Facials, feminism, and performance: On f**king men in a patriarchy

As feminists, sleeping with men is always going to be a little fraught.

Not getting to the actual act, per se — jumping into bed with people we feel like jumping into bed with can be pretty straightforward – rather the politics surrounding feminists having sex with men within the context of a patriarchy as well as, of course, the maintenance of a sexual relationship with a man in the long-term.

Applying the phrase, “the personal is political,” seems particularly difficult when we are talking about an act that can be very private and very personal. Certainly sex is one of those things that can make us feel extremely vulnerable. Including politics or even acknowledging that, in one way or another, there is a larger context to our behaviour when it comes to sex, leaves something to be desired. Particularly for women, who work so hard to shake the inner and outer critic that says: “you’re not good enough,” “you’re not hot enough,” “you’re too slutty,” “you’re not slutty enough” — I get why we might want to avoid opening ourselves up to (further) public critique in the form of feminism. “Get the fuck out of my bedroom” does strike me as a remarkably reasoned response.

That said, I’m not one to take individual acts as simply individual acts.

Recently, Emily McCombs posted a piece at xoJane about her love of facials (no, not the kind you get at the spa). She wrote:

“No, I don’t feel degraded by it, nor do I think my male partners’ enjoyment of said act means they hate women. I mean, if they did, there are faster ways to oppress us than one shot in the face at a time.”

She adds, “My orgasms are a politics-free zone.”

So ok. I also want politics to stay the hell out of my orgasms. BUT OH THEY JUST WON’T. I can’t help but acknowledge that sometimes the things we do or want or say in the bedroom are not entirely free of “politics.” Being aware that the larger context that, for example, might create a desire for a man to cum on our faces might possibly include, well, porn for one, doesn’t make you a bad person for enjoying that act. I think that it’s possible for an act to be symbolically degrading without an individual necessarily feeling degraded by that act in all cirucumstances. Feeling degraded isn’t necessarily necessary in order to acknowledge that often our desires are shaped by a larger culture that has worked very hard, for a very long time, to sexualize the degradation of women. And that acknowledgment does not mean the same thing as saying: “you are bad and wrong and unfeminist and ruining feminism for everyone because of the things that turn you on in bed.” Nope. Not the same.

To me, I just can’t see the point of being a feminist if I’m not going to ask “why?” about most everything. I ask why I keep shaving my legs, why I’m unable to eat food for the entire day before a first date (I get nervous, you guys!), why I think buying shoes will make my life better, and I ask why I feel or think or do the things I do in bed with a man. Sometimes I even think about why I go to bed with men in the first place. Is this biological or social? Would I be a lesbian if I hadn’t been conditioned towards heterosexuality? Some of these questions I have answers to, others I’m not quite sure about. But I know this: much of my sexual history and behaviour has been determined by factors including my growing up a girl in a man’s world.

My thoughts, desires, insecurities, and behaviours are not suddenly cordoned off from a larger culture once I close the bedroom door. I also don’t believe I’m being degraded every time I have sex with a man, though many accuse feminists of holding this belief. I actually don’t know a single feminist, in person, who believes that.

Like McCombs, I don’t see semen as “dirty or offensive” — though I’m not convinced that that’s what Dworkin meant when she said:

“The ejaculation on her is a way of saying (through showing) that she is contaminated with his dirt; that she is dirty.”

First off, I think there is a difference between the images we see in pornography, which is what Dworkin is referencing in this quote from her 1993 speech Pornography Happens to Women, and what we do as individuals in the bedroom (though these two may well be connected). When we see a man ejaculating onto a woman’s face in pornography, it is reasonable to view that act as representative of women’s subordination. Mainstream pornography is generally, as Dworkin describes, about things happening to women’s bodies. Things are done to their bodies. Men are the actors, and male fantasies are projected onto the bodies of women.

In film theory everything has meaning. Everything is symbolic. Similarly, in pornography, as Dworkin points out “everything means something.” Gender means something, bodies mean something, body parts mean something, the acts done to women mean something. Getting a facial in your bedroom doesn’t necessarily have the same meaning as a woman getting a facial in a porn movie does and, in fact, the relevance of whether or not the individual actress in the porn appears to be ‘enjoying’ the cum shot to her face is less important than the larger meaning of the image on screen. I am not at all surprised that “the majority of porn shows women basking in and positively loving receiving a facial” or that “a lot more straight porn features women happily accepting facials than reacting with disgust and evident humiliation” because women in porn are presenting a fantasy and that fantasy is that women enjoy being objectified, cum on, gang-raped, called whores and bitches, whatever. Porn is about male fantasy. The fantasy is that women like everything you do to them, as man.

So how does this translate into real life? Women spend a lot of time and energy trying to please men. We learn early on that we are being looked at – that we are to be looked at. That we are performers. It took years before I actually started enjoying sex. YEARS. I think what I enjoyed most about sex, when I was younger, was the feeling of being desired. The actual sex part was super boring for the first while.

We learn, as girls and women, that the performance is more important than the actual feeling. Do you know how many women can’t actually relax during sex because they are so self-conscious about whether or not their stomachs look flabby? A lot. Read Cosmo (which actually suggests facing away from your partner during sex if you feel self-conscious about your body!?). HOW THE HELL ARE WOMEN SUPPOSED TO HAVE ORGASMS WHEN THEY ARE WORRYING ABOUT WHAT THEIR STOMACHS LOOK LIKE? And in other news, are men everywhere having trouble relaxing and cumming while they are in bed with women because they’re concerned their pecs aren’t muscly enough? Sigh.

What I’m saying is that, when we feel that sex is a performance it impacts, well, our performance. And the reason we see ourselves as performers in the bedroom, the reason that we’re thinking about our appearances, and the sounds we’re making, and our facial expressions, is in large part because of the porn/pornified images we have seen onscreen.

So same goes for facials. It’s more than likely that women learned this was hot from porn. And that is troubling. Because I think emulating porn doesn’t help us enjoy our bodies or sex, nor does it help us relax and have pleasure in bed. In fact it inhibits it in many ways.

