Sex Question Friday: Why Do So Many Guys Like To Give “Facials?”

Every Friday on the blog, I answer people’s questions about sex, love, and relationships. This week’s question centers around the rather controversial topic of facials—and I don’t mean the kind you get at the spa, but rather the kind that often appear toward the end of porn videos in which a man ejaculates on his partner’s face.

“Why do guys like to finish on their girlfriends’ faces?”

As far as I can tell, scientists have yet to systematically explore the psychological motives behind facials. Pretty much everything I have seen written on this topic is rooted more in personal opinion than empirical data, which means that, unfortunately, I can’t provide a definitive answer to this question. However, I can tell you what the prevailing theories are and my thoughts on them.

Perhaps the most common view I have seen expressed on this subject is that men’s interest in facials has something to do with power. For example, according to sex columnist Dan Savage, “Facials are degrading—and that’s why they’re so hot.” Although I think there might be some truth to this idea for at least a few guys, I don't buy that this is the only explanation or even the most likely explanation for why so many guys are into this activity. For one thing, it seems odd to suggest that ejaculating inside a partner’s body makes it special, but the moment you take it outside it somehow becomes “degrading.” That strikes me as a rather sex-negative view from the standpoint that it subjectively elevates certain sexual acts above others and imposes judgment upon people who may consensually and mutually enjoy facials.

That said, if a guy ejaculates on his partner’s face without consent or because he hopes to evoke a shocked or disgusted reaction, then we would probably be talking about a behavior that is rooted in a need for power or a desire to humiliate someone else, and that would be a problem. But if both partners desire and agree to the act, I don’t think we should be so quick to assume that the motives are the same, nor should we be so presumptuous as to tell people how they “should” feel about this behavior. Plus, consider the fact that most pornographic depictions of facials (both straight and gay) show the receiver happily accepting and, in some cases, asking for it—this seems at odds with the notion that facials inherently represent some male desire to dominate and degrade their sexual partners.

So why else might guys like giving facials? Another possibility is that, for guys who are very visually oriented, facials combine the proof of his own sexual satisfaction (in the form of his ejaculate) with the look of pleasure on his partner’s face. This combination may be especially arousing to heterosexual men because the female face is such an important cue to how aroused women are during sex. Consider this: eye-tracking research reveals that heterosexual men show a strong bias toward looking at female faces when watching porn. Why is that? Given that the female body doesn't have an obvious sign of sexual arousal equivalent to a penile erection, guys may instead look to women's faces as the ultimate sign of whether they're "into it."

Yet another reason some guys might be into facials is because they have been psychologically conditioned to see ejaculate when they reach orgasm. Not only do guys often see their own ejaculate while they’re masturbating, but they typically see other men’s ejaculate when they’re watching porn. Facials and other external ejaculations have become ubiquitous in pornography in the last few decades. In fact, some speculate that the increased popularity of facials in porn can be traced back to the initial outbreak of AIDS in the late 1970s and early 1980s—specifically, it is thought that porn actors may have tried to mitigate their risk of exposure to HIV by taking ejaculation outside of the body. In doing so, however, they may have unintentionally laid the basis for the huge interest we see today in facials.

Of course, these are not the only possible explanations, and it’s highly likely that more than one answer is correct. But in discussing why some men are into facials, we should avoid the temptation to categorize this behavior as universally good or bad because that’s ultimately counterproductive. The conversation we should be having is how to encourage people to have conversations with their sexual partners about what they are and are not comfortable with and how to negotiate and respect sexual boundaries.

For previous editions of Sex Question Friday, click here. To send in a question for a future edition, click here.

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