How To Have Gay Anal Sex
The Psychological Obstacles
IS BOTTOMING A THREAT TO MASCULINITY?
When was the last time you heard someone make fun of a top? Never. But bottoms? Wow, let us count the ways. From dismissing comments (“Oh, he’s just a big bottom”) to derisive jokes (“Why did the gay man cross the road? He heard the chicken was a top”) we ridicule bottoming in countless ways.
Can you imagine somebody saying, “There’s nothing but tops in this town?” Exactly. You can’t. The most exalted thing you can say about a gay man, the biggest compliment you can pay him, is to call him a “top.” And the worst thing you can say about him, the best way to put him down, is to call him a “bottom.” Why? Because a lot of people buy into the idea that…
Real Men Don’t Bottom
This is the single biggest emotional stumbling block gay men have about bottoming—being labeled less than a man. For many of us, bottoming isn’t an opportunity to enjoy a pleasurable sexual experience but an act that threatens our sense of masculinity and the respect that goes with it.
Many gay men believe if they bottom they will become “a bottom.” They fear that bottoming will create a new, unwanted identity for them; that they’ll become, ahem, the butt of everyone’s jokes.
It just may be that you haven’t been able to bottom (or been able to enjoy it) because you have so many emotional issues around the act. If you can get away from the falsehood of bottoming as an identity and see it for what it is—an erotic activity–the more relaxed and receptive you will be.
It might be helpful to understand how so many of us came to associate bottoming with effeminacy. The answer can be found in one of the most important gay books you’ll ever read–historian Byrne Fone’s, Homophobia: A History. He makes well-documented assertions that sex between men in Ancient Greece was “normal” and idealized, but that there were strict rules regarding its conduct. There were Homo Do’s and Homo Don’ts. And the biggest Don’t was to enjoy the receiving end of penetration.
Being the penetrator was synonymous with being a man. Anything that subverted the concept of masculinity was punished with social ostracism and ridicule. And nothing mocked masculinity more than getting penetrated.
Greeks and Romans didn’t really care whom you had sex with (women, men, boys, slaves) as long as you were the penetrator. The Romans even had a word for it: Vir.
It was an exalted term, symbolizing the ideal man: He who penetrates other men but is himself not penetrated.
Today we still live out those vestiges of antiquity. We label men “tops” or “bottoms” in part because we’re living out antiquity’s fear of the feminine. In heterosexual thinking, the penetrator (man) is more valuable than the penetrated (women). We’ve adapted that consciousness in our own community, where the penetrator (top) is more valuable than the penetrated (bottom).
Clearly, labels like “top” and “bottom” can be a useful shorthand for sexual likes and dislikes. But instead of stating what we prefer– “I like to bottom”– we turned that preference into an identity—“I’m a bottom.”
By developing identities out of these labels we cut ourselves off of any unlabeled possibilities. In our world, tops can only date or hook up with bottoms and bottoms can only do the same with tops. That’s a whole lot of blindness in a sighted community.
I call bullshit.
To say that masculinity is defined by what you like in bed is weapons-grade, plutonium-level bullshit. Every time I hear somebody say it I want to yell what those two dyslexics burglars did when they stormed a bank—“Air in the hands, motherstickers! This is a fuck up!”
It is a fuck-up of monumental consequences to equate topping with masculinity and bottoming with femininity. Just like your sexual orientation says nothing about your character, your preference for bottoming or topping says nothing about your masculinity.
Labels Belong On Can, Not A Man.
I don’t like the words “top”, “bottom” or even “versatile” because, in the end, they’re labels. And while labels can sometimes act as helpful linguistic shorthand, they almost always morph into psychic prisons preventing you from experiencing all that there is to experience. There is no shame in being gay; there is no shame in liking to receive. The only thing shameful is how willing we are to buy into such bogus labels.
You will note throughout this book that I do not use the words “top” or “bottom” as identities but as verbs. I do not think you are a “top” because you prefer to insert. I do not think you are a “bottom” because you like to receive.
Unless you start seeing the words “top” and “bottom” as verbs instead of identities, it will be difficult for you to mentally relax enough to bottom without pain.
No amount of sphincter relaxation exercises, breathing patterns, and desensitization techniques can overcome a paralyzing fear of losing your masculinity. Unless you come to terms with your fears, unless you start rejecting the demonstrably false belief that receiving a penis makes you less than a man it will be very difficult for you to bottom at all, let alone pleasurably.
