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Facial (sexual act)

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artist's illustration of dark-haired woman with right hand holding man's penis, left hand rubbing semen from her eye
An illustration of a man ejaculating onto a woman's face

A facial is a sexual activity in which a man ejaculates semen onto the face of one or more sexual partners.[1] A facial is a form of non-penetrative sex, though it is generally performed after some other means of sexual stimulation, such as vaginal sex, anal sex, oral sex, manual sex or masturbation. Facials are regularly portrayed in pornographic films and videos, often as a way to close a scene.[2]

The performance of a facial is typically preceded by activities that result in the sexual arousal and stimulation of the ejaculating participant. After the prerequisite level of sexual stimulation has been achieved, and ejaculation becomes imminent, the male will position his penis in a way that allows the discharged semen to be deposited onto his partner's face.

The volume of semen that is ejaculated depends on several factors, including the male's health, age, degree of sexual excitement, and the time since his last ejaculation.[3] Normal quantities of ejaculate range from 1.5 to 5.0 milliliters (1 teaspoon). Seconds after being deposited onto the face, the semen thickens, before liquefying 15–30 minutes later.[4]

Cultural depictions

Predating the modern age of pornography, facials were described in literature. As an example, the French aristocrat Marquis de Sade wrote about performing facials in his work The 120 Days of Sodom, written in 1785. One passage of the novel reads "… I show them my prick, then what do you suppose I do? I squirt the fuck in their face… That's my passion my child, I have no other… and you're about to behold it."[5]

In mainstream pornography

In the 1970s, the hardcore pornography genre introduced the stereotypical cumshot (also known as the money shot) scene as a central element (leitmotif) of the hardcore film, in which the male actor ejaculates in a way ensuring maximum visibility of the act itself.[6] These scenes may involve the female actor "calling for" the shot to be directed at some specific part of her body.[7] Now facial cumshots are regularly portrayed in pornographic films, videos, magazines and internet web sites.[2]

In addition to mainstream pornography, the popularity of facials has led to creation of its own niche market,[8] like video series that specialize in showing the act. In 2010, psychologist Ana Bridges and colleagues conducted a content analysis of best-selling heterosexual pornographic videos showing that over 96% of all scenes concluded with a male performer ejaculating onto the body of his female partner.[9] The mouth was the most common area to be ejaculated upon. When all regions of the face are included, facial cum shots occur in approximately 62% of scenes where external ejaculation occurs.[10]

In feminist pornography

When feminist pornography emerged in 1980s, pioneer Candida Royalle always excluded facial cum shots, and with few exceptions all other male external ejaculations, from her sex scenes.[11][12] Ms. Naughty's (since 2000)[13] and Petra Joy's work (since 2004) has followed the same principle.[14] In the early works Tristan Taormino (since 1999), facials were also deliberately excluded, but after her thinking about feminist porn gradually changed, she sometimes included such acts in her later productions.[15] Erika Lust has occasionally featured facials ever since her 2004 debut The Good Girl.[16]

Health risks

Transmission of disease

Any sexual activity that involves contact with the bodily fluids of another person contains the risk of transmission of sexually transmitted infections (STIs/STDs).[17] Semen is in itself generally harmless on the skin or if swallowed.[18][19] However, semen can be the vehicle for many sexually transmitted infections, such as HIV and hepatitis. The California Occupational Safety and Health Administration categorizes semen as "other potentially infectious material" or OPIM.[20]

The risks incurred by the giving and receiving partner during the facial sexual act are drastically different. For the ejaculating partner there is almost no risk of contracting an STI. For the receiving partner, the risk is higher.[21] Since potentially infected semen could come into contact with broken skin or sensitive mucous membranes (i.e., eyes, lips, mouth), there is a risk of contracting an infectious disease.

