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The Politics Of... Blow Jobs

The politics of… is a new series exploring and dissecting, well, the politics of various social phenomena that don’t quite explain themselves.

If a citizen from the Victorian era somehow turned up in the bedrooms of rampant young couples today, I don't even know how they'd react to the sizzling sex before them. They might wince at the sight of a girl getting her head pushed down to her boyfriend's dick, like she has been for the last year; they could wonder what the hell that thing is in the shape of a 69; they may well wonder why there's a third person watching; they could ponder why there are genitals inside of... mouths instead of other genitals.

When it comes to oral sex, blow jobs, according to culture and society, come first. Traditionally male crotches have been prioritised, because, as fucked up as it is, women's pleasure still often remains largely taboo. Oftentimes growing up, you learn about BJs on the playground long before becoming enlightened that both (and all) genders can be gone down on.

Blow jobs: heavily politicised or free of norms? (Photo: Tumblr)

Blow jobs: heavily politicised or free of norms? (Photo: TriStar Pictures)

The act is constantly cemented as the top form of pleasure for dudes, in the media, in movies and, by stereotype, in men's brains. TV shows satirise the very act of fellatio and, more often than not, depictions of blow jobs can be pretty sexist and something a girl must be coerced into. Female pleasure – in particular a girl receiving oral – is discriminated against by media regulators who tend to give portrayals of cunnilingus higher explicit ratings than on-screen blow jobs.

There are evident cultural norms in place when it comes to many sexual acts. In her 1969 book Sexual Politics, Kate Millett argues the patriarchy plays a huge role in politicising shags and that "sex has a frequently neglected political aspect". While seen as a controversial text, if there's one nascent cornerstone Millett touches on, it's that sexual relations aren't totally void of backroom bureaucracy.

It's 2016 though, and with erotic positivity sweeping the Western world, pro-sex feminism and generations getting intimate earlier than the last, you'd assume blow jobs can take place without the extension of sexual civics. But, politically, are there actually restrictive norms and evil boundaries of blow jobs put in place by decades of sex, or is it misguided to regard one of life's pleasures as policed by political red tape?

(via gifbin.com)

Do dicks always come first?

Stereotypically, heterosexual couples in pop culture, wink towards men enjoying oral sex more than women. This is obviously untrue, as sex therapist and professional counsellor Stefan Walters tells me:

 

"In any relationship, the key to having a good sex life is actually the ability to communicate openly. If all parties can discuss their sexual preferences and desires openly, then they have the best chance of creating an opportunity to get these needs met.

"I think there's sometimes a stereotype that men enjoy oral sex more than women, but research has proven this to be untrue."

 

Walters also reckons oral sex is persistently male-dominated because of the actual phrasing of 'blow job' and how this has affected our perceptions of it. "If we consider the phrase, I think the words conjure up very clear images. Blowing is an act which is very distinct from sucking, to distance us from any images of breasts or nipples, which have maternal and effeminate connotations."

"And a job is something which must be done, whether we like it or not. So I think blow jobs have often been thought of as something which has to be done, exclusively for the pleasure of the dominant male."

Having been a teenage girl, these points ring true. It's often thought – especially among young people, desperate to please in the bedroom – blow jobs are compulsory. While they're not, this common view can be damaging for the vulnerable. However, it's unclear whether these beliefs are always put into practice behind closed blowy doors.

(Photo: @donnawhodonnawu)

(Photo: @donnawhodonnawu)

She wants it, she wants it not

Porn star Linda Lovelace's blow job bonanza Deep Throat hit screens 44 years ago, yet, for some reason it's commonly assumed women that do give head do it "because they have to", or as a reward/favour for the owner of the dick. Everybody's different, of course, but it's unfairly believed a lot of straight girls would rather not put anything in their mouths after dark that hasn't come from the Cadbury's factory but bow to the pressure anyway.

Even Amy Schumer shat all over those who actually like giving blow jobs in a (actually really funny) sketch, by reluctantly agreeing to blow the guy she's dating in a bar loo. Not every situation for a blowy is ideal, but there are so many pop culture moments seeing women treat the idea of peen-in-mouth as something with high levels of CBA – like registering to vote or unclogging shower plug hair. Women are more often than not presented as anti-fellatio beings.

But IRL, different things get different gals in the mood and – believe it or not – some females actually enjoy giving head. This doesn't mean girls go home to deep-throat an electric toothbrush, but it's not a myth some have the taste for BJs.

(via 1980s-90sgifs.tumblr.com)

Just like some like it rough and others gag at a gentle touch, Walters says while one person might dislike giving oral, the next might love it:

 

"Some people might feel that oral sex is intimidating or belittling or degrading, while others might find it liberating and thrilling and powerful. There is no right or wrong, and there shouldn't be any set of rules, or any sense of obligation or expectation."

 

It's not all bad – the negative connotations of blow jobs are subjective to the individual, and Walters is clear any form of forceful sex is bad form. "Indeed, [blow jobs] are often portrayed in the media as something which a man somehow coerces a partner into doing for him, in a dynamic where the receiver clearly has control over the giver."

"As a social norm, not only is this clearly unappealing for the non-receiver," he adds. "But it is also an unhealthy example of sexual practice. Nobody should ever feel compelled to do anything they aren't comfortable with, just to please another."

