Words by Ian Howley | @ianhowley
Photos © www.chrisjepson.com | @chrisjepson

Being a bottom can sometimes be a painful pleasure. Depending on how your body is, the amount of foreplay and how much lube you use, up the bum can be a pain in the arse. In our ‘Big gay sex survey’ out of the 3,141 gay men who took part over half described themselves as versatile and a further 22% were ‘bottom only’. Altogether more than three quarters bottom sometimes.

So here at FS we decided to talk to some bottom boys and ask them how they deal with taking it up the arse.

The beginners

Simon is 19 and from London. He just tried anal sex for the first time recently. He told us; “I’ve been fooling around with this guy for a couple of months. I’ve wanted to have full-on sex with him but the idea of anal sex made me feel weak. I didn’t know what to expect, how painful it would be or if I’d even like it. One night he stayed over at mine and we decided to try it. He started off slow and, I’ll be honest, as he entered me I was feeling anxious. He had topped some guys before so I felt he knew what he was doing. I could feel him entering me. It was painful. I told him to stop. He pulled out quickly and I felt an instant burning sensation. The pain brought tears to my eyes.” 

So what happened next? “It took a couple of weeks but we tried again. This time I knew what to expect. I made sure to use lots of lube and massage my bum. This time it worked. It took about two minutes for him to get fully inside me but after a while the feeling went from uncomfortable to wonderful. It took a few days for my arse to get back to normal but bottoming is definitely something I like.” 

Jake is 22 and from Glasgow. He told us his first time bottoming was really painful, but after a while the pain turned to pleasure. “My first time bottoming was something I will always remember. I had a few drinks and hooked up with a guy through Grindr. He invited me to his place. I went over, we started to fool around a bit and he asked if he could top me. When I told him I never bottomed before he understood. He made sure I was comfortable. He did lots of foreplay and got me going. I could tell he was an expert at being a top. He got me to a point where when he started to top me the pain didn’t really matter. My body was so relaxed that the painful sensations didn’t last long. The sex didn’t last long either, but long enough for me to know that being a bottom was for me. 

The experts

Alfie is 26 and from Liverpool. He describes himself as a total bottom and somewhat expert in anal sex. He told us: “Being a total bottom is brilliant. I love it. But I do remember a time it was painful. However after years of having anal sex I have turned the pain into pleasure. Being a bottom is something I pride myself on.” 

When we asked Alfie how he managed to turn the pain into pleasure he said: “I learnt what works and doesn’t work for my body. For instance. I need lots of foreplay – this could be rimming, massaging, oral, nipple play, etc. I can’t just take a penis up my arse. Bottoming doesn’t work like that.” 

Matt is 31 and from Brighton. He doesn’t describe himself as a total bottom, but does like it from time to time. He told us: “I’m both active and passive but more on the passive side. I’m greedy, I suppose. The main thing I’ve learnt from being a bottom is that you need to look after yourself. Making sure you are clean, poop free, and look after any tears or sores around the anus. I’m someone who ends up with small tears and cuts after bottoming so I need to take care of my arse. This involves making sure my poop is not hard. I eat lots of fibre and look after my diet. This is so that if I do end up with a few cuts after sex they don’t last long.” 

Messy sex

Eric is 35 and from Manchester. He told us the best thing to do being a bottom is to douche. “Douching is the most important part of anal sex. If I know there might be a chance of sex I make sure I clean my arse out. There’s nothing worse than fucking some guy and all you can smell is shit. Or even worse – something falls out. It happened to me once and I have never been so embarrassed.” 

Freddie is 27 and from London. “I douche about three times a week. It’s not that difficult to do. I bought a douching kit online and it’s easy. All you have to do is fill up the douche ball with warm water, insert it and squeeze. Then push out the water. It makes sure that I’m clean down there.” 

Jamie, 23 and also from London, says: “I’ve swapped toilet roll for wet wipes. As an occasional bottom there is nothing worse than presenting a dirty arse to someone. By using wet wipes after I poop I make sure I’m clean in that area.” 

Condom or no condom?

Is anal sex better without condoms for a bottom? 

Simon told us: “So far I’ve never bottomed without condoms. It’s not that I don’t want to, I’m just worried about HIV and STIs. I think when I meet someone I love and trust I might think about not using condoms but at this moment in time... condoms are here to stay.”

Jake said; “I’ve had bareback sex a couple of times but, it was only with a boyfriend. I’ve never had bareback sex with someone I didn’t know. I think it’s a lot of trust to place in someone’s hands.”

