Tristan Taormino is on vacation. We are happy to present one of her classic columns from our archives.

I've been talking about blowjobs a lot lately. During a recent meeting, a British television and movie producer asked me, "Why do you think Deep Throat was as popular as it was? Do you think it had something to do with blowjobs? Do you think Americans are obsessed with them?" Well, considering how many different phrases we have to describe oral-penile contact, and how often said phrases are used, I'd say the blowjob might be up there with baseball and apple pie.

Think of the vast array of references to horn blowing there are in movies and other media. Recall the Clinton sex scandal that riveted our nation and revolved around a certain act of under-the-desk diplomacy. Which reminds me of a story a makeup artist told me about the Barbara Walters-Monica Lewinsky interview. She said, "It was an important media appearance, and so much preparation went into how Monica would look: her clothes, her hair, her makeup. I was shocked to see that Monica's lips were done up wet and shiny. It just called so much attention to them. You simply do not use gloss on the mouth of a woman known for the most famous blowjob in the world." She said it without a hint of irony, but what captured her attention was indicative of what got lots of tongues wagging—not infidelity and deception as much as an intern's face between her boss's legs. So what is it about blowjobs that turns us on so much?

I've got a theory: The blowjob is the ultimate act of sexual dominance and submission. Forget bondage, ball gags, and buttfucking—sucking cock is pure power exchange. A perfect blowjob is one that uninhibitedly embodies sexual service: a mouth (and by extension, the mouth's owner) whose sole purpose is to pleasure a penis. In that moment, the mouth exists only to serve the cock that pries it open. The cock is king, president, god—the focus of everything; collectively, the lips, tongue, and cheeks are servant, subject, worshipper. Think of how we've adopted certain terms to intimidate or belittle: "Suck my dick" is a threat, "cocksucker" a put-down—and both are verbal assertions of dominance.

The BJ is also about sexual use, which is highly erotic for many people. I don't mean "use" in negative "I feel so used" terms, but in a consensual act where one person literally utilizes another for pleasure. I'm not claiming that the dom/sub undercurrent is overt, stated, or one people are consciously aware of: A woman might reach into a man's boxer shorts, licking her lips, her jaw dropping open slightly, but just because she doesn't know that power dynamics are at play doesn't mean they aren't fueling the desire and the fantasy.

Speaking of fantasy, our taste in skin flicks is a good indication of what's on our dirty little minds, and it doesn't end with Deep Throat. The pucker on the pecker is a staple in most scenes and a thriving subgenre of its own, with series like Shut Up and Blow Me and American Bukkake slipping into warm, dark VCR slots all across America. Screen starlet Stephanie Swift is a consummate cocksucker, and she embraces these built-in roles with aplomb. She gets on her knees, her arms naturally moving behind her back, and deliciously morphs from a woman into a pink O-is-for-orifice—not in a degrading reduced-to-just-her-body-parts way, but rather as an embodiment of erotic servitude. I mean, if you're gonna suck someone off and really go there, why not go all the way?

The other day, during an interview with another well-known adult film star (let's call her Blondie), the subject turned to fellatio, and she told me this anecdote: "I just love giving head, I get so into it, and I think men appreciate it when you are having a good time. But on the set of a movie, I started going down on this guy, and he said, 'Don't suck my dick like you like it so much. Suck my dick like a porn star.' I was totally confused, but it was obvious that what I was doing was not working for him. What do you think he meant by that?" This real-life story (well, as real as stories from pornland can be) illustrates my phallic philosophy beautifully. Blondie loves giving head and it shows: She is enthusiastic, and her eyes beam as her lips get shiny with spit. But her leading man wanted an altogether different approach, one perhaps with a stiff upper lip, where Blondie looks a little uncomfortable, makes it obvious that she's working hard, or appears slightly violated. One where she isn't having a rockin' good time, but is doing it for him and only him. Her desire to please was absolutely there, but she didn't express it in a way that got him off. He couldn't articulate how he wanted her to be; he just knew she wasn't right for him. And people say guys aren't particular about their blowjobs!

Blondie's BJ style shows how the sucker/suckee power positions can get flipped around. Blondie embraces not a submissive role, but one where she is pleasure giver. Which makes sense: When you have someone's member in your kisser, you have the power to create a happy hard-on or a miserable man (remember, we have teeth!) depending on how you play it. Men are reduced to whimpering boys when they are down her throat, and she works that angle. Her pleasure is palpable and so is her control of the situation: She says how deep, how rough, how sweet, how long it will last. Her piehole is not a passive receptacle but a vacuum of delight that she can shut off at any moment. When Blondie goes down on a guy, she is running the show: Her tongue's a tool of teasing and torture, and his family jewels are at the mercy of her mouth. She's getting off on it as much as he is, or maybe more. She's got her mouth full, but he's the sucker. When it comes to cocksucking, the power exchange is always present, whether we openly acknowledge the dynamic or let it simmer in the subtext.

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