Let’s Talk About Anal Sex

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Lots of straight people are ashamed to admit they’ve had anal sex. The author explores why she was too.

So I did it. I had anal sex. The day after, my boyfriend asked me if he could tell his friends that we had anal sex. I hesitated for a moment, and he added quickly that he would only tell his closest friends; I agreed, saying, “Sure, why not?”

I hesitated because I genuinely felt uncomfortable about telling people that I have had anal sex. And for a while I could not pinpoint the source of my uneasiness until I realized that it was rather complicated: It was a mixture of disgust and guilt.

A few years ago, I would have felt guilty having anal sex because of my religious upbringing. I was brought up to be a God-fearing Catholic girl. But my aim in this piece is not to start a discussion about religion and sex, specifically, anal sex. We are all aware that in many religions anal sex is viewed as a gravely immoral and “disordered” sex act.

I have told myself time and time again that anal sex is just another sex act. Like oral sex. But I didn’t feel guilty because I had “sinned against God”; I was guilty because I knew that my reluctance to talk about my experience with anal sex meant that I, however insignificantly, was participating in a culture that alienates people who identify as queer.

Although I may have been unwilling to admit it, my unwillingness to let my friends know about my anal sex experience made it clear that I still think of anal sex as a taboo topic. Partly, I did not want to be on the receiving end of a barrage of comments and questions. No matter how liberal we believe we are, society still treats anal sex as they would a dirty, guilty pleasure: “No way! Didn’t you find it gross? How much did it hurt? I had no idea you were so sexually adventurous, you know, so kinky!”

Certainly it is not common in many cultures to be open about sex, but I live in a community in which sex—vaginal intercourse, at least—is talked about all the time. This unwillingness to talk about anal sex is insulting to people who are queer, who have had or potentially will have anal sex. For some queer folks who do not participate in vaginal sex, anal sex isn’t “anal sex”—it’s simply sex. By refusing to talk about anal sex or by reacting to anal sex in a way that contributes to the notion of it being taboo, we are distancing our queer friends and upholding a culture that supports heteronormativity.

That takes care of the guilt I felt. What about disgust?

The first glimmers of disgust came about when I became aware of how comfortable—in comparison to me—my boyfriend was sharing his experience with anal sex. That made me realize that I didn’t see the whole experience in quite the same light.

I can’t say for sure how my boyfriend felt, but we both agreed before having anal sex that we were “curious.” But in some messed up way, I took pleasure in the idea of “giving up” my anal “virginity.” I bought into the idealized—and screwed up—concept that virginity is a “gift” and I wanted to give it up for my boyfriend. By viewing virginity as a gift, and therefore commodifying it, is to suggest sexual subordination: I wanted him to feel powerful, as though my body was something to be taken and conquered. And this “gift” didn’t bring me much pleasure—mostly just pain. So in short: Our experience with anal sex was not about us, it was all about him.

I am not saying that having anal sex was a mistake. I don’t regret it. But I do regret that despite all my efforts to reverse my upbringing and the popular notions surrounding virginity, subconsciously, I still bought into the concept of “giving it up.” We need to change the unhealthy concepts of virginity and make sure not to educate future generations with this outdated concept.

Sex—and relationships in general—should work on a basis of equality. “Giving” should not be synonymous with women, just as “taking” should not be synonymous with men. And the next time I decide to explore new sex acts, I’ll be sure to keep this in mind.

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