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Sexual practices between men

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19th-century erotic interpretation of Hadrian and Antinous, by Paul Avril.

Sexual activities involving men who have sex with men (MSM), regardless of their sexual orientation or sexual identity,[1] can include anal sex, non-penetrative sex, and oral sex. Evidence shows that sex between men is significantly underreported in surveys.[2][3]


Various sex positions may be performed during sexual activity between men. Evidence shows that sex between men is significantly underreported in surveys due to social desirability bias.[2][3]

Anal sex

The penetrating man lying on his back is the "top" and the receiving man is the "bottom" in the cowboy position.
Anal sex between two men in the missionary position

Historically, anal sex has been popularly associated with male homosexuality. Many MSM, however, do not engage in anal sex, and may engage in oral sex, frottage or frot, and/or mutual masturbation instead.[4][5][6]

Among men who have anal sex with other men, the partner who inserts his penis may be referred to as the top, the one being penetrated may be referred to as the bottom, and those who enjoy either role may be referred to as versatile.[7] When MSM engage in anal sex without using a condom, this is referred to as bareback sex. Pleasure, pain, or both may accompany anal sex. While the nerve endings in the anus can provide pleasurable feelings, an orgasm may be achieved through receptive anal penetration by indirect stimulation of the prostate.[8][9] A study by the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior (NSSHB) indicated that men who self-report taking a receptive position during anal sex in their last encounter were at least as likely to have reached orgasm as men who adopted an insertive role.[10] A study sampling single people in the U.S. indicated that orgasm rates are similar among men across sexual orientations.[11] With regard to pain or being uncomfortable during anal sex,[12] some research indicates that, for 24% to 61% of gay or bisexual men, painful receptive anal sex (known as anodyspareunia) is a frequent lifetime sexual difficulty.[12]

Reports pertaining to the prevalence of anal sex among MSM have varied over time, with some percentages higher than others.[7][13][14][15] A large percentage of gay and bisexual men self-report lifetime participation in anal sex.[7] Studies among gay men have indicated that percentages are similar when comparing men who prefer to penetrate their partners to those who prefer to be the receptive partner.[7][16] Some men who have sex with men, however, believe that being a receptive partner during anal sex questions their masculinity.[17][18]

Non-penetrative sex and masturbation

Two men engaged in frot by rubbing their penises together

There are a variety of non-penetrative sex practices. Frot is a sexual activity between men that usually involves penis-to-penis contact.[19] It is a form of frottage. Frot can be enjoyable because it mutually and simultaneously stimulates the genitals of both partners as it tends to produce pleasurable friction against the frenulum nerve bundle on the underside of each man's penile shaft, just below the urinary opening (meatus) of the penis head (glans penis). Intercrural sex is another form of non-penetrative sex that can be practiced between MSM. Docking (the insertion of one man's penis into another man's foreskin) is also practiced.

Manual sex is another non-penetrative sex act that can occur between men. This includes handjobs, which is the use of one's hands to stimulate someone else's penis or scrotum, and anal fingering, which is the use of one's fingers to stimulate someone's anus.

MSM may use sex toys. According to an online survey of 25,294 men who self-reported a homosexual or bisexual orientation, 49.8% have used vibrators. Most men who had used a vibrator in the past reported use during masturbation (86.2%). When used during partnered interactions, vibrators were incorporated into foreplay (65.9%) and intercourse (59.4%).[20]

Oral sex

Two men engaging in mutual fellatio in the 69 position

MSM may engage in oral sex, including fellatio, which is using the mouth to stimulate another person's penis or scrotum, and anilingus, which is stimulating someone else's anus using the tongue and lips. Wellings et al. reported that "the equation of 'homosexual' with 'anal' sex among men is common among lay and health professionals alike," whereas an online survey of 18,000 MSM in Europe "showed that oral sex was most commonly practised, followed by mutual masturbation, with anal intercourse in third place."[4] A 2011 survey by The Journal of Sexual Medicine found similar results for U.S. gay and bisexual men. Kissing a partner on the mouth (74.5%), oral sex (72.7%), and partnered masturbation (68.4%) were the three most common behaviors, with 63.2% of the sample self-reporting five to nine different sexual behaviors during their last encounter.[21]

Health risks

A variety of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can result from sexual activity.[22] A 2007 study reported that two large population surveys found "the majority of gay men had similar numbers of unprotected sexual partners annually as straight men and women."[23][24]


Some or all sexual acts between men are currently or were formerly classified as crimes in jurisdictions of some countries. In its December 2020 report, International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) found that certain sexual acts between men are criminalized in 67 of 193 UN member states and one non-independent jurisdiction, the Cook Islands, while two UN member states, Iraq and Egypt, criminalize it de facto but not in legislation.[25][26][27] In Egypt, there is no law against homosexuality but gay and bisexual men are prosecuted under other laws, most famously the Cairo 52.[28][29][30] In at least six UN member states—Brunei, Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria (only northern Nigeria), Saudi Arabia and Yemen—it is punishable by death.[25][31] In 2007, five countries executed someone as a penalty for homosexual acts.[28] In 2020, ILGA named Iran and Saudi Arabia as the only countries in which executions for same-sex activity have reportedly taken place.[25][32][33] In other countries, such as Yemen and Iraq, extrajudicial executions are carried out by militias such as Islamic State or Al-Qaeda.[25] Many other countries had such laws in the past, but they were repealed, especially since 1945.[34][35] Such laws are inherently difficult to enforce;[36] more often than not, they are not commonly enforced.[35]

