Friday, November 10, 2017

Violence Against Women Journal: The Meaning and Practice of Ejaculation on a Woman’s Face

Naked Aggression: The Meaning and Practice of Ejaculation on a Woman’s Face. Chyng Sun, Matthew B. Ezzell, Olivia Kendall. Violence Against Women, Vol 23, Issue 14, 2017.

Abstract: Based on in-depth interviews with 16 heterosexual men, this study focuses on participants’ meaning-making surrounding a common and controversial sexual act in pornography: ejaculation on a woman’s face (EOWF). We analyze the ways that male consumers decoded EOWF and the ways that EOWF, as a sexual script, was included in the men’s accounts of their sexual desires and practices. The majority of the men decoded EOWF through the preferred (encoded) meaning as an act of male dominance and sexual aggression and that they wanted to engage in it despite their general belief that women would not be interested in it.

Keywords: pornography, sexual behaviors, sexual script, male aggression, audience research,
sexual aggression

Given that U.S. society is White supremacist, patriarchal, and capitalist (hooks, 1994), it is not surprising that pornographers would encode these values in sexual expression and gender dynamics that may also be familiar and even attractive to male consumers. Put simply, pornography reflects the hegemonic value of male dominance and further perpetuates it. Just as rape is both illegal and normalized within patriarchal cultures (see, for example, Buchwald, Fletcher, & Roth, 2004), male dominance and sexual aggression in pornography may be found simultaneously distasteful and enticing. Some of the men in our study were open and direct about the appeal of EOWF as an expression of male dominance, but others couched the appeal of the act in its role in “pushing boundaries” or in its status as “taboo,” even if they could articulate the preferred meaning upon reflection. The strategy of euphemizing male sexual aggression as “taboo” may allow respondents to eroticize it without feeling misogynistic—but this strategy has its contradictions.

Indeed, multiple contradictions were revealed in the respondents’ discourses around pornography and sex. Typically, male participants initially failed to articulate why they liked to watch EOWF in pornography or what meaning they saw, if any, in the act. But when they were allowed some time to reflect, they stated that it is about male dominance and female degradation. Most men acknowledged that female porn stars come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and would only perform EOWF for money, but they also maintained that some performers genuinely liked it—and they maintained that they could tell—while saying that they often engaged in a “suspension of disbelief” to convince themselves of the performers’ enjoyment. Respondents also stated that they did not think women around them would like to be the targets of EOWF; nonetheless, they desired or had performed the act. This group of men seemed to struggle with cognitive dissonance (Aronson, 1992; Festinger, 1957; Stalder & Baron, 1998) concerning pornography’s function of providing sexual pleasure (in private, while masturbating) and the misogynistic messages that they were made aware of through self-reflection (in public, with an interviewer). The respondents’ lack of critical reflection, or their holding multiple, contradictory perspectives without resolving them, may be a form of moral identity work that allows them to maintain their stated attitude of “respecting women” while finding pleasure in male dominance. It is particularly at this juncture—recognizing the misogyny of EOWF but finding excuses to keep watching or performing it—that we recognize the power of pornography both in its encoded messages and in the context in which it is used.


Given that the subjects in the study were highly educated and had access to discourses of feminism and gender equality, the finding is particularly sobering.

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