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Probing My Anal Phobia

January 9, 2013

Probing My Anal Phobia
Probing My Anal Phobia

My fear of all things anal began when I was an early teen. My older brother David took great delight in bursting into our bathroom to startle me, especially if I was on the john. And, since I was a pubescent redhead, his sudden visits included a lot of laughing and pointing.

I was mortified beyond belief. To this day, I must be sure no one is in the house, and then close and lock the bedroom and bathroom doors before I can properly relax. And I live alone.

But you can't avoid everything anal if you're growing up gay. Not if you want to do the really fun stuff.

Thus my conundrum as a youth: exploring the pleasures of my tush while fighting the terror that something stinky might be going on down there. And I suspect I am not alone in this particular anxiety.

I discovered soon enough that if someone had serious intentions in regard to my backside, I couldn't simply rely upon a bran muffin and a Hail Mary to be properly prepared. God forbid I would, you know, not be ... well, you know. This ongoing fear had a habit of wrecking the mood and the evening.

My exclamations during sex were usually panicked calls to turn the lights up, so I could carefully inspect the situation. Or a plea to stop altogether. "Okay, that's fine, no wait!" I would cry out. "Am I okay down there? I mean, is it ... okay go ahead ... no hold on! Are you sure I'm ... ?" I was usually so involved with my protestations that I would hardly notice my date gathering his things to leave.

There are cleansing products meant to address this situation, but they require a certain comfort level with your own body and a little patience, meaning, they were incomprehensible to me. But I tried my best.

Drugstore enemas always felt too clinical, like something a nurse should be administering so you could "move your bowels," a phrase I hope I never have to hear again, much less type.

But never fear. Leave it to gay men to popularize the "shower shot," a long hose which screws into your shower head and ends in a narrow nozzle, just right for sliding up your bum for a thorough internal rinse.


The modulation of this instrument, however -- and I cannot stress this enough -- is of utmost importance. Too little water pressure and you've got a dribble with little cleansing effect. Too much, and you've just inserted a pressure washer into your ass that could peel the paint off a building.

I was first introduced to this contraption in my early twenties, when my first-time date invited me to visit the bathroom to "rinse out" while he relaxed in bed and waited. I stepped in the shower and surveyed the dangling metal hose. I turned on the water. I considered how it all might operate, and I made my best guess, standing there for God knows how long, hose inserted and whistling a happy tune.

I must say in my defense that no one had ever explained the device to me, much less how to gauge the input versus the output.

That poor, unfortunate man. He had really pretty designer sheets, covered with a gorgeous blue and white pinstripe blanket that I can still see clear as day. Such a lovely bedroom. That is, until a few passionate moments later, when all of it was soaked with a solid gallon of spoiled water that had been percolating in my poopchute, exploding from me in a streaming rush that looked like the wake of an outboard motor hurtling across Lake Erie. The word "apocalyptic" comes to mind.

Only as I matured did I realize I had options (and I will now introduce cute baseball analogies to illustrate my point). I discovered I did not, in fact, always have to play catcher, and I stepped onto the pitcher's mound with great enthusiasm. But as much as I enjoyed the view from above, I worried still, that maybe I wasn't holding up my end of the bargain. It was only after pitching a near-perfect game one day that my partner in the dugout helped me make a simple decision.

"Mark," he said. "Why don't you just stick to what you do well?" And it was this generous assessment that gave me the confidence to hang up the hiney hose forever.

Yes, that's right. I'm now a dedicated top. I'll allow you a few moments of incredulous wonderment.

What's even more amazing is my having a boyfriend who is not only loving and adorable, but absolutely expert at the exotic mysteries of booty sex preparation. It really is an impressive talent, if you ask me. Like walking on your hands, or spinning plates on sticks.

This is all to tell you, dear reader, that sometimes you must find solutions to your fears in order to take care of yourself. And sometimes you have to face your damn fears head-on. I was reminded of this recently when, at fifty-two years old, I had my first colonoscopy. I don't think I have to explain my anxiety level going in to this procedure.

Everything checked out fine, thanks. I had heard the anesthesia they give you can produce some odd behavior, but other than proposing to the physician and asking the recovery nurse if they located my pet hamster, I behaved myself quite admirably.