All that said, I actually completely agree with McCombs when she says: “We can recognize our influences while still liking what we like.” We don’t have to have sex in any prescribed way simply because we are feminists. But to say that “sexism doesn’t get to dictate what I can and can’t enjoy” isn’t entirely true. Because in many ways it does and it has. All the fucked up ways I behave in my life were, as far as I can tell and in one way or another, determined by my experience being socialized in a patriarchal society. That doesn’t mean I need to hate myself for it. It doesn’t even mean I need to stop behaving in those ways or thinking those weird, unhealthy things about my face/life/body/boyfriends. But it sure doesn’t hurt to recognize how sexism factors into the equation. In fact, I think that understanding the way that sexism has messed with my head is the only way to overcome it (eventually).

Feminism has made sex better for me. Not worse. Feminism hasn’t limited me, it’s helped me to understand me. It’s helped me understand what I’m comfortable with, who I’m comfortable with, and what I’m comfortable doing. It hasn’t made me ashamed. What made me ashamed was the not knowing. The trying to fit into some pornified version of the me I thought I was supposed to be. Why didn’t I like all of the things I thought I was supposed to like? Without feminism I thought I just wasn’t liberated enough to enjoy degradation. That was a whole bunch of bullshit. I don’t need to dress up in cheesy lingerie and put on a strip show in order to prove how empowered I am because I don’t actually need to prove anything to anyone. Thanks feminism!

This isn’t to say that I’m constantly having perfect, empowered, multiple-orgasm, insecurity-free sex either. It doesn’t mean that I don’t catch myself performing at times. The sexism is still there folks! Inside the bedroom. Inside my head. But I’m done trying to enjoy or pretending to enjoy things that feel boring/painful/degrading because I feel like that’s what sexy girls do.

So I don’t particularly want politics in my bedroom either, but they’re there. Whether we like it or not. As long as we’re feminists and we’re living in a patriarchy, it’s very likely that we’re going to desire or enjoy things in the bedroom that might make us uncomfortable or confused or uncertain. We might wonder why sometimes we feel as though we are performing, why we asked to be spanked, or why we love getting facials. I’m never going to tell anyone to stop liking those things but I’m also not going to pretend as though that facial isn’t symbolic. You aren’t fucking in a bubble and yet you also can have your desire. Have it without shame. No one’s here to police the sex you are having but as we move forward in this world and on our paths as feminists, so long as we are sleeping with men, politics will be in the bedroom, in one way or another.

But yes, you can keep your orgasms.

Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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  • Aims

    Well said, Meghan. The thing that astounds me in Emily McCombs piece is that she states she enjoys “likes to push the boundaries during sex” – but how is finishing sex with the same act that 99% of porn does pushing the boundaries? To me, it’s conforming in the most depressing way.

    I posed this question in the comments section but it was deleted.

  • Terre Spencer

    What might be interesting is to ask “how did this particular sexual act become part of my fantasies?”
    Because I believe that our fantasies are not things that just crop up out of nowhere, that they are even more unconsciously connected to the cultural undercurrents than we want to admit sometimes, asking and really exploring that question will reveal some pretty humbling truths to each of us.
    To claim that an act performed in most of porn is “pushing the boundaries” is both untrue and self-delusional. And it prevents the fantasy-holder from knowing more about their deeper selves and sexuality.
    Our fantasies tell us volumes about ourselves, our culture and they are far from random little scripts that suddenly occupy our sexuality. They are coded messages from a deeper part of ourselves.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I definitely agree, Terre. Fantasies don’t come out of nowhere and I am certainly curious and interested to know what influences and shapes our desires/fantasies.

      • Sian

        Great piece Meghan. This is one of the best pieces of online feminist writing I’ve ever read!

        I had one issue though, you began with this:

        “As feminists, sleeping with men is always going to be a little fraught.

        Not getting to the actual act, per se – jumping into bed with people we feel like jumping into bed with can be pretty straightforward”

        I think this is a whole issue in itself, not something to be so casually dismissed. I personally think who we have sex with is much more significant than how we have sex with them.

        As you say, fantasies don’t come out of nowhere. And that includes the type of people we are attracted to.

        I see so many of my friends and others around me – avowed feminists – who are still attracted to many of the same patriarchally defined archetypes – tall, strong, “sexy”. They still want to be gazing upwards at their man in reverence, and feel physically inferior in his presence.

        But when that is the dynamic of attraction outside of the bedroom, how is inside the bedroom ever going to be any different? And how are wider attitudes about men and women ever going to change either.

        It feels many of us women are now implicated in propping up the patriarchy. We need to redefine male “sexiness” on our terms, not theirs – with physicality and dominance removed from the equation!

    • Al

      I agree with this. I really enjoy–crave, in fact– certain kinds of degradation , etc. And, look, it has a source…sexism, for sure. And, my participation in these acts has an impact, however localized it might be, on how men treat and understand and deal with sex. But, I still want it and I am still really frank and okay with identifying a culture of sexism as the primary (though not single) factor in developing my submissive side–and in saying this to my male (and female, but I feel less conflicted with women) partners so that they also consider the possibility that what they enjoy is conditioned by equal/opposite social factors and has a real world impact etc. Complicated!!

  • WOW…so much truth in this post…from all directions!!!

    I found that intimacy and intimate scenarios (not PIV scenarios) totally changed when i got into feminism. In high school, I remember thinking that everything in a relationship was some kind of performance – as though i was just an object being thrown into various scenarios. All I cared about was how men perceived me, that was it. I couldn’t see myself as a person, just an object.

    I will be sharing this extensively!

    • Meghan Murphy

      Thanks BK! I know exactly what you mean… The stress of being a teenage girl, constantly in a performance of one kind or another…I remember it. It’s so interesting and disturbing when we realize how the ‘to-be-looked-atness’ of girls and women impacts our lives and psyches.

  • cats

    great post!

  • Feminist Love

    Thanks Meghan, wonderful read.