Question Your Assumptions
You can’t shut off a long-held belief as if it was a light switch, but you can make a lot of progress by questioning the assumptions you’ve internalized. Let’s start with the biggest one. It goes something like this:
- Men give their penises.
- Women receive them.
- Therefore, if you receive a penis you take the role of a woman.
Now, let’s test this assumption. Let’s assume that you, like the majority of gay men, like to give head. That means a man’s penis goes in (and out and in and out) of your mouth.
Well, guess what? Women receive penises in their mouths, too. If your sense of masculinity isn’t threatened by receiving a penis in your mouth (something women do), why would it be threatened by receiving it between your legs (something women also do)? They’re both orifices.
I have a couple of friends who are serious boxers. They both like to bottom. They also like to punch the crap out of their opponents in the ring. Bottoming did not turn them into something they’re not. Nothing about who you are changes after receiving a penis in your mouth and nothing will change after receiving one in your butt.
Now, let’s tackle a related fear that often stops guys from even considering the idea of bottoming. It usually comes in the form of a question.
Will I Become An Insatiable Bottom?
Another common belief associated with the “bottoming makes you a woman” myth is that you might like bottoming so much you’ll never want to do anything else. Funny how nobody worries that they’ll become an insatiable top.
The idea that you’ll get trapped by trying something new in bed is yet another sex-negative belief. If you try steak and love it does that mean you’ll never eat chicken again? If you see a drama and love it does that mean you’ll never watch a comedy again?
We are expanded, not trapped, by what we like. And even if you end up preferring to bottom over any other activity, so what? Adding new experiences to your life doesn’t subtract anything from who you are.
Remember, labels belong on a can, not a man. Beware the associations you subconsciously make about sexual positions. Look at the title of this section again (“Will I Become An Insatiable Bottom?”). Would it have struck as much fear in you if I had written, “Will I Become An Insatiable Top?”
No, because there is no stigma to topping. But to many gay men, bottoming has a lingering stench of effeminacy.
A Better Take On Your Sexuality
Most men live out their lives in a false dichotomy between the masculine and the feminine. We approach it as an either-or proposition: You can give or receive, but you can’t do both.
Why not? Who said? What do we lose when we’re forced to decide one way or the other? What do we gain if we choose both? Nobody answered these questions more beautifully than the hero of Tom Spanbauer’s novel, The Man Who Fell In Love With The Moon. He tells a young bisexual guy a fable about a mythological character he calls the Wild Moon Man.
“Story Goes he takes you to the bottom of the lake to his home, and teaches you how to breathe water instead of air. If you don’t trust him and do what he says you drown and they find you floating the next morning. But if you do trust him and do as he says, story goes, when you start breathing water, that muddy old hairy goat—the Wild Moon Man— turns into a beautiful, strong warrior and he teaches you many secrets about the true power of being a man.
When the Wild Moon man takes you underwater, to the hairy rusty mud, he’s taking you to your asshole. To the place that’s as female as a man can get. You find your natural male power through your asshole, not your dick. You find your prostate. Fire down there, under all that mud and hair and water. You find in yourself what most men love women for: Their ecstasy, their hole into the other world. By receiving a man into you, by receiving a man like a woman, by being as female as a man can get, what you find– if you don’t drown– is the beautiful warrior in yourself who knows both sides.
Men like us are lucky. We’ve learned to breathe water.”
There are two emotional blocks that can make bottoming exceedingly difficult: The fear that bottoming will be an excruciatingly painful experience or that it will destroy your self-conception. The solutions are simple:
1. Question the assumptions you’ve made about receiving a penis. Giving and receiving are different sides of the male coin. You are not any more male if you top than if you bottom. Bottoming will not strip you of your masculinity.
2. Mentally sign a No Pain Contract.
Your mantra should be no way, no how, not ever. By replacing an expectation of pain with the anticipation of pleasure you will relieve yourself of a tremendous, paralyzing burden that keeps you from bottoming successfully.
Now that we’ve handled the psychological blocks that might stop you from bottoming, let’s talk about the very real physical challenge before you: How do you get something as large as a penis through something as small as your sphincter without dialing 911?