The only side effect of my colonoscopy was a bloated feeling and a case of the gurgles. Well, and a few hours later I had the longest, most continuous release of gas I have ever experienced in all my days. I'm talking a minute plus, people.

I really wish my older brother David had been here. He loves that kind of thing.

(Artwork courtesy of Andrews's Anus, via LifeLube.)

My Friends,
Probing My Anal Phobia
Probing My Anal Phobia

If I can face my deepest fears, so can you. Did you know that studies show people living with HIV have a higher incidence of "colonic neoplasms" (the polyps they are looking for during a colonoscopy), which should be checked out for cancerous cell growth? Anyone aged 50 should get a colonoscopy, and some protocols suggest that people with HIV start this screening at age 45. Please don't delay. Call your doctor! (At right, a picture of my happy procedure team just prior to my colonoscopy.)

And speaking of rectal douching (and why not? We really should discuss this topic more, considering it is such a common practice among gay men), I cannot say enough about LifeLube, the blog created by the AIDS Foundation of Chicago to help gay men address sexuality and their bodies. They have an entire section devoted to rectal douching (did you know there are new douches that limit the amount of healthy bacteria removed?) and another feature, Andrew's Anus, that provides engaging answers to the questions you're afraid to ask. The blog is no longer active -- meaning, no new postings -- but there is a wealth of information here and you should definitely check it out.

More From This Resource Center

Undetectable Viral Load and HIV Prevention: What Do Gay and Bi Men Need to Know?

Do HIV-Negative Gay Men Need Condoms if They're on PrEP? Here's What I Tell My Patients

This article was provided by Visit Mark's live blog.
See Also
General Information About Anal Cancer
More on Anal Cancer and HIV/AIDS

Reader Comments:

Comment by: Ricardo (Madrid, Spain) Sat., Apr. 13, 2013 at 7:01 am UTC
I'm dying of laughter! Thanks Mark for sharing your impressions.
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Comment by: AJ (New York) Thu., Apr. 4, 2013 at 10:01 am UTC
Mark, thanks for sharing this story and your fears. I have to join the people who have already expressed surprised about you being a top. And I also have to agree with Ben that it would be great if you addressed your fears.
It's sad to read that you've arrived at topping as a default beause of anxiety. Like Ben, I would have loved a Hollywood ending and a "and now I'm a big bottom!" But we're all going at our own pace and you're obviously not ready for that yet. But please remain open to overcoming fear and anxiety in all of their manifestations. Conquering the cleansing issues can give you a really great feeling of accomplishment. Everyone (except your man) is looking forward to the "I'm a bottom, y'all" post.
Two words: psyllium husks
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Comment by: Mark King (Los Angeles) Tue., Jan. 29, 2013 at 1:08 pm UTC
Hi MSK, it's MSK in LA. Ben sounds like a power bttm, a bossy bttm at the very least. Ben, chill baby, this is his personal blog not the medical reference area of the website. It's just a small personal glimpse into Marks life that is uniquely funny and at times quite sobbering. Glad to hear you get it and give it, you just didn't get this. Hugs to you MSK, you make me laugh, think and sometimes cry, besides, I like seeing my name in print! Xo MSK
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Comment by: Drew (Sydney, Australia) Fri., Jan. 25, 2013 at 4:21 am UTC
I've always felt that I need to do a poop when someone is f**king me. LOL

And yes those enema's from the "drugstore" or as we call Downunder the chemist are a little "makeshift"

This is once again, a very funny article.


Happy Australia Day(26th of January) to everyone at
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Comment by: Dalfigna (New York, NY) Sat., Jan. 19, 2013 at 9:11 pm UTC
Awesome!!! Brilliant writing... it's poetry and I LOVE IT the way you wrote it. It deserves an effin award. Mark S. King your are King of writing.
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Comment by: Mark S. King (Atlanta) Thu., Jan. 24, 2013 at 10:59 am UTC
Please, don't encourage me. After what I have disclosed in the post above (and having made my boyfriend the most famous bottom on the internet, at least for today), I should probably be muzzled for a little while. ;]

Comment by: Joe W. (Atlanta ) Fri., Jan. 18, 2013 at 12:28 pm UTC
It was if I was writing this article! we may have been separated at birth!
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Comment by: Mico (DC) Thu., Jan. 17, 2013 at 3:49 pm UTC
ROFLOL! Yup, Mark, I thought you were/are a flaming give it up, tight only the first time, bottom! Well, as I age, I swear, the less I know! That adage, is so true!