Allergic reactions

In rare cases, people have been known to experience allergic reactions to seminal fluids, known as human seminal plasma hypersensitivity.[22] Symptoms can be either localized or systemic, and may include itching, redness, swelling, or blisters within 30 minutes of contact. They may also include hives and even difficulty breathing.

Treatment options for semen allergy include avoiding exposure to seminal fluid by use of condoms and attempting desensitization.[23]

Criticisms and responses


There are a variety of views ranging from facials being an act of degradation and elicit humiliation to being grounded in mutual respect and elicit pleasure.[24] Feminist views of the depiction of male-on-female facials are primarily critical, even amongst some sex-positive feminists (including feminist pornographers), although other sex-positive feminists regard it as always acceptable, or only acceptable if certain conditions are met.[25][26]


Sex therapist Ruth Westheimer believes facials are "humiliating and not sexy". She advises the average person contemplating oral sex to not think that a facial is a necessary part of the act.[1] In response to an inquiry from a reader, sex columnist Dan Savage wrote: "Facials are degrading—and that's why they're so hot."[27] Daily Nexus columnist Nina Love Anthony views the practice of facials in a non-threatening light, feeling that it adds variety to the sexual experience. In one of her weekly articles she wrote, "But let's give credit where credit is due: The money shot, by itself, is great for a number of reasons. Blowing it on someone's face is like a change-up pitch—if you've been throwing the heat for a while, maybe you should consider hooking the curve ball." She continues with, "Also, being on the receiving end of the shot can satisfy the secret porn star in everyone and it's minor kink for beginners."[28]

Anti-porn feminists

A woman receiving a facial

Sociologists Gail Dines, Robert Jensen and Russo echo these sentiments in the book Pornography: The Production and Consumption of Inequality. It asserts, "In pornography, ejaculating onto a woman is a primary method by which she is turned into a slut, something (not really someone) whose primary, if not only, purpose is to be sexual with men."[29] Radical feminist and noted critic of pornography Andrea Dworkin said "it is a convention of pornography that the sperm is on her not in her. It marks the spot, what he owns and how he owns it. The ejaculation on her is a way of saying (through showing) that she is contaminated with his dirt; that she is dirty."[21]

In Padraig McGrath's review of Laurence O'Toole's book Pornocopia – Porn, Sex, Technology and Desire, he rhetorically asks whether "…women enjoy having men ejaculate on their faces?" He suggests that the role of such a scene is to illustrate that "…it doesn't matter what the woman likes—she'll like whatever the man wants her to like because she has no inner life of her own, in turn because she's not a real person". McGrath argues that there is a "power-aspect" to depictions such as cum shots. He suggests that the "…central theme [of pornography] is power…[,] implicitly violent… eroticized hatred."[30]

Gail Dines, writing in Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality, describes the money shot of a man ejaculating on the face or body of a woman as "one of the most degrading acts in porn".[31] To Dines, the ejaculate on the female performer's body "marks the woman as used goods", conveying a sense of ownership, and she quotes veteran porn actor and producer Bill Margold as saying, "I'd like to really show what I believe the men want to see: violence against women. I firmly believe that we serve a purpose by showing that. The most violent we can get is the cum shot in the face. Men get off behind that because they get even with the women they can't have."[31] She adds that at least for some posters on adult forums discussing such scenes, the pleasure is derived from watching a woman suffer.[31] However, Dines also describes that "when you speak to pornographers, they tend themselves not to know" the origins of these sorts of things.[32]

Feminist pornographers

"I liked porn but I really didn't like how most of it was marketed. (...) The scenes almost always ended with a facial "pop shot" and I didn't want to see that—I thought it was degrading and also kind of stupid. The woman would often kneel with a slightly pained expression on her face, trying to look adoringly up at a man while he squirted semen in her eye. The camera never showed the man's face during orgasm, which—to me–was a travesty. Men's faces are beautiful at that moment. (...) I wanted to change that. I wanted to make porn better."

