Weirdly, we have to tell gay guys that it’s perfectly fine to like and enjoy anal sex. The AGE of AIDS did a number on our collective psyches about sex and those we have it with. We lost an entire generation to this virus, and those left in the aftermath are like the walking wounded. If you are under 40, you have always lived in a world with HIV but have been fortunate enough to see it go from a death sentence to a manageable illness (1 pill a day treatment) and a 99% effective prevention tool in #PrEP.
Along these lines, we have watched as society has moved from safe sex to safer sex to informed and educated sex. Best of all, we no longer have to live in fear of those living with HIV, as #UequalsU has been proven. This has changed how many in our community view anal sex. But we still have a long way to go in combating HIV fear and stigma.
Where once it was frowned upon in certain circles (jerk-off clubs replaced bath houses), anal has been given a new public life. But some gays really don’t like this. An ugly vein of internalized homophobia runs through our community, saying: “ANAL SEX IS BAD, ANAL SEX STILL EQUALS AIDS. ANAL SEX IS UNHEALTHY. ANAL SEX IS WRONG.”
This small but vocal group of gay men is very public about not liking anal sex, and their stance can be problematic and even dangerous. We are not talking about those guys who self-identify as both gay and “sides”; they just want to have their sexual choice, not to have anal sex, respected. No, we are talking about those judgmental guys who think they speak for and control all of us. These are the moral minority who use their personal choice as a sword against other gay males as a method of shaming.
True enough, anal isn’t for everyone, but it is for many gay males. And that is ok. What isn’t ok are gay guys going on the internet and talking about how most gay men don’t like anal sex and never have it. Those are lies that harm other gay males and the concept of a sex-positive community. Further, this mindset makes conversations about educated anal sex more difficult, increases HIV stigma, and forces some guys back into the closet about their sexual lives and activities. It also continues the negative narrative that those who enjoy anal sex are self-hating masochists who seek pain over pleasure and chase death.
Steven Gregory Underwood is the author of Gay Men and Anal Eroticism; he writes that “roughly three-fourths of gay men have had anal sex at one time or another throughout their lives. Now, assuming these men continue having anal sex, that leaves a quarter of all gay men that have either never tried or no longer have anal.”
One-quarter of gay males is a significant amount, but it is not many, most or all. There is no need to exaggerate the number of guys not having anal sex to make the point that not every dude likes it up the butt.
As much as we hate to do it, a quote from Dan Savage sums it all up: “a majority of gay men do fuck ass and/or get their asses fucked — in fact, a supermajority of gay men fuck ass and/or get their asses fucked.”
12 Reasons why
No matter how you feel about anal sex, the truth is that most gay men do love it, are doing it, have done it in the past, and will do it again in the future. Saying most gay men don’t like anal sex is like saying most straights don’t like vaginal sex. Are there some that don’t? Of course. Is it enough to claim that most don’t? Of course not. But we want to start with a bit of logic to prove our point. (just because we can)
If we take a look at HIV infection rates alone, they show that anal sex is the most common mode of virus transmission, second only to blood transfusions. Now, let’s take a quick look at gay male HIV infections worldwide to see if our community likes anal sex.
Gay and bisexual men are the population most affected by HIV in the United States. In 2016, gay and bisexual men accounted for 67% of the 40,324 new HIV diagnoses in the United States and six dependent areas despite making up less than 2% of the general population.
There are significant disparities by race. African American / black men who have sex with men are more affected by HIV than any other group in the USA, with one in two likely to be diagnosed with HIV, compared to one in four Hispanic / Latino men who have sex with men and one in 11 white men who have sex with men.
In western and central Europe, the epidemic is increasingly concentrating on men who have sex with men. In the last ten years, the proportion of infections due to heterosexual sex in western Europe has fallen by 41% and to injecting drugs by 48%, while the proportion due to sex between men has increased by 7%.
