Numb Shots — by Damon Suede

Orgasms feel good. Asses are amazing.

According to an October 2010 study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, receptive anal sex has never been more popular with heteros and homos of all genders. As a gay man with a healthy sex drive, I can attest that anal intercourse is awesome when done properly, and any man who hasn’t experienced a prostate orgasm is the poorer for it. I can also verify that reaching orgasm more than once in a sexual interlude is very entertaining and that multiple orgasms are possible for any men willing to learn their bodies.

Erotic romance often revels in pushing boundaries and the practicalities of intercourse. These days, condoms are de rigeur, natch.  Lubing, fingers, sometimes even toys get pressed into service to open the way… Even if it doesn’t involve pregnancies or hymens, men fucking men means something singular in gay romance. Consequently, many M/M authors have probed the differences between anal and vaginal sex, and most of the genre acknowledges the need for prep steps before breaching any butt.


At the same time, an oddity has sprung up with the heroes of gay romance in their epic couplings:  “getting him off to get it in.”  By that I mean, buggery in which the bottom is brought to orgasm first to make penetration easier after, eliminating prep-time and tension in one E-Z numbing cumshot. Through the magic of climax–poof!–a fencepost pounding at a keyhole becomes a hot dog thrown down a hallway.

Sadly, this just isn’t how ass or cock or endorphins work…

Orgasm for men is mechanically, chemically, and biologically different from female orgasm. And though each of us has our very own anus, only the XY types are hauling around that little dynamo of delight, the prostate.  The anus is dense with pleasurable nerve endings but the “fireworks” in anal penetration for men is centered on this small gland. Prostate stimulation can cause ejaculation even without erection, and sometimes without orgasm. As almost every gay/male sex guide points out, penetration evokes a complicated set of sensations and stresses. Orgasm actually makes initial entry much more difficult and (often) much less pleasurable.  Why close and bolt a door you’re trying to open?

That’s not to say the spooge-before-hump can’t happen (I know otherwise from personal experience), but that it just isn’t common or even likely. “Taking the edge off” reduces orgasmic urgency, which in turn jettisons many of the perks of ass-banditry. Either as lover or author, eliminating the pressure of the semen contained by the prostate snuffs out much of the “I’m gonna blow” ecstasy in favor of muscular tension and mellow afterglow. Afterglow and tension do not make for a whole lot of “ram it in me” butt-hunger, and can actually leave the bottom at risk for discomfort and damage. It’s simple logic; orgasm doesn’t dilate but tighten those muscles. For some men, ejaculating more than once can be excruciating. Many guys can’t stand even being touched for a period of time after climax. Popping one’s cork may release relaxing endorphins into the brain, but it does not stretch or loosen any orifices.

M/M fallacies aside, ejaculation doesn’t bend rectal spacetime.

Somehow, the gay romance “numb-shot” has managed to become a truism through repetition, not reality. Even male authors use these kickoff cumshots, because they’re an accepted (if unacknowledged) fiction within the genre. Recently the subject came up on goodreads and we got pretty nitty-gritty. Once the veil had been lifted, I received scads of private emails from folks wanting to delve deeper. In fact, a dear friend who’s also an author wrote to check with me because she had used a “relaxing pre-plow blowjob” in a story I’d read and I hadn’t even noticed. That’s when I realized that “taking the edge off for buttsex” has grown so common (and persistent) in M/M that I’m almost blind to it.  But much as we might wish it, a quick jizz doesn’t “relax” the fuckee so the fucker can slam home the bacon.

Here’s the deal: perianal contractions are fundamental to the way we fellas blow our loads. Penetration after ejaculation is likely to offer more tension, more pain, less pleasure, and less interest for the unlucky recipient of said prodding. So it’s a terrible idea to use a “kickoff” climax for the bottom as a kind of palliative so that he can get reamed with less “pesky” prep. In the long run, tops run the risk of teaching that bottom’s body that orgasm and penetration are two separate events that are not and should not be connected. If it hurts or causes injury, nobody is coming back for seconds. To pick a nearby (but very different) anatomical region, if orgasm relaxed every muscle (especially the pelvic floor), expectant mothers would skip the epidural and just rub one out in obstetrics wards the world over. Yeah, no.

