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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Feminist blowjobs and other oxymorons

(A work in progress, but wanted to respond with some initial thoughts)

There’s been a lot of talk about blowjobs lately. Not just from the supposed high-brow sources, but on various feminist blogs. Talk of the sort like that found at I Blame The Patriarchy:

no woman, since the dawn of the patriarchal co-option of human sexuality, has ever actually enjoyed this submissive sexbot drudgery. There’s a reason that deep-throating a funk-filled bratwurst makes a person retch.*

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Women want to be valued and appreciated by men. Men like their dicks sucked. So, women engage in sucking dick and those who do not consider their mouths to be an erogenous zones convince themselves it’s pleasurable because it gives them so much “power.” And sadly, in this Patriarchal shithole world of ours, blow jobs
are the equivalent of power for many women.

But that doesn’t mean you have to swallow cum and tell us all it’s caviar. At best it’s something nice to do for a guy whom you care about. At worst, it’s another humiliating compromise of dignity that women do to please men and then tell each other how much they fucking love it and how damned empowering/pleasurable it is.


Some of the posters questioned the vehement defense of blowjobs, and I think that happens because nobody likes being told that what they do sexually is wrong. End of story. Instead of commenting on what they see as the inequities or imbalances inherent in blowjob-giving, some of these posters simply excoriate every single person who may think otherwise. Though some posters displayed a bit of common sense:

The only DISGUSTING thing about giving head is giving head to someone you don’t WANT to give head to.

I don’t think there’s such a thing as a feminist blowjob. Because to say there’s a “feminist” way of performing any sex act is automatically saying there’s a “wrong” way too, an “unfeminist” way, and you can’t have one without the other. The problem I have with certain books trying to dictate women’s sexual behavior (because it’s almost always women’s behavior that needs to be controlled–at the very least, I will say that many of the Christian books coming out have his and hers versions–and there are a lot of them aimed at those grappling with sexual issues) just tell us what we shouldn’t do, rarely what we should. There’s this idea, whether explicitly stated or implied, that if you were to “strip away” all our cultural conditioning, we’d be left with the “real” way to fuck. And it probably wouldn’t have the word “fuck” in it and would be “equal” and probably not that hot, in my opinion.

It’s funny because I think a lot of men read my “Long Live Blowjob Nation” column and just thought “hey, cool, a girl who likes giving blowjobs and gives them to everyone.” First of all, plenty of girls like giving blowjobs. I don’t have statistics, but there’s a lot of us. Secondly, I feel like culturally we see/her “blowjob” and just think “girl sucking guy’s cock.” What about men giving blowjobs? When it’s people of the same gender, is it still inherently degrading and all of that? What about women sucking their partners’ dildos? Thirdly, it’s all about the context. Who is that cock attached to? I like giving blowjobs to guys I’m attracted to. I think that’s pretty straightforward. But it’s so personal and about the moment and the context and everything else going on. It’s not that I wake up in the morning thinking “Wow, I wish there were someone I could give a blowjob to,” sometimes it’s more “I wish ___ were here so I could ____” (do various sexual acts with them). I think the problem is when we talk about any of these individual acts in isolation, the words get twisted. You say you like blowjobs, spanking, bondage, hair-pulling—pretty much anything outside missionary position sex—and not only are you automatically held to the “so you’re saying I should like it too?” standard, but it’s as if liking that one thing precludes liking anything else, or being able to make judgments about when we want to do those things and when we don’t. Anyone trying to speak about their individual preferences is taking as a representative of their entire gender's desires.

At its heart, not only is the sheer contempt for the very idea of blowjobs anti-male, anti-penis, and anti-sex, it’s judgmental and hypocritical. I agree that sex is political, but that doesn’t mean that there’s a superior way to have sex. Because if we’re gonna say blowjobs are inherently degrading, what’s empowering? Women topping men? I’d be very wary of making some kind of argument that picking up a paddle to whack a guy’s ass furthers feminism in any way, and would not want to be the guy on the receiving end of a “punishment” where he’s taking the rap for all of men’s bad behavior.

