Life on the Bottom
Five diehard bottoms—and one zoologist—share tips, tricks and dietary restrictions for when they get super anal
I enjoyed a short-lived career on the bottom. My college boyfriend’s family lived in a duplex on Park Avenue, where we’d often slip away on weekends. Meals were rich and plentiful — foie gras, profiteroles, double magnums of Riesling, etc. — all of which I eagerly imbibed. Following one such decadent feast my freshman year, when we were still very much in the honeymoon phase of our first gay relationship, Dan and I retired to his bedroom and got to work. For weeks we’d been easing into penetration with me on the bottom, but the pain had proven prohibitive. Also at play was acute paranoia of involuntary defecation, something I’d been assured was a common, yet unwarranted, concern of bottoms.
Presumably though, most surveyed hadn’t recently gorged on three helpings of fattened goose liver. It’s hard to look someone in the eye after shitting their childhood bed — let alone date them for seven more years afterward — but that’s exactly what happened. What didn’t happen — and hasn’t since, really — was me back on the bottom.
Maybe that’s why I’ve maintained an enviable respect for men and women who regularly get fucked in the ass — it demands foresight and serves absolutely no reproductive purpose, both of which I’m told add to the allure. While no scientific studies have been conducted to determine what percentage of the population prefers any given sexual role, we gays assume the world is made up predominantly of bottoms. (And “verabottoms”: A tally of 60,000 profiles on gay.com revealed that 26 percent preferred top, 32 percent preferred bottom and nearly half considered themselves “versatile.”)
Being a bottom — which can include gays, straights, women and non-binary people — encompasses far more than simply taking it up the ass, though. As Dan Savage explains, “Some gay and bi men view bottoming as something they are, not just something they do.” Case in point: Studies have been devoted to identifying as a bottom, revealing that it often signifies power, not weakness. These are considered “power bottoms,” or ones who forcefully assume the receptive role.
But I’ve always been curious, how do bottoms manage the responsibilities — from staying hydrated to regulating fiber consumption to self-administering shower nozzle enemas, etc. — of receptive anal sex. And so, I spent the last couple of days asking a few of them. Here’s what they had to say about their lives on the bottom…
Steve, 40, San Francisco
Sure, some might call me a power bottom, but that term is just a way to market yourself to tops. In my mind, anyone with the courage to call themselves a bottom should be ready to get fucking pounded. I’m that bottom. I’ve been told I have amazing muscle control in my ass that essentially allows me to milk a dude while he’s inside me.
In that regard, pain is a useful bit of information because it lets you know you’re doing something wrong. Pain says, “add more lube,” “slow down,” “take a deep breath” or any number of other adjustments. The key is to find the way that taking it up the ass feels awesome for you and to perfect it. For me, that means the angle is hitting the prostate; the lube is doing its job; the leverage is good; there’s no bad pain; and the muscles are relaxed — carnal perfection.
As for upkeep, as a lifelong bottom, I have special shower enema attachments. I travel with a device that can transform a hotel shower into a douche and a pocket nozzle I can slap on a standard water bottle. Sometimes, when douching, water can go up too far in the colon, which causes cramping and sometimes makes its presence known at an inopportune moment. That’s something everyone goes through until you learn to understand what clean feels like for yourself. Unless you’re taking fists, arms, huge toys etc., you don’t have to clean the whole lower colon. I spend 10 to 15 minutes a day on it. Besides that, I don’t do anything outside of normal grooming. I’m a dude. I expect men I’m with to want me the way the good Lord made me.
I prefer silicone lube. Gun Oil is my current fave for fucking: long-lasting and good feeling. Sucks that it stains though. Poppers also help loosen my hole in the earliest moments of penetration. For large cocks they can be essential.
I make sure my diet has plenty of fiber. I also stay hydrated. I pay attention to when I consume caffeine, as that often precipitates movement. In general, in anticipation of play, I keep it light. Most tops understand that shit is an occupational hazard of buttfucking. Still, it’s my opinion that it’s a bottom’s obligation to do what he can do to prep for sex. Sometimes, your body has other ideas. But rarely, if ever, does one shit the bed.
Spencer, 30, Oakland
The first time I got fisted was an intense, euphoric experience that I have trouble describing. Like being stretched too much and not enough all at once. Luckily my top had small hands and enough experience to lead me through it.
Each top has a different technique. Every bottom has a unique threshold and slightly different anatomy. And so, you need to have a kind of intuitive back-and-forth to really make it work when you’re starting out. For instance, I’ve played with guys that just couldn’t find the right way in. A good top, however, will be able to tell the difference in what you’re feeling before you’re able to say anything.
I had a particularly memorable experience at a bar that’s now closed. One of my friends was the bartender; the other was a barback. I’d go somewhat regularly just to hang out. There were cans of Crisco above the bar as “ambiance.” I don’t remember how the conversation started, probably with a joke about opening up the Crisco, but one conversation let to another and I stayed after closing. Once their work duties were finished, the bartender turned me over on top of a stool and opened a can of Crisco. He took his time working his hands in while the barback helped hold me. I was able to relax enough to take both fists — my first time. Double fisting is an extremely personal experience. Very intense.
As for cleanliness, I’ve given up nuts entirely. I don’t need to monitor my fiber, but I won’t eat for 24 hours if I I’m going into a fisting scene. A good, deep clean is necessary. As I get older I need to do more. I also take anti-diarrheal medication to stop normal movements ahead of time (six to 12 hours). I used to shave fresh for a scene, but these days, I don’t shave at all.
