OHBILLY: Choosing Sides – Fetish Without Penetration

OHBILLY: Choosing Sides – Fetish Without Penetration

from Recon News

06 January 2021

By Team Recon's OhBilly

When it comes to gay sex, it's often viewed as a binary distinction – are you a top or are you a bottom? Yes, there are versatile guys, but they're still switching between these two roles. You either enjoy being penetrated or doing the penetration, or both. That is how we are defined.

For example, ever since I discovered my anus, I've kind of been obsessed. I was born to shove stuff up there. Categorically bottom. For many tops, the reverse is true. They love to fuck, plough, ram, nail, pound, thrust et cetera et cetera. Then vers guys, well, those boys have options. But what about those of us who don't have a taste for either role? Those whose sex life isn't defined by this yin yang dynamic? Those who neither wish to fuck or be fucked? Well, those guys can choose to define themselves as 'sides'.

Back in November, my friend, mentor, colleague and confidante, ThatSandy put a question to Twitter, asking if guys were aware of the term 'sides'. It received a varied response, ranging from those who'd heard it, to those who hadn't, those who identified with it already, to those for who it was new, but it applied to them. But who are sides, and what defines this preference?

In 2013 in the Huffpost, Joe Kort Ph.D. wrote a piece called Guys on The Side: Looking Beyond Tops and Bottoms. Within the piece he discusses how not all gay men can be characterised by penetration; that there is an alternative preference that foregoes cocks in asses. A preference he names as being sides. As he states "Sides prefer to kiss, hug and engage in oral sex, rimming, mutual masturbation and rubbing… to name just a few of the sexual activities they enjoy. These men enjoy practically every sexual practice aside from anal penetration…" Though he doesn't clarify in the piece why he chose the name 'sides', the definition is easy to discern when in contrast to the top/bottom spectrum.

Throughout my long, chequered sexual history, I've met a number of guys who I shall retroactively call sides. As someone who was chomping at the bit to get into the world of anal sex as a teen, I greeted their status with bemused, questioning acceptance. ("Ok. But have you tried it?", "Maybe you just haven't met the right guy?") One couple I knew had been together for 10 years and never done anal (though it later transpired only one of them was a side and the other got anal elsewhere). I didn't think there was anything wrong with not having penetrative sex, I just didn't necessarily view it as the full sexual package without. Apparently, this is a common misconception.

"This idea of penetration being the main part of sex is constantly reinforced through mainstream porn, sexual health education, and even though public opinion" says NecroHardware, a self-identified side, "Penetration being seen as mandatory within queer sex is often reflecting societal pressure to engage in sex which mimics that of straight people". Another freshly identified side, AddictedtoRopes agrees. As he sees it, when it comes to views on penetrative sex, "gay and straight guys look very much alike."

On this topic, Necro goes further, stating that in many ways (perhaps controversially), being a side is queerer than being defined as a top or a bottom. In his opinion, by removing penetrative sex from the mix, side guys are stepping out from under heteronormative concepts of what sex should be. He believes the aping of archaic straight sex dynamics – the submissive is the bottom, the dominant is the top – can be problematic, and that it's perfectly healthy to move away from this.

Following on from Sandy's tweet, I reached out to Necro and Addicted, as they had both responded to it, sharing that they could each identify as sides. I was surprised on seeing this, as I had previously made assumptions about what role each might take. (As someone who is often mislabelled as a top, I should have realised I was making an ass out of u and me). Making assumptions on a guy's role preference based on how they look is pretty prevalent, and something a lot of us engage in, but rarely would the notion of someone being a side factor in.

Both Necro and Addicted are two guys who are well known faces on the fetish scene – Necro is living his best fetish life on Twitter and Addicted can often be found at kink events around the world, tying up many willing men. As two prominent kinksters, I was curious to know whether they felt anal was more or less important in the fetish world in comparison to the vanilla gay one.

"It depends on which part of the kink world you look at." Necro tells me, "If you're in the fisting scene then sure, it's hugely important. But if you're mainly a gear kinkster, anal can take a backseat to aesthetics and visual arousal." He also notes that the vanilla gay world is closer to the straight world, and therefore more inclined to follow the heteronormative top/bottom dynamic, instead of exploring a more "queer" sense of sexuality.