In Western and Central Europe, more than 80% of new HIV infections in 2014 in Hungary, Croatia, and Slovenia were among men who have sex with men.
The proportion ascribed to sex between men in eastern Europe is still only 4% – but this represents a tenfold increase. In some states such as Belarus and Estonia, infections in MSM were regarded as scarcely existing ten years ago – which means that the 58 cases recorded in Belarus and the 18 in Estonia last year represent proportionally big increases.
Another country that has seen significant increases since 2010 is Ireland, with a 47% increase relative to 2010 and a 43% increase from 2014 to 2015 – again, mostly in gay men.
In France, there appears to have been a significant drop of 30% in diagnoses notified between 2014 and 2015, and a 40% drop in gay men. Fewer than 1000 HIV cases were reported in French gay men last year, a third as many as in the UK. In contrast, reported diagnoses have risen by 36% in Germany since 2010 (33% in gay men), and this country reported nearly as many new HIV cases as France last year.
In 2016, the UK saw a 21% reduction in new infections among men who have sex with men from 2015 levels, the first decline among this group since the epidemic began. Despite this, men who have sex with men are significantly more affected by HIV than any other group, accounting for an estimated 43% of people living with HIV, even though we make up around 1% of the population.
In Canada, around 54% of all new infections occurring in 2014 were among men who have sex with men.
Australia is a further example of the HIV epidemic among men who have sex with men in a high-income country within the region. While prevalence here has declined overall, it rose among men who have sex with men, with 16.5% of men who have sex with men living with HIV. This rise is despite an increase in access to antiretroviral treatment.
HIV prevalence among men who have sex with men in Asia is exceptionally high in urban areas. Cities such as Bangkok in Thailand, Yangon in Myanmar, and Yogyakarta in Indonesia have estimated HIV prevalence rates of between 20% and 29%.
Across the region, it has been found that men who have sex with men become infected by HIV at a young age. One study in Bangkok found that HIV incidence among those aged 18 to 21 was more than double that among men over 30. Around half of all men who have sex with men in the region are under 25.
- Some might read these statistics and use them to argue against gay male anal sex. But they should be used to do the exact opposite. Gay guys are obviously having anal sex, and the threat of HIV hasn’t slowed it down. These statistics prove why we need to keep talking about anal sex honestly and that interventions such as #UequalsU and #PrEP need to be as much a part of our sexual knowledge as condoms.
Straight vs. Gay
Shame and stigma
If you were born and/or grew up in Western society, you have some amount of shame or stigma attached to being gay. FACT! Some experts talk about internalized homophobia and how, on some level, every gay man has a form of it. Homophobia is ingrained within our society and us. This fact is borne out in how some of us feel about anal sex, especially bottoming because it is the ultimate expression of homosexual physical intimacy.
“There are stigmas associated with men who have anal sex with other men. The top is often thought to be the dominant partner, while the bottom is considered the more submissive. This isn’t always true. So, anal sex can pose a problem to a bottom that doesn’t want to be seen as or feel like the “weaker” or less dominant man. There is also the comparison with straight couples: the bottom would be commonly seen as the female role in heterosexual intercourse.”
Because the dominant Judeo/Christian value system, enforced by parents, churches, schools, and governments, tells us that our natural sexual desires are dirty and against god, it is not surprising some guys must work hard to overcome these teachings against anal sex. The thought of two guys having anal makes many straights sick to their stomachs. But, if anal sex makes gay guys so bad and the sexual act is that horrid, why do so many straights do it?
Now, we don’t usually like to talk about other groups that aren’t gay males but here are some things you might find interesting about what your brother does sexually with his girlfriend/wife.
A decade ago, about one-third of the heterosexual couples in Britain occasionally had anal sex, whereas about 10.0% mentioned it being a preferred or regular method. To two-thirds of British gay men, anal sex was a regular part of their sexual experience besides mutual masturbation and oral sex. This means that, in absolute numbers, more heterosexuals were having anal sex than there were MSM. Anal sex is becoming increasingly prevalent in heterosexual relationships.