Alfie told us that he became HIV-positive at the age of 20 through unprotected anal sex. “I was young and foolish. I thought it wouln’t happen to me because of my age. I can’t tell you who infected me or when, but it’s someting I’m not proud of. I used to tell them not to cum inside me but that strategy didn’t work for me. Now it all depends on who I’m having sex with. I won’t have unprotected sex with someone who’s negative – even though I’m HIV-undetectable – I don’t want to risk passing HIV on to them. I only have bareback sex while in a relationship with someone who is the same status as me. I feel a great responsibility in making sure my HIV infection stops with me.” 

Matt tells us: “I try to use condoms all the time but mistakes happen. That’s life. So far I’ve remained HIV-negative but if I do become positive it’ll be something I have to deal with.” 

Eric told us that as a bottom it really doesn’t matter if he’s wearing a condom. “I make sure to carry thinner condoms on me at all times. As a bottom you don’t want to feel like a plastic bag is entering you. Thinner condoms are great.”

Any advice?

So what if you want to become a bottom. Freddie told us, “If you want to be a good bottom make sure you are clean. Look after your butt. And enjoy it.”

Simon says: “If you’re a newbie to it like me, then expect some pain at first but it will go away. The more you do it the better it gets.” 

How risky is fucking without condoms?

Most gay men who have HIV caught it from getting fucked without a condom. As far as gay sex goes, getting fucked without a condom, and having your partner cum inside you, is the riskiest thing you can do. This is because the lining of the arse can absorb liquids directly into your bloodstream. If there’s HIV in his cum, and it goes up your arse, that will be absorbed too. Getting fucked without him cumming inside you is lower risk but, as there is HIV in pre-cum too, there is still a risk of HIV transmission.

In group sex it’s theoretically possible to catch HIV from getting fucked even if your partner is HIV-negative, if he has fucked someone who is HIV-positive and then fucks you immediately afterwards. This is because there could be traces of HIV-infected anal mucus or blood on his cock.

Getting fucked is also high risk for most other STIs, including chlamydia, gonorrhoea, herpes, syphilis, warts, hepatitis B and for HIV-positive men it is thought that you can catch hepatitis C as well. Condoms provide an effective barrier against most STIs, including HIV, although some STIs, such as syphilis and warts, can still be transmitted if the condom does not cover the entire infected area, such as the base of the cock. If you are infected with an STI in your arse, it will increase the chances of you being infected with HIV if you are HIV-negative. If you are HIV-positive and have an STI, it is likely that there will be higher concentrations of HIV in all of your body fluids, including blood and anal mucus, and so you will be more infectious.

If the person doing the fucking is HIV-positive and has an undetectable viral load the risk of transmission will be greatly reduced.

What if I fuck without a condom?

Fucking someone without a condom is less risky than getting fucked without a condom, but it is still one of the riskiest sexual practices that gay men do. If you are HIV-negative, fucking someone bareback is more likely to lead to infection than sucking cock. This is because the anal mucus that lines the arse (we all have it) can contain a very high concentration of HIV. The mucous membrane just inside the tip of the penis and the foreskin can absorb liquids, like anal mucus, directly into the bloodstream. HIV experts used to think that infection from the receptive partner (bottom) to the insertive partner (top) was as a result of bleeding in the arse. Although it’s possible that blood is responsible for transmission in some cases, we now think that anal mucus is the body fluid that enables the man doing the fucking to become infected.

Other infections in or around his arse, such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea, herpes, syphilis, warts and hepatitis B can be passed to the guy fucking through his urethra (the tube you piss through). Condoms can prevent most of the infections that you can get from fucking, although it’s worth remembering that some STIs can be transmitted even if you use condoms.

If the guy getting fucked is HIV-positive and has an undetectable viral load the risk of transmission is reduced, however levels of virus in anal mucus may not match the level of virus in the blood (which is how viral load is usually measured). 

How risky are fucking and getting fucked with condoms?

While it is rare, condoms can break during fucking and this could make it possible for HIV or other STIs to be transmitted. Condom breaks usually occur because condoms are used incorrectly or are used for long sessions without changing them. If you use condoms correctly with plenty of water-based lube, it will greatly reduce the chances of them breaking. If you are having group sex, it’s also important to change condoms for each partner. This is because it’s theoretically possible that traces of HIV-infected anal mucus or blood could remain on a condom after a guy with HIV gets fucked. This is also true for other STIs, including hepatitis C. While condoms offer protection against HIV and most STIs, they cannot prevent them all. Even if you always use condoms for fucking we recommend that you get regular sexual health screens at a GUM clinic and continue to test for HIV on an annual basis.

For more information on sex, sexual health, STIs and HIV visit, www.gmfa.org.uk/sex.

No matter what sexual act you are doing, there’s a risk of getting an STI. HIV is considered the ‘big one’ because it’s incurable. Once you have it, you have it for life (the same for herpes). 

But there are many more STIs out there, some of which you can get from oral and anal sex. And none of them are nice to have to deal with. 

