Ok, I know this is a lot for some of you on a Monday morning. Nevertheless, it’s true, we’re talking sex today.
More specifically: anal sex – as it ties into the gay community (obviously), but also beyond. What a way to start the week, am I right?
*Although I will sometimes use the term “gay sex” as a focal point here, I want to emphasize that anyone – gay or straight, he, she, or they – can benefit from chipping away at the stigma surrounding anal sex. Anal sex/play isn’t limited to the gay community and I think we can all benefit from a little less stigma in our sex lives.
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1. Why do we need to talk about sex?
Because, for the most part, we all do it, and therefore we all encounter the same questions, roadblocks, problems, etc. Yes, sex is something that’s unique and highly personal to each individual, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t common threads that tie all of our experiences together.
If we don’t get used to having open and honest discussions about sex, then those common threads may continue to go unconnected. In the end of the day, we all benefit from each others’ honesty.
2. Ok … so why do we need to talk about gay sex?
I’m not the first one to do the whole “we need to talk about sex openly” stump speech – not by a landslide. From comedy/entertainment podcasts like Call Her Daddy to the more educationally-based words of Dr. Emily Morse, the host of the popular sex podcast, Sex With Emily, there are countless resources out there for those interested in open and honest conversations about sex from a straight perspective.
The internet doesn’t buzz as much when it comes to gay sex – at least, not unless you turn your safe search off.
While there are no-doubt many queer-oriented sex information and discussion resources out there, they tend not to drift into the mainstream as much. Other than adding in a few “or him, if that’s your thing” every odd sentence or so in Call Her Daddy, for example, the podcast hardly ever makes mention of gay sex – which makes total sense, given that a straight female runs the show.
In a world where open and honest conversations about sex are rare, finding the same thing in relation to gay sex is even rarer.
And as I said before, we need to have these conversations in order for people to benefit from them.
3. Fine, but what is there to talk about with anal sex?
Finally, we’re getting to the meat and bones of this sex talk issue. What the hell do you have to say about anal sex anyway, Till?? Alas, it seems like my time tiptoeing around my point has come to its inevitable end.
Anal sex, to me, has always been somewhat complicated. I always remember having a lot of questions about it.
How should you properly prep for it? What’s safe and what isn’t safe? Is it supposed to hurt?
The funny part is, most of the time my straight friends would expect me to answer these questions for them. I’m gay, so surely I would be an expert on anal sex, right?
In reality, I was about as much of an expert as some of my more sexually adventurous straight female friends were.
Besides watching it happen in porn and experimenting with it in the bedroom, I didn’t really have solid answers to any of the questions I was being bombarded with (both by myself and my more curious of friends).
The only reason I can think of as to why that is is because, like I said before, hardly anyone ever talks about it.
As a gay person, anal is something you’re told you just do … and yet no one ever tells you that.
In my case, I think I found out anal was a thing through sly gay jokes in Middle School and, obviously, from watching porn. Aside from those two very unreliable sources, it was like gay sex didn’t exist. No one ever talked about it in Sex Ed, there was no “the talk” I could ever have with my two straight parents that would suffice to teach me about it, and, from what I could tell, most of my straight and gay friends alike were all just as answer-less as I was.
Now, in the interest of getting less answer-less, I’m going to dedicate the rest of this newsletter to attempting to research and answer some of my own burning questions.
So, let’s break it down, shall we?
By “prep” for anal sex, I mean a lot more than just making sure you’re all clean down there (although that’s certainly part of it).
If you’re thinking about trying something new sexually, the first person you should do it with is always yourself.
*Ok, I get that that’s not always possible, but it works in this case.
Get yourself a sex toy specifically for anal, maybe even something that’s designed to stimulate your prostate – if you have one (the added pleasure will make the whole thing easier and … well, more pleasurable). Love Honey does some good work.
From there, experiment on your own and find out what you’re comfortable with, what you like, and what you definitely don’t like. Testing the waters beforehand in this way will help ease you into the act, not to mention take a lot of the dramatics out of future attempts.
It doesn’t have to be your first time either.
I didn’t buy anything remotely resembling a sex toy until I had already graduated college. Prior to experimenting with myself that way, I really didn’t feel too comfortable with anal – it was painful, awkward, and I always felt like there was something wrong with me that I coudn’t just enjoy it straight out the gate (shoutout to unrealistic porn for instilling me with that fear).
To be honest, it wasn’t a full 180 – I still haven’t gotten to a point where I’m 100% totally and completely comfortable with anal sex, but it has lost a lot of its mystery and intimidation.
For the longest time, I thought you had to use an anal douche or enema to prep for anal sex. Having never really boned up to buy such a thing (pun intended), I held myself back from really diving into anal sex because I always thought I wasn’t “clean enough”.
As it turns out, it’s perfectly ok to not douche or enema – not to mention safer and healthier.
Instead, an entertaining and informative Vice article on the problematic nature of douching before sex makes the case in favor of a simple pre-sex shower.