  • TAB

    Great article! I’m in my early 40’s and I can see how the sexual dynamics have changed. When I was in my 20’s the few men I dated wanted intimate, mutually sexually gratifying relationships. That began to shift in my 30’s when men would hint at wanting to cum on my face, do anal, choke me, want me to eat their spit. Now that I’m in my early 40’s, the above seems to be expected. I’ve taken myself out of the game. Trauma, humiliation and intimacy don’t mix in my book.

    • pat

      Same for me. I’m in my 40’s too and there is noway I take pleasure in degrading a woman.
      To me it seems patriarchy comes back through the bed room, women being still taught today since young to submit to men. Just have a look in a toy store, in the girls section : all is geared towards teaching girls to be good housewives and nothing more.

      Too many young men & women learn today sexuality through porn movies. I did not. Unfortunately porn is almost only about degrading women

  • Chris

    I’ve got to definitely agree with the need to ask questions about why certain things are the way they are. There are *so* many ideas, assumptions, and “norms” we take for granted everyday. These are things we don’t just blindly assume to be true, we take their truth to be so self-evident that we never question them, or even think about them.

    A great example is the view that men are naturally better at math than women. This idea was so ingrained (and often still is) that scientists spent decades conducting research to determine *why* this was so, and what the physiological indicator might be, before starting to question the previously unspoken assumption that men actually *were* better at math. Now, it’s certainly true that within western society men have generally performed much better at math, and men have been overwhelming much more interested in the topic. The problem was assuming that this was a biological difference, instead of a cultural one. In some cultures women outperform men at math. The difference can be explained pretty simply. Some cultures encourage women to excel at math, while others don’t and yet others still actively discourage any interest in the topic at all. There are many other cultural influences, of course, that also impact the academic and professional performance of women and men, not just in math, but in many areas.

    Equally, I’m pretty sure there’s no biological imperative that drives women to buy shoes. 🙂 There sure are a lot of other imperatives though.

    Intellectually, I know that it makes no sense whatsoever for women to shave their legs. No matter how certain I might be of this, however, I still find shaved legs to be more attractive. Knowing that this preference is culturally determined doesn’t change it, even though I wish it would. Knowledge is not enough. It’s important to question things, and try to understand ourselves and human nature, but no matter how much we learn, we are all still, at least partly, prisoners of our culture.

    What we can do with our knowledge, is to try to change our culture, and in some cases, to try to create a new one. Our children and grandchildren benefit from this more than we ever will, and this is what makes the effort worthwhile. Slavery was once considered natural, normal, and simply the way things were. It’s now almost universally viewed as evil, vile, and reprehensible. This is not a change that happened overnight but it shows that a culture can change.

    There are also other cultures that never practiced slavery, and would have never even considered the idea. Many of these cultures were wiped out, but history doesn’t insist that immoral ideas must always triumph over moral ones. Some cultures with evil “norms” change themselves, sometimes they are eliminated. One culture might assimilate another, spreading and normalizing the dominant mores. Nothing says these mores have to be “good” or “bad”. We would, however, probably view the spreading of a culture that values militarism and slavery as a very bad thing, while the spread of a culture that values peace, equality, compassion and respect for the natural world as a very good thing.

    We cannot escape our culture, and our personal preferences don’t make us good or bad people, but, as you say, that’s not the same thing as examining *why* certain things are the way the are, what that means, and what we should do about it.

  • pisaquari

    Why don’t men bathe in their own piss? is what I wanna know.

    Splooge in a cup and then wipe it all over their face, use it as after-shave? I’ve never seen that done. Why not cum on wet toenail polish and watch how it dries? Ooooooooo

    Whenever “grown ass” women start exclaiming “boundary pushing” (<look, rapey phrase, that's nice) I know I am about to re-discover what all the 12 year old boys were whacking it to 5 years ago.

  • Missfit

    ‘So same goes for facials. It’s more than likely that women learned this was hot from porn.’

    The reverse actually happened to me. I had a boyfriend who asked me if he could come on my face. I thought yeah, that’s new, let’s try that, it turns me on to see you come and that will really put me in the front row hehe. I had no knowledge of porn at the time (yeah, that was a long time ago…). It is after seeing how this act was depicted in porn that I became completely turned off by it.

    • MJ

      Yes this happened to me too. The first time I was exposed to hard core porn I felt sick. For me, it took all the attraction, tenderness, intimacy of making love and turned it into a tawdry performance. Horrible.

  • BK

    Meghan, you talked about symbolism in here…I can’t think of anything more symbolically degrading than a man using his penis like a sort of gun – shooting ejaculate into his partner’s face. Guys should try smothering their faces in their own ejaculate sometime and see how they feel after, i bet they’ll be supah empowerfulized.

  • KD

    I think the entire act of facials is best described by a man who has performed a lot of them:

    “The best explanation for this comes from the veteran porn actor and producer Bill Margold, who is quoted as saying: ‘The most violent we can get is the cum shot in the face. Men get off behind that, because they get even with the women they can’t have. We try to inundate the world with orgasms in the face.'” (From http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/28/porn-syphilis-money-shot-condoms)

    I’m sorry, but the idea that having a man ejaculate in a woman’s face over and over without commenting on the underlying point is really offensive to me. It’s the outgrowth of liberal feminism and its insistence that by simply saying, “It’s a choice,” we remove any right to question an act. I don’t believe that. I do believe that feminism is about letting women make choices. I don’t believe that all choices made are equal. I don’t believe that just because “it’s a choice,” it isn’t also harmful, damaging and supportive of patriarchy. Reason #101 I’m not a liberal feminist, but take my feminism from the Socialist and Radical feminist traditions.

  • J.Hansfeld

    All this talk about feminism, sex, porn and masturbation, leaves no room in any woman for holiness, righteousness and good moral standing.

    Feminism is the number one reason for morale decay in society. Do your research and find out if prior to 1920, women in general, in the “civilized” world allowed such behavior as allowing a man to “cum” on their face? or if women pleasured themselves because a good man wasn’t available.