Addicted, on the other hand, has a different take. "Unfortunately, it's very, very important. I've lost track how many guys were interested in me at first, but when they discover I am not into anal, they change their mind and don't want to play anymore." He adds, "It's so important in the kinky world, that I had to put in my profile 'I don't do penetration in my sessions'. But I still receive many messages saying 'What are you going to do after you tie me up? Fuck me hard?'. When I say no, they ask 'So, it's JUST bondage?'". What these guys don't realise is that, for Addicted, the bondage IS sex. For him it's not a preliminary before a fuck, it's all part of the main event.

Going deeper, so to speak, I wanted to get a sense of what each of them permitted. Fucking isn't the only action our asses can receive, so I wanted to know whether ass play was on the cards.

"Oh YESSS. I love ass play!" laughs Addicted. I ask him, in that case, what separates it from anal penetration. As he puts it, "Is a smartphone and a computer the same thing? Is Netflix and a movie theatre the same thing? Is ass play and anal the same thing? A big no for all questions!" He continues, "Ass play, rimming - which I love - fisting, face sitting, they are not anal. As a top, ass play toys are just this… toys. As a bottom, toys can do things a penis cannot: vibrate, have cock rings attached, be plugged to an e-stim device, be used as some "humiliation" toy in public. Bottom line, if ass play was the same as anal sex, the industry of dildos, plugs, prostate massagers etc wouldn't be making so much money!"

Necro adds, "I want to make this loud and clear, I LOVE RIMMING. It's such a pleasure in this world having some handsome daddy sat on my face whilst I eat him out" He also notes that being able to explore people's bodies (especially their asses) in non-penetrative ways can be deeply sensual and rewarding, even leading to more fulfilling sex than just getting your ass filled full.

There's one question that I feel I should ask, and I guess to many it's the biggest question you might ask a side… why's anal not for you?

"Why don't some people like beets? Many other people do like them. It's just a matter of taste" says Addicted, "If you like anal, probably it would be hard for you understand, but the explanation is simple like that: I just don't like. Anal doesn't do anything for me. It doesn't turn me on, doesn't make me hard. Anal is my beets" he laughs.

It's a straightforward answer, that needs little explanation. It's just not for him. For Necro, the answer is a little more complicated. "The thing is, anal can be for me. I think it's important that these terms act as a loose categorisation and not a strict definition… I have and I can perform anal and find it enjoyable, but on the whole, I prefer to do other things like oral." Necro then shares that his status as a side is also connected to his past experiences with anal.

[ Trigger Warning: Sexual Abuse ] "For context, my first relationship was sexually abusive. I was often pressured or forced to bottom, and when I didn't, I was mentally manipulated into thinking I was wrong or bad for not doing so. Now I've been to therapy and have started working through those feelings, but these mental scars can be long-lasting and, although logically I know I will be fine, my body can react in ways in which it becomes very uncomfortable to bottom." [ End of Trigger ]

Because of the abuse he experienced he often chooses not to engage with anal. He also wants to make absolutely clear that not all sides are sides because of trauma. Much as it is for Addicted, many just don't enjoy anal. Other reasons I've seen given include the cleanliness factor, or in some cases, medical factors that make penetration difficult or impossible.

And as Necro puts it, "The preparation for anal is a lot and it can be quicker and more spontaneous just to have someone fuck my throat instead." As an avid doucher, I take his point.

So, when it comes to actually using the term sides as part of their identity, I'm curious whether it's something they would do. "Yes, sure", says Addicted. He only learned of the term via ThatSandy's tweet and has yet to attach much significance to it at present. "Yes and no", says Necro, "The problem with the term sides is that a lot of people still don't know what it means, therefore, anytime you do use it, you have to end up explaining what it is".

There is a degree of stigma involved with being a gay guy not into anal. I've heard of support groups for sides who have experienced difficulties and rejection for not being into penetrative sex, so, for some at least, it can be ostracising.

My hope is that after reading this article, one or two more sides might realise they have a term for defining their tastes – should they choose to. I think that, in truth, there are more guys who identify as sides than I would have thought. (At the end of the day, just because I can't get enough dick in my ass, doesn't mean others share that viewpoint). The more guys who use the term sides, the more people will understand what it means. Sides will have to have less conversations where they have to say 'no', and the less likely it'll be that tops and bottoms go after someone who's looking for something different.

Our definitions of sex and sexuality are always expanding, and the more openly we can talk about our tastes, the better we'll all be…and the easier it'll be to find likeminded people to have fun with.

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