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Side Sex: What It is & Why Straight People Are Missing Out


Written by Pen Name (an AMAB they/them) | Contributing Writer

TW: Sex, Sexuality, Masturbation

Illustration by Issy Mason | Contributing Artist

When I was 12 and deeper in the closet than those kids from Narnia, I looked up the definition of sex. The first result that came from my good friend Google was: “When a man sticks his penis inside a woman's vagina”.

If this is what sex is, then by this standard, I am still a virgin.

What I learnt when I grew older, is that ‘sex’ is subjective, as there is no definition that can classify what it really is, what it’s supposed to include, and why you're supposed to include it.

Side sex is a concept popular within gay communities (especially on ‘dating apps’ such as Grindr, Scruff, Growlr, etc.) that individuals can identify with, which emphasises sexual encounters without penetration.

This can include but is not limited to oral sex, mutual masturbation, rimming, frotting, docking, hand jobs, footjobs, licking, pashing, kink-related contact, and anything that does not include a penis inside a hole of some capacity.

The term is relatively new, only appearing in the last decade or so. The term ‘side’ was popularised by American, queer sex therapist, Dr Joe Kort in 2013, in the article “Guys on the 'Side': Looking Beyond Gay Tops and Bottoms”. Kort had dubbed the term to normalise and destigmatise gay men who don’t want to engage in anal sex.

Despite being popularised within the gay community, the term is yet to be used actively within other communities.

A lot of people would probably dub side sex as ‘foreplay,’ but with foreplay, there’s always the expectation that this is the ‘fore,’ and that penetration would be included in the package that is ‘sex’ — but it doesn’t have to be.

Why do people have side sex?

There are a multitude of reasons why people choose not to have penetrative sex.

For gay AMAB (assigned male at birth) individuals who have anal sex, there’s an element of preparation that needs to occur for penetrative sex; sex can’t necessarily be as spontaneous as one would wish. This also extends to anyone who’s a fan of anal intercourse.

Douching for most couples is a necessity, expelling the waste that lays dormant in the rectum (unless you’re into scat, that is), and lube is vital for a pleasant, comfortable experience. If you meet the individual of your dreams (in my case, Henry Cavill building a PC in that one video) at a club, it’s not exactly like you can get briefly railed in the bathroom unless you have prepared beforehand.

Penetrative sex may be intimidating and cause erectile dysfunctions, or your partner may have a dick size equivalent to the Burj Khalifa, and despite you wanting to take it, you simply can’t.

If you have a vagina, you may suffer from vaginismus or endometriosis: both conditions which make penetration extremely painful and practically impossible, whether that’s a penis, strapon, or even fingers.

You may be concerned about unintentionally conceiving a child, or an STI scare (if you are having unprotected sex, whether through vaginal sex, anal sex, or even oral sex).

Or simply, you just don’t want to have penetrative sex, and that is also completely understandable.

A personal story.

Before I continue with this Wattpad self-insert type memoir, I need to clarify that side sex doesn’t need to be a means to an end. I am someone who enjoys both penetrative and non-penetrative sex, with side sex helping to accustom me to bottoming once again. However, side sex can always just be side sex, your partner must understand that and respect that boundary!

To begin: I’m technically in a three-year situationship, which I know is cuckoo bananas, but hey, we’re both fine with it for our personal reasons.

Anyway, when we first started seeing each other through the very romantic app known to many as Grindr, he advertised himself as vers bottom (someone who likes to receive more than give, but isn’t exclusively the receiver, if that makes sense), and myself, vers (someone who likes to give and receive equally).

This worked out well for both of us; he could get ploughed by twink dick (now otter dick) as much as he wanted, and I, someone who had bottomed previously and enjoyed it, yet was a little intimidated by initiating it again, could fuck to my heart’s content.

Our sex had always been top-tier, but we wanted to switch things up a little.

In the past six months or so, our dynamic swiftly started to change; he wanted to top me, and I wanted to take it.

Remember how I mentioned the Burj Khalifa earlier? Yeah well, he has his own Burj; Mary Shelly couldn’t have described something as threatening when writing Frankenstein in 1818, fuck, I don’t even think dick sizes existed like that back then. The girth alone of his pesky python is similar to a 250ml can of V.

We originally attempted but suffice to say we didn’t see the fruits of our labour; I was being split in half, and he, hating to see me in such pain, struggled to maintain a boner.

So back to square one we went, both of us still wanting to try top and bottom for each other.

We started in positions mirroring myself being topped without the dick-in-ass component: I was on my back with my legs over his shoulders, him looking over me, mutually wanking together. Fuck this was hot. I really, really wanted to do this.

Later, we would start with basic rimming, and eventually fingering. I started getting used to the feeling of something inserted inside of me, and we both started to understand our bodies and the boundaries that accompany them. 

The toys then came out: dildos, buttplugs, and even a vibrator were shoved into me (not all at once, of course), with him in positions imitating movements that it was his shaft and not a bit of silicone. I started to loosen up gradually, which aided in building trust between this somewhat newfound dynamic of him being the top, and me the bottom.

I am proud to say that as of two weeks ago, I successfully bottomed for him for the first time! Despite a bit of pain, we understood our barriers and what works for us with clear, active communication. We both came pretty swiftly after that.

In conclusion,

Side sex is a prominent and active part of gay culture. Side sex is not something that everyone wants, but for me, I love side sex and will continue to engage in sexual encounters without the promise of me having to insert my penis inside of someone, or someone inserting theirs inside me.

In my experience, ensuring that the sex you will be having with a partner is solely side sex alleviates most worries that come with penetrative sex. It cultivates more of a relaxing environment where the intimacy is great and sexy, and neither of us feels pressured to do anything outside of our comfort zone. It has helped me understand my body more, interpret my kinks, what parts of my body are the most sensitive, and what sexual acts I want, and don’t want to do. To this day, the most intimate and beautiful sex I have ever had is without a penis inside my asshole.

I recommend you try it out. Whether it’s with your partner, a situationship, a friend with benefits, or a simple hookup, side sex just may be right for you.


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