Why Facials Aren't Just Degrading
Humans have been horny since ancient civilisation, but in the 20th century, we found ways to document our sex lives and jerk off to them later. First, there were ‘stag films’. These clandestine pornos were screened primarily in frat houses and brothels, but they weren’t exactly artistic: in essence, they were boned-up collages of close-up fucking, strung together with no narrative.
This changed in the 1970s when directors began structuring porn films like any other. Sex became storytelling, and the ‘money shot’, or, warm, sticky load shot onto stars’ bodies, in plain sight, was the conclusion. Instances of cum shots crept up over the years, cementing the popularity of what's now known as the ‘facial’ (type the term into any tube site and you’ll find thousands of results).
Depending on who you ask, facials are either problematic or hot as fuck. Anti-porn activists see them as an act of male dominance, neglecting to acknowledge plenty of us take pleasure in submission and the countless videos of guys contorting their bodies to spunk on their own faces. The kinkier, sex-positive crowd argues the upsides of facials: they give us a close-up of the action, represent acceptance of desire and can also satisfy a craving to be humiliated or dominated by a partner.
The reasoning doesn’t always have to be complex. A friend tells me she loves facials, and when I ask for an explanation, she answers: “I just love cum tbh.”
"Facials are popular precisely because they ‘cleanse’ men, and affirm that their loads aren’t filthy or disgusting."
In a comprehensive Jezebel article, Hugo Schwyzer recalls a humanities class in which a dude equates his love for facials to a scene from The Vagina Monologues, written by a woman who feels ‘cleansed’ by a guy who gazes lovingly at her pussy for hours. The student argues that guys feel shame too and that facials are popular precisely because they ‘cleanse’ men, and affirm that their loads aren’t filthy or disgusting.
Politically, this argument is a huge stretch – women’s bodies have policed and stigmatised way more heavily for centuries – but it’s one echoed by the surprisingly sage commenters of Reddit’s /AskMen forum.
“When you’re 12 or 13 and discover the joys of masturbation, you realise this nasty, white sticky shit comes out at the end, and it’s like ‘holy shit, this stuff is gross, hide the evidence’”, explains one guy, who offers up an in-depth theory. “Having a women be like, ‘I think it’s hot when you do that, I want to taste it / touch it / have it in/on me’ is kind of a relief to a very deep-seated sense of shame/guilt for a lot of guys, and they tend to find it incredibly hot.” But maybe the most important part of his post is the comment that he ends with: “Personally, I’m just thinking, ‘shit, I got it in her eye, didn’t I? I hope she doesn’t wipe it on my pillow-case again.”
The moral of his comment is that we don’t really think too much about sex, we kind of just go with what feels right. If your partner wants you to shoot on their face, go for it – as long as you don’t get it in their eyes (ocular gonorrhoea is real), there’s nothing inherently wrong or shameful about wanting a hot load to trickle down your cheeks.
"The more people watched porn, the more often they finished IRL fucking with a facial."
Arguably though, the same can’t be said about porn – it’s been shown to actively shape our desires and stand in as sex-ed, so it’s worth asking whether creators have some kind of ethical responsibility.
In a 2017 study of 740 straight respondents, researchers found that the more people watched porn, the more often they finished IRL fucking with a facial. 12.7% of women loved them compared to 42% of men, and 0.9% of guys specifically love to cum in their partners’ eyes – seriously, fuck those guys. This depends on context, though: if it’s a weird power trip move then you might not have the most courteous lover, but if you’re a sub gagging to have your eyelashes clogged up, then go forth and take that load.
This nuance is missing in most conversations about facials. Sites like Beautiful Agony literally remove fucking from the picture by hosting neck-up videos of stars twisting their faces into expressions of intense desire as they cum. These clips are horny as fuck, and solid proof that faces can be the main attraction in porn. There’s also room for conversations around their popularity in gay porn, where facials usually factor into hazing scenes of ‘straight’ guys being fucked by frat bros as ‘initiation’. Elements of degradation and humiliation come into play here too, as do conversations about the immortal ‘straight guy turned’ trope in gay porn, but plenty of other videos feature dudes who simply love to close their eyes and take a load – or several.
Then, there’s the practicality element. Facials swelled in popularity around the time of the AIDS crisis, when they became a comparatively ‘safe’ way to cum with your partner. Decades later, we have research and meds which eradicate the risk of HIV transmission altogether, but back then, caution led to facials replacing cream-pies and cumming inside. Now, we have a new pandemic on our hands – and with evidence suggesting that coronavirus can’t be transmitted through semen, the ‘new normal’ of porn could feature even more facials.
Essentially, there’s enough material to write an entire book on facials – and porn studies scholars are doing an excellent job of documenting trends in fascinating books and journals. Sex can be political, but sometimes it’s best to strip your own sex life of Freudian bullshit and focus on doing what you like, when you like – as long as it’s consensual, of course.
Oh, and remember that the key to a good facial is to close your eyes (unless you’re unlucky enough to sleep with the 0.9% of guys with an apparent kink for pink eye), tilt your head back and keep a towel on standby. In the immortal words of Lil’ Kim: “I’m a freak so I don’t care, just don’t get none in my hair.”