sort -- even a piece of plastic film wrap (food wrap) -- would be helpful although such a device might, admittedly, make for a less comfortable and pleasurable experience.


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