Take this from a man, who is built like a football player, with a swish in his walk, but always, clean down there and ready to a receiver!
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Comment by: Mark S. King (Atlanta) Thu., Jan. 24, 2013 at 11:02 am UTC
Okay, you are like the thousandth person to express shock over my being a top. Okay, I love Fashion Police and Project Runway. But let's keep that between us.

Comment by: Ben (Barcelona) Thu., Jan. 17, 2013 at 3:07 pm UTC
As a versatile cis gay male, I have to say this particular article made me shudder with disappointment that such a fatalist outlook on whatever anxieties a potential receptive partner might experience was published on TheBody. I kept waiting for a turn of words to point to a more open-ended discussion of anal sex...but no, in the end, the moral of this story is: don't face your greatest fears - just become a "dedicated top" and never turn back. Are you kidding me?! That's the suggested solution?! I understand that much of this does come down to personal comfort and not all of us are willing to put up with potential messy situations (denial of what it means to stick your penis in a rectum?), but I think the ultimate message this post is sending is completely disappointing and falls flat.
I personally practiced bottom-hood out of necessity simply because I found that so many men would say to me, "I don't bottom unless I love the person." But they still insisted on having anal intercourse. Despite my surprise, I would usually happily be the receptive partner, simply because it didn't bother me, never really hurt, and I was comfortable enough to control the situation if it was too painful, etc...but ultimately, I never understood why these roles had become so unquestionably prevalent in the gay community. I always wanted to practice with both tools I was born with; I always thought it was more interesting. It wasn't until I met my husband that I found someone who was also very happy to flip back and forth...sure, we have (rare) messy moments (and I understand we're probably more willing to put up with them as a couple with a lot of trust more than I may have been as a single man who often had hook ups with each partner only once), but we understand that comes with the territory - and ultimately find it more exciting to practice roles of a bottom who "f***s" a top and a top who gets "f***ed." And vice-versa. I wish TheBody would publish more open discussions like this.
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Replies to this comment:
Comment by: Mark S. King (Atlanta) Thu., Jan. 24, 2013 at 10:57 am UTC
Please don't be too disappointed, Ben. My blog reflects my personal experience and nothing more, and I'm glad TheBody realizes there is plenty of room for a multitude of viewpoints.

The message of this posting is simply that my own discomfort with all things anal made if difficult for me to enjoy bottoming. But, since I enjoyed topping, I found a solution -- Stick to that! I'm glad you're happily versatile. Continue to enjoy that and leave room for others to find their own way.

I cannot speak for everyone, Ben. My purpose is to share my story honestly. My experience doesn't negate the experience of someone else! If this post "falls flat" for you, read another one. It's a big, wonderfully diverse world out there!
Comment by: Pete (Glasglow, Scotland.) Wed., Apr. 3, 2013 at 9:00 am UTC
Ben, I agree, there is a need for serious discussion, elsewhere perhaps, of the tribulations of being a bottom and particularly if HIV and/or HIV meds are screwing up your gut, as is the case with me.

I have tried all the recommended solutions for firming up my "output" but sadly none have worked. My only options are:

1. swallow immodium tablets well in advance of an expected anal session

2. eat as little as possible in advance of the expected anal session

3. avoid milk and other dairy products in advance of the expected anal session

4. have the douche-bubble ready for use immediately prior to the anal session.

Needless to say the above preparations are a real pain, and so in my case anal pleasure is acquired very rarely these days.

Comment by: Calvin Nokes (Alexandria, VA) Mon., Jan. 14, 2013 at 10:54 pm UTC
I enjoyed reading this lot's of good information thank-you from a very grateful anal cancer survivor.
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