That being said, the Wednesday Hump has its virtues, and one of them seems to be use as a source for sex-related Wikipedia entries. One that I edited, for example, is included on Wikipedia’s “walk of shame” entry as a recommended further reading. And just this week, I learned that a columnist from another year gets mentioned in the entry for “Facial” — that is, not the thing rich ladies pay to have done for them at day spas, but the other kind, the sexual kind, the kind that only a certain kind of lady would pay to have done to her, and even then only at a certain kind of establishment.
So now I’m going to link to this particular Wikipedia page, but I should tell you now that though it is, in fact, an educational article — between 1.5 and 5 milliliters! who knew? — the illustrations are totally NOT SAFE FOR WORK. However, they’re also the subject of this post, so click at your own risk.
I can understand that Wikipedia pages on sex acts could benefit from visual aids, and that illustrations might seem less titillating than photographs. But I have a problem with the images currently featured on Wikipedia’s entry on “facial (sex act).” See, the nature of this thing is complicated in that it isn’t necessarily desired on the part of the recipient. If that’s someone’s cup of tea (or cup of whatever), fine, but it could be an unexpected and unwanted denouement to a consensual sex act. The article states as much, namechecking everyone from Dr. Ruth to Dan Savage to a certain Daily Nexus columnist on the pluses and minuses of the facial. And the illustrations also reflect this duality.
But consider this: You’re tasked with drawing the art to accompany an encyclopedic entry on this particular sex act. What race do you make the participants? I feel like the easy solution would be to abstract the figures so they don’t look like any person in particular, but that’s not what the artist who submitted these illustrations did. In the piece showing a mutually appreciated facial, the man is white, while the woman — who’s smiling and wiping her eye, as if she’s just enjoyed a hilarious anecdote — could be Caucasian or Asian or Latina. In the piece showing the degrading facial, the man has dark skin and the woman is a Caucasian brunette. And is she crying? Yes! I think she — no, wait, those aren’t tears. But she’s clearly not happy about the punchline to her evening’s activities. Now, speaking racially, isn’t this all a little, ahem, loaded?
Yes, I’m putting more thought into these illustrations that most would — or at least more of this particular kind of thought — but as an editor and as someone who enjoys the noble idea of an educational text being as unbiased as possible, I have to wonder about what logic went into the choices that created this art, in a whole “Who Chooses the Details?” sort of way. And on the article’s discussion page, a lot of Wikipedia editors agree. But isn’t it strange that a person, setting out to make something they think is beneficial and educational, could accidentally create art that others could so easily criticize as being racist? Isn’t it strange how blind someone could be to what’s obvious to everybody else?