How do I put this delicately? I like having my face cum on.
Yep, 90 percent of my sexual encounters end with a big face-full of splooge. (See, delicate!) 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.
I started Googling intellectual feminist analyses on the topic while writing this piece and nearly psyched myself out of writing this, but you know what? Fuck it. I'm not the only dirty bitch out there who likes to push the boundaries during sex and as a grown-ass woman, I shouldn't have to be ashamed of whatever kind of sex I like to have. When I interviewed artist Marilyn Minter for this site, she wore this awesome shirt she'd had made up herself, reading "There are no politically correct fantasies." I'm sure there are women who are lucky enough to be turned on by erotic, lady-empowering lovemaking, but there are a hell of a lot of the rest of us who want to get cum shot in our faces sometimes and who have rape fantasies.
And that's one of the things I love about sex -- done well, with someone you trust, it's a boundaryless Never Never Land where cool, smart, and careful melt into sheer sensation. I don't care if your fantasies revolve around fisting or sibling role play -- exploring them together, crawling into each other's weirdo sexual psyches, is half the fun. My orgasms are a politics-free zone.
Thusly, this title is something of a misnomer -- why I like facials is less important than the fact that I already do.
I like the feeling of anticipation, of waiting for the moment that first hot spurt will splatter my cheek. (Yes, "hot spurt" is the single most embarrassing phrase I have ever written for publication.) I like looking up, begging, while he chokes out a whimper and makes that face like something hurts a little. It makes me feel powerful. It makes me feel sexy. It just turns me on.
"Degrading," the number one catch phrase of those who are anti-facial, literally means, "causing a loss of self-respect." Facials can do that, as can lots of other kinds of sex, but not without your consent. Facials may very well feel degrading to you, and I don't doubt that their visibility in porn has led to women feeling pressured or coerced into doing them when they don't want to. Let me reiterate that to you: If facials or any other sex act makes you feel bad, gross uncomfortable or degraded, then you should not do it ever. That is wrong. But men aren't the only ones who like things they see in porn. In my case, there's nothing degrading about receiving a desired sex act I've asked for as a consenting adult. Sex acts are degrading when they make you feel degraded -- and nobody gets to decide that but you, not even feminism.
Nor do I think the act is inherently violent or malicious. I don't see semen as dirty or offensive, ala Andrea Dworkin, who has said, "The ejaculation on her is a way of saying (through showing) that she is contaminated with his dirt; that she is dirty." Nor do I believe that the giver of the facial is by definition trying to humiliate, cause harm or discomfort. Sure, there are movies where women sputter and grunt through a shower of ejaculate, but the majority of porn shows women basking in and positively loving receiving a facial. Of course these are paid performers who may or may not actually enjoy the act, but my point is that the fantasy narrative isn't primarily about hurting women. I read it as more of a yearning for a woman who is so hot for you that she wants your semen all over her.
And in the cases where the erotic appeal is in perceived degradation? That's OK, too. A lot of us like it that way. And participating in an erotic fantasy of degradation doesn't actually degrade me, anymore than playacting a rape fantasy means I was raped.
I received a classic second-wave education as a women's studies minor at NYU. An esteemed professor there once told a story that went something like this: My mother once told me that she honestly likes to vacuum. I explained to her that she thinks she likes to vacuum, but it's only because she's been trained to like vacuuming.
Even at the time, I found this story dismissive, although I couldn't have articulated why. Now I know why: It underestimates women. It assumes that we are too ignorant or unintelligent to recognize the context in which our lives take place.
Maybe part of the reason I like facials is because I was groomed by a sexist society to enjoy being objectified. Maybe part of the reason someone else hates them is in direct opposition to that same message. We can recognize our influences while still liking what we like. The answer isn't for us all to stop liking everything that some man might sexistly want us to like, whether it's shoes or vacuuming or anal sex or having 25 babies. Sexism doesn't get to dictate what I can and can't enjoy.
Because vacuuming itself is not the problem. It's just a chore that needs to get done. The real problem is that all of our choices (to vacuum or not) lead us in the same place as second-class citizens. In the utopian feminist future, where all choices are weighted equally, there are still going to be women who like to vacuum, and who like cum on their faces. It's just that nobody will care one way or another.
That's the real myth that holds us back -- that making "patriarchy-approved" choices is somehow better or safer for women than choosing against them. It's not. They both suck. Being a porno fantasy doesn't make your life easier or better, and neither does being a Stepford wife. Rejecting the system is hard, but participating in it doesn't win you any prizes either. The goal of feminism is to make life better for women, whatever choices we make.
And we can be trusted to make those choices. Because after "degrading," the number one phrase I kept coming upon in my Googling on the topic was this: "Some women say they really like this, but I don't believe them." And discounting women's stories, just flat-out rejecting them when they don't fit your political narrative, is something I will never, ever get behind.
One final word while we're on the topic. Everything I've said here about facials goes out the window the first time you hit me in the eye with your cum. That shit burns for the rest of the day.