– Ms. Naughty (2013)[33]

Feminist pornographers disagree amongst themselves whether facials should be regarded as representing or having the effect of gender inequality, should therefore not be considered feminist and thus excluded from feminist pornography, or that such depictions can be feminist if many female viewers enjoy it, or depending on a number of factors such as consent, context, chemistry, and performer agency.[25][26] It is widely recognised amongst sex-positive feminists that the fact that people see facials in porn can lead them to want to do it in real life with their partners as well, and that this could (but, according to some, does not necessarily have to) have a negative impact on real-life sexuality.[34][35]

Pornography-actress-turned-filmmaker Candida Royalle was a critic of "cum shot" scenes in mainstream pornography. She produced pornographic films aimed at women and their partners that avoid the "misogynous predictability" and depiction of sex in "…as grotesque and graphic [a way] as possible." Royalle was also critical of the male-centredness of the typical pornography film, in which scenes end when the male actor ejaculates,[36] and therefore decided to exclude all facial cum shots, and with few exceptions all other male external ejaculations, from her porn films.[11][12]

Commenting on Erika Lust's work, feminist pornographer Petra Joy (2007) argued: 'Feminism is committed to equality of the sexes, so surely "feminist porn" should show women as equals to men rather than as subservient beings... If you want to show cum on a woman's face that's fine but don't call it feminist.'[14] Lust (2007) retorted, mocking 'the Church of the Pure Feminist Porn Producers... declaring that certain sexual practices that me and other women across the world happen to like, are a sin.'[14]

Separately, as some of her critics alleged,[37] Tristan Taormino (2013) has admitted that she cannot control how certain portrayals such as facials may be received by some viewers, 'specifically that men's orgasms represent the apex of a scene (and of sex itself) and women's bodies are things to be used, controlled, and marked like territory'.[38] When making her first film, Taormino 'embraced the notion that certain depictions were turn-offs to all women, like facial cum shots. But my thinking on this has changed over time. I believe viewers appreciate consent, context, chemistry, and performer agency more than the presence or absence of a specific act.'[38]


Illustration of an oral cum shot, in which a man ejaculates onto a woman's tongue

Author Lisa Moore suggests that Dworkin's explanation does not take into account that it is the pleasure the actresses exhibit that the male partners enjoy, and that it is more accurate to think men want their semen to be wanted.[21] Correspondingly it used to be a porn industry standard for the actress to act eager and loving for the facial she receives, and not in displeasure. If displeasure was shown it was usually considered a failed shot.[39]

Women's activist Beatrice Faust argued, "since ejaculating into blank space is not much fun, ejaculating over a person who responds with enjoyment sustains a lighthearted mood as well as a degree of realism." She goes on to say "Logically, if sex is natural and wholesome and semen is as healthy as sweat, there is no reason to interpret ejaculation as a hostile gesture."[40][41] Joseph Slade, professor at Ohio University,[42] notes in his book Pornography and sexual representation: a reference guide that adult industry actresses in the 1960s and 1970s did not trust birth control methods, and that more than one actress of the period told him that ejaculation inside her body was deemed inconsiderate if not rude.[41]

Sexologist Peter Sándor Gardos argues that his research suggests that "… the men who get most turned on by watching cum shots are the ones who have positive attitudes toward women" (on the annual meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sex in 1992).[43] Later, on The World Pornography Conference in 1998, he reported a similar conclusion, namely that "no pornographic image is interpretable outside of its historical and social context. Harm or degradation does not reside in the image itself".[44]

Cindy Patton, activist and scholar on human sexuality, claims that in western culture male sexual fulfillment is synonymous with orgasm and that the male orgasm is an essential punctuation of the sexual narrative. No orgasm, no sexual pleasure. No cum shot, no narrative closure. In other words, the cum shot is the period at the end of the sentence.[21] In her essay "Speaking Out: Teaching In", Patton reached the conclusion that critics have devoted too little space to discovering the meaning that viewers attach to specific acts such as cum shots.[41][45]

