“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!

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  • LubbockGayMale

    S**T happens, it’s natural and part of being human. So what’s wrong when a whiff is detected when having fun? Not my problem, but I understand others who do have a problem… they were raised in society to believe anything scatological was NASTY, Perverse, unspeakable. After all, why do we spend so much money on TP with scents? It’s the modern gay males’ Victorian sensibility; instead of sex in the dark, sex can’t involve the anus!

  • Cam

    People stress WAAAAAAYYYYY too much.

    If you like it fine, if you don’t oh well. But the whole “It’s an exit” thing seems a bit silly considering that you don’t hear straight men complaining about the fact that urine and baby’s come out of the vagina.

  • ralpo

    @Cam: Ummm female anatomy clarification. Urine doesn’t come out of the vagina. It has it’s own little hole, just like a penis :)

  • Cam


    Ok, if you’re going to get Technical. ;)

    It does pass the Vulva, which the straight guys would have to go through.

    And you make a good point about the Penis. Urine comes out of there also. I mean if they don’t want to have anal fine, but using the bodily fluids argument just seems weird to me.

  • viveutvivas

    What’s the second picture doing there?

  • Arkansassy

    A little off topic, but Jonathan Groff’s character is horrible. Not sure if he’s a bad actor or he really doesn’t know what to do with the part, but I couldn’t even watch the last episode. If this show gets a second season they need to dump everyone but Murray Bartlett (Dom) and Lauren Weedman (Doris). The other two guys are annoying and uninteresting.

    P.S. Would keep Russell Tovey if possible.

  • robirob

    There’s a reason why the term ‘(but it) hurts so good!’ exists.

  • Cam


    Russel Tovey acts his part with more subtlety and realism than most of the others, I definitely agree with you on keeping him.

    His friend the “Artist” bugs me, and that guys boyfriend actually seems more interesting but they don’t ever use him not sure why.

  • tardis

    Anal sex is too intense. It’s a sensitive area. I don’t mind doing it for the right guy, but as far as one night stands go…sorry. It feels good, yes, but it also hurts. I guess I’m selective about it.

    I don’t know, anal sex is weird. I guess I’m still on the jury about it.

  • viveutvivas

    It really doesn’t hurt, though. Not if done right.

  • Paul

    I find anal sex extremely pleasurable. I am versatile and enjoy topping and bottoming (variety is the spice of life). It’s wonderful to explore all sexual positions and situations. I respect everyone’s own sexual expressions. If you’re going to get extremely technical and scientific about a sexual act, then of course it’s going to get gross. It’s not about the details. It’s about enjoyment, love, respect and expression.

  • Dixie Rect

    If you like it, do it, if you don’t like it, don’t do it. Remember, it’s your body and your choice.

  • Fitz

    @Cam: If you’ve got urine coming out of a vagina, you’ve got a woman in big trouble. Pack her up and take her to the ER.

  • Fitz

    I never understood the power trip about top/bottom. I don’t bottom much because I don’t like it much. I’ll do as a favor. But it’s up there with cleaning the attic or visiting your sister.

  • DavidAllenCummins

    Top or bottom.. Doesn’t really matter. The real question should be why is this show so boring? Dom’s character is the most interesting. The others seem forced, unrealistic and whiny. The topics they converse about are materialistic and their motivations aren’t believable. This show needs some serious rewriting.

  • tohe

    This show makes me long for QAF.

  • dougmc92

    is the scar that he has just for the show? He doesn’t have one (on his upper right chest) in pics above…or did he have an accident and get it since????

  • CCTR

    super special episode i actually watched it twice, the creative team did an amazing job once again, it would be great if there were more than 8 episodes to the season

  • tookietookie

    This is a really sad and isolating topic for couples who struggle with differing needs about it. :(. Really one of the big surprises of adult gaydom.

  • tookietookie

    Let’s just spell it out – a lot of gay men would rather live waste their lives on the can’t get poop on dick frigid sad housewife fears than live fully and deeply in a psychological and sexual way with another man. They would rather be closet cases and/or drug addicts than release their inhibitions in a way that may require a little soap and water afterwards. How lazy. How f-ed up in this day and age is that?

  • bottom72

    I am 100% bottom for me it is such and emotional experience having a man deep within me looking into his eyes our souls moving as one. Physically it feels so amazing to me as well. Stuff sometimes occurs but I like to think I am with adults and we can move pass that.

  • inbama

    Lord, have people stopped douching?

  • rextrek

    WTF do u people want? damm are you spoiled – I WISH I had something like this show to watch when I was in my 20’s…..Grow up! Life isn’t all exciting 24/7, but YOU SHOULD know that already! I like the show – its moving at a nice pace…and the characters personalities are slowly opening up……and again – they’re older,and more mature then the QAF characters….

