First published August 2012 www.huffingtonpost.com
As anyone who has ever been skilfully buggered knows, anal sex — at least for the prostate-endowed — is the best invention since sliced bread. Straight men have recently discovered “prostate massage” and “prostate stimulation.” According to a manufacturer of sex toys I interviewed for this piece, strap-ons have been their fastest-growing item for five years now. For every person who has the guts (pun intended) to give it a try, way to go, bro! It is truly awesome if done right.
I realize that the politics and philosophy of female anal penetration are a lot more complicated, and I will leave them aside for now. It is the receptive male I am concerned with here, and the sexual revolution “from the bottom up.”
It is of course much more than a sexual revolution. For centuries, the penetration of males has been condemned. “Buggery” or “sodomy” were considered evil, not because of any real religious concern but because they supposedly undermine the male’s position of strength in a traditional society. Even today, religious people run around with the archaic concept that active=dominant=seeder=honourable whereas passive=submissive=seeded=shameful. It is a reflection of attitudes toward women as much as a relic of Roman times. The biblical prohibition of bum fun is mostly based on one deluded apostle living in Rome, where these attitudes were the norm. Romans could bugger non-Romans (slaves and non-citizens), but for a freeborn Roman citizen to take it up the chuff was considered demeaning and punishable by law.
For centuries, the inviolate male backdoor was a symbol of integrity and strength. No wonder in a martial society that valued its warriors and fighters more than its philosophers. But even in good old Greece, famous for “tolerant” attitudes toward male-male fondling, things were not what they seemed. The Greeks, too, had sexual attitudes based on victor-vanquished, dominator-dominated, rather than the concepts of equal love that we now stress in the marriage debate.
Many countries condemn not homosexuality but the penetration act. Iran, Saudi Arabia, and a few other countries still mired in mythical thinking imprison, hang, and stone to death men who copulate, the act constituting the crime, not the affection itself.
Why, then, is a tightly shut “bronze eye” (to use Jean Genet’s sweet term) no longer paramount in modern culture? When exactly was the taboo lifted? Why are even straight boys discovering the pleasure of the back tunnel without feeling shame?
The reasons are manifold and reach from general secularization and decriminalization of homosexuality to the rise of women’s rights. The forces of reason have worked together to remove not just the stigma of gay sex but the lock on the rear entrance altogether. These forces are part of a demilitarization of our Western world. The Greco-Roman concept of “winner buggers all” does not apply anymore in a world that has no distinct warrior class. Passive is no longer shameful; in fact, the very idea that the penetrated is in any way “passive” is disappearing for good. As any good bottom can tell you, it is hard work to please your man — or woman with a strap-on, as it were.
Incidentally, the revulsion conservative women experience when confronted with the subject is also rooted in the acceptance of their biblical function. The penetrated male takes away their role. In a traditional society, women are already second-class citizens. A man who assumes the “passive” position by choice rather than by birth must surely be lower than a woman. Homophobia among poor, uneducated women is common in countries that still have dominant male “warrior” ideals.
India, for example, still has its own (low) caste of buggerable boys. They play a large role in Arab societies, too. Many Arab men gain their first sexual experiences with other boys — boys, not men. As soon as the boy becomes a man (in olden times through valour in battle or other adulthood rituals, today mostly by marriage), his bronze eye must be off limits. Sex slaves in Arab societies include a large number of imported — often abducted — boys. The differentiation between boy and man is crucial and echoes the same Roman concepts of war-fitness. Fit to fight means no more penetrating (e.g., piercing of the body, wounding, dying).
All these concepts are thankfully disappearing with the feminization of our Western world. They must, because they take with them all forms of sexual violence, including rape. If buggery is part of our shame-free sexual repertoire, it is no longer a threat to maleness, valour, or honour.
The relaxed attitudes to journeys up the chocolate tunnel make the recent obsession of clerics in both the Arab world and conservative America all the more worrying. I won’t post links, because I do not want them to get more publicity than they already have, but several websites in America are denouncing the corrosive attitudes of “power bottoms” and the menacing qualities of anal sex. Sodomy is equated with the devil’s work, playing into the good-bad or light-dark dichotomy that religious people hold so dear.
Ultimately, the prohibition of anal sex has nothing to do with the word of God or with any other religious concept. It is power politics. Societies and cultures obsessed with prohibiting anal sex are invariably unfair toward women, too. Their main argument is one of “utility” of sex — that is, sex as a tool for procreation. However, limiting the sex act to procreation also limits women to a societal “function,” just like in biblical times. Let’s not go back there. It took us long enough to free ourselves from these ridiculous conventions.
My answer to the fearful, the religious, and the impenetrable: Lean back, take a deep breath, and enjoy the ride.
Marten Weber www.martenweber.com is the author of Benedetto Casanova, the biography of Casanova’s fictional gay brother, and a proud power bottom.