HEADSHOTS is an experimental video-art project that explores the tenuous and ever shifting space between the erotic and the repulsive, the acceptable and the taboo, what is empowering and what is degrading, the serious and the absurd.
My interest in making this piece was to investigate the facial, also known as the cum shot or money shot. It is regularly portrayed in pornographic films, as a way to close a scene. In 2010 psychologist Ana Bridges did a content analysis of porn, and found that 62% of films conclude in this way.
The sexual politics around the facial are highly polarized in both heterosexual and gay contexts. Sociologist Gail Dines said it is “one of the most degrading and violent acts in porn”. Candida Royalle, porn actress turned director, called it “grotesque and graphic”.
On a more positive note, sex columnist Dan Savage said “facials are degrading, and that’s why they are so hot.” Others such as human sexuality activist Cindy Patton see it as a playful “punctuation of sexual narrative”, and for author Lisa Moore, it is the ultimate expression of approval as “men want their semen to be wanted”. In line with this, sexologist Peter Sándor Gardos argues that in his research “the men who get the most turned on by watching cum shots are the ones who have positive attitudes towards women”. Women’s activist Beatrice Faust also argued that “there is no reason why ejaculation is a hostile gesture”.
In her essay "Speaking Out: Teaching In", Cindy 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.
Differences in meaning are an inevitability with any sexual act. The kink of a facial can become a fetish (fetish is derived from the Portuguese feitiço "spell”), a powerfully charged experience that brings heightened sexual and psychological pleasure. However, from the outside looking in, such a sex act may make no sense and potentially seem disgusting or silly.
My ambition in creating this artwork, is to make a space to unpack and explore the facial.
What happens when you strip away the typical narrative porn cues of soft lighting, the stereotyped characters, camera angles, moaning, dialogue, genitals and nudity? What happens when you remove all context and are left with empty black space, when you slow down time, survey a range of different faces and capture the dance of different liquids?
Could it turn into a sequence of operatic finales, focused on formal and gestural aspects, still familiar and suggestive but displaced and absurd? A space of cognitive dissonance and suspended judgment? Is it even sexual anymore?
Review of HEADSHOTS in Spook magazine: spookmagazine.com/unpacking-the-money-shot-with-sarah-catherine-firth/