  Decriminalized 1791–1850
  Decriminalized 1850–1945
  Decriminalized 1946–1989
  Decriminalized 1990–present
  Unknown date of legalization
  Always legal

See also


  1. ^ Eaton, A.D.; Scheadler, T.R.; Bradley, C.; McInroy, L.B. (September 2023). "Identity development, attraction, and behaviour of heterosexually identified men who have sex with men: scoping review protocol". Systematic Reviews. 12 (184). Springer Nature: 184. doi:10.1186/s13643-023-02355-6. ISSN 2046-4053. PMC 10542689. PMID 37777815. S2CID 263231942.
  2. ^ a b Turner CF, Ku L, Rogers SM, Lindberg LD, Pleck JH, Sonenstein FL (May 1998). "Adolescent sexual behavior, drug use, and violence: increased reporting with computer survey technology". Science. 280 (5365): 867–73. Bibcode:1998Sci...280..867T. doi:10.1126/science.280.5365.867. PMID 9572724. S2CID 20035266.
  3. ^ a b Coffman, Katherine B.; Coffman, Lucas C.; Ericson, Keith M. Marzilli (2013). "The Size of the LGBT Population and the Magnitude of Anti-Gay Sentiment are Substantially Underestimated". Management Science. 63 (10): 3168–3186. doi:10.1287/mnsc.2016.2503. S2CID 35207796.
  4. ^ a b Kaye Wellings; Kirstin Mitchell; Martine Collumbien (2012). Sexual Health: A Public Health Perspective. McGraw-Hill International. p. 91. ISBN 978-0335244812. Retrieved August 29, 2013.
  5. ^ Goldstone, Stephen E.; Welton, Mark L. (2004). "Sexually Transmitted Diseases of the Colon, Rectum, and Anus". Clin Colon Rectal Surg. 17 (4): 235–239. doi:10.1055/s-2004-836944. PMC 2780055. PMID 20011265.
  6. ^ Edwin Clark Johnson, Toby Johnson (2008). Gay Perspective: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature of God & the Universe. Lethe Press. p. 139. ISBN 978-1-59021-015-4. Retrieved February 12, 2011.
  7. ^ a b c d Steven Gregory Underwood (2003). Gay Men and Anal Eroticism: Tops, Bottoms, and Versatiles. Harrington Park Press. ISBN 978-1-56023-375-6. Retrieved February 12, 2011.
  8. ^ Rosenthal, Martha (2012). Human Sexuality: From Cells to Society. Cengage Learning. pp. 133–135. ISBN 978-0618755714. Retrieved September 17, 2012.
  9. ^ Komisaruk, Barry R.; Whipple, Beverly; Nasserzadeh, Sara; Beyer-Flores, Carlos (2009). The Orgasm Answer Guide. JHU Press. pp. 108–109. ISBN 978-0-8018-9396-4. Retrieved November 6, 2011.
  10. ^ Mona Chalabi (20 August 2015). "The Gender Orgasm Gap". FiveThirtyEight.
  11. ^ Garcia Justin R (2014). "Variation in Orgasm Occurrence by Sexual Orientation in a Sample of U.S. Singles". The Journal of Sexual Medicine. 11 (11): 2645–2652. doi:10.1111/jsm.12669. PMC 6035747. PMID 25131299.
  12. ^ a b Joel J. Heidelbaugh (2007). Clinical men's health: evidence in practice. Elsevier Health Sciences. p. 273. ISBN 978-1-4160-3000-3. Retrieved October 14, 2011.
  13. ^ "Increases in Unsafe Sex and Rectal Gonorrhea Among Men Who Have Sex With Men – San Francisco, California, 1994–1997". Center for Disease Control. January 29, 1999. Retrieved May 1, 2021.
  14. ^ Laumann, E., Gagnon, J.H., Michael, R.T., and Michaels, S. The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States. 1994. Chicago: University of Chicago Press (Also reported in the companion volume, Michael et al., Sex in America: A Definitive Survey, 1994).
  15. ^ "Anal Sex Safety and Health Concerns". WebMD. Retrieved August 19, 2013.
  16. ^ Breyer, Benjamin N.; Smith, James F.; Eisenberg, Michael L.; Ando, Kathryn A.; Rowen, Tami S.; Shindel, Alan W. (July 2010). "The Impact of Sexual Orientation on Sexuality and Sexual Practices in North American Medical Students". The Journal of Sexual Medicine. 7 (7): 2391–2400. doi:10.1111/j.1743-6109.2010.01794.x. PMC 3607668. PMID 20384941.
  17. ^ John H. Harvey; Amy Wenzel; Susan Sprecher (2004). The handbook of sexuality in close relationships. Routledge. pp. 355–356. ISBN 978-0805845488. Retrieved March 12, 2011.
