Is everyone doing that?

"Am I Normal?": A reader asks if he's weird for not wanting to give his girlfriend a "facial"

Topics: Am I Normal?, Salon -- After Dark,

Is everyone doing that? (Credit: Ioannis Pantzi via Shutterstock/Salon)

What’s wrong with me that I don’t want to ejaculate all over my partners’ face?

Let me put that another way. From watching porn you’d think this or something like it is the heart’s desire of every straight man, indeed the natural culmination of the sex act.

Nothing wrong with people who do like it, men or women. But you’d think this is the norm in straight sex. Even the amateurs do it — presumably because they think anything else is some sort of kinky perversion.

Aw, buddy. This is the second week in a row where I have to come straight out and say it: There’s nothing wrong with you. Nothing. Not a thing. (OK, so there might be something wrong with you, seeing as you’re human, but this isn’t it.)

Porn represents a popular fantasy norm, but it doesn’t necessarily reflect what people want to do, or are actually doing, in real life. Researcher Debby Herbenick, a sexual health educator at the Kinsey Institute, tells me, “There are probably many, many things that are shown in porn in our culture or other cultures that he or his partner don’t have any interest in doing and that’s OK,” she says. “Having some sense of self-awareness about your sexual likes/dislikes is a far better place to be than being clueless as to your own boundaries. So, good for him for having some sense of this.”

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I recently wrote an article on why the money shot is such a fixture of porn and spent some time talking about “facials,” as they are so politely called. Lisa Jean Moore, author of “Sperm Counts: Overcome by Man’s Most Precious Fluid,” speculated that in the era of HIV, semen has come to represent disease and danger; and thus, “a fantasy develops about somebody actually wanting [semen], and they want it so badly that they want to drink it and they want to slather it all over their bodies and they want you to wipe it all over their faces,” as she said.

None of the experts I spoke with for that piece pinned the phenomenon to a real world, as opposed to porn world, rise in the practice. Herbenick says, “We have no numbers [on the practice] but it’s definitely not ‘the norm’ as in ‘most people are doing it.’” In fact, your very concern seems more common than the act itself: She sees your question come up often in group discussions, from college classrooms to talks she gives to middle-aged crowds. “While some people are into it, particularly on an infrequent basis, most people seem not as into it,” she says.

That isn’t to say that there’s something wrong with people who are into it. In terms of sexual practices, numbers and averages mean very little. They tell us nothing about whether we’re having authentic, fulfilling sex. The truth is that being in the majority actually means being unsatisfied with your sex life. How’s “normal” looking now?

Tracy Clark-Flory

Tracy Clark-Flory is a staff writer at Salon. Follow @tracyclarkflory on Twitter and Facebook.

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