Everyone is constantly talking about butts these days. Everyone is constantly starting articles about how everyone is constantly talking about butts these days. Both 2014 and 2015 were declared years of the ass. Butts are in, butts are it, butts probably won't be out for a while.
Yet there is a small knob living in the butts of half the world's population, and no one is saying anything about it. Even when Broadly published its own, very thorough article on the rise of pegging—which culminated in the tentative suggestion that 2016 might finally be the not-gay sex practice's year—there was no mention of the prostate.
Why? The little buddy is one of the main things that makes trendy, trendy assplay so compelling. As feminism continues its insidious creep into popular culture, men are expected to understand and appreciate the female anatomy and all the ways they can make it have orgasms. They are learning how big our eggs are, and that is great! However, this means that women will soon be finding ourselves the douchebags in this arena, if we do not do our due diligence. After I thought about it, I realized that my disappointing lack of knowledge about this particular feature of the male anatomy could not be considered fair. What is a prostate, exactly? Where is it? What natural foodstuff can it be compared to, size-wise? A blueberry? A grape? A cherry? A cherry tomato? A clove of garlic? A head of garlic? A walnut? A chestnut? A tangerine? An apricot? A lime? A kiwi? A plum? What is its point, evolutionarily speaking? Why are some men afraid of unlocking its supposedly boundless pleasure? What does it feel like when someone else messes around with it? Is it going to get cancer? Will doing tons of sex stop it from getting cancer? I had no idea! I asked around.
Read more: How Masculinity Is Killing Men
What is it?
From a practical perspective, the prostate is "the kinda hard bump you can feel when you reach your finger inside [an] ass and press against the walls," according to Ryan*, a 37-year-old writer. From a medical dictionary perspective, it's a gland, which is an organ that's primary function is to secrete, and it's located below the bladder, surrounding the urethra. It's partially made out of muscular tissue and partially made out of glandular tissue; what it secretes is seminal fluid, which mixes with the spermies to make the stuff that goes in your hair. The muscular aspects are what help the prostate propel the seminal fluid into the urethra, to mix with the spermies, to go into your hair.
More facts: After puberty, it is the size of a walnut, but it gets larger as its host ages. "If you looked at it, it would look like a little ball with wings, kind of like the famous ball with wings from the Harry Potter movie [the Snitch]," explained sex and relationship coach Charlie Glickman, PhD, who wrote The Ultimate Guide to Prostate Pleasure. To touch, he says, it feels like "a ripe plum," firm yet slightly squishy.
Some people speculate that the intense pleasure of prostate stimulation prove the gland evolved "for" gay sex. However, as previously mentioned, its main function is storing and releasing semen, which is why many men say prostate stimulation is more intense if you apply pressure during ejaculation.
Also, surprise: Women have one, too. This tends to get overshadowed in comparative discussions of anatomy, because people often say the prostate is the "male G-spot." This is understandable; both result in intense, specific types of orgasms after particular stimulation, and they can both result in more extreme projection of bodily fluid. However, this comparison is also engaged in a fallacy, because women have a collection of glandular tissue and ducts around our own (long-suffering) urethras that is also known as the prostate. Unfortunately, the female prostate is only really significant because it can get infected or develop cancer.
What does it feel like?
I made a point of telling many men that I was working on a sassy prostate explainer during the writing of this article. A clear divide quickly emerged in their responses. One group, the straights, got a scared look in their eyes and would ask something to the effect of, "Should I be afraid of getting cancer?" The second group was eager to explain to me what it feels like to have your prostate massaged/stimulated/poked/rubbed. There is no elegant verb for the experience, but there are many literary ways to describe the sensations it produces.
"It feels like someone put a marble in a stuffed animal, and you love that stuffed animal," Frank*, a 26-year-old master's student, told me. "It's not waves of pleasure—it's not piercing or sudden. It's very localized. That's why I said it's like a marble."
Unhelpfully, Ryan explained it the opposite way. "I get a lot of pressure and a lot of pleasure, but in waves that are hard to locate in a specific spot on my body—unlike, say, when someone plays with my penis, where it's a much more localized sensation," he said.
"A lot of men who we've talked to [in our research] have said that, when they experienced prostate massage for the first time, it felt like the beginning of an orgasm," Glickman told me. "So imagine the beginning of an orgasm, but lasting for 20 minutes. Pretty fun, huh?"
Pretty fun, indeed—the dudes love it, as long as you aren't just poking it with your pointy-ass fingers, though some people like that, too. "I once heard someone liken it to the feeling of pooping," another guy, Sean*, told me. "I suppose that's kind of true, though I'd say prostate stimulation is better (with the appropriate amount of pressure)."
It feels like someone put a marble in a stuffed animal, and you love that stuffed animal.
"It definitely depends what is stimulating," Daniel*, a 25-year-old pianist, says. "It feels different if it's a toy versus a cock versus a finger versus a fist. And if I'm doing it to myself or if someone else is doing it to me."
"It's kind of like tickling," Daniel continued. "You can't tickle yourself." Frank agreed. "There are a lot more bottoms in the world than tops, at least for casual sex," he hypothesized. "Maybe not statistically, but on Grindr. In my travels, every city is like, 'Well, you're in Seattle, so there are only bottoms here,' or 'OMG, you're a top? You must be the most popular person in Philly!' I think it's because you can't really do it on your own. You can jack off, but someone else doing your prostate is pretty wild."
You can also stimulate the prostate indirectly by massaging, with some pressure, the perineum, the body part between the testicles and asshole also known grossly as the "taint." Many people are aware of this technique as a good thing to do, sex-wise, though fewer are aware that what is being massaged is the prostate.
Still, "it's significantly more mild from the outside," Frank said. "It's like if you have a knot in your shoulder and you press that knot. Or if you pop your knuckles. It's satisfying [but not amazing]."
One man, who wished to remain anonymous, agreed: Taint massage is "for wusses who won't take a dick."
Men have often used the threat of prostate cancer to coerce women into having sex with them, arguing that, according to science, "men who don't have sex get prostate cancer and die." This is emphatically not true, though studies have shown that men who ejaculate more often could have a lower risk of developing the disease. Luckily, they don't need to have sex to do that!
In all seriousness, though, according to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer is the second-most common cancer for American men; about one in seven guys will be diagnosed with the disease, and about one in 39 men will die of it. One in 39 sounds like a lot, but the survival rates are very high. Risk factors include family history, being over the age of 65, and living in certain areas. Weird: According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, men living in rural China have a 2 percent chance of developing prostate cancer, the lowest risk in the world. By comparison, men living in the US have a 17 percent chance of getting the disease, and men who emigrate from Asia to western countries see their risk of developing prostate cancer rise significantly. Men who live above 40 degrees latitude (i.e., north of Philadelphia) have the highest risk in the United States, possibly because of the relative lack of sunlight up here. Sugary drinks and "bad carbs" can increase your risk of prostate cancer (and breast cancer), studies show.
Don't be afraid
Ultimately, our lack of discussion about the prostate is related to the fact that guys are afraid of going up there. When Glickman was researching his book, "we heard three things over and over again," he said. "One of them was that it hurts. The second one is that it's going to get messy. The third one is that men receiving anal play makes them gay." It doesn't! And this fear can defeat the purpose of prostate play. "For straight people, if you're too afraid to go in too far, you would miss the point," Frank told me. "That is the worst part of learning how to have gay sex—learning to get past the anal sphincter. If you can't get past the sphincter because you're too nervous or too tight—that's hard part."
*Names have been changed.