If Anal Sex Makes You Gay, Do Tacos Make You Mexican?
Let’s spend a few moments in the land of logical thinking about sex …
A while back I had the honor of being the first person someone spoke to about their recent first-time same-sex sexual encounter.
I was humbled by this. I often get pulled aside for quiet questions or covertly emailed after new friends have read my blog, but a conversation like this was so different. Ordinarily I’m making lube recommendations, pointing folks towards someone else’s awesome website, or saying “just put a pillow under your hips in that position” — but in this conversation someone was looking to me because they needed a safe, non-judgmental space to openly talk through their experience, and I felt a tremendous sense of responsibility.
The person in question was a man who had concerns about what allowing himself to be penetrated meant in terms of his masculinity.
I chose all of my words extremely carefully. We had a good talk (as good as one can get electronically) and I said to him repeatedly that “activity does not dictate orientation.” I also directed him to a piece I just love, Charlie Glickman’s The World Will Be A Better Place When More Men Take It Up The Ass. All in all, I think it was a successful interaction.
I thought about it a lot afterward. When it comes to sex, a lot of folks really get stuck on the idea that what you do in the bedroom dictates who you are as a person, and that activity and orientation are one and the same. Hell, some people seem to think that activities have orientations and can change whatever sexual orientation they identify with without prior warning or consent, even if they don’t want it to change.
Like sexuality is an M. Night Shyamalan film, and any given sexual act is the big twist that reveals the thing they never saw coming. The thing that they may not want to face.
Hey, Bruce Willis didn’t want to be dead, but what are you going to do? Those are the breaks. I see gay people …
Why are we so into the whole, “Surprise! You’re gay!” idea? Why don’t we see how irrational it is?
Let’s take a moment to look at it.
Using our friend, Billy-the-heterosexual-Irishman, let’s look at how that narrative plays out when one operates under the assumption that sex acts have definite orientations and the people who perform them respond accordingly.
Billy “knows” anal sex is “gay” and he is “straight.” —> Billy goes out one night and engages in anal sex with a man. —> Billy wakes up the next morning in the grips of an identity crisis, wondering to himself, “OMG! Am I gay?! I still like girls. Maybe I’m bi? WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?!”
Now let’s take a moment and, just for fun, have Billy-the-heterosexual-Irishman follow that same logic, but replacing sex acts with food products. In this case, we’ll use tacos. Because I love them.
Billy “knows” tacos are “Mexican” and he is “Irish.” —> Billy goes out one night and eats a ton of tacos. —> Billy wakes up the next morning in the grips of an identity crisis, wondering to himself, “OMG! Am I Mexican?! I still like other food. Maybe I’m Tex-Mex? WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?!”
Right. See, we don’t do that. Ever. It’s absurd.
This “what you do determines what you are” idea is particularly pernicious when it comes to men and anal penetration.
Seriously, folks are brutal about this. I was told an awful story by a friend who was, during sex, offered penetration by his female partner. He accepted it only to have her ask the next morning, “So, were you ever going to tell me that you’re gay?”
This story made my blood boil, but it also made me sad.
Sure, the woman in this story is clearly terrible — apparently this is a “test” she administers to all boyfriends and this was the first time anyone took her up on it — but she is nowhere near alone in her belief that “man who experiences pleasure from anal penetration” = “homosexual man” regardless of any and all evidence to the contrary.
I read a piece titled If You Want a More Thoughtful Boyfriend, Try Pegging Him, and I did something that I never advise doing: I read the comments (one day I’ll learn).
There was a bunch of the “I’m sorry, but a man who likes that is obviously gay” type of stuff that I usually assume is grounded in the notion that act of being penetrated is feminizing by nature. One comment, in particular, stood out to me:
“If (sic) are a man and you try receiving anal sex, and you decide you like it, you are not straight. The naturally intended way to receive penetration in a sex act is from a penis. When a man desires to receive a penis in his rectum, he is a homosexual.”
This one grabbed me for two reasons.
First up, the weirder reason: The gay-men-have-magical-rectums-that-feel-things-everyone-else’s-don’t* idea is weirdly pervasive and is, I think, largely responsible for the fear of accidentally finding out that you’re a gay man and just never knew it.
If you subscribe to the Magic Gay Rectum theory, anal penetration becomes the ultimate litmus test, i.e., if you enjoy it you must have a Magical Gay Ass and clearly, you are a homosexual (even if nothing else in your life indicates this). And if you don’t, you are, as you’ve previously believed, straight.
Here’s the what folks. Men all have prostates, and when you treat those prostates correctly you, regardless of your sexual orientation, you WILL experience intense pleasure. FACT. Just ask Charlie Glickman, he wrote the book on this stuff — literally. He and Aislinn Emirzian are the forces behind The Ultimate Guide to Prostate Pleasure: Erotic Exploration for Men and Their Partners (a must read).
Folks, the prostate is kind of a big deal!
And … having an orgasm through anal penetration doesn’t mean that you’ve somehow unbeknownst to you been in possession of a homosexual butt this whole time. It just means you’ve experienced proper prostate stimulation — which is awesome!
Funnily, I have yet to run into anyone who thinks women’s rectums do anything special to their sexual orientation.
Most folks seem okay with (or enthusiastic about) women engaging in anal sex.
Which takes us to the second reason that comment caught my eye … it so clearly illustrates how tightly folks cling to the notion that “real” sex features a penis entering a vagina and thus everything must be based on that model. Ergo being penetrated = feminine and penetrating = masculine.
Working from the penis/vagina intercourse is sex model leads us to assign gender roles to all sexual acts and interactions. By un-gendering sex acts and just letting them be what they are at their core — stimulation, plain and simple — we strip away the labels and are free to just do whatever feels good. I love this quote from the Charlie Glickman article I mentioned earlier:
“And let’s not forget that the more we can let go of the focus on penis/vagina intercourse as the definition of ‘sex,’ and the more we can expand our definitions of pleasure and how to experience it, the more room we can make for gender and sexual diversity, for more kinds of pleasure and love, and for sexual justice and equality.”
Oh my! I don’t know about you, but expanding my definitions of pleasure to make room for more kinds of pleasure and love sounds kind of amazing to me.
No one should ever engage in any sexual activity they are not 100% comfortable with and nothing is going to be right for every single person.
I’m definitely not saying every man should run out and get anally penetrated.
What I am saying is that men should (indeed, we all should) feel free to explore all of the paths to pleasure they can find without fear of judgment, shame or identity crisis. Okay, some of those things happen sometimes regardless, they just do, but let’s not build them into activities before we even get to them.
Sex acts don’t have genders, they don’t have orientations, and they don’t have hidden meanings.
Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, an orgasm is just an orgasm … and a taco is just a taco.
*Imagine if this were true! I picture a world where gay men are more enthusiastic about bowel movements than those creepy Charmin bears.