same view, different lenses

In the articles and blogs that I’ve read about porn, every so often, someone talks about the “cum shot“. For the most part, I see people talking about it as objectification of women, a way to humiliate the recipient (generally, this is an argument about humiliation of women since gay porn is consistently left out of that perspective), or proof that “actual sex” took place (since some people believe that sex = orgasm = ejaculation).

But here’s another way that you could look at it: sex is risky. That’s why sex educators talk about “safer sex” rather than “safe sex.” It’s all about risk management. I’ll acknowledge that if you want to be 100% safe, then you need to not have sex; the abstinence-only folks are big on this one. By comparison, the only way to be 100% safe from car accidents is to never get in a car. Driving is risky, so we have seat belts, anti-lock brakes, and air bags. Sex is risky, so we have choices about what things to do, negotiation and communication with a partner, and condoms, gloves & dental dams.

Each of us makes different assessments of our risk-tolerance and goes from there. Some people avoid driving during rush hour because they worry about the risk. Others prefer to not drive at night because their vision may not be as good in the dark. Neither of those are problems for me, so I drive when I need to (although I like to avoid rush hour when I can and take public transport). I’m not going to belabor the point by listing all of the ways that people manage their risks around sex. You can do a little research, if you like.

One way that you can manage your risk that I do want to mention, though, is to avoid getting semen inside your body. In terms of relative risk, semen in the rectum is generally riskier than semen in the vagina, which is generally riskier than semen in the mouth. STIs all vary in their modes of transmission, but a big one that people worry about is HIV, of course. An external cumshot, or even getting semen in the mouth, is much less risky for HIV transmission.

So when I see an external ejaculation shot, I see a risk management strategy. Of course, I know that there are lot of other potential reasons for it. It’s become pretty standard in the porn industry, so I’m sure that lots of people do it because that’s just what one does. I know that some people do it because they enjoy it. I know that some people do it because it’s about humiliation. And some people do it because it’s dirty or raunchy and that turns them on.

The fact is, we never know what someone else’s motivation is for anything unless we ask them, which is something very few people have done when it comes to porn. It’s much easier to make a sweeping statement about why people do things and how they experience them. My observation is that much of the time, when anyone makes a statement about another person without asking that person, then there’s a good chance that they’re actually telling you something about themselves.

So when you see something in porn or in someone else’s sexual decision making that’s different from what you might do, I invite you to think about why they might be making those choices. As part of that, try to find out as much as you can about the person and their situation. And if you notice a pattern in what you come up with, ask yourself what that says about you before you project that onto someone else.

Dr. Charlie Glickman

Charlie Glickman is the Education Program Manager at Good Vibrations. He also writes, blogs, teaches workshops and university courses, presents at conferences, and trains sexuality educators. He’s certified by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists, and loves geeking out about sex, relationships, sex-positivity, love and shame, communities of erotic affiliation, and sexual practices and techniques of all varieties. Follow him online, on Twitter at @charlieglickman, or on Facebook.

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