  18. ^ Odets, Walt (1995). In the Shadow of the Epidemic: Being Hiv-negative in the Age of AIDS. Duke University Press. pp. 191–192. ISBN 978-0822316381. Retrieved July 6, 2013.
  19. ^ "The New Sex Police". The Advocate. Here. 2005-04-12. pp. 39–40, 42. Retrieved February 12, 2011.
  20. ^ Reece M; Rosenberger JG; Schick V; Herbenick D; Dodge B; Novak DS (2010). "Characteristics of vibrator use by gay and bisexually identified men in the United States". The Journal of Sexual Medicine. 7 (10): 3467–76. doi:10.1111/j.1743-6109.2010.01873.x. PMID 20561168.
  21. ^ Rosenberger Joshua G (2011). "Sexual Behaviors and Situational Characteristics of Most Recent Male-Partnered Sexual Event among Gay and Bisexually Identified Men in the United States". The Journal of Sexual Medicine. 8 (11): 3040–3050. doi:10.1111/j.1743-6109.2011.02438.x. PMID 21883941.
  22. ^ "Ten Things Gay Men Should Discuss With Their Health Care Providers". www.health.ny.gov. Retrieved 2024-02-09.
  23. ^ "Sexual Behavior Does Not Explain Varying HIV Rates Among Gay And Straight Men – Medical News Today". medicalnewstoday.com. 13 September 2007. Retrieved February 10, 2015.
  24. ^ Goodreau SM, Golden MR (October 2007). "Biological and demographic causes of high HIV and sexually transmitted disease prevalence in men who have sex with men". Sex Transm Infect. 83 (6): 458–462. doi:10.1136/sti.2007.025627. PMC 2598698. PMID 17855487.
  25. ^ a b c d ILGA (14 December 2020). "State-Sponsored Homophobia report - 2020 global legislation overview update" (PDF). pp. 11, 25, 38, 85, 115, 131. Retrieved 10 January 2022.
  26. ^ "Iraq debates law on death penalty for same-sex relationships – DW – 09/07/2023". dw.com. Retrieved 2024-02-09.
  27. ^ Ahmady, Kameel Et al 2020: Forbidden Tale (A comprehensive study on lesbian, gay, bisexuals (LGB) in Iran). AP Lambert Academic Publishing, Germany. p77.
  28. ^ a b Asal, Victor; Sommer, Udi (2016). Legal Path Dependence and the Long Arm of the Religious State: Sodomy Provisions and Gay Rights across Nations and over Time. SUNY Press. pp. 19–20, 65. ISBN 978-1-4384-6325-4.
  29. ^ Tolino, Serena (2020). "LGBTQI Rights in the Middle East and North Africa". The Oxford Handbook of the Sociology of the Middle East. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-008748-7.
  30. ^ "Egypt: Draft Law Criminalizes Homosexuality". Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. Retrieved 2024-02-09.
  31. ^ Ahmady, Kameel (2021). "Ahmady, Kameel, LGBT In Iran: The Homophobic Laws and Social System in Islamic Republic of Iran, PalArch's Journal of Archaeology of Egypt / Egyptology, Volume 18, Pages 1446- 1464, Issue, No. 18 (2021)". PalArch's Journal of Archaeology of Egypt / Egyptology. 18 (18): 1446–1464.
  32. ^ Ahmady, Kameel (11 May 2023). "Ahmady, Kameel. Investigating the Dynamics of the Iranian LGBT Community from Legal and Religious Perspectives, Lampyrid Journal Vol. 13 pp 846 - 869. (2023)". Lampyrid Journal. 13: 846–869.
  33. ^ "Saudi Arabia: Man sentenced for homosexuality" (PDF).
  34. ^ Hildebrandt, Achim (2014). "Routes to decriminalization: A comparative analysis of the legalization of same-sex sexual acts". Sexualities. 17 (1–2): 230–253. doi:10.1177/1363460713511105. S2CID 145575130.
  35. ^ a b Kane, Melinda D. (2015). "Decriminalizing Homosexuality: Gaining Rights through Sodomy Law Reform". The Ashgate Research Companion to Lesbian and Gay Activism. Routledge. p. 277. ISBN 978-1-315-61314-7.
  36. ^ Dupont, Wannes (2019). "Pas de deux, out of step: Diverging chronologies of homosexuality's (de)criminalisation in the Low Countries". Tijdschrift voor Genderstudies. 22 (4): 321–338. doi:10.5117/TVGN2019.4.001.DUPO. S2CID 213698186.


  • Steven Gregory Underwood(2003): Gay Men and Anal Eroticism Tops, Bottoms, and Versatiles. Harrington Park Press. 978-1-56023-375-6
  • Ahmady, Kameel Et al 2020: Forbidden Tale (A comprehensive study on lesbian, gay, bisexuals (LGB) in Iran). AP Lambert Academic Publishing, Germany.