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Health

Let’s Talk About Anal Sex

Photo: pixabay/Olichel

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In my recent MainlyMale article “Stop Shaming Me for Not Being ‘Top or Bottom’,” I explored the negative affect my general distaste for anal sex has had on my love life. Despite the side-eye and outright rejection I sometimes face because of it, gay men, even those who don’t consider themselves to be “versatile,” might be more flexible than I thought.

We included a survey with the story asking readers to share their own feelings about anal sex, and the results gave me hope. If, like me, you’re a guy who can take anal sex but would rather leave it, you’re not only not alone, but you’re in pretty decent company.

Stop Shaming Me for Not Being “Top or Bottom”

Tops down, bottoms up

First, we asked how you feel about anal sex, and a whopping majority of respondents said they’re into it. No surprise there.

Nearly 84 percent of the gay men who filled out the survey “really enjoy” anal sex. Of that number, 45 percent consider themselves to be “bottoms,” while 21 percent identify as “tops,” and 35 percent call themselves “versatile.”

The majority of men who left comments are “versatile,” and a number of them qualify their versatility as leaning more towards “bottom.” Some prefer their partners to be as open to switching positions as they are.

“Frustrated by guys who are fixed as tops or bottoms,” one person wrote.

Another expounded on that theme: “I’m versatile, though depending on my mood and the person I’m having sex with, sometimes all I want to do is bottom or I may want to top.

“Mainly I prefer to go with the flow, and prefer partners who do the same,” he continued. “So-called ‘top only’ and ‘bottom only’ guys make sex boring, which is why versatile guys are the best for me. I’m a strong believer in reciprocation during sex.”

A third wrote: “I would call myself a relationship bottom — I enjoy bottoming, but on a hook-up I find it very difficult to, well, let a guy in.”

The takeaway: The number of butt pics you might receive online from self-described (or implied) “hungry bottoms” on any given day tell only part of the story. There are a lot more “top” and “versatile” guys out there than Grindr might lead us to believe.

Can’t we just cuddle?

Interestingly, more men dislike anal sex than are indifferent to it. Of the 16 percent who don’t particularly enjoy going there, 10 percent “really don’t like it” and “avoid it when I can or always avoid it.” Only 6 percent don’t mind it but would rather do other things in bed.

“I have tried anal sex several times — both giving and receiving — and I know that it is definitely not for me,” one person revealed.

Hey 16 percenters, feel free to give me a shout if you ever spot me on the grid.

As for anal sex or the lack of it becoming an issue in gay relationships, the threat, though not overwhelming, is real.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Nickjake876
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Nickjake876


We asked if your preferences regarding anal sex have ever affected your sex life/dating/relationships in a negative way.

A majority of guys — 59 percent — said no (lucky them!), while 26 percent said anal sex has gotten in the way of short- and long-term romantic bliss. And then there were 13 percent who claimed to be unsure. With so many other possible contributing factors to sex lives and love lives going bust, it must be hard for some to narrow it down to “Top or bottom?” — or “Can’t we just cuddle?”

“Some men just don’t understand that another gay man might not be into anal sex,” one person wrote. “I’ve missed out on a few dates because of this. They just can’t deal with it.”

Living in a “Top or bottom?” world

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While some of us might cringe at “Top or bottom?” as an introductory line on Grindr (one respondent called it “rude” and decried the lack of a “versatile” option), it’s something that eventually needs to be addressed if things progress past the one-night-stand phase. It might be to gay men what “Do you want to have kids?” has long been to straight couples.

In the end, we can all acknowledge that sexual compatibility is important while understanding that sex doesn’t have to be about just one outcome. If you’re too focused on the penetration part, you may miss out on all the equally explosive things that can happen before, after, and besides anal sex.

“Please talk about hands-free cumming,” one commenter suggested.

Well, that would be an interesting start — er, finish.

Didn’t get to take the survey? Share your point of view in the comments.

We want to hear your opinion

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Health

Sunday Surgery

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Photo by Jesper Aggergaard on Unsplash
Photo by Jesper Aggergaard on Unsplash

Are we living in a post-HIV world?
In recent years we’ve seen a seismic shift in the effectiveness of treatment for HIV, as well as the emergence of PrEP — medication that prevents you from acquiring HIV.

This combination of factors has contributed towards a dramatic change in the attitude of gay men towards HIV, health, and sex.

It’s been difficult for public health policy to keep up, but it’s also difficult for older gay men like me to get our heads around the changing landscape of sex.

Official reports indicate that AIDS has killed over 35 million people worldwide. It’s estimated that around the world there are currently over 37 million people living with HIV.

In June of 1981, when the beginnings of the HIV pandemic were first being identified, I was approaching my ninth birthday. Lucky I guess, too young to be impacted by the first devastating waves of the virus that killed so many young gay men.

As I was beginning to discover sex, the public health messages very strongly articulated that sex without a condom equalled death.

It’s a bit hard to describe how that constant fear of infection and death shapes your view and experience of sex. I guess I’ve got no way of knowing what things would have been like without that — I like to think that it might have been something like San Francisco in the 70s, or a long, lust-filled summer on Fire Island.

I survived. I was careful. I was lucky.

It wasn’t until I saw the 2003 documentary The Gift that I became aware of the fetishisation of HIV, and a growing movement of men who embraced the risk and health consequences of fucking without condoms, of letting guys cum in you, the thrill of raw, or ‘bareback’ sex between men. It was an uninhibited hedonism best captured by the porn of Paul Morris and Treasure Island Media.

It’s easy to judge and disapprove of risk-taking behaviour, but there was something incredibly compelling about this type of no-holds-barred sex — no fear, no care for consequences.

The improvements in medication and the emergence of PrEP have now made bareback sex the norm. Not only in porn — where it’s now highly unusual to see anyone using a condom — but also in everyday life.

Health professionals sensibly remind us that condoms are still worth wearing as they protect us from a whole range of sexually transmitted infections, not just HIV, but the reality is that for many men sex is better when you don’t have to wear a condom.

For me, it’s a bit of a mind-trip that testing positive for HIV is no longer a death-sentence, that you can have sex without a condom and not worry if one of you might have the virus. That you can have no-holds-barred sex, with no fear, and no care for consequences.

It’s fantastic that today’s young gay guys, who are just beginning to discover and explore sex, don’t have to worry about HIV. Obviously they need to learn about it, they need to have access to PrEP, and they need to understand the full gamut of sexual health, but it’s just part of life.

Let’s not forget our history, let’s not forget the people we’ve lost, but let’s be thankful that young guys today are growing up in a world that’s something a bit like San Francisco in the 70s, or a long, lust-filled summer on Fire Island.

We may now be living in a post-HIV world.

Read more from Gareth Johnson

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