Here’s what you need to know about:


Chlamydia is a bacterial infection. It is most commonly passed on by fucking or getting fucked without a condom, but it can also be passed on by sucking cock or rimming.


Crabs are usually transferred during naked body contact (yes, we mean sex). Less often, they can be caught from infested bedding, clothes and towels.


Gonorrhoea, or ‘the clap’, is a bacterial infection of the urethra (the tube you piss out of), arse, throat or eyes. It can be passed on by rimming, sucking cock, fucking or getting fucked without a condom.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is found in shit and is acquired by getting shit in your mouth. This can happen through sex acts such as rimming or sucking someone’s cock after unprotected sex.

Hepatitis B

The hepatitis B virus is in blood, cum, piss, spit and shit, as well as other body fluids of a person who’s infected. The virus can be spread by sharing needles, sharing snorting straws, unprotected sex, or by getting blood or infected cum in your mouth, eyes, or on to broken skin.

Hepatitis C

The hepatitis C virus is present primarily in blood (including dried blood) and can also be present in cum. Traditionally injecting drug use was the most common way to catch hepatitis C but it is now known that unprotected sex, particularly high risk sex and group sex, is associated with hep C infection. In particular HIV-positive gay men are getting hepatitis C sexually. However, this does not mean HIV-negative guys are not at risk from unprotected sex or sharing sex toys. 


Herpes is a virus that is spread by skin to skin contact. There are two forms of herpes: HSV-1, which causes cold sores around the mouth, and HSV-2, or genital herpes, which leads to sores around the cock and arse. You can get herpes by kissing, sucking cock, rimming, fucking without condoms and even frottage! You can also get it by sharing sex toys. Cold sores on your mouth can be spread to another person’s cock or arse, and genital herpes can be spread to the mouth.


Syphilis is a bacterial infection which is most usually transmitted through fucking without a condom and cock-sucking, but which can also be caught through rimming, fisting and even through skin to skin contact (although this is rare).

For more information on sex, sexual health and STIs, visit www.gmfa.org.uk/sex.


  • In 2016, over 2,810 gay men were diagnosed HIV-positive in the UK.
  • About 80% of new HIV infections come from having sex with men who don’t know they have HIV.
  • About 10% of gay men who are HIV-positive don’t know they have it.

How to prevent STIs and HIV

PrEP is a pill you can take to protect you from HIV. PrEP only protects you against HIV, you will need to take other precautions to reduce your risk of contracting other sexually transmitted infections  such as gonorrhoea, chlamydia, syphilis and hepatitis C. 

How you access PrEP in the UK depends on where you live, it’s available on the NHS in Scotland, and trials are being run in England and Wales. The brand marketed drug is available through private prescriptions, but it is also legal to buy generic versions for personal use. Generic versions can be bought online.

The PrEP Impact trial in England has now begun (12/10/2017). The trial is recruiting up to 13,000 people. You can find your nearest participating clinic by clicking here

For more info about PrEP, visit www.gmfa.org.uk/prep

Condoms: Using condoms while having sex is still one of the best ways to avoid picking up any STIs,  becoming HIV-positive or passing on HIV. Make sure you use plenty of water-based lube too. Stay away from Vaseline and baby oil – they will make the condom rip. 

Cum outside: If you are someone who doesn’t use condoms, not on PrEP and you’re a bottom then it will decrease the risk if he doesn’t cum inside you. However there is still HIV in pre-cum and he may blow his load before he has the chance to pull out, so this is still highly risky sex. If you are a top remember that HIV can be present in anal mucus (the stuff that lines the inside of the arse), so pulling out will not reduce the risk.

HIV-positive: If you are HIV-positive, on medication and undetectable then the chances of passing on HIV is virtually zero. The recent PARTNER study reported no HIV transmissions from an HIV-undetectable person to their HIV-negative partner. This was after couples in the study had sex more than 58,500 times without using condoms.

HIV-positive men with an undetectable viral load cannot pass on the virus. For more information, visit www.gmfa.org.uk/hiv-undetectable.

However, other STIs can be transmitted through condomless sex. We recommend condoms if you don't want to pick up any STIs. For more information, visit www.gmfa.org.uk/condoms-and-lube.

PEP is a month-long course of HIV medication that can stop you becoming HIV-positive if started within 72 hours after sex (the sooner you start taking it the better). If you think you’ve been exposed to HIV, contact your local GUM clinic or go to an A&E. For more info on PEP, visit www.gmfa.org.uk/pep.

Test for STIs: All sexually active gay men should test for STIs at least once a year. If you are having sex with new partners then you should test more frequently. Test for HIV too when you’re there. It takes about two weeks for most STIs and four weeks for HIV to show up in a test. 

For more information or to find your nearest GUM clinic, visit www.gmfa.org.uk/clinics.