Or to put it another way: an orgasm is not xylocaine for Mr. Sphincter.

Most insidious is the idea that climax eases discomfort for an inexperienced bottom. Nay! Nyet! Nein!  For newbies to the anal experience, penetration after orgasm stresses the rectal muscles because they inevitably clamp during ejaculation and the sensations are so unfamiliar. Worse, the ubiquity of  Gay-for-You plots (or Out-for-You as Marie Sexton wisely calls the trope) means our butch beaus are de facto inexperienced; discomfort or even injury are more likely. Why stack the anal deck against them?

Of course some M/M fans might ask, “Why bother with realism at all?” Well, for one thing, a fantasy that doesn’t draw upon reality struggles mightily to create empathy or engagement (two of romance’s watchwords). Plus, readers who know better might balk at an author who didn’t bother to do the basic butt-love homework. More concretely, readers often mention that their real-life sexual exploration is often nudged by erotic romance. Grounding our fiction in reality makes that possible. What’s better than fantasy? How about fantasy we can believe?!

In abstract terms, M/M is a weird beast that straddles fascinating lines of gender, power, politics, sex, and psychology. As a genre it plucks at preconceptions and challenges the status quo. That’s amazing! But since much of it is written by women and even more read by women, a little extra research is indicated. Even for male authors, certain assumptions and preconceptions must be faced and challenged. Realism isn’t the goal, but it IS a helpful guide. Fantasies that spring from gritty truth tend to leave us all sweatier.

But wait! There’s more! Great erotic scenes are actions not activities. Though busting nuts might make for terrific spectacle, foreplay offers infinite variety and texture that makes intimacy more than Tab A and Slot B. Like generic insta-love, insta-orgasms usually represent a way for authors to avoid what makes sex complicated and beautiful and interesting. Geysers of semen may sound sort of erotic, but by definition climax releases tension, and tension is what keeps us involved in a story. Every man is different, every ass is different, every orgasm is different, and every moment of intimacy is different from every other. Thank all the gods! This gives the lie to ham-fisted critics who claim that romance “only tells one story” or that these books are “all the same.” When we cheat ourselves of that specificity, we close the door to possibility and power and put the ho-hum in the Big O.

Obviously there are exceptions. We are all wired differently. I once had a rugby player boyfriend who would ejaculate the moment he was penetrated; he would ride me down through my own orgasm, but the pleasure for him was at the outset–the punch–and the rest was a kind of anal massage that kept him in his climax. But that was HIM! I’ve also had boyfriends that couldn’t come at all from being fucked, and at least three who ONLY came from being penetrated. I also once dated a man who could only nut from complex rope play. What-ever! But none of them, in 25 years of an active homo sex life, in all my varied decades of slutty and wedded bliss, believed cum-cum-cumming relaxed your anus. Basic male urology gives the lie to the idea.

Think Sphinc! If you spot a handjob or fellatio swiftly “dilating” a gay romance hero before he’s humped into blissful mush, take the intercourse with a handful of salt. And if ever you feel like broaching the subject and breaching the orifice with Mr. Right (or even Mr. Right Now) in life or in print, please know that a quick orgasm will very likely lock that door tight.

Your characters and all the other beautiful assholes in your life will thank you.


Damon Suede grew up out-n-proud deep in the anus of right-wing America, and escaped as soon as it was legal into a career as a crazy word-wrangler and opinion-factory. He reads too much, sleeps too little, and loves his husband a lot.


  • What a fantastic article! Entertaining AND educational – the best of both worlds. And now along with Jo I’m wracking my brain because unfortunately I’m sure I’ve written this at one time or another. You can be sure THAT won’t be happening again LOL. Thanks for this!

  • “Ejaculation doesn’t bend rectal spacetime.” This one line owes me a new bottle of chardonnay. My keyboard got the last one.

    I had to rewrite an entire scene after finding a line at “Just Us Boys” that compared the post-orgasmic bottom to a sheep confronted with a canyon and its willingness/need to jump. Thanks for expounding so wittily.


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