    I have always maintained that women are treated as dirt because women allow men to treat them like dirt and women lower their standards to dirt. Short skirts, mini shorts, bikini’s, celeb sex tapes, emphasis on breasts and butts all degrade a woman. Because of this behavior, when a man sees a woman, he sees a sex object, not a woman. On there other hand if women upheld holiness and righteousness as opposed to “sexiness”, men would respect them more.

    Show me a woman practicing holiness that is disrespected by men?
    • Holy women do not wear make-up, they don’t dress for sex, they don’t have sex toy’s in their luggage or purses, and they are not setting themselves up as an object of constant lust by ungodly men. Holy women do not wear revealing clothing, take semi/nude photos and post on the internet for wicked disrespecting men to see and jerk-off to. Holy women will not wear bikinis nor one-piece suits as an acceptable covering because they are on the beach. Holy women would not be caught in a nudist colony nor nude beach.

    I once watched a popular TV celeb say he could walk up to a woman and request to see her parts and she would comply. So many women celebs, leaders, teachers and preachers promote sexiness and this continues to degrade women. My coworker went to a labor-day celebration where he walked up to several bikini clad women and requested to see their parts. They gladly exposed themselves, smiled and he took a photo. He came to work on Tuesday and displayed such for coworkers to see. I was so ashamed as to the level of indecency women have accepted as status quo. It is so wrong! These women are wives, mothers, sisters, grandma’s and not sluts, “farm implements” nor whores. But they chose and brought themselves to that level. This is not good.

    Women everywhere desperately need to put away ‘sexiness’ and embrace holiness. Sexiness has done nothing good for our daughters, sisters, girl friends, wives, mistresses, mothers, and definitely our men.

    If any man looks at a woman and all he things of is having sex with her, then that’s all she is, 3 minutes of pleasure and he is off to the next woman. If a man looks at a woman and sees a godly-holy woman, who would want to divorce her? Which idiot man would speak bad about her? Men would guard and keep her as a scared treasure.

    Please don’t bash holiness until you have tried it and achieved it. You may have given “sexiness” a try all your life and men still continuously disrespect you. Why not try holiness for the remainder of your life?

    • Aims

      J Hansfield, do your research. First, how do you know what was happening in bedrooms prior to 1920? Second, let’s say wives and “ladies” were not allowing this to happen, there was a whole subclass of “fallen” women who men raped, violated and abused as a matter of course.

      Men are the problem, not women, go and preach to them.

    • Chris

      I think J Hansfeld actually makes some good points. He gets some things wrong, but maybe less than you think. The problem is that many of the terms are used inaccurately or the wrong terms are used. Start by looking at the comments through the lens of another society. He begins the by lumping the word “feminism” in with “porn”, then he starts talking about the “moral decay” of society. What could lead some people to make this, seemingly, bizarre conflation?

      Consider what the western word “feminism” means to some people around the world. It’s the justification for the invasion of Afghanistan (George Bush was a feminist, don’t you know?) It’s a movement to “save” Muslim women. It’s the promotion of our “liberated” raunch, “hookup” culture to the peoples of the world. And if some women don’t consider our attitudes to be all that progressive or respectful, we’ll pass laws to force their acquiescence (see anti-headscarf laws.) And, of course, if they don’t agree, it must be because they are being oppressed. In some cases, we care so much, we’ll invade and occupy countries to spread our ideal of “feminism”.

      It’s gone beyond that, however. Now you have western men and women, mostly on the right, who have bought into this propaganda, and view “feminism” as a vile corruption of what they consider traditional “family values”. There is virtually no recognition, however, that this is a situation they, or those claiming to represent their interests, have helped to create. Those on the so-called left, of course, react with ridiculous displays such as “Slutwalk”. The debates between the two sides resemble a theatre of the absurd.

      Now, obviously, the noble idea of “feminism” (which really isn’t that hard to define, as I previously argued) has been misappropriated and misapplied. But we have to recognize this and respond to it. I don’t agree with J Hansfeld’s terms “sexiness” and “holiness”, but consider replacing those with “privileged self-absorption” and “self-respect”. Then I think maybe his comments aren’t completely off-base. More importantly, if you consider how people of different societies and religions around the world might view the west, maybe even the term “holiness” isn’t completely wrong.

      Where I disagree is with the idea that things were “better” before the 20s, or that this is something women “choose”. The “sacred treasure” argument is clearly offensive. When I first read the comment, I was prepared to respond with vitriol. You can never justify abuse and oppression by blaming the victim. But after waiting a day, I think we need to recognize that maybe there’s something here that deserves a more serious response.

      If you think a feminist is a skimpily-clad western woman who engages in promiscuous sex at the drop of the hat, you’re wrong. If you think a strong, intelligent Arab woman wearing a headscarf is necessarily oppressed, you’re wrong again. If you act based on such prejudiced beliefs, whether you’re on the left or the right, you’re part of the problem.

      • ToniB

        What I don’t I like about J. Hansfeld’s argument along with the above is he admonishes the women for exposing themselves but says nothing about the MEN who are asking the women to expose themselves. Again, all of it is the woman’s fault. Men are the number one consumers of this material. If you want to break it down to economics, if you kill the demand then there will be not time for supply. Women AND men do bare responsibility in SOME situations up to a point. However, in a culture that pornifies women’s bodies, encourages promiscuity of men and is saturated with patriarchy it’s time for men to step up. Thankfully, more and more men are.

      • right on, well said

    • i really just. no. no to all of this. i didnt even read it all but hell no.

    • anon

      1. why is it either ‘godliness’ or ‘sexiness’ as if these are the only two options for a woman in the twentieth century.

      2. why are you not condemning the men that walk up to bikini clad women demanding to see ‘their parts’ (Frankenstein-esque phrase there.)

      3. How can you say ‘Feminism is the number one reason for morale decay in society.’ when millions of women feel empowered everyday and are standing beside men for the good of society. I feel you’ve picked the wrong people to blame for moral decay. A doubt the bikini clad women on labour day would call themselves feminists, but if they did then fine, they have made their own choice. Respect that.

