If you’re in a relationship and have made the decision not to have intercourse, you and your partner can still have regular orgasms and maintain a type of sexual relationship.

If you aren’t going to have sex, it’s a good idea to make a very specific definition of what you consider to be “sex” so you and your partner know what is on the menu. Let’s assume you are worried about an unplanned pregnancy and spreading infections. In my last column, “Masturbate your way to self-knowledge,” published on Nov. 21, I discussed mutual masturbation, a low-risk way to explore a sexual relationship.

Oral sex is another way to experiment with your partner sexually without having intercourse. It is, however, important to use protection if you don’t know your partner’s sexual health and history, because STIs such as the human papillomavirus can be contracted through oral sex.

When going down on a woman you can protect yourself in a number of ways: you can cut a condom along one side and use it as a barrier between your mouth and her genitals. You can also use dental dams and even plastic wrap. A dental dam is a piece of latex that you place over the vagina.

As for techniques, here are a few things to keep in mind: Like always, you want to pay attention to the clitoris, but not before you warm her up by massaging and kissing her thighs. The clitoris is made up of the same spongy tissue that a penis is made of, so the sensations that feel good on a penis will also feel good on the clitoris, such as sucking.

Do yourself a favor and use your hands, too. Massage her other erogenous zones such as her breasts and butt. Experiment with tongue movements and form as well as your pace. You can make your tongue soft and flat or rigid and pointy.

One common reason that people, especially men, say they don’t want to give their partners oral sex is because of the smell or taste. Firstly, blow jobs don’t always smell or taste good, and we have to deal with the issue of ejaculation. Luckily, that can be even more of an incentive to use a barrier when performing oral sex on men.

If you are a woman who is worried about the way your vagina smells and tastes, it could be a diet issue, a yeast infection, or a need for more breathable underwear. The best way to find out is to make an appointment with a doctor.

If your partner is a female and you’re concerned about smell or taste, try performing oral sex on her in the shower after she has gently washed her vagina out with water.

According to an online poll by Elle Magazine and MSNBC, one in five women said they aren’t comfortable receiving oral sex. The receiver needs to make an effort to communicate and accept it graciously.

Take deep breaths and don’t be shy about voicing your pleasure, either with moans and groans or talking dirty. Feel free to put your hand on the back of your partner’s head and run your hands through their luscious locks. And most importantly, tell them when it feels good.

Oral sex on a man also has some techniques that can make it more enjoyable for the giver.

Condoms are a must if you are with a new partner or know your partner has an STI. Use flavored condoms if that is your thing, and also know that if you put a bit of lube inside the condom it will make it more pleasurable for the receiver and the giver doesn’t have to deal with the ejaculation.

Some women think a blow job is all about the mouth, but regardless of whether you’re performing oral sex on a man or a woman your hands should be involved in the process. If your partner’s penis is especially large, your hands will probably be a crucial component in getting him off.

You can hold the base of the penis and use your mouth on the tip and middle. You could also make a cock ring with your fingers for an extra bonus.

For both genders, oral sex is a great way to enjoy an orgasm without risking pregnancy. The important thing to remember is to use the tools you’ve got and make sure the giver knows what feels good to you.

It might be the best gift you give this holiday season.

Hunter is a senior psychology major at UNM. She has a special interest in sex psychology and research. You can send questions and comments to hriley@unm.edu