Is television finally going to open the front door to backdoor pleasure?

It wasn’t all that long ago that anal sex and touch was right up there on the no-go list of taboos. Despite the fact that the anus has long been known as a seat of pleasure among many different peoples and cultures, there have always been attempts to suppress bum lovin’.

And then came porn. And along with mass distribution came newer and racier sex acts designed to sell those sex scenes. Anal sex became a go-to addition to spice up mainstream, cisgender, heterosexual porn. Of course, once producers discovered the significant appetite people have for butt sex, it became a staple in many films. We can only imagine the lube budgets on porn sets increased dramatically (at least we hope so!).

As depictions of anal sex in porn increased, so did the general discussion of the potential - positive and negative - of participating in backdoor shenanigans. Some would say that anal sex became normalized because of porn. This may or may not be true, but it has certainly increased the opportunity to talk about pleasure of a different sort. So much so that we’re even seeing anal sex representation on network and cable television.

Porn and TV are obviously not the same thing, so it is not surprising that television has taken much longer to adopt the anal appetite. Even so, anal sex and other ass pleasures have increasingly been discussed and depicted - sometimes for humorous effect, sometimes to demonstrate different forms of pleasure and sometimes to make a point about sexuality. Either way, the backdoor has definitely gone (almost) mainstream. Here are a few shows that have portrayed anal pleasure in a (mostly) positive light.

"Mrs Up-The-Butt”

As is often the case, if we want to explore the origins of specific sexual exploration on television, the first place to start is "Sex and the City." This iconic show touched almost all of the bases - including fifth base. This isn’t to say that the adventures of Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha hold up as a model today, but the fact that the show kicked in the back door for frank, albeit problematic, discussions of anal sex and rimming was a step in the right direction.

Charlotte was aghast by the idea of being known as "Mrs. Up-The-Butt" when asked for anal sex by a paramour. She worries that men won’t marry women who are into anal sex, perpetuating the stigma that ass sex is dirty sex. In another episode, Miranda experiences some surprise rimming and doesn’t know what to make of it. The ensuing conversation among the quartet is curious, with some agreeing that analingus is a good idea, and others stating their total disinterest. However, when Miranda asks if she should reciprocate for her male lover, there are flat out “nos” passed around - except from Charlotte. She’s married by then, you see, so she’s all good with eating her husband’s asshole. Good on "Sex and the City" for introducing ass play to the masses, but, fortunately, things have changed for the butt since then.

The Slip

One of the most candid, though not explicit, explorations of anal sex came when someone went exploring “by accident.” "The Mindy Project" went right after one of the more taboo sexual comedy tropes when Danny did an end run to Mindy’s ass and claimed to have “slipped.” Seriously, dudes have been using this excuse for years. The truth, however, is that penetration of any kind without consent is assault. Mindy called Danny, and this dubious practice, out. By combining humor and the positive message of upfront communication (about the back and front), the show destigmatized anal sex and furthered ideas of consent. That this aired on network television and worked mostly on euphemism and innuendo made it even more successful.

Cat Doesn’t Have the Tongue This Time

Showing the clear difference between network and cable TV is the much more graphic depiction of rimming on an episode of "Girls." Really, it is rare on any type of screen (beyond porn) to see a man’s face buried in a woman’s ass cheeks. But, we saw it on an episode of "Girls" in season 4 when Desi gives Marni analingus. Like, there’s some serious motorboat action happening! At the same time, Marnie and Desi share a definitely intimate action with a distinctly intimate moment. Rimming might be even more taboo than anal penetration, in terms of wider acceptance, but at the moment he’s licking her ass, the characters exchange ‘I love you” to further the story of their on-again, off-again, illicit affair situation. The expression on Marnie’s face also centers this act as one of pure pleasure.

But Isn’t Butt Stuff for Gay Men?

Frankly, it is a hard call to say whether portraying queer men involved in anal play is a good thing or a bad thing. Done poorly, without nuance or a frame of reference to the narrative, and television producers could just be playing into the stereotype that it is only queer men who enjoy ass action. That would further stigmatize queerness. Fortunately, recent depictions of queer men and anal sex have been more complex. For all of the people who despise "How To Get Away With Murder’s" law student Connor for being, well, kinda of a psychopath and a total asshole, it is important to note that he is a rare gay male character who embraces his sexuality and is depicted engaging in (and using) queer sex. Connor lives a gay life. He has sex, that, for him, includes anal. It is also groundbreaking and noteworthy that he has sex with Oliver, who is HIV positive.

First Time (Could Be) the Charm

Believe it or not, there are plenty of queer men who are not into or haven’t experienced anal penetration. So, while there are the Connors of the world who have all the ass skills down, there are characters such as "Looking’s" Patrick, who decides to bottom for the first time for Kevin. Like many first-time anal sex situations, the result is completely awkward at first, but does reflect an all-too-accurate reality for many and their first time. Fortunately, the two men settle in and proceed with pleasure. Not every situation will end like this, but it is good to see a portrayal of positive bum fun, with all the fumbling that tends to come with first attempts.

Right...In the Butt

Now, these backdoor entries have all been great, but they were all just lube for "Broad City’s" phenomenal take on pegging. This groundbreaking episode sees Abbi finally hook-up with her crush, Jeremy. A wee misunderstanding sees him mistake her desire to switch things up with wanting him to switch. So he pulls out a strap-on with a sizable custom dildo! She then has to decide if she’s going to a place she’s never gone before - so, of course, she consults her BFF Ilana. And then she goes for it! Already, we’re busting butt boundaries by depicting a straight man who craves it in the rear. But it gets better. When Ilana’s parents find the dong in question, there is a very frank and candid discussion about pegging and prostate pleasure. "The Mindy Project" had to dance around language and other programs are more apt to show rather than tell. Major kudos to "Broad City" for breaking anal pleasure down with casual talk.

Is the boob tube likely to become the butt tube anytime soon? Maybe not. But the back door has been opened just a crack, busting taboo about anal play.