Is Flavored Underwear the Key to Safer Oral Sex?

Lorals hope to provide a sexier, more convenient alternative to the extremely unpopular dental dam

A woman holds a pair of seamless panties above her head
Is flavored underwear the key to safer oral sex?
Maryna Terletska

If you think about it, which you probably don’t really want to, your underwear does a lot; it’s the last line of defense between your most intimate bits and the outside world. Now, in what the New York Times has, rather hilariously, called “a first for underwear,” those hard-working undergarments can help keep you and your sex partners free of sexually transmitted infections.

Newly FDA-cleared and vanilla-flavored, a line of stretchy, ultra-thin underwear is hoping to change the (otherwise virtually non-existent) oral sex safety game. Meant to be worn by people with vulvas during oral sex, the single-use underwear is designed to function as a wearable barrier method for protection from STIs. The product, dubbed Lorals, was first launched in 2018. As of Thursday, they are officially FDA-cleared for sexual safety.

While many of us can be a bit lax about using protection, doing so during oral sex is particularly unpopular, despite the fact that STIs are still a risk. “Oral sex is not totally risk-free,” Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, director of the division of infectious diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, told the Times. Unfortunately, options for protection during oral sex with vulva-havers have previously been limited to dental dams, which are, as Marrazzo put it, “extremely unpopular.” After all, she added, “Could there be anything less sexy than a dental dam?”

While the idea of slipping into a pair of latex panties may not sound much sexier, the underwear hopes to provide a more convenient, less awkward option for safety-conscious oral sex-havers than dental dams, which have to be held in place during use, aren’t widely available and generally “take all the pleasure out of oral sex for both the giver and receiver,” as Chris Barcelos, an assistant professor of gender and sexuality studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston, told the Times. “They are hated even more than condoms.”

Admittedly, wearing underwear — however thin or flavored — during oral sex doesn’t strike me as a particularly sexy option, nor one that I imagine becoming a mainstream sexual health staple. Still, if you happen to be a conscientious sex-haver who wishes there were a safer way to go down on your partner, a pair of flavored underwear may be just the solution you’ve been waiting for. After all, anything has got to be better than a dental dam, which I’m fairly confident no one has ever actually used in the history of oral sex.

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