Image by Jane Fader
Researching anal sex on the internet has proven to be quite a challenge, so this morning I went to my local brick-and-mortar bookstore to see what they had to offer. It was hard to find a title that guaranteed its pages were about anal, and when I finally did something weird happened–I was too embarrassed to take it off the shelf.
Now, by this point I had already spent a suspicious amount of time reading excerpts from other books from the sexuality section. I think I even cheated out to the isle while skimming a copy of The Ethical Slut, hoping a news reporter would happen by and snap my photo or something. But I froze when my eyes landed on The Ultimate Guide to Prostate Pleasure. I couldn’t even pick this book up. I mean, just seeing this book on the shelf made me feel like a total pervert for being interested in anything sexual at all. I shimmied out of the bookstore and walked home, thinking about what a degenerate I’d be viewed as if I were a man and spent my time doing the things I do.
At first I thought that maybe anal pleasure is too extreme for me to be comfortable with and I kind of freaked out and thought, great, yet another item on my “things I was really excited about but never followed through on” list. But then I realized that while anal sex absolutely pushes me to think about some difficult things and try some new things, that’s only part of what bothered me. It isn’t that I’m freaked out by anal sex per se. Rather, I’m freaked out about publicly associating myself with anal sex.
In pornography, the presence of an erect penis makes the difference between whether a video will be designated as softcore or hardcore. Late night Playboy, art films, sex education movies, women’s and couples erotica–these are all tawdry and socially hushed but still regarded as somewhat politically correct ways to consume erotic images. Hardcore pornography, on the other hand, is strongly correlated with the worst social ills–rape, violence, murder, addiction, child abuse. Even in 2013 I think there is a subtle unspoken assumption that if you watch pornography, you’re a little mentally unhealthy (that, or you became mentally unhealthy from watching porn).
A woman masturbating alone with a sex toy (as my sex toy reviews implied I did) isn’t a threatening idea. In fact, it may even just be a new take on the ultimate pornographic image where the viewer desires a woman desiring herself. It’s “naughty” and “edgy,” but it’s a highly sexualized pro-woman situation so what can you do but applaud it? Heterosexual anal penetration, on the other hand, has so much rejection and disapproval from so many different camps–plus it deals with your bum and maybe even poop (ew!)–that it carries aversion in its aura. It’s easy to write off because it elicits such a strong reaction. Kind of like, “I know it when I see it.”
Anal is the new hardcore. It’s thought of as gross, offensive, possibly only benefiting the penetrator, associated with dehumanizing women, associated with homosexuality, thought of as dangerous, and so on. And as it turns out, I’m embarrassed to associate myself with it. But I think this says less about my personal attitudes and more about the attitudes of society.
And this is always where I get into trouble…prioritizing my desire to experience/learn about cultural taboos and marginalities above my desire to make myself feel comfortable.