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Anal Sex: A Loving or Violent Act

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Anal Sex
By John R. Ballew, M.S., L.P.C.

Anal sex is often seen as the definitive gay act. Sure, straight men have butts; but far fewer of them have explored this erogenous zone, and fewer still would admit it. Compared with heterosexual guys, gay men tend to be more familiar with their prostates. We are much more likely to associate this little gland with pleasure rather than embarrassment during physical exams. Some research suggests that our prostates are healthier, too.

Just the same, there is a certain sense of mystery about our sphincters. Unless you are seriously flexible, you’ve probably not seen this part of your body directly yourself. Your partner or boyfriend or even a casual trick probably has a clearer picture of what you look like down there than you do yourself. (Hint: buy a small mirror and enjoy the view.)

There are other reasons why this part of our anatomy is powerful, pleasurable and even mystical. The anal sphincter has lots of nerve endings capable of great delight when massaged or probed by someone who knows what he is doing. (Deeper inside, by the way, the nerve endings aren’t so well educated. Nerve endings in the rectum mostly signal “full” or “empty.”) And according to psychoanalytic theory, gaining control over this part of our bodies is the way young children begin mastering their environment — by pleasing mom and dad at diaper- changing time. This little ring of muscle (two rings, actually) starts to take on a sense of importance about that time.

Some of us learn to hold these muscles very tight indeed. To call someone a “tight ass” is to call them stressed-out, rigid and controlling. One reason anal sex is so pleasurable is that it requires us to relax these overly-tight muscles. You can have the rest of your body relaxed and still have a tense sphincter. Relax the sphincter, though, and you’re not likely to find much physical tension anywhere else in the body.
Odd, then, that anal sex has often held a sense of the forbidden about it. Sexism and homophobia make anal sex a taboo in Western culture. Homophobes often misunderstand anal sex as somehow passive and “feminine.” This is ridiculous, of course. We all know lots of masculine men who prefer to be the receiver when it comes to fucking. And men who enjoy taking in their partner’s cock are often anything but passive!

Many gay men find the experience of anal sex has a spiritual component to it. If you think of sex as an exchange of energy, male sexual energy is typically hard, driving and forceful. (Think of ejaculation.) Taoists call this energy yang.

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Anal sex is perhaps the primary way men can cultivate the corresponding energy, called yin. It is easy to misidentify yang as male energy and yin as female. This is sexist oversimplification. Yin is soft, yielding, receptive, enfolding. In our culture, these are attributes that don’t always come easily to men. Men who “bottom” in anal sex can be understood to be feeding their yin energy. Sex becomes a way of balancing energy and creating wholeness. Healthy anal sex is good for you.

If your ideas about anal sex don’t include concepts like softening and enveloping, it may be because most of us don’t know any better. Where did you learn about anal sex? Did it come up in sex ed classes in junior high?

Not likely, I’m afraid. Did Dad talk with you about your butt hole when he talked about the birds and the bees? Probably one gay man in a thousand had a healthy conversation about anal sex with a parent or teacher. In addition, there is something of a prejudice against penetration among some gay men. And fantasies to the contrary, most men are not very skilled at helping inexperienced men learn to enjoy being entered.

Most of us learn about anal sex through either erotic videos or on-the-job training. The problem with this is that the teaching partner isn’t always patient or well informed. And porn flicks rarely include much in the way of foreplay, moving from kissing to penetration as quickly as possible. Written porn is even less helpful, usually implying that penetration hurts like hell at first, only to be transformed into horny delight as the thrusting continues. And your rectum doesn’t know or care whether it’s welcoming an average 5 ¼ inch penis or a 9 inch Goliath. The pleasure some men get from a large cock is likely to be psychological, unless that big fella is rubbing against the prostate.

There is a lot of misinformation out there. One recently published sex manual for gay men seems to suggest that if anal penetration is difficult, the partners involved should just keep at it; the muscles will fatigue and entry will be easier. Some men use drugs or numbing ointments to make penetration easier. These men are either trying too hard — and likely to hurt themselves — or they are learning to treat their bodies like machines.
This is not a loving act. It is a form of violence against our own bodies. The truth is we cannot love our whole selves if we do not learn to love our holes.

Anal sex is too often portrayed as all about penetration, conquest and power. It’s too infrequently presented as about learning to savor the subtle sensations and mysteries of our bodies.

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john-ballew-head-150x150John R. Ballew, M.S. is a Licensed Professional Counselor based out of Atlanta , Georgia. His clients are busy professionals, people of varied ethnic and racial backgrounds, LGBT men and women and clients from age 18 to 70 or more.
You can learn more about John and his practice at http://bodymindsoul.org/

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