Ever since that sex scene in Disobedience where Rachel Weisz releases a load of saliva into Rachel McAdams’ waiting kisser first appeared on screen at the 2017 Toronto Film Festival, it seems as if people have been spitting in each other’s mouths non-stop.
Some evidence: Last December, Freek — I’m sorry, Meek — Mill set Twitter ablaze with his invitation to “come spit in my mouth, baby!!!!” (a reference to his song “On Me,” in which he confesses that a “famous bitch” spat in his mouth).
Then, shortly thereafter, BuzzFeed practically exploded with gushing cries of “spit in my mouth!” when photos of a young Jason Momoa were uncovered by an adoring stan. Meanwhile, a blisteringly awkward musical number called — you guessed it — “Spit In My Mouth” was just released on YouTube, and a new line of saliva-themed apparel has cropped up to appease the spit-hungry masses. Google Trends even shows the term is gaining steam, particularly in the world of meme culture where the internet seems to have adopted the term as a sort of unwittingly modern synonym for “do me.”
According to kink coach and pro-Domme Hudsy Hawn, however, the act itself is nothing new — people have been spitting in each other’s mouths for “as long as we’ve been around.” However, what is new, is the sudden cultural capital it’s gained, something she attributes to its increasing prevalence in porn. “One of the reasons spit-play has come into greater fashion is because younger generations have seen it so much in porn and have begun replicating the act during sex,” she tells me.
Hawn’s not wrong. The search term “spit in my mouth” brings up nearly 30,000 results on XVideos alone. That’s not quite enough to make it a ranking category, but numbers-wise, that places it squarely in the same league as classically popular search terms like “redhead” and “daddy” (at least on XVideos). In other words, a lot of people are into this, apparently (even when it takes them by surprise).
In fact, according to Justin Lehmiller, a research fellow at the Kinsey Institute and author of the blog Sex and Psychology, sexual fantasies involving spit are more common than even the XVideos search data indicates. In a survey of 4,175 Americans’ sex fantasies he conducted for his book Tell Me What You Want, he found that 45 percent of men and 35 percent of women have fantasized about it at some point in their lives. That said, the details of these fantasies are murky at best — his research only looked at their prevalence, so it’s unclear what it is about spit people are obsessing over. It may be using spit as lubricant during sex, spitting in other people’s mouths or employing spit in other, more “creative” ways such as snowballing (i.e., the wholesome pastime of spitting freshly swallowed semen back into the mouth of the person who ejaculated it).
Lehmiller’s best guess as to what’s so appealing about the concept of depositing spit in someone else’s mouth is that it can be “used in dominance-submission play, with spit being a way to express dominance over another person.” That’s a pretty sound hypothesis, actually — Reddit is filled with erotic stories of people spitting in each other’s mouths during kinky sex, and the vast majority of spit-in-my-mouth porn takes place during some instance of BDSM such as femdom (female dominance) or consensual humiliation. Doing so is often referred to as “spitting domination,” and submissives whose kink is spitting are sometimes called “spitslaves.”
Per Hawn, it’s common for people to spit in each other’s mouths in some forms of BDSM because it’s such a clear symbol of anger or disdain, two emotions that dominants often perform in scenes where consensual degradation, objectification or embarrassment are part of the power exchange with their submissive. It can also be appealing to some because it’s technically another form of penetration — anytime one person’s “A” goes into another person’s “B,” there’s room for erotic potential and increased intimacy. The fact that spitting into someone’s mouth can be unsanitary and infectious can heighten these effects — for people who are aroused by this particular after-school pastime, the danger of spit-swapping can make it feel even more intimate and intense.
And just what are these dangers? Well, many diseases can be transmitted through saliva, including norovirus (stomach flu), strep throat, hepatitis B, mononucleosis and the viruses that cause common colds and flu. Additionally, if someone has open sores or cuts in their mouth at the time of mouth-spitting, it’s also possible to transmit herpes and HIV (though it’s very unlikely). That’s why Hawn cautions that spitting in someone’s mouth isn’t something you should just up and do because you saw it in porn or in a meme. Rather, it’s something that’s best practiced when it’s “negotiated and agreed upon within safe, sane and consensual role-play.”
Paradoxically, though, that risk is also probably why it’s having such a cultural moment — as this BuzzFeed tribute to Trevante Rhodes proves, saying “spit in my mouth” has become an endearingly “now” way to say “you’re so hot I’d let you give me strep.” Is there any bigger compliment?
However, in spite of its strep potential, Hawn does have some choice tips for making it more sanitary and enjoyable in case you find yourself swept up in this hot salivary moment. “The best route for couples to incorporate spitting into their play more responsibly is to make sure they’re fluid-bonded and both in good health,” she says. “And whether you’re a smoker, a spicy foods enthusiast or a regular drinker of alcohol, a freshly clean mouth is almost always preferred to the quick fixes of gum, mints or sprays. These tend to muddy our partner’s natural taste and smell, which is what we’re usually attracted to in the first place.”
But if giving up whole jalapeños and beer for an afternoon is too much to ask, never fret — you can participate in a half-baseball, half-spit holiday sweatshirt instead.