There are lots of things we can do to make the world a better place. We can reduce our consumption of irreplaceable resources, we can develop our capacity to bring compassion to our relationships, we can support people in crisis or need- there’s plenty to be done. And there’s one thing that I think has an unrealized potential to improve things. The world will be a better place when more men take it up the ass.
Before you get all worked up over that, I want to be clear about something. I don’t think that every man needs to enjoy anal play and prostate pleasure. There are a lot of reasons why someone might not, ranging from it simply not being their cup of tea to being survivors of sexual assault and finding it too triggering. I will never say that everyone should do anything, especially when it comes to sex, since there are so many different experiences and histories.
Having said that, anal play has the potential to offer cisgender men (and their partners of any gender) insights that nothing else can. Here’s why.
Walking A Mile In Their Shoes
As a sex educator, I can attest that one of the common challenges in heterosexual relationships is that men often want to rush to intercourse and see foreplay as a chore they need to get through in order to “get their partner ready.” I know what that’s like- I’ve certainly had the urge to skip ahead in my excitement, though fortunately, that’s something I’ve outgrown over the years. But even the word “foreplay” assumes that the goal is intercourse, as if the destination is more important than the getting there.
This dynamic is the source of a lot of frustration between partners and it’s at least partly due to the physical way that sex often works for cisgender men. Unless we’ve explored receiving anal penetration, sex happens outside our bodies. It’s a lot easier to do that when you have a headache or you’re in the mood for a quickie or you just want to fuck. That’s especially true for younger men, since older guys are more likely to need direct stimulation in order to have erections, and because the relative novelty of sex when we’re younger often makes us so excited that we rush into it.
But when sex is something that happens inside your body, whether vaginally or anally, you often need a bit more warm-up. Taking things a bit more slowly and attending to our arousal makes a big difference. And how we’re feeling physically, emotionally, relationally, and mentally can have a much bigger influence than when sex happens outside your body.
Of course, plenty of men do understand this, at least intellectually. But receiving anal penetration gives us an opportunity to learn it on an embodied level. Once you’ve had to explain to a partner that you really do need them to go slower or that you need more warm-up or lube before the hard pounding sex, it becomes much easier to remember that when you’re on the giving side. Think of it as walking a mile in the other person’s shoes. I’ve spoken with enough men and their partners who have shared similar stories for me to really believe that it can make a difference. That has a lot of potential to improve our relationships.
Take It Like A Man
But even beyond that, there’s something incredibly powerful about being fully present in your masculinity while also being receptive. Many people see being penetrated as “the woman’s role,” or think that getting fucked means that men lose masculine status. That seems deeply unfortunate to me, especially in light of the ways that sexism and homophobia intertwine to reinforce the performance of masculinity. Even the use of slang like “I’m so fucked” or “fuck you” or “that sucks” rests on the idea that being penetrated is demeaning.
When we can learn that we can be strongly rooted in our masculinity while also opening up to penetration, when we can discover how to hold onto both of those pieces simultaneously, there are incredible new territories we can explore. We can see that we don’t need to see gender or masculinity as an all-or-nothing experience. We can re-envision penetration as simply one way to experience pleasure, without making it a marker of being less-than. We can take a lesson from the bear community and “take it like a man,” which can make us stronger and more resilient. When more men learn how to do that, the world will be a much better place.
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 & sexual diversity, for more kinds of pleasure & love, and for sexual justice and equality. Of course, there are plenty of ways to do that, but men’s anal pleasure has incredible potential to help us lean into those edges, let go of homophobia, and heal our sexual wounding.
Want another reason? The anus and pelvic floor are strongly connected to our experiences of shame. Think about how a dog tucks his tail when he’s done something bad and is being punished. People have very similar responses, but lacking a tail and standing upright makes it less visible. There’s a reason that people who are stressed out all of the time are sometimes called “tight asses.” And lots of guys are so out of touch with our pelvises that we hardly move them when we walk. Receiving caring, loving touch on that part of our bodies can support us as we move through our healing. The ability to “find our asses” is deeply linked to our ability to be fully present in our bodies. And the more we can do that, the more we can open up our hearts to the people around us.
Do I think that anal sex is going to save the world? No. And as a sex educator and someone who enjoys receiving anal and prostate pleasure, I know from both professional and personal experience that it can make a huge difference in how cisgender men feel about sex and how we build relationships with other people. So I’m thrilled to announce that Aislinn Emirzian & I have written The Ultimate Guide to Prostate Pleasure: Erotic Exploration for Men and Their Partners. It’s full of tips and ideas to make prostate play lots of fun, whether you’re new to it or you’ve been doing it for years.