  • HappySinner

    Shut up J. Hansfeld

  • Oh, guarded as a sacred treasure – that IS less dehumanizing than being a sexual object.

  • Mary KT

    If we choose to track the genesis of the above mentioned kink..

    The man or woman sees the act of giving or receiving a facial in porn. In porn, that act is usually depicted as a degrading one, a disrespectful one. The woman who watches that porno and desires it, therefore wants to be objectified at least on some level , no? And the man who gets the idea of giving his girlfriend a facial from porn also wants to degrade her one way or another. I mean, how come we don’t hear about guys requesting this act because that is the best way they can think of to show their love and passion for their partner? Because it isn’t. Hot sex does not always equal kinky sex.

    It’s one thing to admit that you like facials because you like the feeling of being objectified, branded, degraded. It’s another thing to pretend like this act is in no way pretty much always used to put the receiving partner into a submissive , dirty position. Yes, your man is aiming his ‘release’ at your face as a way to ‘put you in your place’ in the bedroom because he deems it hot. You deem it hot as well? That is fine. You don’t? That is also fine. But putting energy and thought into figuring out why you do or don’t enjoy such an act (or the idea of this act) would surely be more useful than dismissing it as just another kink that stands as it is.

    • is it seriously that useful? like in what context is worrying about why you want someone to ejaculate onto your face useful. useful in the utilitarian sense? or the virtuous sense? or the psychological sense? or the sociological sense? honestly how is it useful

  • “All the fucked up ways I behave in my life were, as far as I can tell and in one way or another, determined by my experience being socialized in a patriarchal society. That doesn’t mean I need to hate myself for it. It doesn’t even mean I need to stop behaving in those ways or thinking those weird, unhealthy things about my face/life/body/boyfriends.”

    because obviously the only people who NEED to change their thinking are behavior are men, because it’s all men’s fault because patriarchy. True as fuck

    • Meghan Murphy

      Yeah. That’s exactly what I said. You got me.

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  • Jellyfish33

    Got this link from a friend who asked why we all immediately jump to the conclusion that facials are degrading. It seems like we start there, and then analyze its context. Who says it’s degrading? I certainly don’t think so. I work hard for that “release,” I want to experience all of it. I take great pleasure in his pleasure. If my man tried to dodge any part of my orgasm from getting on his face, I would feel like he thought it was impure or gross. I want to see, yes, on his face, how much he caused me to orgasm. I want to see physical evidence of my climax. On him. Why would anyone deem that degrading? Where is he SUPPOSED to put it? Where am I ALLOWED to release? I enjoy receiving as much as I enjoy delivering. Why are either of these “bad” or “objectifying”? And if facials are so terrible, why hasn’t anyone asked about the physical impossibility of prgasming during oral sex WITHOUT getting it all over his face?

    • Meghan Murphy

      As a man, I think you’re not taking into account the context and power dynamics that exist between men and women and how that manifests itself in a porn culture.

    • Toni

      Who says “facials” are degrading? The pornographers do. WARNING – Some of the quotes below as well as the quotes on the posted website may be triggering.


      “I’d like to really show what I believe the men want to see: violence against women. I firmly believe that we serve a purpose by showing that. The most violent we can get is the cum shot in the face. Men get off behind that, because they get even with the women they can’t have. We try to inundate the world with orgasms in the face.”
      — Bill Margold, porn industry veteran, quoted in Robert J. Stoller and I. S. Levine, Coming Attractions: The Making of an X-rated video; 1993.

      “It’s like a dog marking its territory. You know, why do dogs pee on fire hydrants and trees? I don’t know. It’s just like a man will leave his mark on a woman. You see something beautiful, you’ve got to let them know you were there.”
      –Pornographer Brandon Iron, explaining why men like to ejaculate onto women’s faces, quoted on The Anti-porn Resource Center (oneangrygirl.net/antiporn.html).

      “My whole reason for being in this Industry is to satisfy the desire of the men in the world who basically don’t much care for women and want to see the men in my Industry getting even with the women they couldn’t have when they were growing up. I strongly believe this… so we come on a woman’s face or somewhat brutalize her sexually: we’re getting even for their lost dreams. I believe this. I’ve heard audiences cheer me when I do something foul on screen. When I’ve strangled a person or sodomized a person, or brutalized a person, the audience is cheering my action, and then when I’ve fulfilled my warped desire, the audience applauds.”
      — Bill Margold, porn industry veteran and Free Speech Coalition board member.

      “Max fucks chicks he finds the way you like to — getting cute cunts on his couch. Using their tight holes to pleasure his stiff cock. Max turns ordinary teens and mother’s [sic] alike into piss and cum-splattered sluts before your eyes… Max wastes no time, gagging girls on his cock and pissing down their throats before he even learns their email addresses! Max is the originator of rectal-boring action — gaping assholes, and fisting cunts… Max also uses speculums to pry-open their fuck-holes so you can look deep inside. He’ll spray his cum and piss into the gaping tunnels, even making them drink it out of their ass! Whether its [sic] naïve teen or classy broad, Max delivers the same ruthless treatment.”
      — Excerpt of “Max Hardcore Biography”, Max Hardcore official website (Source: maxhardcore.com/whoismax/index.htm). [Accessed 07/08/2007]

  • Jess

    I’m not really sure where to begin with this article so I guess I’ll just start by saying this – if you don’t want to engage in humiliation, pain, etc. during sex then that’s just fine but don’t knock people who do and claim they are giving into an underlying patriarchy.

