Most of us in the queer community label ourselves as either top, bottom or vers. But what if you don't identify with any of these positions? What if you don't enjoy anal sex at all? Welcome to the world of the gay side – and it can make dating complicated. Alex Hopkins spoke with men who identify as sides to discover more.


Is taking a dick up the ass a prerequisite for being a ‘real gay man’? Dating and hook-up site profiles certainly suggest that fucking is foremost in many guys’ minds: Cum dump available. No load refused. Wreck my hole. I could go on…

But are us gay guys really having as much anal as much as we claim? A 2011 study showed that just 35% of guys surveyed had indulged in anal sex during their last sex session. Moreover, some 75% reportedly favored non-penetrative pleasure. 

Gay guys who aren’t into fucking have always existed. But they’ve largely done so in silence, fearful of condemnation from their own community. However, this is changing, thanks to a new term used to describe these gay men: ‘sides'. 


Where does the term ‘gay side’ come from?

It takes a bold man to coin a term. But this was exactly what Dr. Joe Kort did in 2013 when he outed himself as a gay man who wasn’t into anal sex. The name he gave to men such as himself was ‘sides’.

Kort proceeded to set up a private Facebook group devoted to gay sides and a movement was born. A decade on and now gay sides – too long invisible – are now demanding recognition and slowly getting it. Indeed, Grindr has now added the term ‘side’ to the list of sexual positions its members can choose from. 


So, if gay sides aren’t into anal, what do they do?

“Many guys just don’t get it,” says David, 30, who identifies as a side. “They hear I’m not into fucking and can’t grasp what I get up to in bed.”

However, as David notes, there are plenty of other sexual alternatives to plundering the booty. Cuddling, rimming, BJs, 69ing, frottage, handjobs, and all manner of other types of body play can be fixtures in gay side sexual shenanigans.

Hugged happy: gay sides prefer non-anal sex and touch, such as cuddling


“But that's just foreplay, guys often respond,” adds David. “And sure, those acts might be foreplay for many, but for sides, they can give all the sexual, emotional and psychological fulfillment they need.

“The human body is amazing. And it’s packed with erogenous zones. And you know what, they're not all up the arse!”


The stigma of being a gay side

David only recently came out as a side. And he hasn't found the process easy. “It’s an ongoing coming out,” he says. “You have to explain to every guy you meet or chat to that you’re not into fucking. Even some close gay friends don’t get it. It's just not something that's been much discussed in our hypersexual gay male culture.

“I’ve experienced a lot of incomprehension and some outright hostility. Boring, asexual, immature, even a betrayer of the gay cause; I’ve been called it all.”


“The feelings of rejection and loneliness David speaks of are shared by many gay men who identify as sides. Indeed, these men can often feel like pariahs within their own community.”


The feelings of rejection and loneliness David speaks of are shared by many gay men who identify as sides. Indeed, these men can often feel like pariahs within their own community. 

“One guy told me that my not being into fucking was an expression of my internalised homophobia,” says Phil, 40, who is thankful for the term side as it finally allows him ‘to be seen’.

A :jumping: guide to gay sides! YouTube/Michael Henry

Phil’s generally found bottoming painful. He also finds all the prep involved – such as anal douching – as arduous and messy. And yet he felt it was a role he had to assume because of people’s perceptions of him based on his appearance. “I’m quite femme, so guys cast me as a bottom. And it’s taken a long while for me to push back and say, no, actually I’m not into that.”


Overly preoccupied with anal?

So, are we gay men obsessed with anal? Do we see it as the ultimate sexual act? To the exclusion of other ways of getting off?

“I remember coming out as gay and feeling this huge pressure to start having anal sex,” says David. “And I went along with it, as a top. But I never got much out of it. And I've always had this sense of performance anxiety.”

Perhaps the unrealistic expectations of porn don’t help here, I wonder. Porn has never been more accessible. But doesn’t this compound the unrealistic expectations that we’re supposed to either be superbly accomplished power bottoms or fuck machine tops?


“When two gay sides hit it off, the bonds can be exceptional. There’s a sense of kinship, mutual understanding and intimacy that’s frequently much stronger than what you have between a top and a bottom.”


“It doesn’t help,” says David. “The great thing about being a side is you find other ways of getting sexual pleasure. It’s not about penetration as a means of cumming inside someone. Or breeding as it's called. But on exploring other ways to get there. And the emphasis, at least with me, has been on that journey of exploration.”

David’s reference to ‘breeding’ – cumming inside another guy’s butt – is interesting. This term is now everywhere in porn. And yet the irony is that it describes, even arguably apes, the most heterosexual of acts: reproduction. Dr. Joe Kort has suggested that defining sex solely in terms of penetration amounts to ‘mimicking patriarchal crap', adding that gay men have the opportunity to reject this and find standards for sexual pleasure. 

“I think he's right,” says David. “Sides can be quite revolutionary in this way. The whole top or bottom binary just doesn’t work for everyone. And like all binaries, it’s there to be challenged.”


So, how do gay sides find one another?

One of the greatest challenges a gay side has is finding another side. Kort originally addressed this by creating his Facebook group, which now has over 5,000 members. And while Grindr’s new position category helps sides connect, stigma remains. 

Moreover, a category is only effective when it’s widely used by those people who also feel they fall into that category. And the fear of being judged or harassed online could well stop sides from self-identifying.

Intimacy and touch is important to gay men who identify as sides shutterstock/Rawpixel

“There are loads of sides out there,” says Phil. “But tracking them down remains tricky. We’re still fearful of being rejected if we reveal what we’re into – or what we’re not into.”

Finding and maintaining long-term relationships is also a challenge, adds David. “A side often has to compromise. For example, I was with one guy and because I wasn’t into anal and he really wanted it, needed it, we opened our relationship up. It’s wasn’t easy.”

However, when two gay sides do meet and hit it off, the bonds can be exceptional. “There’s a sense of kinship, mutual understanding and intimacy that’s frequently much stronger than what you have between a top and a bottom,” says David.


Gay sides: the (not so) bottom line

The queer community’s strength has always been in its diversity. And yet some of us gays remain needlessly judgy of each other. Particularly when it comes to sex. 

The growing conversation about gay sides represents an opportunity to discover new possibilities for pleasure and connection. Far from being dismissed, this should be embraced and championed. • 

Main image: shutterstock/Krakenimages

Are you a side seeking meaningful connections? Have you struggled to be accepted in the LGBTQ+ community because of your sexual preferences? Share with the community below.

Say something in the forum - start a discussion!

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I used to love anal sex both ways but can't more recently am tired of the prep needed if you are bottoming and the fact that all bottoms only seem want XXXXL cocks and nothing else:jumping: Think it's time for me to become a gay side and embrace it fully. Who fancies a suck n snuggle? :tongue:

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