why is the government so interested in our sex lives?
After a recent consultation document released by the UK government included anal sex as an example of ‘unwanted sex’, Jake Hall ponders how we’re failing to educate modern youth on progressive views of sexuality.
There are few forms of intercourse more divisive than anal. Depending who you ask, it's either painful and unnecessary or really bloody brilliant with the right lubricant and the right partner. Regardless of your personal opinions, you probably don't automatically assume that anal is non-consensual -- because that's rape, not anal, right? Well, according to a recent consultation document released by the UK government, anal is an example of "unwanted sex" which has increased in popularity amongst British youth "despite research which suggests that it is often not seen as a pleasurable activity for young women." Despite being a sexual reality for many heterosexual and homosexual couples, the government sees anal intercourse as a dangerous trend tainting youth sex habits via its online popularity. In fact, one survey estimates that 56% of all online sex scenes feature some form of anal -- so, why is it so popular and, more importantly, why is it still such a taboo?
The original document, entitled Child Safety Online: Age Verification for Pornography, presents the argument that minors can be damaged by accidentally watching scenes of rape, violence, and incest online and, therefore, increased safety measures should be introduced for their protection. Although the Internet is vast and worryingly accessible, it goes without saying that there should be controls and sanctions in place to protect our youth from harmful scenes, many of which are outlined throughout the text. It is also argued that porn viewing habits can influence our IRL sex lives which, again, seems fair to say -- many of us have been guilty in the past of recreating a saucy flick only to find out it's far less erotic in real life. So far, so true; violence, rape and incest have no place in online porn because they should not be glamorized or, worse still, normalized.
Despite advancing gay rights by passing same-sex marriage back in 2013, it seems clear that Tories are still focused on traditional core values.
The problems arise when anal sex is introduced into the argument. The insinuation is that anal intercourse is unnatural and, according to the terminology "unwanted sex," often unsolicited due to the pain it can cause. Not only is this insinuation largely untrue, it's out of place and, accidentally, quite offensive. Unsurprisingly, the research conducted seemed to focus solely on straight porn -- proven by the reference to it being unpleasant for young women. This alone should highlight the government's conservative bias which, naturally, results in offense at the proliferation of non-traditional porn. After all, it was the equally right-wing Margaret Thatcher who famously reworded an Anti-AIDS campaign back in 1986 to gloss over the existence of anal altogether. Now, Cameron is following in Thatcher's footsteps with his conservative policies; last year, he announced a "marriage tax allowance" designed to save couples up to £212 ($304) per year, accompanied by interviews describing marriage as a "bedrock" of society. Despite advancing gay rights by passing same-sex marriage back in 2013, it seems clear that Tories are still focused on traditional core values. Essentially it's fine to be gay, just as long as you do it traditionally, monogamously and, apparently, steer well clear of any butt stuff.
Ironically, 2016 does seem to be the year that anal intercourse went properly mainstream. Back in January Amber Rose became an online sensation with the hashtag #fingersinthebootyassbitch, which she aimed at her ex, Kanye West, after he waded into a Twitter argument. West quickly denied that he enjoyed being fingered and, in the process, unwittingly proved that anal is deemed acceptable within straight sex when it's the man that penetrates. There's a culture of emasculation around anal sex and fingering in general, which is an obvious extension of the stereotype that straight men should be powerful and 'active' as opposed to feminine and 'passive'.
The truth is that a large number of straight couples lead progressive, sexually experimental lives which can occasionally lead to anal play. As a gay man, I can't count the amount of times that female friends have turned up with a bottle of wine and a solemn look announcing that they're 'considering' anal. We should tell these inquisitive couples the same thing -- be safe as you would normally, make sure you're both properly lubricated, and only do it with a partner you trust enough to stop if it hurts. Like anything, anal can be brilliant when done properly and, obviously, consensually.
For me and legions of other homosexuals out there, anal sex is a reality because it has to be.
There is the real kick -- the term "unwanted sex" takes this document from well-meaning conservative propaganda to actually quite offensive. Contextually, I'm a young gay male in a committed relationship. I don't have to explain to you all that vaginal sex is not a daily reality for me. If I want to take a relationship to the next level and engage in penetration, there's only one way in. For me and legions of other homosexuals out there, anal sex is a reality because it has to be. So to use the blanket term "unwanted sex" for all anal activity, the government is telling me that my behavior is deviant. It tells me that my sex life is "less than" those of all my straight friends that might get a bit pissed and try anal as a one-off. Not a week goes by when a stranger doesn't ask me if I'm "a top or a bottom" or, worse still, if I'm "the man of the relationship." Never would most sound-minded individuals walk up to a straight couple on the street and ask for the gory details of their sex life, but this is a common occurrence for gay couples worldwide purely because anal is pushed to the side. It's the 'Lord Voldemort' of the sex world -- people feel weird talking about it, therefore they'll ask intrusive questions after a few Jägers.
We need to eradicate the stigma around anal because, as the surveys show, it's becoming increasingly popular. Deeming it "unwanted" does nobody any favors. It dehumanizes non-heterosexual couples and, worst of all, it ignores progressive porn that shows men, women, trans people and queer people that the world doesn't revolve around penetration. There are healthy ways to explore sexuality, and anal is one of those ways. It isn't deviant, it isn't unnatural, and it isn't always unwanted. The government should recognize this and educate modern youth if it truly wants the new generation to grow up with progressive views of sexuality.
Text Jake Hall
Photography Kevin Dooley