Dan* became a cuck by accident when he discovered that his boyfriend had cheated on him. "As painful and unpleasant as the experience was, there were also some undeniable feelings of lust and curiosity," he tells me.
Afterwards, Dan found himself trying to recreate the whole scenario in his head, imagining how they would have met, what they would have spoken about, what positions they may have had sex in. "That curiosity quickly morphed into sexual gratification," he explains, "and as our relationship began to establish itself in non-monogamous ways, I plucked up the confidence to be there and watch it unfold. I derive immense sexual gratification from knowing that my boyfriend is desired by someone else."
Stories of cuckolding have a long cultural history. Think of Chaucer and Shakespeare; Tolstoy and Flaubert; Les Dennis, Amanda Holden and Neil Morrissey. However, it wasn't until the early 2000s that people really started wanking en-masse to the idea of women cheating on their hapless husbands (and it has, traditionally, been about women). What began as a heterosexual fetish is now increasingly common among gay men, both in porn and in real life.
According to Google trends, searches for the phrase "gay cuck Twitter" have increased by a staggering 400 percent percent over the last 12 months. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Pornhub told me via email that "gay searches for 'cuckold' average around 200,000 per month", making it "more popular in 2020 than it was in early 2018". The majority of gay cuck videos are amateur user uploads, which suggests this isn't merely a top-down fantasy dreamt up by porn directors.
On hook-up apps like Grindr and Recon (a fetish-specific equivalent), it's not hugely common to see couples into cucking, but it's not unheard of either. It's perhaps most visible on Twitter, which has become an incubator for kink since Instagram and tumblr both clamped down on adult content, as well as being one of the main sites where OnlyFans performers build their audience. But how does a fetish based around ideas of patriarchal ownership and thwarted masculinity work in a gay context?
For many gay cucks, the fetish falls within a larger dom/sub dynamic with their partner – it's about making the top feel doubly alpha and dominant. Happily for Dan, who now runs a popular Twitter account and OnlyFans dedicated to cucking, these feelings of anxiety or humiliation are easily compartmentalised. "My boyfriend is quite good, in that once he's had sex, no matter how hot it is, and however humiliated or jealous I feel, that's it – until he's next horny," he says. "There's no talk of it in our everyday life. A lot of the bottoms he has sex with, he won't ever message or meet again. There is something reassuring in knowing that life goes back to normal."
Cucking, gay or straight, can be considered a way of eroticising male anxieties; the bull (the third party who becomes involved with cuckold couples) becomes a blank canvas upon which all sorts of insecurities are projected. Sometimes these are related to money or status (take, for example, the common fantasy of being cucked by one's boss, a sub-genre that brings up 1,795 searches on Pornhub), other times they're rooted in perceived physical superiority, muscularity and penis size. Are these anxieties strictly heterosexual in nature? Not really – and in any case, we should be wary of trying to directly transpose straight sexual dynamics onto gay ones. But perhaps looking at the specificities of gay cucking can tell us something about the anxieties of gay men.
"There are definitely some underlying worries," Dan admits. "Most notably, it's about me not being a particularly good bottom for my boyfriend. Until this day, his dick appears monstrously huge to me. Although other bottoms would love that – and I am an unswerving bottom – I've always preferred smaller and less girthy dicks."
This is about being worried that you're not good enough at getting fucked, rather than fucking. Bottoming is often conceptualised as an act so passive that all it entails is lying there and allowing someone else to be good (or bad) in bed. Obviously this is not the case. Bottoming can require diligent preparation, athleticism (riding someone's dick isn't easy on the thighs) and occasionally a high threshold for pain or discomfort. More than anything, it seems that some people are simply naturally better-suited to being penetrated by large objects. For all that gay men on Twitter love making jokes about the ascetic dietary restrictions their sex lives require, the sexual prowess of bottoms is undervalued.
Arun, also an OnlyFans performer with an X-rated Twitter account, got into cucking two years ago when a man messaged him on Grindr asking if he would sleep with his boyfriend. Being the third partner, he's technically the bull, but doesn't really identify with the label because he's a bottom. "For me, 'bull' means the top in the situation," he says. "If I were to be fucking the cuck's boyfriend then I would be the bull, but normally I'm just referred to as the 'twink'."
Here, we have another example of gay cucking not exactly matching the straight equivalent in either dynamic or terminology.
"Personally, I've found it empowering," Arun continues. "I get to have sex with a fat-cocked top while simultaneously showing off to the cuck boyfriend. The psychology of being the superior bottom also plays into it. We exalt tops, and we shame bottoms. Cucking like this gives back some agency and power, even if it's fleeting."
In a culture that exalts the masculine above anything else, perhaps it's healthy having a fetish that ends up venerating the feminine, the passive and the penetrated. It also provides a space for the expression of the under-discussed anxieties many of us have about not being good at getting fucked, albeit in a highly eroticised way.
Of course, that's not to say it's wholly a good thing. When it comes down to it, not many kinks are progressive (our grubbiest desires tend not to align perfectly with our politics) and cuckolding is no exception. A great deal, perhaps even the majority, of straight cuck porn is couched in dehumanising myths about black men – usually related to sexual prowess and/or dick size – and unfortunately this is evident in gay porn, too. This isn't surprising, given that white gay men are notoriously no less racist than their white counterparts and that racial fetishising is rampant in gay hookup culture. However, it does seem less prevalent in the gay cucking culture developing mainly on Twitter and OnlyFans, which is mostly concerned with the general humiliation of watching your partner have more passionate and intimate sex with a stranger than they've ever had with you.
So, while gay cucking is developing its own terminology and practices, it can still feel as though it's copying heterosexual dynamics in a way that doesn't quite translate. Maybe this is because cuckolding is at least partly based on some old-fashioned ideas of male ownership of women, along with the idea that non-monogamy is transgressive. Gay men are considerably more likely to be in open relationships than straight couples, which has been the case for a very long time. In 1977, iconic gay author Edmund White wrote that "the gay male couple inhabiting the 70s is composed of two men who love each other, share the same friends and interests, and fuck each other almost inadvertently once every six months during a particularly stoned impromptu three-way. The rest of the time they get laid with strangers."
This, it has to be said, doesn't sound a world away from present day Hackney. Depending on how pretentious your friendship group is, queer non-monogamy is almost normative, which means the dynamic of cucking doesn't feel particularly outrageous. If you're gay, it's simply not that humiliating for your partner to fuck someone else.
"Straight cucking revolves around the 'corruption' of a normal vanilla marriage," Arun suggests. "Maybe this appeals to straights more than gays because we've been doing that forever and it doesn't seem as taboo."
In theory, this should mean cucking can't have quite the same potency in a gay context, but – taboo or not – it's clearly doing something for a lot of gay men at the moment. If we understand it more simply as the inevitable combination of non-monogamy and BDSM, both of which are cornerstones of queer sexuality, then its popularity makes perfect sense.
This article originally appeared on VICE UK.