This article originally appeared on VICE UK
There are certain scenarios that many gay men live in fear of. Getting a haircut from a new, heterosexual barber. Kicking a football back to a group of lads in the park. Sending your dad a text meant for your daddy by mistake. Oh, just me then?
When it comes to sex, the potential for awkward situations is even higher. Particularly when, for lack of other options (and holes), anal sex is the default setting for many gay men. From the moment we go out into the world searching for dick and ass, we’re tasked with becoming experts on all things butt-related. Of course, some queer men prefer other sex acts, but while anal might not be everyone's favoured release, it is undoubtedly a big part of gay male culture.
A dreaded gay sex scenario can happen if mess, otherwise known as shit, appears during the deed. Most “bottoms” (men who are usually penetrated during anal sex) will know the feeling of laying there, praying to the gay gods that when the “top” (the man who’s going to penetrate them) slides his dick in, there’s no poo. It’s not glamorous, but in the world of buttfucking, an accident like this is almost guaranteed at some point.
To avoid this, lots of gay men douche their bumhole with liquid beforehand. But not everyone knows which position they’ll be in during sex and sometimes, if you’re lucky, unplanned sex can happen. Nature often takes its course unexpectedly, particularly if food, drink or other substances have been consumed. Total bottoms, who almost certainly know that they’ll be the ones getting fucked, often develop strategies to incorporate "clean" anal sex into their lives. For many, this involves altering their eating habits when they know sex is on the horizon, or constructing a diet that enables easier anal sex.
So, what is the “bottoming diet”? “You need to know your own gut and work out what works best for you,” 31-year-old Phil from London tells me. “For me, Diet Coke is also a massive no-no. It makes me feel gassy and isn’t good for my gut. I also steer clear of anything with lactose in and try to stay away from coffee if I know I’ll be getting fucked.”
Drew, who also lives in London, tells me that because he has a boyfriend, he makes significant changes to his diet to acommodate regular sex. “My boyfriend went out of the country for two weeks,” he says. “My first thought was, ‘Finally, I can eat mushy peas!’ Not to encourage the northern stereotype, but I love and miss them.”
Drew also cuts out other foods. “I avoid the usual suspects like red meats, spicy foods, anything with cheese and anything too rich like cakes or pastries,” he explains, before adding: “Now I'm wondering if it's worth it. I’m doing all this prep while he gets to eat pizza and fuck!”
Spicy dishes are mentioned frequently on the list of foods bottoms avoid.
Damian*, 28, tells me that his partner often forgets this, which can stop them from having sex. “If you're bottoming that night, my rule is to only eat foods that give you constipation. White bread, pasta, pizza – anything stodgy and you’re safe,” he says. “My boyfriend is clueless and makes chilli for dinner and then expects sex afterwards and I'm like… no.”
However Damian reckons that the fear of mess during sex is primarily psychological: “Even if you feel like something's going to go wrong, it mostly doesn’t.” Perhaps, when it comes to bottoming and food, it's a case of mind over faecal matter.
“Eating too much fruit, drinking too much alcohol or eating spicy foods might irritate the stomach before sex,” London-based registered nutritionist Rob Hobson tells me. “On the other hand, dehydrating whole grains, without too much water with them, will slow things down.” But Hobson doesn’t recommend changing your diet drastically. “It’s difficult to gauge, but I believe keeping a balance and eating everything in moderation is the best way to feel relaxed and in tune with your body before and during sex.”
Some bottoms tell me that nerves relating to bad experiences have put them off certain foods for life. “One time, I got fucked after eating sweet corn,” says 25-year-old Callum*. “Put it this way: I’ve never been able to look at it, let alone eat it since.” Graham* has a similar tale. “I once stupidly went for curry for a second date and went back to his place,” he explains. “Gays who bottom after curry are braver than Marines. Even the smell reminds me of that evening now. There wasn’t a third date.”
“One time, I got fucked after eating sweet corn. Put it this way: I’ve never been able to look at it, let alone eat it since.”
US-based gay men’s sexual health expert Dr. Evan Goldstein, founder and CEO of Bespoke Surgical, says that nerves before sex can have an effect on the digestive transit.
“This is a common fear amongst bottoms engaging in anal sex for the first time or 100th time,” he says. “That said, one can get Irritable Bowl Syndrome from emotional distress and it can literally be a shitty situation. The goal is to attempt to minimise any anxiety and set the stage for success. If one cannot, then call off the troops for that night.”
Goldstein also warns against douching before sex.
“Enemas, which are sometimes used, are designed for people with issues constipation. When using tap water, while it may seem innocuous, there are a handful of negative ramifications,” he explains. “Regularly douching with tap water or saline enemas can lead to serious injuries, such as fissures or haemorrhoids, along with higher incidence of STDs and HIV which can be accompanied by symptoms of bleeding or pain.”
Given these reservations, a healthy diet can play a big part in feeling at ease during anal sex. “When you feel confident, you can fully relax when bottoming, which is key for successful entry,” Goldstein says. “As for specific diet tips for bottoms, you want to try to incorporate high-fibre foods with lots of water, which allows for bulking of the stool and appropriate, easy bathroom breaks.”
Some bottoms take this need for fibre to more extreme levels. Matthew, a vegetarian, tells me he regularly uses fibre packages. Damian, on the other hand, takes Imodium, a diarrhoea treatment, to keep the poo from moving. However both Goldstein and nutritionist Hobson do not advise using such substances. “I would never recommend using laxatives, it’s just not healthy or sustainable,” Hobson says.
“Altering your relationship with food doesn’t always translate to healthy choices,” agrees Goldstein. “Lots of eating disorders are clearly linked to body dysmorphia, and a lack of sexual confidence usually goes hand-in-hand with that.”
Ultimately the perfect bottoming diet, much like the perfect shag, depends entirely on the person. Though in sex and in life, it’s important to remember that sometimes shit happens – and that’s OK.
*Names have been changed.