(via lunachicktv.tumblr.com)

Penis power policy

Blow jobs are commonly portrayed, for the receiver, as the ultimate assertion of power. Meanwhile the giver relinquishes theirs. But is having a dick in your mouth really that degrading?

In a recent Refinery29 piece, the author and someone called "J" detail the power play in action when it comes to oral. Detailing the classic 'blow job head push' (we'll come back to that in a second), it's implied that you should only give head willingly so it's reciprocated. "J" says BJs "became something more worth investing in after my boyfriend learned how to reciprocate".

There's nothing wrong with this view, and as a personal story it's completely valid. But there's a flaw.

While this works for couples who are both happy to go down on each other, again, it's of the view that girls don't like giving BJs and only will if the significant other is good to eat us out afterwards. Not only does this viewpoint reinforce an unwelcome power struggle in sex (an activity that should work in the opposite way), it also emphasises that enjoyment and pleasure levels depend on getting what you give.

For something as ardent and alchemic as giving another pleasure with your mouth, assigning it as an exchange rather than a euphoric gift reinforces gender politics where I don't think they belong. 

Some like to lick, others avoid the dick. (Photo: Tumblr)

Some like to lick, others avoid the dick. (Photo: Tumblr)

The archaic head push

The very existence of a 'Steak and Blow Day' says ~something~ about the prioritisation of fellatio in comparison to cunnilingus. Though this does not permit the pushing of someone's head to your dick, boys.

When considering blow jobs between heterosexual couples, the BJ head push is a normalised factor within oral sex. Some blokes do maintain a sense of entitlement when it comes to getting their dick sucked, to which a lot of girls (and perhaps other dudes) can totally #relate.

"At university once we had a garden party and this boy from my housemate's course came: Hippy Dan," Elice, 22, tells me. "Everyone was drunk and I was chatting with Hippy Dan after everyone else had gone and in the space of about 5-7 minutes he went from saying he didn't want to have sex with me because he didn't want to 'objectify me and use me for sexual pleasure' to pushing my head down to his dick and begging for a blow job."

Not only did – sigh – Hippy Dan have a girlfriend, but this kinda sequence of events is unfortunately fairly common. While giving head should – if done healthily – not degrade any party involved, the blow job head push is an inevitably disrespectful deed. A simple ask would be cool. And you don't want someone who's pissed off to have your peen in their mouth.

Walters is sure to argue sexual feats should never be forced: "Willing mutual experimentation which is enjoyable for both parties is much healthier than any situation where one feels forced to begrudgingly try out something that makes them feel uneasy on the other's insistence, or as a sense of duty."

Of course, if partners have already agreed between them a little head push is totally chill, that's great. Communication is key, which should usually come with the spoken language rather than a shove on the head and a wink from Hippy Dan.

A blowy a day keeps the doc away

Extensive studies have gone into the impact good sex has on the rest of the daily grind. A healthy sex life is proven to improve a whole array of things, from skin to general wellbeing. Regular sex – around once or twice a week – boosts fertility, furthers self-confidence and can even lengthen your life. But, how regularly are blow jobs a core in the planet's sex lives?

"Overall, oral sex is certainly more socially accepted as a mainstream and traditional part of a sexual relationship today, than it was prior to the sexual revolution of the 1960s; when it may have been seen as something a bit 'deviant' or unmentionable," says Walters, noting newfound growth in sexual experimentation. "It's often referred to in popular culture, or even in open conversation, so there is less inhibition around experimenting with it, which can only be a good thing. If people enjoy oral sex and decide to make it a core part of their sex lives then that's great, but there may equally be plenty of others who don't."

It's not only dudes who can benefit from head. There's evidence that giving blow jobs is actually arousing for women – giving pleasure is ultimately known as a turn on. But other than that, giving head can actually feel physically pleasurable for some women, according to Van Vleck, a mystical woman who gets off by deep-throating. Blatantly, it's not for everyone, but the potential's there when giving a BJ to focus on your own pleasure, which is beneficial to everyone involved, apparently.

(via allmoviegifs.tumblr.com)

When blow job politics are involved, can you secure a tip-top, healthy sex life? "If the male says that he enjoys blow jobs and the female says that she enjoys giving them, that's great," Walters tells me. "And if the female says that she enjoys cunnilingus and the male says that he enjoys performing it, that's great too!

"What's important is that all parties feel able to talk openly about their sexual needs and desires, and that they are committed to developing a healthy and rewarding sexual relationship together." He adds:

 

"It's always important to remember that there is no such thing as a 'normal' sexual relationship and, as long as everyone's consenting, they're free to try whatever they like and make up their own norms as they go!"

 

But where do we go from here? I'm not sure I really want BJs to be politicised.

According to new surveys, oral sex in younger generations is fairly on par between genders. "Recent research studies have certainly shown that both blow jobs and cunnilingus are now considered to be common sexual practices in the majority of sexual relationships," says Walters. "Dominant discourse is constantly changing, and the current generation has a much more progressive and liberal attitude towards sex than the one before it."

We're edging towards a world okay with sexual empowerment and mutual experimentation – a new study revealed loads of us are into kinky stuff – so we all can, like Walters, hope for a totally healthy, coerce-free existence where we're all getting enough sex to create our own norms. We might leave the BJ head push behind though.

Read More - > The politics of... the tooth gap

By Lydia Morrish, published on 14/03/2016