The two medical experts interviewed by the reporter, Dr. Stephen Goldstone and Dr. Evan Goldstein both come to the conclusion that “using plain water to clean the butthole and a little bit inside” is perfectly ok.
*If not, they say, there may be some issues with your diet or gut health overall.
This is because, contrary to popular belief, your poop isn’t just sitting inside your rectum. Instead, it’s stored in the part of your large intestine closest to your rectum and anus, called the sigmoid colon. According to Dr. Goldstein, there’s a muscle at the end of the sigmoid colon that keeps your stool from escaping out into the rectum and anus until it’s actually time to go.
So ignore those anal sex urban legend/personal horror stories.
The truth is that, so long as you adhere to the general standards of good hygiene, you are clean enough to get down and dirty.
*But hopefully not too dirty, if you know what I mean.
This is the question you’ll basically find asked all over the internet only about a bajillion times.
Why? I’m not quite sure, but somewhere along the way – whether it was 2,000 years ago in the age of the bible or just 25-years-ago around the time of the supposed peak of the AIDs epidemic – anal became taboo to the ultimate degree.
Not only was “sodomy” declassé to speak of and punishable under U.S. law for a long, long time, but it also got a reputation for being unsafe – dangerous, even.
This history of an unsafe reputation has, in my own experience, deeply affected the way we view anal sex today. Since it was never part of the curriculum in SexEd or discussed openly … well, anywhere, it became something that for a long time only existed in porn, gay jokes, and middle school urban legends.
Before I was even remotely interested in allowing it to exist in the bedroom, I already had a few suitcases to unpack in my subconscious when it came to anal:
Suitcase #1: It hurts
Suitcase #2: It’s dirty
Suitcase #3: It’s unnatural
I wasn’t raised in a religious or particularly conservative family whose beliefs made them intolerant of gay sex, and yet traces and semblances of these largely baseless fears rooted themselves in my head anyway. To me, that’s proof that we have a lot of growing left to do as a society, let alone as individuals.
So, that preface/rant aside – is anal sex safe?
As almost every article I’ve read on the matter says, the answer is a resounding “yes and no”. Satisfying, huh?
If you’re doing it “safely”, which means taking the proper precautions to test yourself for STI’s on a regular basis, wearing a condom, using plenty of lube, and communicating openly and honestly with your partner(s), then yes, it’s safe.
But no, it’s not entirely safe, as virtually no sex act is (straight, gay, or what have you). Anal is not risk-free and it remains the “riskiest type of sex for getting or transmitting HIV” according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (hence the HIV/AIDs epidemic being so prevalent amongst gay men.
But let’s get our facts separated from our stigmas here.
The increased risk factor of anal sex has everything to do with the anal lining being thin and thereby easily subject to small tears and scratches that can allow the transfer of viruses/bacteria into the body and nothing to do with the “gayness” of the couple doing it.
Straight people having regular anal sex are just as susceptible to HIV infection as their gay counterparts. Period.
This is the question I hear and see most often.
Out of all the stories of anal sex I’ve ever heard, “pain” is the SEO buzz word that just keeps popping up.
Planned Parenthood has an “Ask the Experts” section with a dedicated answer for “Does Anal Sex Hurt?” that sums up the answer to this question very nicely.
But if that’s too long and you didn’t read, then here’s my 5-second summary: Anal sex can be painful if your partner doesn’t use enough lube (ideally water-based) or if you’re not communicating how you’re feeling to them properly. Also, they add, anal just isn’t for everyone. Some people just don’t like how it feels, no matter how much lube they throw at it, and that’s perfectly ok.
If it were me, I would also add that anal can be painful if you don’t prepare for it properly.
Like I shared in the first section of this newsletter (Command F “How should you properly prep for anal sex?” or scroll up to jump back to it), I only got more comfortable with it when I got comfortable with trying things out on my own.
This got me to be a lot more relaxed when it came to sex, and I think that’s a key to making it a lot less painful and a lot more enjoyable.
Considering all the mental stigma, fear, and anxiety surrounding anal, it’s no wonder a lot of us aren’t totally relaxed and chilled out when it comes time to get down to it. All those anxieties can leave us tightened up, and being on the receiving end in that situation is painful.
So explore anal sex by yourself first and practice letting down your guard, so to speak. And if you’re still not quite at the end of your “painful to painless” journey, don’t sweat – neither am I.
End-of-article, obligatory I’m-not-a-sexpert disclaimer!
I’m not a trained medical professional, I’m not an expert on the intricacies of sex (and sexual safety), and, to top it all off, I wouldn’t even consider myself at the top of the recreational/amateur league.
This is why I sourced my claims when I felt the need for backup and made it clear that I was relying on personal experience/opinion when I didn’t.
Maybe one day I’ll be a sexpert – who knows, life is long. But that day is not today.
Make sure to do your own research in addition to reading these words (and start by clicking the helpful articles/sources of information I’ve linked throughout the article).
And that was That’s Gay, Volume 3. See you in Volume 4, folks!
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