According to a Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report titled “Sexual Behavior, Sexual Attraction and Sexual Identity in the United States,” which reportedly polled thousands of people between the ages of 15 and 44 from 2006 through 2008, found that 44 percent of straight men and 36 percent of straight women admitted to having had anal sex at least once in their lives.
A Dec. 22, 2011 piece by Hugo Schwyzer, a professor of gender studies and history at Pasadena City College, implied that anal sex (which he calls “the most selfless of common sexual acts” given the amount of pain the “bottoming” partner endures in its practice) could be on the rise due to its frequent appearance in both heterosexual porn and mainstream media as well as increased pressure from heterosexual male partners. He also cited several sources who seemed to cast doubt on how pleasurable the act was for women.
In 1994, Laumann et al. estimated that 80.0% of gay men practiced anal intercourse, and 20.0% never engaged in it. That same year, a survey in The Advocate reported that 46.0% of gay men preferred to be top and penetrate their partners, whereas 43.0% preferred to be the receptive partner. Another (longitudinal) survey conducted in San Francisco by the Stop AIDS Project reported an increase from 57.6% in 1994 to 61.2% in 1997 of the MSM engaging in anal sex throughout the study.
A study conducted by George Mason University in 2011, claiming to be the largest of its kind, concluded that very few gay men have anal sex at all. Through an online survey asking about the most recent sexual encounter of nearly 25,000 gay and bisexual men ages 18 to over 60 from across the United States. It showed that, at any given period, only about 35% of guys (or less) had actually participated in anal sex during their last sexual encounter. Most participants were white (84.6%) and identified as gay (85.9%). 57.4% received a bachelor’s degree or higher. This study has been used by many gay men who hate anal sex in their fight to get others to stop.
We have stated many times in other articles that we don’t trust online or self-reporting surveys. They tend to skew toward the researcher’s bias and cherry-pick from the community. Any study that is almost 85 percent white should be questioned based on pure demographic accuracy to begin with. But also, this study is ONLY ABOUT their most recent sexual encounter, not anal sex practices throughout their lives, or if those same guys enjoy anal sex in general and/or missed having it in their last encounter. For example, a guy could not have had anal sex during his last sexual meetingbut did every other time for the decade prior. His actual anal sex experiences wouldn’t be counted, just this last ONE.
So, while your brother and his wife are throwing caution to the wind and entering the back door, we gays still live in a world of self-hate, decrying the sexual act that is natural to many of us.
Gay men who don’t have anal sex are still at high risk of bacterial STIs
Fear of disease
As we always say, fearing contracting ANY STI is a waste of energy. Sexually transmitted diseases are as normal and ordinary, as sex itself. It is not a gay thing, an anal sex thing, or even a YOU thing. It is a human thing. We suggest you replace your fear with education about safer sex, including condoms and #PrEP and #UequalsU. If you are still afraid, we strongly recommend abstinence because it is the only way you will never contract an STI. We promise.
For some guys, fear of contracting HIV or another STI keeps them from practicing and/or enjoying anal sex. As we have stated, there are measures to help protect yourself, but we also want to let you know that not having anal sex doesn’t mean you are safe from STIs. No Sir!
Gay men may still have a significant risk of syphilis and urethral gonorrhea even if they do not have anal sex, a study published in Sexually Transmitted Infections suggests. The study was conducted in Melbourne, Australia, and involved gay and other men who have sex with men (MSM) undergoing sexual health screens between 2002 and 2012.
“We found a substantial and significant risk of PS [primary syphilis] and UGC [urethral gonorrhea] for men who had not had anal sex,” comment the authors. “This risk was not different from the risk of these infections in men reporting anal sex.”
Rates of syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea are increasing among gay men in many countries, driven by risky sexual behavior, improved diagnostic tests, and increased testing of samples from the throat and rectum (rather than just the penis).