    I’m a feminist, I’m also a submissive in a D/s relationship and I engage in BDSM as part of my sex life and part of my relationship. I realized the article started about cum facials, but there were slips into things that implied something more engaging in “spanking” and “pain” for instance. Frankly, I’m sick of fellow feminists claiming that I’m “degrading” myself as part of this practice, and having this idea that BDSM lives in pornography and stems from it. Most people I have met that are into the scene knew well before they engaged in play that they were into it. The BDSM community also strives to emphasize “safe, sane, and consensual” play and lives. Porn may over exaggerate play, and make it seem that this is what all BDSM is like, but the simple fact is that it’s not. Just like vanilla sex is exaggerated in pornography so is BDSM. Many normal, functional people and GASP feminists engage in BDSM play. A woman that is a submissive to a male dom in a D/s relationship should feel no more guilty than a male submissive to a male dom or a female submissive to a female dom. Simply because I engage in a heterosexual relationship and am submissive does not mean I am enforcing patriarchy.

    Using my own personal experience those who don’t “switch” between doming and subbing at some point, usually live in unhealthy relationships. Poor doms are those who do not occasionally switch in order to understand the situations the sub is being put into. I’ve heard it from myself from a woman who has been in the scene for around 50 some years that switching is important. This is just as important as aftercare for your sub, and making sure play is safe. Which is something you don’t see in porn because… well… It’s boring and it’s not a part of the sexual play. Yet, each scene is carefully set up to insure safety precautions are in place, and the sub is later cared for afterwords to insure stability and safety. The implication that the woman is inherently degrading herself because she is subbing is ridiculous. She’s not giving into patriarchy, she’s not giving into “the big bad pornographer” she’s doing what she finds sexually pleasing. Now, don’t get me wrong it’s not everyone’s bag and that’s okay. Be open with your partners on what your limits are, and what you find enjoyable, but by all means don’t knock those with fetishes down because they actively engage in them.

    • Meghan Murphy

      How is saying ‘do what you want, no shame/no judgement’ ‘knocking’ anyone? You need to learn how to differentiate between thinking critically about our actions/the larger context for our actions and attacking individuals and their individual actions in the bedroom. I’m not sure how you could read this post and come back with ‘don’t knock people with fetishes.’

      • Jess

        You basically said that anyone who engages in this behavior is giving into a system of patriarchy. My argument is that it isn’t. Therefore you ARE shaming people even if you aren’t trying to. If I felt that you weren’t I wouldn’t have bothered commenting on it. Yet, telling someone what they do is inherently wrong but saying you don’t judge them for it isn’t really consistent. You are judging people who engage in this behavior because you view it as something that is giving into the system of patriarchy, which in most cases it isn’t. Even if you’re not trying to tell people not to do it you’re still telling them to think about their choices of engaging in this sort of behavior (which could be sexual or otherwise) people who are into BDSM are generally shunned by most people already if they are “outted.” They are aware their behavior is generally considered deviant and tend to keep it under the radar because of that. Because you claim that what they do (targeted at ONLY female submissives) is something they should reconsider in a way to realize they’re engaging in a patriarchal system you too are shaming them. Female submissives shouldn’t be considered as contributing to the system of patriarchy simply because they enjoy pain or humiliation in sex. I realized I enjoyed the lifestyle before I watched any porn and shortly after I was sexually active. It isn’t a “performance” for them it is just part of the sexual being. Hence why I said, let your partner be aware of your sexual limitations, so you don’t feel degraded unnecessarily. Yet, you shouldn’t shame those that are aware of what they’re doing and make them feel as if they are giving into a wider system of patriarchy.

        • Meghan Murphy

          Not “giving in” – impacted by. I function in the same system/context you do and therefore my sexuality and the sex I have is impacted.

          I “basically” say that anyone who engages in any behaviour is impacted by a larger context of patriarchy. Therefore…what? I’m shaming every person who exists? No.

          I recommend reading comprehension and/or reading more carefully before commenting in a way that miscontrues/misrepresents the arguments being made.

        • Terre Spencer

          Jess, if you feel shamed, I seriously doubt it is because of this article.

        • Aims

          Are you seriously claiming that “enjoying pain and humiliation” is “just a part of the sexual being” as in, you were born that way?

        • SC

          There is definitely room to look at sex as being both related to societal messages AND to acknowledge that there is a form of resistance and transgression in sex. I’m not really sure why folks are jumping on the bandwagon to shame women who are into facials (which I don’t think is what the author is saying, but is implied by a few commenters above). I think that part of the detritus of racism, sexism, etc. is the desire to play with those ideas, to resist on OUR OWN TERMS. Isn’t it just as patriarchal to tell women how to deal with/push/resist/fuck around with patriarchy in their bedrooms? Is it wrong for women who face the possibility of sexual assault on a daily basis to want to experiment with rape fantasies in a safe and consensual setting? Does anyone have the right, or authority, to tell that woman that she is in that moment being “impacted by patriarchy?” Like duh, we’re all impacted by patriarchy every second…and trying to say that “yes, but when you like facials, you’re impacted by patriarchy” is like saying “yes, but when you like pink, you’re impacted by patriarchy” or “yes, but when you go grocery shopping, you’re impacted by patriarchy.” These things are true, but I think what folks are saying without really saying it is “yes, but when you like facials, you’re giving into the man and the MAN,” which is a pretty shaming way of telling women how they need to relate to their bodies “not be giving into sexism.”

          It’s extremely simplistic to assume that women who are interested in sexual acts related to patriarchy are giving into patriarchy (I don’t care if you use the word “impacted” to try to make it sound neutral, because the implicit message is still shaming). It reminds of when feminists, especially those wrapped up in the second wave bs with policing sex and pornography, imply that the use of strap-ons indicates that the women who use them are patriarchal, that they want to be men, or on the “receiving” end, that women just want to be with men. I think it’s obvious that this narrative is in its own way shaming. Though we know that individual sex acts and how sex is constructed in society is rife with political messages, the political message is not necessarily the simplistic one you all are trying to impose.

          That said, THANK YOU JESS for noticing this dynamic and calling it out…and for trying to give space for women to gain emotional and sexual health on their own terms, even under the shaming normativity of those who police deviance.

          • Aims

            Hey SC, facials aren’t deviant, they are featured at the end of about 95% of mainstream porn.

          • K

            “Isn’t it just as patriarchal to tell women how to deal with/push/resist/fuck around with patriarchy in their bedrooms?”

