Catching up on my newsreader backlog it seems like there’ve been are a lot of posts about blowjobs in the last week or so. Occasionally by men saying “meh,” but also by women expressing considerable satisfaction with them.
I’m pretty critically aware of historical attitudes about fellatio. Nobody who came of age before attitudes began to change in, say, 1985 could avoid being aware of them. Enough so that while I’ve always enjoyed performing cunnilingus I actively avoided fellatio… and looked askance at partners who wanted to do it… and didn’t really learn how to enjoy it… until well into the 1980s and well into my 30s. (If you’re not old enough to remember the 1970s then count your blessings.)
Because back then whatever other problems people might have had with fellatio (the first big explosion of expressly as opposed to incidentally demeaning porn in the 1970s would be a big one) there was almost universal agreement that it was inappropriate… even demeaning (thus the emphasis in prostitution and porn) for women to engage actively, rather than receptively, in sex.
And whatever else you can say about it, and however legitimate Catharine MacKinnon’s legitimate but sometimes, um, overexpressed concerns are, fellatio is almost always about activity rather than passivity.
This obviously isn’t to say the only way to be non-passive around a partner with penis is to perform fellatio. (To be fair those other active roles also tended to be scowled at back in the day.) And so fellatio certainly needn’t be the only way… or even the way at all.
[Note: The more I write about this the more sure I am that I’ve said something like it before. But it’s not coming up in searches so I’ll keep going a bit longer. —fl]
At any rate, I’ve been thinking lately about ways heterosexuals can subvert traditional gender roles. And given that in our traditions masculinity is defined as almost entirely performative, and femininity as passive it’s worth listening to those who value doing it as to those who still believe it shouldn’t be done.
Because, especially if we look to the not-too-distant past, it’s important to ask “what’s the alternative?” Because I think, for a lot of people, women not performing blowjobs is preferred for suspiciously suspicious reasons.
A few obvious caveats:
- Catharine MacKinnon’s concern that it can be traumatic when forced on the unprepared or unwilling is well-founded and too often disregarded.
- The even broader concern that after the acceptability turnaround fellatio is too often considered an obligation for the provider, or an entitlement of the recipient, also requires more consideration than it’s often afforded.
- The great thing about real adult sex is that regardless of peer pressure, social expectation, and even the desires of one’s partner is that nobody “should” do anything that doesn’t contribute to their own arousal as well as their partner’s. Therefore, for real adults, no one has to perform oral sex if they don’t want to. Nor, for real adults, no one should not perform oral sex if they do want to (and, duh, their partner is into receiving it.) The benefits of everyone doing only that which contributes to their own arousal and that of their partner(s) um, should be self-evident.
- Following up on the previous two points, it’s also important to pay attention to those who’d rather not receive and even more important for recipients to listen to themselves and make sure they’re not receiving because they think everyone else enjoys it so they should be too.