The side guide: a (not so) new gay sexual position

By Oli McAuslan, updated 1 week ago in Sex and dating / Sex

handsome young man holding a banana in both hands with his mouth open

While this is a piece about sides, this is not a side piece. It’s not anal with a side of finger-licking fellatio. But a side as the whole damn meal.

You’d be lying if you haven’t sat on the couch and devoured a whole bag of chips for dinner. So why judge others for enjoying the same?

Leaving the pun a-side, practicing side fun has become popular down under. I’ll take you through the history and meaning of sides and give you some in-side-r tips on how to please one.

What does it mean to be a gay side?

A side is a person who doesn’t engage in fucking or being penetrated, but instead prefers oral sex, rimming, frottage, mutual masturbation, hand jobs, and other non-penetrative activities. These sexual acts are often referred to as foreplay, side fun, or outercourse. Regardless of what we call them, these practices make up as much of sex as anal does.

Like all sexuality, sides exist on a spectrum. Some sides don’t engage in penetration at all, while others may occasionally do anal, for instance, with a trusted partner.

Gorgeous ethnic mechanic holding heavy rims

A brief history of sides

Although the word ‘side’ has only recently emerged, the practice of non-penetrative sex has existed for a long time. The ancient Greeks, notorious for their homosexual behaviours, engaged in intercrural sex (thrusting between a guy’s thighs). And in response to the HIV epidemic in the ‘1980s, some guys advocated for frotting (sexual rubbing) as a way to be intimate while staying safe from HIV.

The term ‘side’ was officially coined by sex and relationship therapist Dr Joe Kort in a 2013 article in which he comes to terms with being a side. He writes:

“I thought out loud and said I’m not a top and I’m not a bottom, and then I just thought about a box and blurted: maybe I’m a side.”

Sides gained traction in 2022 when Grindr added ‘Side’ as an option in the sexual position category of profiles. Ever since, the identity has been the subject of opinion, with Drag Race star Bosco tweeting:

A guide to side fun: for sides and side lovers

Side fun can be hot and intimate; here are some tips on how to make the most of a side sesh:

  • Openly communicate what you like and don’t like sexually, listen to your partner(s) and remain judgement free
  • Some side guys may prefer certain types of side fun — you can be a side dom or sub
  • Get creative and try out some non-penetrative sex positions like the infamous 69 or the lesser-known X position
  • Get your head in the game by checking out our tips for giving mind-blowing oral
  • Experiment with some sex toys for sides
Sexy unshaved gay man with condom in his mouth isolated on white background

Sex ed for gay and bi sides

Just because you’re not having anal doesn’t mean you get a free pass for looking after your sexual health.

Not having penetrative sex takes your risk of HIV off the table, but STIs aren’t always so simple to avoid. Common STIs can still spread through oral sex and even kissing.

The good news is you can reduce your risk of STIs by using condoms and dams when sucking dick or eating ass. In any case, it’s best to get a comprehensive sexual health check-up at your local clinic every three months and let your partners know if you get an STI. Check out our juicy article on all things oral for how to give the best blowjob and more advice on STIs for sides.

Why are some guys sides?

There are many reasons why gay and bi guys identify as a side, some of which may include:

  • Discomfort when bottoming
  • Lack of sensation when topping – and enjoying blowjobs and handjobs more
  • Having longer sessions
  • Less preparation — no more late-night douching!
  • Medical conditions that prevent giving or receiving anal – such as not staying hard or having hemorrhoids
  • Sexual incompatibility — both being tops or bottoms, having different sex drives or having a cock too big to take!
  • Being a side can be liberating for people with physical disabilities or mental health conditions
  • Avoiding objectification and stereotypes
  • Gender and body dysmorphia
Asian gay couple are quarreling, angry or sad on bed in home

Stigma for sides

Due to ideas around masculinity and queer sex, sides can face backlash for not engaging in anal sex. Any notion that gay hook-ups must involve anal penetration is a false narrative. It also promotes the harmful belief that engaging in anal somehow proves a guy’s masculinity.

Because of this, some folks might judge sides as not being sexual enough or playing hard to get. Side guys are also more likely to be rejected sexually and isolated from the gay community. Sides can feel like they are sexually inadequate or as if something is wrong with their body.

For these reasons, identifying as a side can feel like another ‘coming out’, along with all the emotions that come with it. For instance, drag performer Kandy Muse explains that:

“In my life, I’ve had to come out as a queer man, then I had to come out as a drag queen. Then, to my gay friends, I had to come out as a side.”

Overcoming stigma

It’s time we acknowledge that some people just don’t like penetration! Gay and bi guys aren’t all the same; we have different bodies, pleasures, and abilities. We need to normalise being a side.

Let’s reframe ‘foreplay’ and other non-penetrative activities — it’s still sex, even without penetration. We can help side guys feel great about being a side and more a part of the gay and bi community.

If you think you might be a side, Dr Kort started a Facebook group ‘Side Guys’, which you can join to flirt and chat about side-related issues judgment-free with likeminded guys.

Let’s put an end to side shame, it’s a real pain in the arse.

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