What’s the Deal with Swallowing?

The problem with swallowing is not with the porn or the act itself, but with the fact that we think that we have to swallow.

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Swallowing Cum, a Negatively Connoted Sexual Practice

There is this notion that mainstream pornography popularised the swallowing of semen and that it is downgrading for people to perform this sexual act. But the problem is not with porn or the act itself, but with the fact that we think that we have to swallow. Because we have seen it in porn many times, we feel like we need to do it in our personal life. We forget that every person is different, and each of us enjoys intimacy in different ways. Some people enjoy swallowing their partner’s semen. They like its taste and the level of intimacy that this act carries. A friend confessed to me that “spitting is too messy, feels unsexy and breaks the mood”. And there are penis owners who don’t enjoy it when their partner swallows. For them, everything else that happens before is more exciting than the final gulp. 

Porn and Sexual Desire

Before fellatio was “popularised” in porn, we were actively pursuing this sexual act. Though we probably didn’t think, “do I have to swallow now”, we just ended the act in whatever way was pleasurable. Porn didn’t invent sex. Porn only visualised it and brought it to the public eye. And frankly, we should be thankful for that because it started a discourse around different forms of sexual pleasure. Frederick Toates, author and professor of Biological Psychology, says “Erotica and pornography permit understanding of how sexual desire works.”

In the beginning, the representation of pleasure on screen was very limited. For the last 50 years, primarily cis heterosexual men have created porn, showing sexual pleasure from their perspective and satisfying their needs. There was a strong assumption that porn is only for cis hetero men and that cis women are not entitled to pleasure. However, this limited notion is changing, and there is a lot that women can and should contribute to pornography. Their voice is essential. But this doesn’t mean that we should disregard the “old-fashion” pornography or that the cis heterosexual male point of view is unimportant. As long as porn is produced ethically, it’s consensual, does not reproduce discriminating stereotyes, and pleasurable to everyone involved, then that’s okay to give yourself permission to enjoy it or let it be a source of inspiration.  

It’s one thing to be inspired by what we see in porn and another to imitate it in our real life. According to social learning theory, we learn about sex by imitation. Suppose an individual is exposed repeatedly to a sexual image. They will try to make sense of this message by internalising it. If it is appealing to them they will try to apply it to his sex life. However, depending on the consequences – if the partners like it or not, they is more or less likely to repeat it and take on this behaviour as his own. Is that wrong? I don’t think so. It’s who we are. We learn something, and if we enjoy it we want more. However, in the age of the internet what we see is often not what we intensionally choose. The algorithm provides us with suggestions and we go with it. When you are sexually excited you don’t want to browse endless internet sites, you take what’s given. So it may seem like every single porn scene that includes fellatio ends the same. This imposed way of viewing media may feel like there is only one way to pleasure. But that’s very misleading. Sexual pleasure is endless and depends greatly on our imagination.  

Oral Pleasure

I believe that the exploration of pleasure is what is important and where the focus should be. In this particular case, it’s the exploration of oral pleasure. The rest is a byproduct. Here is why.

Our lips are the most exposed erogenous zone, with many nerve endings and blood vessels inside. A delicate stroke over our lips is enough to stimulate a big part of our brain, apparently, even larger than the sexual stimulation of the genitals does. But it’s not only the lips that are highly sensitive. It’s also the tongue and mouth. Intimate interaction with our lips and mouth signals the brain to produce oxytocin, a hormone that triggers pleasure and sexual arousal. By performing fellatio you not only please your partner, but you also stimulate your lips and mouth, your brain lights up, and arousal runs through the body, making you ready for more pleasure. It may end with semen being swallowed but it doesn’t have to.

Let’s Talk

The good, “old fashion” conversation. Having an honest, open-minded talk about pleasure can help the relationship grow and open doors to a different level of intimacy. It may be awkward at the start, but if you care about yourself and the person with whom you will have the intimate encounter, you need to talk about consent, boundaries and desires. The best way to do it is by asking open-ended questions. Begin with general questions about pleasure like “How do you like to be touched” or “Can you show me how do you like to be kissed” and then slowly narrow it down.

Some specific questions that you can ask about oral sex are:

Not everyone will be comfortable with oral sex. Some may have a bad experience with it or never tried it before. Perhaps there won’t be a good moment to ask these specific questions. Or maybe you will need to build trust and intimacy before you both feel ready to talk about it. But the worse that you can do is to assume that your partner will want to “go down on you” and swallow. And remember, It’s okay to ask, during sex, “where do you want me to cum”, it’s not breaking the mood. It’s showing that you care and that your partner’s opinion matters to you.

In ethically produced porn, there always will be an honest discussion about all intimate acts, including where and how the men should end. But the thing is that most porn doesn’t show these conversations. Often talking about consent is seen as unsexy. And that’s a problem. However, discussing our preferences and boundaries can be part of the foreplay and can lead to more pleasurable experiences.  

STI and oral sex

There are million reasons why a person enjoys semen in their mouth and another million for why someone prefers not to swallow. The taste may not be what they like, or they are afraid of catching STI (Sexually Transmitted Infections). I found an endless amount of articles that talk about the taste of semen and how to “influence” it, so I am not going to converse about it here, and frankly what is more important in my opinion, is the conversation about STIs. Oral sex may seem very low key compared to penetrative sex. If your partner cums into your mouth, you won’t get pregnant, but you may still catch an STI. If you brush your teeth vigorously you may scratch your gums. This creates wounds in your mouth through which bacteria or viruses can enter your bloodstream. If your partner is positive for one of the STIs and they cums in your mouth, you may not only get his semen but also some of his STIs. When you have a conversation about boundaries, consent and pleasure, you may also add a few questions about STI tests. Yes, this can be a mood breaker no matter how you phrase the question, but it’s important to ask when the person was tested for the last time or how often they get tested, and what were their results. In ethically produced porn, STI conversation happens all the time, and it is backed up with the actual test results. But again, this is part of porn that we don’t see and so it may not occur to us to ask about it before we have sex (either penetrative or oral). And if you are too shy to ask, condoms are an option. Likely, some porn is now showing condoms being worn, so there is a chance that one day, a creative mind will find a way to show the consent conversations and STI checks as part of the intimate scene in pornographic films.

Porn is a source of inspiration for many people, and in this case, some people may have an impression that sex just happens, is uncomplicated and desire is ever-ready. Consent is assumed, and conversation is not needed. But that’s a very wrong impression. It’s okay to get inspired by porn but be selective with what you watch. Put it through a filter. Make a reality check. And before cuming in your partner’s mouth, ask their permission first! Have a conversation, and don’t be afraid to explore other areas of pleasure.

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