The more I think about this, the more I realize it ties into so much more than just opening our lips. It ties into the idea of whether there can be feminist porn. So much of it is in the eye and intent of the beholder. The whole idea of “do-me feminism,” of that famous Lisa Palac quote, “Degrade me when I ask you to,” is all about context and claiming our desires. It’s saying that we know what the playig field is outside the bedroom door, and we’re going to play with it. We know, and we’re still turned on by all sorts of dirty, naughty, perverted things. We don’t want to chuck them all out the bedroom door, and we may in fact want to play them up. I don’t think we can or should censor our sexual desires.

That being said, I don’t think blowjobs or any other sexual act should be mandatory. I do understand both the feminist position of being annoyed with their ubiquity in pop culture and some women’s aversion to blowjobs. That’s fine—my only problem comes when those who want to give or receive blowjobs are maligned. What inspired my column was Caitlin Flanagan’s hierarchy of the handjob over the blowjob. "[W]hy would girls voluntarily turn to giving blowjobs? Whatever happened to the hand job? Whither the dry hump? Why do girls prefer the far more debasing, uncomfortable, and messy blowjob?" She just assumes it’s that way for everyone. It’s not. Once again, I will only speak for myself, but it’s not just about the satisfaction of pleasing someone else. I get off on sucking other things as well, like fingers, I find my tongue and mouth to be sites of erotic pleasure, and I think if I didn’t get so turned on from giving blowjobs (not every single time, but hopefully most of the time), I would not be writing about this topic yet again.

Contrast all of this with Heather Fink’s excellent essay at Sirens Mag “How I Learned To Love the Cock,” about the meaning of female and male nudity and her experiences working at a gay porn company:

Cock, sweet cock! I am exposed to beautiful images of you all day long. Of course I love you! For it is you, cock, that gives me a reason to get up in the morning. It is you, cock, that covers my health insurance and provides prescription drug coverage. Thank you, cock, for copay. But even moreso, thank you, cock, for looking great in a well-lit portrait. . .

It all makes sense. Boobies mean sex. But that's when your psyche is dominated by pop culture. As my daily life is now decorated in wieners galore, boobies don't mean sex any more. No. Now cock means sex. Now, when prurient interests dominate, I think about a man's sparkling jewels more readily than I think about feeding a guy my sticky kitty. In fact, I've grown to love the cock, and I think about it all the time.


Heather gets to the heart of several issues around sex, especially the at-first-glance backwards idea that men’s dicks aren’t fetishized in this culture. Well, they are and they aren’t. They aren’t in the same way that women’s bodies are. When we say “sex sells,” we mean female nudity, and only very rarely, when it’s, say, Calvin Klein ads, men’s. She looks at what that means for women who are attracted to men, and how that can warp one’s sense of desire; you may like to look at/touch/have sex with individual men, but where can you ogle men in all their glory?

I am as loathe as the next person to further stereotypes, and I honestly don’t care about whether I’m considered “feminist enough” (or feminist at all) or not—we spend so much time playing word games when there’s real life going on—but it seems to me that if you see feminism as being a battle of women vs. men, then yes, anything that praises men or gives them pleasure might be seen as a negative. But if we step back a moment and realize how our highly judgmental sexual culture actually makes many people feel guilty, confused, and ashamed of their sexuality, we see that it’s not just women who are bombarded by messages about how to be sexual. Why I think there’s something to Tucker Max’s defense of being a “man’s man” is that I do see a trend where women are allowed to go on and on and on about our every sexual fantasy, but when guys do it it’s sleazy. But we can’t defend sex work and still be judgmental about those who patronize sex workers.

