Gay Sensibility on Sexual Compatibility

Published: April 24, 2013

Since my last blog post, "Guys on the ‘Side’: Looking Beyond Gay Tops and Bottoms," in which I introduced the term "sides" to describe gay men who simply don’t prefer anal sex, I’ve received many emails from gay men who do prefer anal sex who describe the problems they encounter when they find themselves in bed with a side.

I have worked with gay couples in which one partner prefers anal sex and the other does not, and both partners tend to assume that anal sex could "happen over time." At the start, they don’t put much emphasis on it, because they feel so good with each other in every other way, but over time, the honeymoon feeling wears of (as it does for all of us, sadly), and when the reality sets in, they find their sexual incompatibility painfully unacceptable. I have seen many couples break up over this issue.

If you ask people how important sexual compatibility should be in a relationship, many will judgmentally reply, "A relationship is more than sex. You found love, so get over it!" Others will play the law of averages: "Over time, interest in sex diminishes anyway." These are easy judgments to make, but they still require that each partner check in with the other to determine the importance of sex in their relationship — especially if they choose monogamy and agree to be sexual exclusively with each other.

In my work with gay, lesbian and straight couples, the issue of sexual compatibility comes up frequently. One partner might be kinky and the other "vanilla"; one may have a higher sex drive than the other; one may prefer certain positions that the other dislikes; or both partners may be bottoms or tops. As many gay personal ads state, these things are "just a preference," but as with any individual preferences, differences can contribute to problems in a relationship.

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