Disclaimer: This post includes opinions on sexual topics. Please ensure you are 16+ or have permission from your guardian to read this article.

Definitions Key:

MSM = men who have sex with men

WSW = women who have sex with women

It’s time to talk about sex….

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Within the LGBT community and in our publications and media, I see a great deal of discussion about sex. I think this is a very good thing.

People should talk more about sex, especially with their partners. Open communication, self-awareness and feeling comfortable discussing sex definitely leads to more fun in the sheets for all parties.

Discussion of sex in the wider community is also positive. It has the potential to produce more logical, liberal attitudes to sex, create better safe sex knowledge and encourage greater acceptance of our bodies and improve self-esteem.

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I hear a reasonable amount of sex discussion among heterosexuals too, especially the younger and sex-positive demographics but there is one thing I continually cannot help but notice from both communities – people have weird attitudes to “gay” and “straight” sex.

Many people believe there is a kind of sex for gay men, a kind of sex for lesbians and a kind of sex for heterosexuals. This is one of the more ridiculous notions I have heard. While sharing anecdotes about sex and making sly jokes some straights won’t understand seems fun, this idea of gay vs straight sex is actually untrue!

The idea is so incredibly prevalent that it permeates the LGBT community as well. It is something our own culture can, at times, reinforce.

Differences aren’t inherently bad, but you may not realise that this singular, seemingly innocuous idea of “gay sex” and “straight sex” is mainly a lie and a damaging one at that.

The notion of there being “gay sex acts” and “straight sex acts” has fuelled a large proportion of the most aggressive homophobia against our community and it is one of the lingering views that still causes problems today.

The truth is there is really no such thing as “gay” or “straight sex acts”. Let’s examine this and how harmful these stereotypes can be.

No. 1) There is no gay sex act!

If you define “gay sex” as any sex between same gendered partners and “straight sex” as any sex between oppositely gendered partners, then that is fair enough but if you define it as a specific act then yes, you have a weird attitude toward sex. Why you might ask? Isn’t it common knowledge that MSM, WSW and heterosexuals do completely different things in the bedroom? Not really no.

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It’s now time to get down to the nitty-gritty reality of sex.

When most people in society say, “gay sex”, they are really talking about anal sex if they are thinking of men and cunnilingus, fingering and use of sex toys if they are thinking of women.

When they talk about straight sex they mean vaginal penetration by a penis.

Most in the LGBT community know that a lot of the homophobia we face comes from conservative heterosexuals who have a problem with the idea of these sex acts. Recent LGBT equality battles have focused on equal marriage but before that, it was about those very sex acts being outlawed.

“Sodomy” is treated as being synonymous with anal sex, an act that is supposedly decried in many religions (depending on your translation and interpretation). Most of us know this is a major source of the prejudice we have faced in our own lives.

But why?

The root of this hate and of many silly stereotypes and misconceptions is not even valid. A lot of the mysterious and curiosities straights have about “gay sex” and gays have about “straight sex” don’t make any sense.

This is because there is no gay sex act. Anyone can have anal sex, anyone can have cunnilingus, use sex toys etc.

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In fact, for those of you who have sadly encountered the argument that homosexuality and bisexuality are bad because “gay sex” is supposedly icky or bad, did you know that more straights have anal sex than MSM?

This is a fact I cannot get people like my grandfather to believe. Their reoccurring homophobia is deeply rooted in a phobia of anal sex and a refusal to truly absorb the knowledge that, just because they don’t like anal, doesn’t mean all their other straight friends aren’t secretly having it.

Well, of course, they are because many heterosexual couples enjoy anal and there are more straights than LGBT people statistically, so do the maths.

If you can’t do the maths lets prove it:

In a recent study into sex acts between MSM, it was found anal sex is not as common as previously thought.

75% of those MSM surveyed kissed their partners, gave oral sex and received oral sex in their most recent sexual encounters but no penetrative anal sex.

Interestingly, only 36% of the participants of the survey reported receiving anal sex and merely 34% of them report giving it.

Overall, less than 40% of MSM had anal in their last encounter.

Yes, anal sex is not the be-all and end-all of “gay sex”. In fact, many MSM don’t enjoy it or have it that often for a wide variety of personal reasons.

Ok, you may be thinking but they are still having it so much more than straights, right? Well, the heterosexual population is starting to close that gap. Maybe they always did but were less honest.

According to a recent report, nearly half of heterosexual men have had anal sex and over a third of heterosexual women.

If you consider that about 90% of people are straight, then it is not the LGBT community who deserve scorn if you do have a problem with anal. This means there are far greater numbers of straight people doing the deed homophobes associate with MSM. Fascinating!

If you were wondering what percent of those straight men wanted to be on the receiving end of this sex act just look what handy ad popped up on page 1 of Google as I looked for my stats:

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For those uninformed on pegging. It is usually considered the act of a man being anally penetrated by a woman with a strap-on or other sex toy. This ad is aimed at men who are attracted to women but enjoy receiving anal and want to find women willing to penetrate them.

No. 2) The idea of gay sex vs straight sex causes illogical discrimination

We have established that everyone of every sexuality is probably enjoying a wide sexual repertoire. You are only really limited by your imagination.

Despite this, society continues to associate certain sexual acts with certain sexualities. While there may be some correlations, these associations have led to extreme homophobia.

Maybe you are thinking that homophobia is based on more than just a sex act. You would be right. There are gender stereotypes and whole other layers of disturbing bigotry tied up in there, but it is still a big part of the issue.

If you thought the associations were possibly misguided but harmless, you would be wrong. The belief that gay men are having anal and straights aren’t is actually plain to see in current UK law.

Just take a look at the UK blood ban and how recent legal relaxations still reflect an intrinsically untrue belief about gay and straight sex.

