In English, words that sound the same but mean different things are called homophones. English has many homophones, and they all have the potential to confuse someone who might not recognize the difference. Homophones have nothing to do with homophobia.
The words aural and oral are more or less homophones perhaps rather than true homophones because when they are not pronounced clearly, they sound identical. Since aural and oral refer to different sensory faculties, it’s important to use them correctly.
Aural is an adjective that means related to ears or the sense of hearing. Auditory, a similar adjective, refers to sound or the sense of hearing, but not the ears themselves. Sometimes, aural and auditory may be used interchangeably, as in “When I relax I listen to music as auditory stimulation” or “When I relax I listen to music as aural stimulation.” Since the music stimulates my ears, aural is appropriate; as music is a form of sound, auditory also fits quite nicely.
In the sentence “My grandmother received cochlear implants to assist in her aural functioning” only aural is correct because we are referring to the functioning of the ears themselves. Are you with me so far?
Oral is also an adjective. It means related to the mouth. Since your mouth is used in many ways oral is used in many contexts, for example: We should always practise excellent oral hygiene by brushing our teeth regularly. Oral medications should be taken twice daily after meals, etc. Oral may be a synonym for spoken or verbal: We have a rich oral history of folktales; I had to speak fluently in order to pass my oral French test; the Supreme Court heard several hours of oral argument.
Aural means related to the ears and oral means related to the mouth which, for reasons I cannot fathom, reminds me of one of the first naughty rhymes I ever heard in my childhood; perhaps it was part of some oral tradition. It went like this: “In days of old, when men were bold, and women weren’t invented, they drilled holes, in telegraph poles, and screwed to their hearts contented,” which to my young untutored ears was sheer poetry.
Talking of telegraph poles, I suppose the invention of the telephone promoted a vast increase in the “whispering sweet nothings” in the ears of a beloved, and those sweet nothings will have inevitably included quite a few erotic fantasies. Aural sex flourished. And it was safe, perhaps the original safe sex, sex at a distance. Safe, of course, unless you were caught at it by an outside, eavesdropping, interested third party like a husband or a wife, boyfriend or girlfriend.
The telephone has moved with the times; the smartphone has become an essential survival kit that provides a multitude of services without which life cannot evolve. Politicians and plebeians (which can be written with or without an ‘e’) alike, have discovered the joys of smartphone sex. The Internet is alive with images, still and moving, of intimate body parts acting alone or in tandem with others for basically the enjoyment of all humankind. Integrity and privacy have long since flown out of the window.
Oral sex, on the other hand, seems to be enjoying a second or third coming, if you will excuse the expression. I recently saw, or rather heard, on Swedish TV that a recent investigation reported that lesbians achieved orgasms 88% of the time whereas heterosexual women lagged behind at around 66%, which I still found a surprisingly high frequency. There was no statistic for gay men but I imagine, things being as they are physically, they would be up close to 100%.
My granddaughter fed me an interesting tidbit of information regarding the multitude of flavoured condoms which seemed to prove how popular oral sex has become since the STD revolution. Can you imagine that we live in a world dictated by the need to protect ourselves whilst engaged in the basic human or animal act of procreation? Not to mince words, screwing is what every species does; it’s what sustains life, yet the most advanced of these species is probably the only one that spreads life-threatening diseases at the very moment it acts to ensure its future existence. What a mess!