Headspace is most important. You need to be confident that you can do it or you probably won’t be able to. You need to be fully committed to whatever scene you are part of or someone could get hurt. Agreed upon limits are crucial, too. Some blood is normal. If it’s just a bit, you’re usually fine. If it’s flowing, you’re in trouble. Listen to your body, it’ll tell you where those limits are.
Kara, 30, Montreal
I was 21 the first time I had anal sex. I was either on my period or didn’t want to get pregnant — I don’t remember. I had a deep need to feel degraded. But I no longer think being submissive is inherent to receiving anal sex.
The most positive experience I’ve had with anal was with a long-term boyfriend who I loved a lot. Trusting someone is very hot, and you need a lot of trust to want someone inside of your ass.
Overall, it’s interesting to explore different things to do with your body. It’s fun to be filled too, I guess. Anyone with a vagina already experiences that. Anal just doubles it — double filling power. It’s also fun to experiment with feelings of repulsion. There are so many things that we’re told not to do as humans. Anal is about rebelling against culture and welcoming natural desires like human animalism. Cultural bullshit makes it even more taboo, which is a huge part of the turn on for me.
That said, taboo also brings serious repression and sadness. Anal sex is painful for me half the time, in which case I stop. There’s good pain, and there’s actual pain like you’re being raped, which isn’t so good. (I don’t want to trivialize rape, though.) Physical intensity can be experienced as pain; or maybe there’s a threshold where pain becomes ambiguous and close to arousal and pleasure. I just happened to be on muscle relaxers when I had anal sex for the first time, and it really helped — I highly recommend them for beginners.
Of course, it’s always good to use protection, but in a bind, anal is always an alternative if the prospect of being pregnant is terrifying. You can’t grow a baby in your ass, but you can have an orgasm if you try a little.
Ric, 64, Montana
My first time on the bottom was when I was 50. A friend and his wife came over, and she wanted double penetration. As things would happen, she started her period that afternoon, and I didn’t wanna play like that. But I was flat-out horny so I asked Tim if he wanted to fuck me. He said sure. They got me lubed up, and before long, I had my first cock in me. The sensation stayed with me for days afterward.
The most important thing for a new bottom to remember is to find someone who will take their time with you and who will do some stretching and foreplay to get into the proper position. Usually guys finger my ass and start fucking me with a dildo. I like to get rimmed, but I’ve only had one guy do that. The average age of guys who fuck me are 55 to 60. I think eating ass is young man’s game.
Jordan, 30, Orlando
The first time my wife pegged me she used a Feeldoe “strapless strap-on” dildo. The pain isn’t an issue if you go slow and use plenty of lube. I’ve never had much more than minor discomfort. A lot of this depends on how much time you and your partner want to take. We’ve had very rough sessions with large toys. Like a lot of things in life, you work up to it. This is an activity that takes A LOT of lube. J-Lube is my preference because it’s cheap and you can use a ton.
I’m not a super hairy guy, but I do try to keep things clean as that’s my preference. I use an epilator, so I only have to do it every two to three weeks. Generally I use a douche bulb beforehand, one to three times. Sometimes we don’t do any prep at all, and most of the time, that’s fine. If I know we’re going to do it for a while or use larger toys, prep becomes more important.
Diet has never been an issue or concern. There have been times when there’s a little bit of brown liquid mixed in with the lube, but never anything big. It’s not a big concern as I know my wife is super comfortable back there and wouldn’t freak out.
I once managed to orgasm totally hands-free while riding her. It surprised both of us, and we haven’t been able to do it again. We were on vacation in Boston and killing some time in the hotel. We had done this exact position before, but for some reason, this one went differently. Maybe it was the hotel bed. The orgasm was unusual in that it didn’t have the normal sensation you get from external stimulation. I ejaculated normally, but it didn’t feel like I was. I think it was a combination of prostate milking and a normal orgasm; it was definitely triggered somewhat by the prostate stimulation, but I’d never had anything more then dribbles from prostate stimulation before.
There’s a lot of concern from men that pegging makes them gay or less masculine. Personally, I don’t see why straight men can’t enjoy anal stimulation as well. I feel like any guy who hasn’t tried it doesn’t know what a great orgasm can feel like.
Petter Bøckman, Norway, Zoologist Specializing in Animal Homosexuality
A lot of species have anal intercourse, but it’s often hard to distinguish. Take birds for instance. All bird sex is kind of anal because they only have one hole called a cloaca, which everything comes in and out of.
Anal sex among animals is nearly always homosexual. The reason animals have homosexual sex varies, but often it’s flock animals securing partners and allies to ameliorate conflict. With giraffes, most of the sex taking place is anally among males.
Lions, meanwhile, have the most anal intercourse. When there are two males in a pride — usually two brothers — they’re in intense competition of being the father of the cubs in that pride. Lions, of course, have a frightening amount of teeth and claws. So competition would typically result in one or both dying. Instead, they have anal sex.
Also, in order for lions to be able to live together and defend the pride, they need something to bind them together, which is why things get sexual. Up to 90 percent of all intercourse taking place in a two-male pride then is between the two males. So even though those two males are nominally heterosexual, most of their sex is anal sex with their male partners.
As for who’s on the bottom, lions are like humans: One might prefer to be on top, while another may prefer to be on the bottom.
C. Brian Smith is a features writer at MEL. He last wrote about why we can’t let go of the rite of passage that is the “beat rag.”