Previously MSM had to abstain from sex for 12 months. Now it has been brought down to 3 months but women unless they are sex workers, don’t get grilled about their sexual activity. And neither do straight men? Why?

Now, ok, if we are feeling generous, let us concede the statistics show there is a higher rate of STDs transmitted via unprotected anal sex. Fine, but the law isn’t written that way. It doesn’t say everyone must abstain from unprotected anal for 3 months, it cites any anal sex and directly mentions MSM. At the end of the day, a lot of different sex acts can lead to STDs if you don’t use protection and we know MSM aren’t the only demographic having anal sex. If there must be an abstaining clause it should apply to all genders, sexualities and all sex acts unless protection is used. It is blatant discrimination based on weird attitudes toward “gay sex” and “straight sex”.

No. 3) Gay vs straight sex is misogynistic

What is sex and how do our beliefs about this influence attitudes to LGBT people?

Well, as we can see from the image below even Google has some heteronormative views on sex.

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The weird attitudes people have regarding “gay sex” and “straight sex” cause even more problems than discriminatory laws and rampant illogical homophobia.

The assumptions actually negatively affect heterosexuals too, especially women.

In fact, both straight, lesbian and bi women bear an irritating burden thanks to people’s weird attitudes to gay and straight sex.

As well as incorrect views on who would have anal sex, it stems further to how we regard sex acts focused on female pleasure.

Society’s definition of sex is not just heteronormative, it is sexist because it focuses purely on the male orgasm.

Unfortunately, there are those who only regard “heterosexual sex” as real sex, they might extend that courtesy to anal but as the queer girls among us know, people frequently and rudely class female-focused sex acts as merely foreplay.

Cunnilingus, fingerplay and use of toys are regarded as not even affecting virginity. This is especially true of cunnilingus. Just see what Wikipedia has to say on the matter.

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Now, why is this? Why is sex between women not regarded as real sex?

This fabulous article on Bustle has some very smart women discussing their frustration with this particularly silly attitude about “lesbian sex”.

It is especially poignant because people’s attitudes mean that sex among heterosexuals is very non-female focused. Why should the female orgasm not be the defining indicator of real sex? Why should these acts not play a far more major part of opposite-sex couples and not just as foreplay but as a main event?

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If you think this is an overreaction, you have not heard of the oral sex gap. Heterosexual women are twice as likely to go down on a male partner than heterosexual men are likely to go down on women according to Bellesa.

Despite this, many women need clitoral stimulation to orgasm and take longer to orgasm than men. Yet, on average, vaginal intercourse with a penis lasts on average only 4 minutes!

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This means there is a lot of misogyny in our definition of sex. Everything focused on a woman is belittled or drawn down to be unessential, yet everything involving men and penetration is the real deal.

This could also be thanks to the glorification of female virginity. Back when religious superstition controlled our lives, female virginity was put on a pedestal and weirdly we still do this. Often certain sex acts “didn’t count” as losing your virginity but was that really about the act itself or desiring pleasure while fearing the loss of purity and the status of virginity?

Sex acts that don’t involve a penis can be penetrative and many queer girls enjoy penetration, so we really need to change our weird attitudes on sex for the sake of all women as well as LGBT people.

This very issue affected me personally and people I know. When I was very young, although I knew I liked women and enjoyed sex with them, it upset me that others, including medically trained people, may not regard our sex as real. I thought this could render me a virgin for life. It pushed me to seek out sex with opposite gendered people for the wrong reasons. While it worked out well in my case, for other women this can be an unpleasant, pressurising circumstance. No one should feel they need to perform a sexual act to prove a point.

No. 4) It causes harmful attitudes in the LGBT community

Sadly, the weird attitudes to “gay” and “straight sex” have even affected our own community and how we treat each other.

When the LGBT community believe they should be doing certain sexual acts it can result in us placing unnecessary pressure on one another. Some acts or lack of them may be associated with a kind of status but refusing to ever have full penetrative sex with toys doesn’t make you more of a lesbian and not liking anal does not make you less gay.

There is no version of sex that is inferior. Joe Stone highlighted the harm this causes in our community perfectly in his 2015 article for Attitude.co.uk. He asked the poignant question “Is the fact that some men don’t like anal sex the last gay taboo?”

He also reminded us of a fantastic quote from the drama Cucumber regarding some gay men not enjoying anal sex: “I think it’s true of a lot of gay men. But it’s a huge secret – maybe our biggest.”

It should be true that no sex acts are associated with a certain sexuality. Even some lesbians enjoy anal, which is discussed brilliantly by lesbian YouTube vlogger star Arielle Scarcella.

Hopefully, you should now know that there is really no such thing as “gay sex” or “straight sex”, there is merely sex between consenting adults and surely you have a more open mind about sexual acts in the bedroom and can enjoy and test any maneuvers you desire.

Of course, while many attitudes towards sex are getting better, there is still a battle to be fought. 4 in 10 Britons still think so-called “gay sex” is unnatural. Which doesn’t bode well for the boring sex those people must be having, but worst still 17% of the UK think those who engage in sexual relationships with the same gender should be criminalised and 1 in 4 share that view worldwide.

It is vital that homophobic, sexist and archaic attitudes towards sex are overhauled.

In spite of this message of doom and gloom let’s end on a positive note. The bisexuals among us know very well that when sex is pleasurable for both parties there really isn’t a great deal of significant difference when it comes to the acts themselves or the gender of your partner. Just remember to be safe, discuss your preference openly with your sexual partners and feel confident. If everyone can embrace this message, we will have better sex and a more tolerant and accurate worldview.

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– Carissa Parnell

Author Bio: Carissa Parnell is a freelance content writer, digital marketer and proud bisexual woman.