Most health promotion campaigns targeted at gay men have sought to reinforce messages regarding the importance of condom use for anal sex. However, anal sex forms only part of the repertoire of sexual activities for most gay men. For instance, oral sex is much more frequently practiced than anal sex, and condoms are very rarely used. It is known that sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can be transmitted via activities other than anal sex.
Speaking of gonorrhea, Anyone having sex is at risk of getting this pesky infection. What should gay men, specifically, know? BETA turned to Pierre-Cédric Crouch, Ph.D., ANP, the nursing director at Strut, to fill us in. Here’s what he had to say.
“Condoms do a good job of helping to prevent gonorrhea transmission. But they’re not 100%, and that’s because of how gonorrhea is spread. Gonorrhea infection is caused by the bacteria N. gonorrhea, which can infect the mucous surfaces of the urethra (in the penis), rectum (butt), and throat.”
“Gonorrhea is spread by coming into contact with an infected body part. That means you can transmit gonorrhea even if no semen or blood is exchanged during sex. If you have gonorrhea in your penis and touch your penis and then finger your partner’s butt, you can give your partner gonorrhea in their butt, for instance. I’ve seen people who say, “I’m a top! How did I get gonorrhea in my butt?” Maybe their partner put their fingers in their butt, or they shared a sex toy. You can get a rectal gonorrhea infection even if you don’t bottom. The infection can even spread from your penis to your butt because they are so close to each other. You can get or give gonorrhea through mutual masturbation. There are a lot of ways it can spread.”
Our point is not to scare you off of physical contact with other gay males but rather to let you know that all sex carries some risk. Even if you don’t practice anal sex, you can still contract an STI, so don’t let fear keep you from doing something you might enjoy.
Butt, it hurts, and it’s dirty
Remember, the point of this article is not to convince Anyone to start having anal sex. This is a personal decision that only you can make for yourself. Also, your choice doesn’t need to be public information. But there are many books and videos about effectively having comfortable anal sex experiences. Here are a few essential tips:
- Use Lots of lubricant
- Foreplay (including rimming/kissing/nipple play)
- Clear Communication
A Pain in the butt
We are not going to lie; even with excellent preparation, the first anal sex experience for both the top and the bottom can be a bit painful or even a lot for the receptive partner. This is very normal as the body learns to adjust to this new activity. Over time, most guys learn how to practice anal sex and enjoy it very much. But some guys will never be able to be penetrated without some level of discomfort or pain. This is called Anodyspareunia (AD). A Belgium internet-based survey ( You know how we feel about these) on sexual behavior and sexual dysfunctions, called GAy MEn Sex StudieS, was administered to the MSM aged 18 years or older between April and December 2008. A part of the questionnaire focused on anal eroticism.
“A total of 1,752 Belgian MSM completed the questionnaire. Of the 1,190 (68%) participants who reported engaging in receptive anal sex in the last four weeks, 59% indicated having some anal pain during and after sexual intercourse. For 44%, the level of pain was acceptable. Mild AD was reported by 32%, 17% had mild to moderate AD, 4% had moderate AD, and 2% had severe AD. Independent predictors for AD presence were age, having a steady relationship, frequency of sex with their partner, number of sex partners, number of sex partners at the same time, and massaging the anal sphincter before anal sex. The prevalence and severity of AD among the MSM were lower among older participants, the MSM who more frequently had sex with their partner, and participants with a higher number of sex partners. Inadequate lubrication and lack of oral or digitoproctic stimulation before penetration were the most important factors predicting pain.”.
If you would like more adult-themed tips and suggestions for bottoming or general anal sex hygiene, we suggest our friends over at GMFA.
In conclusion, we would like every gay male to have great sex, but you and only you can decide what that means. Get out there, and most of all, enjoy yourself!
Tags: anal sex, gay anal sex fear, gay anal sex stigma, gay male anal sex, gay male bacterial STI, gay male HIV stats around the world, STD without anal sex