  • rextrek

    Lord, have people stopped douching?

    Feb 20, 2014 at 7:40 am · @Reply · Flag

    ..Im VERY Anal about Anal …..and HYGIENE IS PARAMOUNT!!!!!!

  • viveutvivas

    @inbama, I know! It is hygiene 101. Who are these people? Don’t they brush their teeth either?

  • Cam


    LOL! Frigid sad housewife fears. Well said. LOL

  • the other Greg

    I find it hard to believe that “anal shame” is an actual psychological thing. (What would your parents think? – gasp! – really?) Gee, you “millennials” are sure an inhibited and uptight bunch. :)

    I enjoyed the episode, and I like Richie more & more. But when I saw that part, it never even crossed my mind that he was bringing up any real psychological stuff. He was just trying to talk Patrick into letting him fuck him.

    Guys who like to fuck as tops will say literally ANYTHING to try to talk the other one into it. Get used to it. The talking, that is – if you really don’t enjoy the fucking, that’s OK.

    @viveutvivas: Ha – did you notice Patrick brush his teeth with his fingers? (Whatever happened to keeping a new, spare toothbrush around in case of tricks?)


    So are you saying by not engaging in anal sex one can’t “live fully and deeply in a psychological and sexual way with another man.”? WTF!?!

    I can’t with this tired old BS that says anyone with zero interest in colons is insufficiently gay. You do know there are other ways of giving and receiving sexual pleasure and being intimate and loving another man, right? Moreover by your reasoning strict tops or bottoms are also inhibited and not fully exploring their natures or whatever. Oh wait that’s a legitimate preference, right? Please allow non-anals (somebody please invent a term for this) the courtesy of exercising their preference without being labeled self-hating or failed homos. BTW drug addicted and/or closet case ? anal sex refusenik. And avoiding the waste pipe ? “wasting my life” Thank you.


    * does-not-equal symbol fail

    BTW drug addicted and/or closet case DOES NOT EQUAL anal sex refusenik. And avoiding the waste pipe DOES NOT EQUAL “wasting my life”

  • viveutvivas

    @the other Greg, no I didn’t notice. I can’t afford HBO. If anybody can let me know where to download ripped episodes, I’d be all ears.

  • Niall

    Some people just don’t like it. Had some friends who at a point started saying the prostate must be a made up thing as they just weren’t enjoying it at all

  • tookietookie

    @PRINCE OF SNARKNESS aka DIVKID: Ha ha that is funny, I do think strict tops and bottoms are inhibited. I realize there are other ways to be intimate, and I’m not against people having their preferences in these matters, but I have my opinion about what they’re missing, so be tired of it all you want.

  • alanj

    @CCTR: @rextrek:
    That was one very good episode last week – especially as a counterpoint to the previous episode with the tension and repression between Tovey & Groff.
    I don’t understand the need for certain posters to repeatedly slam something they don’t like or understand, do you?

  • CCTR

    @alanj: I have my theories as to why certain posters slam the show but more importantly it’s nice to know there are some who do appreciate and enjoy the show.

  • alanj

    Some very good writing on tv at the moment: Looking, True Detective and even Banshee had an exceptional episode 2 weeks ago.

  • inbama

    @viveutvivas: LOL. I bet they don’t get a lot of second dates.

  • scott609

    If you looked just at the raw numbers, I’m sure that there are way more straight people engaging in anal sex then there are gay people. Simply because we only make up about two percent of the population. So, if they look down on it, then they are just a bunch of hypocrites.

    I only started having anal intercourse (as a top) because my new boyfriend insisted. I had never been interested in it before. All that prep work still mystifies me, but I know that some people really love to bottom. Nowadays I am very grateful for that.

    As to the show, I think it is refreshing look at gay life. Not a lot of stereotypes thrown in, just a bunch of regular gays. Living their lives from day to day without a lot of drama.

    Jon Groff is a multi-talented actor and singer who is too cute for words. It is so nice to see a show about the rest of us, not the high powered drama queens that seem to dominate so much of the media. Russell Tovey is the only other character I really enjoy on that show. I hope they end up together. There should be an interesting dynamic once they stop being boss and employee.

  • LuckyboyLA

    If butt sex hurts, it’s mostly in your head, literally. Something about having a dick in you is making you tighten up your hole rather than relaxing it. Believe me, the anal sphincter does not have an independent mechanism to keep out a dick. I was jacking off with one rounded thing or another in my butt from 13 on. Just as soon as if found out my fingers felt so good. First time I had a dick in me, I was one happy Teen.

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