            How is resisting or pushing against patriarchy to repeat patriarchal norms? That literally makes no sense. That’s like saying men want to call me a whore to be subversive and not because they’ve internalized the idea that sexual woman = whore. We’re not fucking our way to freedom, and no woman (or man, because surely many find the idea of a weak woman saying no attractive just as some women like the idea of a strong Alpha male acting as if their no is inconsequential) has rape fantasies for feminism.

    • Candy

      I’m confused- if you want to be humiliated (assuming that’s the feeling you’re after rather than an act others would consider humiliation that you personally do not), how are you not degrading yourself? And also, how is degrading yourself empowering for women?

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  • Toby

    “And in other news, are men everywhere having trouble relaxing and cumming while they are in bed with women because they’re concerned their pecs aren’t muscly enough?”

    For me, the answer is yes. I know a lot of guys who face this issue as well. Problems with personal image affect a lot of people, both male and female. Personally, fears about my image as a man are often paramount in my mind. And please keep in mind too, patriarchy cuts both ways, meaning that not all men are satisfied, pleased or comfortable with an empirical patriarchal society. Societal ideologies make all of us fit into boxes.

  • notso

    I just want to say YES!!!!! Maybe I’m wrong but for me personally I have never ever seen this written in an article ‘….I think what I enjoyed most about sex when i was younger was the feeling about being desired. The actual sex part was super boring for the first while.’
    For me the first while lasted most of my 20’s….and just yes. Not that I thought I was alone in this from talking to friends but reading it just totally shocked me. Yes having sex was about being desired and really nothing else, and i found it really really hard to move past that, although i now feel that i have, it was still a struggle and not one just for teenagers. So good on you!

  • Sarah

    I cannot even imagine what sex would feel like if I wasn’t constantly conscious of being looked at. And I hadn’t even noticed that until I read this. Having got quite a lot of my sexual education from porn and from pornified images in mainstream media, yeah, I definitely think I have internalised this idea of myself as an object to be looked at during sex. I tend to make a lot of noise during sex that I just don’t when masturbating, and while I really enjoy the positive feedback I tend to get from partners who find my noisiness a turn on, I have to wonder where it comes from.

  • midwestguy

    I feel compelled to say as a white hetero man that yes, in fact, I do worry during sex about my stomach looking flabby, and that related worries CAN affect my ability to relax and come. Most men I know aren’t interested in merely doing things to women; they care deeply about providing an enjoyable experience for their partner. Also, for the record, I bought a pair of shoes today to make myself happy, for whatever that’s worth.

  • Sonja

    I figure this is a somewhat late reply to the post, but I just wanted to say I’m glad others think about these questions and feel equally troubled about it all. I’m a feminist and for some while seriuosly thought that just reflecting about partiarchy already made me somewhat safe from it to an extent that it, at least, wouldn’t really influence my private life.

    Basically, that was before I read Andrea Dworkin’s “Intercourse”, which was the most horrible reading experience I ever had, and I still haven’t recovered from that. I avoid porn because it makes me feel sick, so I’m not as exposed to these very degrading, violent sexual depictions as many here might have been. Just reading the quotations from these porn “stars” on the meaning of facials in some of the other replies makes me feel incredibly sick. It makes me even sicker to imagine how a guy I’m in love with might enjoy these violences against women and gets off to a woman being brutalized, tortured, degraded – precisely BECAUSE she is being degraded, not because of the physicality of some act (which would be perfectly fine to me).

    It increasingly bothers me how sexual violence against women in the form of porn is simply becoming a normal aspect of every day life for many people. For instance, I found out that our town’s student dorms use the computer networks between students mainly to exchange porn films that they upload into shared folders. (Including, a friends told me, rape scenarios, incest scenarios etc.) It makes me sick how this is simply considered “normal” and if you find it shocking, you’re “prude”. I don’t consider myself prude at all – and actually, I’ve always very much enjoyed sex and only had it with guys who certainly weren’t your typical macho-guy sort of alpha-male, and I still (more or less?) believe that what I had with them was not degrading. But thinking about how sexuality and desire are structured in our society and what role it assigns to women makes me never want to have sex again; actually makes me wish for not having any sexual desire sometimes!

    I agree that it’s not so much an act that has a certain meaning, but the meaning is constructed within a social context, a preexisting hierarchy, a code shared by the participants etc etc. However, as you said, sex doesn’t take place in a vacuum and the meanings you assign to something don’t always have the same power – like, my feminist reading of some act would not be as convincing to most people than sexist readings of the same thing, and thus it’s not as strong). What really bothers me, for instance, is the thought that I’d do something with a guy that, for me, has no degrading meaning – but that he, at the same time, might experience the same thing as something he does to degrade me, and that he gets pleasure out of this degration. You said that as long as you don’t feel degraded, you can’t have been degraded – I disagree. Finding out afterwards how he experienced it would alter the whole act for me, it would make me feel terrible and abused. After all, a man’s interpretation of a sexual activity in a partriarchal society simply carries more weight than a woman’s. It’s wrong and rationally I can go against it, but from an emotional point of view, I can’t help that his interpretation would override mine, and that I would feel degraded simply because he saw me as degraded.

    I’m reading lots of psychoanalytical books at the moment on gendered desire and sexuality etc. They usually try to explain that, and why, heterosexuality is situated in a sado-masochistic framework, obviously with men having the role of sadist and women of masochists. This book I read today basically said that women’s desire is not only influenced to become masochistic, but as they are exposed to this role from being a baby onwards, their desire actually originates in masochism. They learn to wish to be controlled, degraded, overpowered by men and even if they grow up to be feminists and question all the hierarchies involved with this, they still can’t fight this desire in them. It’s a deep core, and it helps to keep women emotionally and sexually in place, doesn’t allow them to become truly free, because freedom would then mean not having your deep desire fulfilled, and what kind of freedom would that be?

