“Looking” Opens Our Minds—And Other Body Parts—To The Subject of “Anal Shame”

Sunday night’s episode of HBO’s Looking was dedicated almost entirely to Jonathan Groff’s ample booty. Richie, the dude Groff’s character, Patrick, is dating, jokingly accused him of analphobia when he acknowledged his discomfort at being penetrated, suggesting that he’s unconsciously trying to please his parents by eschewing the socially stigmatized role of bottoming.

So like the curious homos we are, we decided to do a little research into this concept.

The all-knowing Urban Dictionary defines analphobia thusly: “When you have a fear of anything to do with the anus, or anyone touching you there.”

While Grindr and SCRUFF boast a plethora of eager bottoms proudly proclaiming their preference, it’s real malady from which some gay men actually do suffer.

In fact, one of our favorite bloggers, Mark S. King, wrote about his struggles with all things anal in his essay Probing My Anal Phobia. King’s conundrum was “exploring the pleasures of my tush while fighting the terror that something stinky might be going on down there.”

The fear of “something stinky” is legit. Empty Closets is an online forum for LGBT people to anonymously share whatever is on their minds. Not surprisingly, analphobia is a hot topic. Many Empty Closets users share King’s concern about sex turning scatological.

“I think it is disgusting to insert a penis into a hole designed for excreting human waste,” an Anonymous user writes. “I love sucking cock, I just don’t care for the poop chute. My butt is exit only.”

Another user, Steele, adds: “I’ve always only seen it as the place you defecate out of, so the thought of doing anything sexual with it just seems disgusting to me.”

Fair enough.

The other fear men on Empty Closets have is the potential for pain.

User Pixxo2009 keeps it simple: “Anal sex hurts.”

“I find taking a dump painful, so how could I handle that?!” user Lewis adds, which may be TMI for some people.

Then, of course, there’s the issue of dominance and shame, and the belief that bottoming is somehow emasculating or degrading, which is what Groff’s character, Patrick, may suffer from. He acknowledges that, although his parents accept his homosexuality, he’s concerned they might buy into the stigma that bottoming somehow makes him less of a man.

For a range of reasons, the bottom bunk is deemed by bias the weaker or less desirable position. It’s a deeply ingrained prejudice that has plagued humankind since antiquity, when war rape was used as a tool to dominate and humiliate both women and men.

In a post on another online forum called Straight Acting, user Nimby, claiming to be a sex therapist, writes:

“Bottoming brings up deeply held, often unexamined attitudes about gender roles, power, desire, being gay, and being yourself. What stops men from embracing the pleasure of bottoming almost always has to do with the personal meaning one attaches to the experience.”

Nimby then quotes the late author and psychologist Jack Morin:

“Virtually all men in our society learn negative attitudes toward homosexuality early in life. Those who turn out to be gay internalize these antigay messages, sometimes to a greater degree than straight men… A great many men try to suppress, at all cost, the soft, receptive aspects of themselves. They fear their masculinity will be compromised and, therefore, their value as people reduced.”

Internalized homophobia. Got it. But what about guys who simply don’t enjoy anal play or prefer another aspect of their polymorphous selves? It doesn’t have anything to do with poo, pain, or shame. It’s just not for them. Are they supposed to be in denial, too?

“I just don’t find it appealing,” Empty Closets user Duriru says. “But if my partner wanted to do it, I’d consider doing it.”

“I don’t dislike it — I just seem to enjoy other things more,” user Lexington adds. “Maybe because anal involves prep work?”

“Personally, it just doesn’t interest me – giving or receiving,” user Cscipio writes. “I’m really only interested in giving oral, honestly.”

User Gerry gets it absolutely right when he says: “There’s nothing wrong with someone not being into anal sex.”

Gay people are no more defined by what they (or don’t do) in the bedroom than non-gays, who certainly love to indulge in some backdoor banditry of their own. A man can still be gay without ever coming close to another man’s planet Uranus. Although we are firm believers of the “don’t dog it ’til you try it” rule. As is Patrick, in the end.

Just be sure to wrap it up when you do!