sexual health

The struggle is real for gay men who don’t enjoy anal sex

You have a deep, dark secret. You’re carrying around something shameful, something you feel like you can’t even tell your best gay friend. No, it’s not some vintage STD like crabs, or a sweaty armpit fetish… you’re simply a gay man… who doesn’t like anal sex. Gasp!

Believe it or not, many gay guys struggle with how to navigate this, feeling like it’s somehow not acceptable in a community that often demands we label ourselves “top,” “bottom,” or “vers.” So let’s explore what if means if you’re a “side”–meaning, you don’t like/partake in anal sex–because it’s way more common among gay men than people think…

The first question to ask yourself is why don’t you like anal sex?

For some guys, it has to do with the idea of not being “clean.” Let’s face it, we’re talking about insertion in the same place where our body eliminates things it doesn’t need. It takes some concerted effort and work to manage feeling, smelling, and looking clean, from certain diet choices to hygiene regimens. For some, this is just an immediate turn off, and isn’t something they want to work through, and that’s OK!

For other guys, it has to do with the penetration or insertion into another body, which can be a very vulnerable thing. If you’re the bottom, you literally have to accept someone else inside you. You can’t feel much more defenseless than that. For the top, it involves taking on that responsibility, and might just seem like too much for some.

There’s also the risk of sexual transmitted diseases. Those who have anal sex are at higher risk for transmitting HIV or other STDs, and the risk is even greater for the person being penetrated. Of course, there several effective ways to prevent HIV and STD transmission–from condoms to PREP or being undetectable–but for some it can simply create an anxiety that’s not worth the payoff.

If any of these are the case, there’s the possibility of working through your fears with a therapist or another supportive person, including a comfortable and patient sex partner with whom you can experiment. Many times, our fears are unfounded or based in something irrational, in which case we can get past them.

But it’s also possible that you simply aren’t that into it. Some guys just aren’t. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that either!

Unfortunately, in the world of Grindr, where people literally identify themselves by their preferred positions, it can seem like not having anal sex isn’t an option. It’s such a part of the cultural norm or conversation in the gay world, that it feels wrong to not be into it. Many guys don’t even refer to it as being “sex” unless it involves anal penetration.

I’d like to begin perpetuating a new belief about this. Sex is sex, no matter what “kind” of sex it is. From oral, to hands, to toys, any kind of sex act is still sex. It doesn’t have to involve anal penetration to be a fulfilling, intimate, and hot. So instead of seeing anything other than anal as “less than,” begin to see it as “equal to.”

When a guy asks you what kind of sex you’re into, you don’t even need to point out that you aren’t into anal sex. You can simply refer to the things you like to do besides anal, as they are just as valid. And if your potential partner rejects you when he finds out you’re not into anal, then it’s his loss, and he is truly limiting himself.

Whatever your reasons for not being into anal sex, it’s OK. Just remember that communication is key. The important thing is to share your feelings, desires, and concerns with your partner(s). And don’t forget these four words: anal sex isn’t everything!

Jake Myers is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and the founder of Gay Therapy Space, the first online therapy platform for and by the LGBTQ community. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology, with a specialization in LGBT Affirmative Psychotherapy.