Is The Facial Dead? A ‘Eulojizzum’ by Pro Bottom Ty Mitchell


Text by Ty Mitchell. Illustrated by Koji Yamamoto.

I used to visit all the very gay places Those come-what-may places.
— Billy Strayhorn, Lush Life

In the wake of PrEP-fueled barebacking, a crisis has struck our bars, clubs, and bedrooms, sparking one of the greatest casualties in queer history: nobody wants to cum on my face anymore. The Facial is dead.

What I love so much about the Facial might be why others are so eager to leave it behind: it’s contrived, counterintuitive, porny. In film, the money shot provides proof of pleasure’s climax. The Facial doubles this gaze, scratches a strange, identifying itch by letting us watch somebody watch ejaculation happen upon them. In life, we role-play as porn stars, or perhaps the kinksters who preceded them. We infuse cum with meaning: that decadent salve, our unholy water. We decorate our faces, nevermind our souls. It’s my fault, really, that the Facial is dead. I love hoarding a steaming, luxurious load inside me, and I love it even more from somebody I just met. Perhaps this is bad to want, but knowing that what I want is bad does not stop me from wanting it. Fear could stop me, and so could shame, but the longer you’re a whore, the sooner those wear off.

I remember wanting it less, because nobody had ever suggested it could be a choice. But as my options expanded, so did my cravings. So I began to manage risk differently, to balance danger against desire, and to make informed decisions about which I am honest and open. I joined the pharma-sexual gay elite and got on PrEP, which empirically works at preventing HIV transmission, as does the undetectable status of my HIV-positive partners. I go to the doctor when my ass or dick hurts, and take my antibiotics accordingly. I still use condoms sometimes, and never pressure my partners against using them. I’m not condoning what I do, just explaining what it feels like as other bareback confessionals have done in riskier times than these.

And here I am now, a highly visible sex worker reporting from the vanguard of gay sexual culture, where cumming on faces appears to be going terribly out of style when we could just stay inside instead. Many people have died wanting what I want, which is to fuck people free of these barriers to pleasure: condoms and fear. Those people could have been my mentors, johns, father figures. They would be happy for me. Wouldn’t they?

This grasping at lineage feels like the pulse of our Bareback Renaissance—nostalgia for a semi-mythical gay ‘70s, and a sense of triumph over the restrictions that have accompanied sex in an epidemic. Writers of the pre-AIDS era Larry Kramer and Andrew Holleran each (divergently) wondered what more there could be to gay life beyond fucking freely. Such freedom was abruptly foreclosed, first by state-sanctioned mass death and then by an ultimatum presented to survivors, even after disease became manageable: condoms or chastity. Of course, being tethered to a patented Gilead product and a profit-based healthcare system does not qualify as freedom. But still, an irresistible ethos of liberation surrounds seeding and breeding unfettered by the tremendous anxiety inherited across generations of gay trauma.

This is not liberation, collective struggle’s elusive end, but that potent freedom feeling: flashes of forgetting what’s been internalized as the great curse of gay desire. Barebackers prior to PrEP, particularly HIV-positive people, had already discovered the imaginative and erotic possibilities of this death-defying sex, already faced one of our greatest queer fears—pathology—and lived to fuck the tale.

These underground sexual networks rebuked a culture that stigmatizes and criminalizes HIV-positive people to instead sustain utopian visions of intimacy and pleasure. Fucking sheathed by Tenofovir instead of latex is not merely an optimistic trend, but a suggestion of the future. Barebacking so baldly affirms the most threatening advantage of gay sex—the impossibility of reproduction, of biological bondage—that by comparison, the Facial appears hopelessly square.

Not everybody is barebacking now who wasn’t before, but it certainly seems less kinky than it used to be. “Don’t waste a drop” is the chic imperative of post-PrEP gay sex, or so it seems in my slutty circle of friends and lovers. Is it just me? Expectations seem different depending on where I travel. I often forget that very gay places like New York and LA are relatively rich in sexual health resources and new sex partners, and that this conditions our sexual culture and norms. How we fuck ripples outward to depict a brave new world more liberated from scarcity, closets, and condoms than the realities in which most queer people live.

In this broader world, where the Facial lives on, condomless sex remains bound inextricably with death, or alternatively, with rewarding long-term, monogamous bonds of love. (As it turns out, such bonds are less available, desirable, or fulfilling than we expect them to be.) I wonder sometimes if this is why we want so badly to couple up and get married: to fuck raw but respectably. Consider that the FDA approved Truvada as an HIV prevention method just a year before Windsor v. United States punctuated the marriage equality movement, a political project to liberate gay love by domesticating gay sex. According to over a decade of human rights campaigning, equality with the heterosexual world was finally won. And yet, queer life remains difficult, the needs of trans people, people of color, sex workers, and unmarried sluts left to languish while organized reactionaries have put fascists in power.

In the dry, jizz-less face of such disappointment, I cannot condemn our revelry over raw loads. Against a seemingly impenetrable matrix of power, we have tried voting and calling and marching and occupying and occasionally disrupting, and we should keep trying. But in the chasms between triumphs, we can at the very least fuck each other unhampered by the original cock destroyer: latex. We have always managed to pervert our way into the future, through the graze of a drag queen’s finger, through glances at the art collection of a rich man’s apartment, through tarot cards, through trembling handfuls of bricks and ashes. This is what I am filled with, when I am being filled. If the Facial is the eventual cost of this disco-borne optimism, of a lush life, then perhaps I can live with that.—