See also


  1. ^ a b Westheimer, Ruth K.; Lehu, Pierre A. (2006). Sex for Dummies. Wiley. p. 194. ISBN 978-0-470-04523-7.
  2. ^ a b Violet Blue, (Sep 2001) A First Timer's Guide to Watching Porn, "Facial ejaculation (men ejaculating on women's faces) is pretty much a standard."
  3. ^ "Swimming Toward Conception: The Semen Analysis". Focus on Fertility, American Infertility Association and Organon Pharmaceuticals USA Inc. Archived from the original on 12 January 2008.
  4. ^ Gallup, G. G.; Burch, R. L.; Mitchell, T. J. B. (2006). "Semen displacement as a sperm competition strategy" (PDF). Human Nature. 17 (3): 253–64. doi:10.1007/s12110-006-1008-9. PMID 26181472. S2CID 31703430. Archived from the original on 20 August 2008.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  5. ^ Seaver, Richard (1987) [1987]. The 120 Days of Sodom and Other Writings. Grove Press. p. 268. ISBN 978-0-8021-3012-9.
  6. ^ Williams, Linda (1989), "Fetishism and hard core: Marx, Freud, and the "money shot"", in Williams, Linda (ed.), Hard core: power, pleasure, and the "frenzy of the visible", Berkeley: University of California Press, pp. 93–94, ISBN 9780520066526. Preview.
  7. ^ Williams, Linda (1989), "Fetishism and hard core: Marx, Freud, and the "money shot"", in Williams, Linda (ed.), Hard core: power, pleasure, and the "frenzy of the visible", Berkeley: University of California Press, p. 101, ISBN 9780520066526. Preview.
  8. ^ "The final (niche) frontier". business.avn.com. AVN Online. Archived from the original on 21 February 2011. Retrieved 26 October 2010.
  9. ^ Bridges, Ana J. (2010), "Pornography's effects on interpersonal relationships", in Stoner, James R. Jr.; Hughes, Donna M. (eds.), The social costs of pornography: a collection of papers, Princeton, New Jersey: Witherspoon Institute, pp. 89–110, ISBN 9780981491134. Pdf.
  10. ^ Bridges, Ana J.; Wosnitzer, Robert; Scharrer, Erica; Sun, Chyng; Liberman, Rachael (October 2010). "Aggression and sexual behavior in best-selling pornography videos: a content analysis update". Violence Against Women. 16 (10). Sage: 1065–1085. doi:10.1177/1077801210382866. PMID 20980228. S2CID 3708846. Pdf. Archived 17 January 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ a b Heck 2021, p. 2–3.
  12. ^ a b Taormino et al. 2013, p. 293.
  13. ^ Taormino et al. 2013, p. 82–88.
  14. ^ a b c Heck 2021, p. 16.
  15. ^ Taormino et al. 2013, p. 291–293, 300.
  16. ^ Heck 2021, p. 11–12.
  17. ^ Taylor, Emma; Sharkey, Lorelei (2006). Em & Lo's Rec Sex: An A–Z Guide to Hooking Up. Chronicle Books. p. 60. ISBN 978-0-8118-5212-8.
  18. ^ Mann, Thaddeus (1981) [1981]. Male Reproductive Function and Semen. Springer. ISBN 978-0-387-10383-9.
  19. ^ Scheit, Karl H. (1990) [1990]. Proteins of Seminal Plasma. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-0-471-84685-7.
  20. ^ "Cal/OSHA Health Hazards in the Adult Film Industry". State of California. Retrieved 25 July 2008.
  21. ^ a b c d Moore, LJ (2007). Sperm Counts: Overcome by Man's Most Precious Fluid. New York University Press. pp. &#91, https://books.google.com/books?id=tpiyGxq92RwC&pg=PA84 84&#93, . ISBN 978-0-8147-5718-5.
