embroidered pillow that says, "Just don't cum on my face"There are a lot of sexual practices that, on top of the shame and stigma that sometimes comes from just  being sexually active, have their own specific stigma attached to them.  One of them I want to talk about in depth today: facials.

 

Why facials?

 

For whatever reason, our society has heaped extra shame onto people that enjoy facials.  It is seen as particularly dirty and degrading.  Particularly problematic to the idea of female equality.  Particularly hurtful and uncomfortable and ugly.  Particularly awkward to talk about.

I would have never thought to write about facials (which, if you didn’t know, is the act of ejaculating on a partners face), because they are something I’ve never experienced and never really desire to experience.  I tended to side with dominant culture on this one, actually.  I thought facials were pretty gross, and yeah, kind of degrading.  At least I did, until I read this article from Jezebel.

The article starts by contextualizing facials as an aesthetic in porn that derived from the AIDS crisis of the mid-80’s:

“Cum on me, not in me” was a popular sex educator slogan as far back as the late 1980s. … [In porn], if the male actor came on her face, the viewer could see two things at once: evidence of male pleasure (symbolized by the ejaculation) and the equally important sign that a woman’s reaction to that pleasure mattered.With sex now so dangerous — and HIV particularly likely to be spread through semen — facials were relatively “safe.” But in the era of AIDS, they were also compelling visual evidence that a woman wasn’t threatened by a man’s semen. In that sense facials were, almost from the start, more about women’s acceptance of men’s bodies than about women’s degradation.

I think that’s a really powerful statement, and for one reason in particular.  The women’s movement has brought us really great rhetoric and dude with paint all over his face; white text "Clown Porn: Always Ending with a Facial!"performance pieces about loving our bodies and our womanhood, as evidenced by the popularity of “The Vagina Monologues” (also linked to in that article).  But there hasn’t been the same kind of affirmation for men’s physicality, and particularly for the subject of the penis.

I know a lot of feminists will get up in arms with me about this point, because the penis has been the symbol of power and manhood and all these valued ideas for so long, but aesthetically, I think there’s just as much neurosis and discomfort with the male genitalia as with the female.  Boys grow up worrying if they’re long enough or big enough, if their guy “looks funny,” and I would imagine, there’s some discomfort with the idea of semen too.  But unlike women, who are now finding spaces to affirm the beauty of their vulvas, most people still squick and say “ewwwww” when we talk about penises and balls.

So in a way, facials are that kind of radical acceptance for men that “The Vagina Monologues” was for women: a way of saying, yes, your junk is ok.  It’s nice enough that I will allow it on my face, a place of great dignity and respect.  That same argument tends to apply to oral sex as well.

I don’t think this argument stands to invalidate the power dynamics at play with facials.  There is definitely still a sense of possession or authority that can come into play when giving or receiving a facial.  A lot of people specifically use facials as a kind of humiliation play in D/s relationships, and I think that’s legitimate too.  But the point being, facials don’t inherently HAVE to be about power.  A receptive partner can like facials without liking to be degraded, and loving relationships (kinky and otherwise) can use facials for the pleasure of both partners if they can talk about it in a way that revolves around acceptance and love of each other’s bodies.

And that’s pretty awesome.

Stay cool, queer kids.

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