Are Some Sexual Positions Inherently Demeaning?

There was a mention in the book I’m reading about Greek vase paintings, and a particular image of a woman performing fellatio on a man while another man penetrates her from behind, possibly anally, with a hand on her hair.  In the book, this is used as an illustration of how particular demeaning sexual positions were available only with particular classes of women in Ancient Greece.  I don’t doubt that this was the case in Greece, as everything I’ve come across in my studies of Greek and Roman sexuality (admittedly, that was a while ago) suggested that sexual relationships were heavily regimented based on the positions of the partners.  However, it got me thinking about that particular position in modern parlance, and the meanings ascribed to it.

I’ve seen a moderate amount of pornography in my lifetime, so I’m no expert, but what I have seen of this configuration (one partner fucking from the rear, another receiving fellatio) in porn tends to fall under a particular formula that does suggest at least some level of shame inherent to the position.  In heterosexual porn, I’ve seen it used with two men and a woman where either the men are using explicitly humiliating language to demean the woman during the act, or alternatively the men seem to be using the woman as a vessel for their desire for each other (basically ignoring her).  In gay male porn, I’ve seen it mostly in a gang-bang situation, where the bottom is portrayed as particularly eager but there’s still an implication that he’s a slut and there’s some inherent meaning to the position.

Is this meaning inherent?  I kind of doubt it.

Thinking about this particular position, I can easily see it as empowering for a sub/bottom, especially someone who particular enjoys fellatio and penetration and likes to feel overwhelmed.  I think it would be interesting to see this interpretation in porn, even with the bottom being a bit bossy and demanding it.  It seems to me that it’s a configuration that would be pretty good at overwhelming the senses and getting a sub into a good mental place–it’s a good position for penetration for either sex, a decent one for a blowjob, and the hair pulling potential is icing on the cake.  Bonus, easy access for clitoral stimulation or reaching the penis.

So, while I can certainly see the erotic potential of the position as a shameful one, and playing up the humiliation element if that’s your kink, I’m also reading it as something completely different.  That has me wondering if I could re-interpret some of the positions that are difficult for me mentally (because of gendered, humiliating connotation) into something that more effectively hits my kinky buttons.

This post was originally published on the blog Sex Positive Activism, which has now merged to become the sex & relationships section of Queer & Now.

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