  22. ^ Guillet G, Dagregorio G, Guillet M (2005). "[Vulvar contact dermatitis due to seminal allergy: 3 cases]". Ann Dermatol Venereol. 132 (2): 123–5. doi:10.1016/S0151-9638(05)79221-8. PMID 15798560.
  23. ^ Weidinger S, Ring J, Köhn F (2005). "IgE-mediated allergy against human seminal plasma". Chem Immunol Allergy. Chemical Immunology and Allergy, 2005. 88: 128–138. doi:10.1159/000087830. ISBN 978-3-8055-7951-3. PMID 16129942.
  24. ^ Hess, Amanda (24 August 2009). "Semen Facials Are Like Weddings". Washington City Paper. Retrieved 8 November 2010.
  25. ^ a b Heck 2021, p. 1–15.
  26. ^ a b Taormino et al. 2013, p. 82–88, 291–293, 300.
  27. ^ Savage, Dan (9 April 2009). "Savage Love". The Stranger. Retrieved 8 November 2010.
  28. ^ "Ejaculate Maturely: A Little Man Cream Never Went This Far". Daily Nexus. 9 November 2005. Retrieved 2 August 2008.
  29. ^ Dines, G; Jensen R; Russo A (1998) [1997]. Pornography: The Production and Consumption of Inequality. Routledge. pp. 78. ISBN 978-0-415-91812-1.
  30. ^ Padraig McGrath. "Pornocopia – Porn, Sex, Technology and Desire – by Laurence O'Toole". Three Monkeys Online. Archived from the original on 11 June 2008.
  31. ^ a b c Gail Dines (1 July 2010). Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality. Beacon Press. p. xxiv. ISBN 978-0-8070-4452-0. Retrieved 18 February 2011.[permanent dead link]
  32. ^ Hay, Mark. "The Oral History of the Money Shot". Vice (magazine). Vice. Retrieved 17 October 2019.
  33. ^ Taormino et al. 2013, p. 83.
  34. ^ Heck 2021, p. 17.
  35. ^ Taormino et al. 2013, p. 242, 300.
  36. ^ "Girls on top" by Lilly Bragge, The Age, 16 June 2004.
  37. ^ Heck 2021, p. 15.
  38. ^ a b Taormino et al. 2013, p. 300.
  39. ^ Snow, Aurora (16 March 2019). "Is It Time for Porn to Retire the 'Money Shot'?". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 17 October 2019.
  40. ^ Faust, Beatrice (1980). Women, sex, and pornography: a controversial and unique study. New York: Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-02-537050-0.
  41. ^ a b c Slade, Joseph W. (2001). Pornography and Sexual Representation: A Reference Guide Vol. 2. Greenwood Press. pp. 654–656. ISBN 978-0-313-31520-6.
  42. ^ "Ohio University Faculty". Archived from the original on 28 June 2008. Retrieved 28 July 2008.
  43. ^ Bruce Herschensohn; Bill Clinton; Sexologists in San Diego; Future Sex 2 by Bruce Herschensohn.
  44. ^ Excerpt Archived 8 August 2009 at the Wayback Machine from "Among the Pornographers", Matt Labash's coverage of the 1998 World Pornography Conference for The Weekly Standard.
  45. ^ Fuss, Diana (1991) [1 September 1991]. Inside/Out: Lesbian Theories, Gay Theories. Routledge. pp. 373–386. ISBN 978-0-415-90237-3.


  • Heck, Richard Kimberly (2021). "How Not to Watch Feminist Pornography". Feminist Philosophy Quarterly. 7 (1): Article 3. Retrieved 13 January 2023.
  • Taormino, Tristan; Shimizu, Celine Parreñas; Penley, Constance; Miller-Young, Mireille (2013). The Feminist Porn Book: The Politics of Producing Pleasure. New York: Feminist Press at the City University of New York. ISBN 9781558618190. OCLC 828140733.