This is about much more than celebrating or even defending cocksucking. It’s part of a larger idea that there’s only certain “right” ways to be sexual. Maybe there’s a right way for each person, but there is no right way for everyone as a whole. Part of why sex does sell, why it continues to enthrall us both as an act and a topic, is because it’s so varied. Just when you think you’ve seen and done it all, you encounter someone with a fetish so bizarre, so unique, so minute, it boggles the mind. Creating hierarchies and telling other people what to do in bed, especially in the name of “feminism,” is not helping build a more sexually fulfilled world, it’s just making more people defensive, guilt-ridden, ashamed, and angry.

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7 Comments:

At May 12, 2007, Anonymous kate said...

I like giving blowjobs. What it all comes down to should be whether we like it or not, right?

 
At September 13, 2007, Blogger serrin said...

I agree especially with your comment that all these judgements make people angry. They make me furious!

Are we really so insecure about our value as women that we think just because we suck a guy's cock he (or some person we don't even know) will no longer have reason to respect us? Is a little sucky-sucky *really* all it takes to be degraded? I think not.

I enjoy giving blowjobs, not for the "power", but for the pleasure it gives him. If I'm doing it, it's because I like the guy, I like making him feel good. It turns me on to know I can turn him on. I imagine that's much the same reason that guys enjoy going down on me.

Nobody freaks out when you give your partner a back massage, why is it suddenly such a big deal with the massage is with your mouth, on his front? Nobody gets physical pleasure out of giving a massage, we get emotional and mental pleasure out of it. Sexual pleasure isn't just physical - it's emotional and mental too. These women must be emotional midgets not to understand how this works.

Most confusingly, why are there no debates about whether it's degrading for men to go down on a woman? Perhaps because men are too busy enjoying their own sex lives to run around making bitchy judgements on those of other men, while many women are too busy running about bitching about each other to notice what men do in the bedroom.

The worst thing about women is our willingness to judge each other so harshly. It's childish and embarrassing. Not to mention extremely...hmm what's the word...oh I know... DEGRADING.

Kudos to you for your post.

 
At July 01, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

".....I enjoy giving blowjobs, not for the "power", but for the pleasure it gives him. If I'm doing it, it's because I like the guy, I like making him feel good. It turns me on to know I can turn him on. I imagine that's much the same reason that guys enjoy going down on me......".

You nailed it, Serrin.

 
At November 12, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What are you thoughts about making the man reciprocate by giving a blowjob to you (using a strap-on, for example?)

I experimented with it and found it refreshing and a great equalizer. I also found out that after a while it makes the man realize all the "fine points" of performing fellatio - next time he usually won't be so inclined to head-grabbing and thrusting :-)

 
At December 04, 2008, Anonymous Talia said...

OMG. I came across this doing research for a story. I get off on BJs, I mean I literally get off. I cum more intensely than some guys I know.

I'm not the only one. I've got at least 2 girlfriends who prefer BJs to anything else.

The anti-BJ articles depict hostility toward men and sex. They're hetero in name only. Me, I want a man not only in my life and not only in my bed, but in my mouth.

Yum! Gimme!

 
At January 01, 2009, Blogger Terry said...

sex is just sex. why make it political? two bodies doing what feels natural to them doesn't have to carry such a heavy price tag. TRP

 
At April 19, 2011, Anonymous Anonymous said...

im probably going to get flamed for this, but here's the problem with feminists.

its not what a woman does that makes her independent. its WHY she does it. whats wrong with a woman liking blowjobs or staying home and raising children if she really enjoys it?

independence and equality comes down to having a choice. the ability to chose from what you want to do and what you don't want to do and doing what men would do isn't equality.

also if many of the feminists thought men and women were actually equal in their minds they wouldn't have to go around telling other women to not give blowjobs, or get a career etc.

they would simply celebrate being a woman and chose to do only the things that they as an individual feel is right and good. there will always be pressures in society to behave this way or that if you are male, female, black, white, or asian. but you have a choice and independence and freedom is following your heart, not what a feminist tells you you should or should not do because isnt that the same sort of pressure that attempts to dominate free-will?

- a man's point of view on equality.

 

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