The Question Keeps Coming Up, So Here Is The Answer Already

By Amanda Marcotte
Thursday, October 11, 2012 9:39 EDT
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The new sex advice columnist at Jezebel, Karley Sciortino, is already looking to be disappointing. She definitely comes across as one of those “ew, feminism!” women, more interested in coming across as a fun, up-for-anything lady than being a citizen of equal standing with men. Personally, I don’t think the two are really at odds. I realize a lot of men do, and believe the price of admission to having fun with them is putting yourself in a subservient position. But those men can be avoided. It’s true! I never found them that fun anyway, since they tend to be incorrigible mansplainers.

Anyway, a woman writes in with the fairly regular question of her boyfriend wanting a “facial”. Though not for himself, of course! Taking a shot of eye-burning semen to the eyes for ladies only, which is really your first clue to slow your roll and think things over before saying yes. The relevant part of the question:

I know a lot of people find it degrading (which I kinda like the idea of, to be honest) but I can’t decide if that means I shouldn’t do it.

Her answer was basically designed to irritate me:

People — women in particular — really need to get over the “is this degrading?” thing. If you have to stop and think about whether something is degrading or not, then it probably isn’t.

Encouraging women to silence the inner voice that warns them that the man they’re dating is degrading them is really a bad, bad idea. Women do that already. In fact, the problem is that women are already socialized to ignore and minimize degrading behavior. If you convince yourself to silence that little, “That’s not cool!” voice, you’re going to attract men who belittle you, undermine you, try to control you, and even soften you up so they can abuse you. Listen to that voice! That voice is there to protect you. If a man’s behavior turns on your spidey sense, instead of telling that voice to shut up and going along to get along, stop and listen to your spidey sense.

If you’re stopping and thinking, “But she’s not talking about relationships! She’s talking about sex, which is make-believe time!”, I have to point out two things. 1) Not all men think of sex as make-believe time. Know where your man falls on this question before you start exploring fantasies. That spidey sense can help, since a lot of men who think that how you act in the bedroom dictates how they can treat you out of it aren’t going to be upfront about that. 2) No she isn’t. She immediately invokes the real world as a place where women should turn off the spidey sense that keeps us safe from male harassment and violence.

I understand there are complex emotions involved in sex, so everything isn’t always black and white, but I also think that sometimes girls’ brains become so clouded by bullshit “feminist” ideals — “thou shall not be treated like an object,” “thou shall always be offended by men’s pervy remarks” (as if we are not equally adept at dismissing them, and dishing them out) — that we spoil our own fun.

Anyone who thinks that a man yelling, “I’d love to ride that ass!” to a strange woman walking down the street and a woman doing the same thing to a man (not that this really happens, for obvious reasons) are exactly the same in meaning and likely reaction needs to put down their keyboard and live in the real world before writing. The whole point of men perving out at you (non-consensually, of course, as when it’s a real give-and-take situation, that’s not “saying pervy things”, but “flirting” or “foreplay”) is for them to prove they’re socially superior and can put you in your place. Women can’t do that to men, because we don’t have the social status over men to do so. If women attempt to sexually harass men in this way, they often find that they’ve opened themselves up to getting put in their place in ways that are much more scary than annoying.

You don’t have to pretend guys aren’t sexually harassing you in order to be considered a fun person. Genuinely fun men, in my experience, don’t try to assert their power over women by making them uncomfortable. Fun men don’t make it sexy without consent. I don’t know what the value is of being a fun woman if you’re not spending time with actually fun men.

If you’re having consensual sex with someone you like, and you’re both turned on by the idea of him cumming on your face, then you should do it, duh! It’s bad to analyze these things so much that they lose their spontaneity and hotness (and the rules of “real life” don’t apply in sex anyway, so whatever). Basically, we should all stop being so hyper-aware of the sociopolitical context of our sex lives, and start focusing on other, more important things, like becoming famous.

Beware anyone who selectively warns you against over-analyzing things, especially since in the next question, she encourages a woman to spend a shocking amount of time and energy analyzing a way to improve her boyfriend’s sexual experience. If analyzing it to death gets you to the place where you’re doing for him, good, but if it leads you to asking questions about why your boyfriend wants to degrade you and what that means, bad, I guess.

The proper answer to this question:

Your boyfriend wants to shoot a load on your face because it’s degrading. Know this before you decide what to do next, and decide if you’re really into that. If you think degradation is hot, that’s fine. No one is demanding your sexual fantasies be P.C. But know that the point of the act is that it’s degrading. It’s not “overanalyzing” a sexual fantasy to know why it’s hot. No one would claim that you’re overanalyzing handcuffs and whips if you pointed out that it’s about power, and so no one should deny that a symbolic spitting-in-the-face is about degradation. Be honest with yourself about whether it turns you on, or if it’s going to make you feel bad. Don’t be that person who is sitting there stewing in bad feelings while pretending that you liked it because you’re afraid of losing your boyfriend.

If you’re into that, the next question you need to ask is, “Does my boyfriend know the difference between sex and real life?” A lot of people are socialized to believe that how you act in the bedroom says something about how you deserve to be treated outside of it. Hell, the word “slut” was invented for precisely that reason. Think long and hard about if your boyfriend knows that because he’s degrading you in the bedroom doesn’t mean he gets to degrade you outside of it. What’s worrisome is if he went straight for “facial” without wanting to warm up to that level of degradation with less intense versions, like spanking or ordering someone around. Stuff to think about. Also: Is he up for being degraded himself? It’s important to slow your roll with men who can dish it out but balk at taking it.

Also, even though the actresses in porn often take it in the eyes because that improves the degradation experience—the wince and the fake smile through the pain to show that she performs to master’s specifications even under physical duress is apparently hot—doesn’t mean you need to suffer that way. Keep it below the eyes, and if he can’t respect your boundary, you have learned something very valuable about him that should inform any future attempts to play at sexual degradation.

See? The notion that being a feminist is about having strict, blanket rules isn’t really true. (Besides the strict, blanket rule about consent.) It’s a tool of analysis, and it’s there to help you. Good sex is  awesome, and doing things that feel taboo can be part of that. By analyzing it, you can help keep sex fun and playful, and not let it turn into some sort of referendum on whether you deserve respect outside of the bedroom.

Also, there’s nothing worldly and cool about pretending you don’t know what’s going on with sex acts like facials. If you really want to be worldly and cool, you can’t go wrong with a nice stance of cynicism. Seeing through bullshit attempts to get you to deny obvious realities is, in my opinion, super cool. It’s discouraged in women, but you know, so are a lot of things that are cool, like being willing to be smarter than a man or telling people who get under your nerves to piss off.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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