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Cum as you are: the politics of ejaculation

Cumming on someone’s face, also known as a ‘facial’, is a subject guaranteed to spark debate. My favourite, reliably mental feminist, Andrea Dworkin (quote: “all penetration is rape”), sums up the anti-facial argument with typical vehemence, saying “it is a convention of pornography that the sperm is on her, not in her. It marks the…

Cumming on someone’s face, also known as a ‘facial’, is a subject guaranteed to spark debate.

My favourite, reliably mental feminist, Andrea Dworkin (quote: “all penetration is rape”), sums up the anti-facial argument with typical vehemence, saying “it is a convention of pornography that the sperm is on her, not in her. It marks the spot, what he owns and how he owns it.” Many people second this idea, and insist that ejaculating on a woman’s face is degrading and a practice that has been directly copied from hardcore pornography.  So, is the prevalence of cumming on peoples’ faces linked to pornography and moreover, is it wrong?

Cumming on someone’s face was popular well before pornography even existed. An 18th century French aristocrat, Marquis de Sade wrote about performing facials in his book The 120 Days of Sodom: “I show them my prick, then what do you suppose I do? I squirt the fuck in their face… that’s my passion, my child”.

Nevertheless, facials can certainly thank the pornography industry for some serious publicity. According to University of Arkansas psychologist Ana Bridges, they actually make up 62% of the 96% of all scenes with a male performer ejaculating onto the body of his female partner.

Considering that most males in contemporary western society first learn about sex from watching porn, it holds that most of them would have seen a facial cumshot, and by connection, would be re-enacting it in their sex lives.

University of Sydney student Winston* agrees that porn seems to be the main instigator of the facial trend: “my only mental image of it comes from porn. The girl on her knees, tongue out, looking like she is really keen to get cum all over her face.”

But that doesn’t mean he thinks it’s a turn on: “when I watch that type of porn, I don’t get aroused. I just feel awful for the woman.” Another USYD student, Greta*, also sees it originating from the porn industry: “maybe it’s a male fantasy that I don’t understand”.

Does that overflow from the porn industry necessarily have a negative effect? Sexual Harassment Officer of the USYD SRC, Tabitha Prado-Richardson, says “there might be a problematic aspect of it in porn, especially when coupled with privileging masculine pleasure over feminine pleasure, but that meaning doesn’t extend to consenting partners in privacy.”

Rose Wallace McEwen, who is also an SRC Sexual Harassment Officer says, “I had a guy cum in my mouth once and he just assumed it was okay because I was giving him head. It was disgusting. I had to stop myself from vomiting not because I hate cum but because it was so… intrusive”. But, she stresses that “it’s really about what the woman wants. The man should always ask if it’s OK”.

Seaman
Seaman

Homosexual student Francois* believes, “that for a homosexual relationship it is not particularly degrading because either party can ask to do it/have it done to them”.

But another homosexual student who wished to remain nameless described the feeling of power that is imbued in the act: “he wouldn’t let me cum on his face but I love doing it so I once surprised him with it. Well, it was sexual harassment. He made it clear he didn’t want me to and I did anyway. It’s a power thing. Submission to your cock…total control.”

To complicate things further, many women I spoke to were completely OK with their partners ejaculating on their face. Jennifer* says that “some women are offended because they see it as taking away the intimacy of sex. You could be a tissue or sock they cum into normally, rather than an actual human, but I don’t see it like that. I see it as feeling like this über sexual thing that turns them on and they want to cum all over me because of that”.

This is echoed by America’s leading sex columnist Dan Savage who was quoted as saying, “facials are degrading – and that’s why they’re so hot.”

And this can be problematic because as another female student says: “often, girls won’t specifically say no to something even when they feel uncomfortable with it because we have this preoccupation with pleasing the guy no matter what. She may even pretend to enjoy it, as much as women fake orgasm.”

Indeed, the notion that consent and respect in sex are of utmost importance does not necessarily mean we should hate on the facial. Tabitha Prado-Richardson told me “there can be power found in being ‘dirty’ as long as it’s an informed choice and you have established mutual respect.”

While another person I spoke with said they thought facials were “excellent when appropriate, which is basically when it’s mutual respectful sex”. Tabitha also conceded that “my basic rule with anything sexual is if both partners genuinely want to do it is fine.”

Finally, as with many previous Honi Soit articles, it was Tom Raue who gave me the most genuine opinion on what it means to cum on your partner’s face: “It comes from a place of demeaning the woman but people should be free to do it and imbue it with their own meaning”.

In sum, the internet is a veritable feast of the facial cum-shot and the fact that Generation Y seem to be unable to talk about it (and many other aspects of sex) in public with any sense of maturity is a problem. I believe that as young adults attending university, we should feel comfortable discussing our sexual practices and preferences in order to de-stigmatise the topic of sex itself, create a space for open conversation and acceptance, and to promote a conscious awareness in young people about consent.

*Names have been changed for the purpose of anonymity.

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