    I find this extremely depressing. The author suggests, a bit like you do in your post, to split sexual life from political and everyday life, thus enjoying your (even if masochistic) desires (because repressing them actually even makes them grow), understanding where they come from and strive for equality and strength in all other areas. But I don’t see how the sexual life can be entirely split from the rest of my life. You can’t just divide your personality in certain parts and live them independently, can’t you?

    • Mary Kt

      Sonja, what a relevant thought out comment. I completely agree with everything you said.

      Are you maybe able to share the names of these books you are reading? Particularly the one about females raised to desire to be dominated and controlled by men?

      These are incredibly important topics and research that needs to be taken in consideration.

      Our fantasies do not appear out of nowhere. I firmly believe they are often a coping mechanism for women.

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  • lizor

    “Feminism has made sex better for me. Not worse. Feminism hasn’t limited me, it’s helped me to understand me. It’s helped me understand what I’m comfortable with, who I’m comfortable with, and what I’m comfortable doing. It hasn’t made me ashamed. What made me ashamed was the not knowing. The trying to fit into some pornified version of the me I thought I was supposed to be. Why didn’t I like all of the things I thought I was supposed to like? Without feminism I thought I just wasn’t liberated enough to enjoy degradation. That was a whole bunch of bullshit. I don’t need to dress up in cheesy lingerie and put on a strip show in order to prove how empowered I am because I don’t actually need to prove anything to anyone. Thanks feminism!”

    I know this is soooo late in this thread, but: Yes. Yes. Yes!!!

    I had the same experience of enduring sex for so long with little or no pleasure, then later on I felt real pressure from my “alt” comrades in the form of “you must be sexually repressed” because I was not into being dominated or pain or anything particularly kinky. I even felt shame because wearing lingerie just made me feel idiotic, not sexy. For a person trying to heal from rape, this can be extremely undermining.

    This discussion made me recall Marge Piercy’s book Woman on the Edge of Time where the protagonist’s male lover was blind. I found the idea of a lover who had to feel me without seeing me incredibly liberating and it helped me to get back inside sensation as I fought my way from anxious disembodiment to actually sharing pleasure with another person.

    I think that a huge piece of contemporary feminism is to advocate for being alive in our bodies – a concept that has been eroded since the advent of modern enlightenment thinking and one that is deeply entwined with Montheism. I think that part of the reactionary stance of “You’re shaming me!” grows out of very real and deeply ingrained body shame and that porny performed sex is just the other side of that problematic coin.

    bmdola above asks why questioning being into facials is useful and I would answer that, especially given that there is no particular sensation associated with being splattered in the face (or otherwise a warm summer rain would be a helluva good time for a lot of people), so it is worth asking why doing this thing feels so good (if it in fact does) – that is, if you are at all interested in self-knowledge or resisting a patriarchy that is literally killing us. If you’re not interested in either of those things, I am not sure why you’re reading this blog.

  • Yes

    “are men everywhere having trouble relaxing and cumming while they are in bed with women because they’re concerned their pecs aren’t muscly enough?”

    Yes. Not necessarily the having trouble cumming part, because men generally achieve orgasm quicker and more easily than women due to a biological necessity (in regards to penetrative sex). But many many many men have trouble relaxing because of their body image. You wouldn’t know… because you’ve never been a man.

    • Chris

      Agreed! Women have never had to worry about the whole body image thing! And even if they did, we’re certainly not to blame! (Honey, grab me a beer already, you don’t expect me to walk to the kitchen, do ya?)

      • Mary KT

        Sorry, Chris, but you’re a complete idiot. Your over the top sexist comment – copy that from a dumb 9gag thread, did ya – only proves everything said and written by feminists so far. Oh, and no one here is your honey. Good luck dodging that beer some fine lady will throw at your sick head one day. Moron.

        • Chris

          Seriously? Could anyone really have failed to get my point there? I don’t believe it. You are an idiot, fool or a troll if you took that as a straight post.

          • Meghan Murphy

            No name-calling please and thanks.

          • Mary KT

            Not a problem. Don’t intend to re-visit this thread, tbh.

    • morag

      Poor men, after experiencing some slight discomfort they still have their sexual needs met. And after achieving orgasm, he gets to go to his job where he makes more than his female peers just by virtue of being male. And then when any woman writes anything calling attention to male privilege and female oppression, he can rest assured they’ll be someone to right that wrong with claims about biology.

      Women are told everyday that our own purpose is a sexual object for men’s enjoyment. We’re inherently evil, manipulative, emotional, and stupid. Even if we somehow achieve female perfection with surgery and cosmetics, it will never be enough b/c our bodies are dirty and defective. If we try to get an education or a high powered career, we either slept our way to the top, used our immense privileges to crush other people in our wake, or got lucky because everything is being dumbed down. But you wouldn’t know, you’ve never been a woman, have you?

  • Meghan Murphy

    Thanks k.f.!

  • Engelberta

    1. People who lack your biological need are still people.

    2. Heels, make-up etc don’t define a woman. Women don’t need to disclose that as unusual.

    • jinna

      yes and people who share mine are also people. thats my point!

      • Topazthecat

        Yes very sick woman-hating pornography influenced people!

  • Topazthecat

    Sexual submission in women isn’t biological, and pornography normalizes and sexualizes all of this sick male dominated sh*t,like men’s irrational hatred of women,violence and ejaculating their gross penis snot( men men and women on different message boards over the years have said they think semen is really gross,men have even called it penis snot) with 300 million sperm cells in it on their objects they use and discard and you obviously have been sadly influenced like many women by how pornography makes these things seem normal and sexy.Years ago on different message boards many women and men said men ejaculating onto women’s faces and bodies is coming from pornography,and most men and women said that it’s degrading to women and that most women find this really degrading and disgusting.

  • Topazthecat

    No,Meghan like other radical feminists is totally right about how sex is socially constructed by pornography in a very sexist,woman-hating,male dominated pornography influenced society,*you* are the one that is wrong! Many men have said that before they saw it in pornography,it never occurred to them to ejaculate on women,but just inside of their vaginas which is really the only place it’s supposed to go.