In Red, White & Royal Blue, Prime Video's new romantic comedy, the first son of the United States falls in love with a British prince. The movie, based on Casey McQuiston's 2019 novel of the same name, is the top-streamed film on the Amazon platform and has a 94% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. Not only is it a hit, but it's "unapologetically queer," according to writer-director Matthew López — and teaching audiences a thing or two about sex.
“Having spent my life watching what approximated for queer sex in films, I wanted to make sure that viewers understood unambiguously what was going on," Lopez told HuffPost. As a result, for many viewers of Red, White & Royal Blue, it's the first time they're seeing such accurate depictions of sex between two men, leading to lots of questions such as ... Can gay men have missionary sex? Here, we answer that and more.
What is gay sex, exactly?
"Gay sex" refers to any sexual activity — oral sex, mutual masturbation, role play, dry humping, sex toys and anal sex (the insertion of a penis or sex toy into the anus of a partner) — between individuals of the same gender.
In the movie, Alex Claremont-Diaz (Taylor Zakhar Perez) identifies as bisexual, which GLAAD defines as being “physically, romantically and/or emotionally attracted to people of more than one gender, not necessarily at the same time, in the same way, or to the same degree." To that end, technically, when having sex with Prince Henry (Nicholas Galitzine), people will interpret it as engaging in "gay sex."
As Zachary Zane, author of Boyslut: A Memoir and Manifesto and sex expert for Archer, a new dating app for queer men, argues, "gay sex" is just shorthand for describing men having sex with men. "But sex, in and of itself, doesn't have a sexual orientation," he says. "People have a sexual orientation. And sexual orientation is about desire and attraction."
Can two men have missionary sex?
In Red, White & Royal Blue, Claremont-Diaz and Prince Henry have missionary sex during their first time together. How do gay men do it?
“The anus is just slightly below where the vulva is, so yes, gay men can have anal sex in missionary,” Zane says. “If you're having trouble with angles due to the curvature or size of your or your partner's penis, you can always put a pillow behind the bottom's butt to help with angles.”
Is gay sex only anal sex?
“No. Neither is straight sex limited to vaginal sex,” says Dan Wohlfeiler, co-founder of Building Healthy Online Communities (BHOC), a consortium of public health leaders and gay dating website and app owners who are working together to support HIV and STI prevention online. “There’s also oral sex, masturbating yourself, masturbating your partner, acting out role plays and using sex toys.”
Furthermore, gay sex means “different things to different people,” just like straight sex does, Davey Wavey, a popular YouTuber and sex writer, tells Yahoo Life. Foreplay is also a "very important" piece of the puzzle. “Sometimes, even a good meal can feel like sex.”
Do all men who have sex with men (MSM) enjoy anal sex?
“Some men enjoy anal sex — but not all," says Wavey. "There is even a group of men who identify as ‘baters,’ who actually prefer mutual masturbation over anal penetration. Anal sex can be a lot of work. There's extensive preparation required including hygiene and diet, and not everyone is up for the task!”
What is ‘top,’ ‘bottom,’ ‘versatile,’ and ‘side’?
In essence, they are slang terms referring to the various sex roles, positions and self-identities associated with one’s preferred role in the bedroom.
"A top is the insertive partner (meaning they're putting their penis in their partner's anus), while a bottom is the receptive partner (the person with the penis in their rear end),” says Zane. “Versatile, often shortened as ‘vers,’ is someone who's open to and enjoys being both the top and bottom.”
It's important to note that while "top and bottom dictate the sexual position, for many queer men, it's also part of their queer identity," he continues. "That's why many queer men don't say that they prefer to bottom. They say they are a bottom."
“Sides,” on the other hand, describe people who “reject anal sex entirely in favor of other forms of connection like mutual masturbation, oral, massage and so on,” explains Wavey.
Who decides who tops and who bottoms?
“It's up to the people having sex!” says Zane. “There is no ‘rule book’ for who tops and bottoms. Just because you are masculine doesn't mean you automatically top, and because you're more feminine, you don't automatically bottom. There are plenty of ‘fem tops’ and ‘masc bottoms.’”
Whatever the case, Wohlfeiler says that sex roles "should always be based on mutual consent."
Of course, that requires “communication and planning,” adds Wavey. “Some gay men have strong preferences around topping or bottoming, so it's easy to sort out the dynamics of gay sex.”
What is anal douching, and is it necessary?
“Anal douching is when you clean your anus, typically by using a little bulb filled with water,” explains Zane. “Some queer men like to douche every time before they have anal sex to make sure they are ‘super’ clean, whereas other queer men never douche.”
"You definitely don't have to douche before having sex, especially if you're eating a lot of fiber and having regular bowel movements," he says. "However, if you're having sex for a long period of time or with someone who's particularly well-endowed, things can get a little messy, so many queers do like to douche for peace of mind."
While “douching is not necessary” before every sex act, Wohlfeiler cautions that “douching too frequently, or incorrectly, can be harmful.”
As noted by Planned Parenthood, douching more than 2-3 times a week “with too much water or force” can “rinse away the mucus in your rectum that helps protect the delicate skin inside your body. It can also lead to irritation and tearing of the epithelium, “the type of protective body tissue that covers all your organs and body cavities.”
What is Truvada, and should all MSM be taking it?
In a hilarious piece of dialogue, Claremont-Diaz's mom, who happens to be the President of the United States (Uma Thurman) recommends he take Truvada after he comes out to her as bisexual. What she's referring to is a prevention strategy known as PrEP, which reduces the risk of HIV exposure during sex by 99.9%, as noted by the CDC.
Truvada, taken as a daily pill, is one of three FDA-approved medications that can be prescribed for the use of PrEP. The others are Descovy (also a daily pill) and Apretude (an injectable shot administered by a doctor every other month, which is an easier option for people who want to opt out of daily regimens).
For sexually active men who are HIV-negative, PrEP is a safe way to add an extra layer of protection against HIV, though the choice to practice it is solely up to the individual. The CDC recommends that doctors discuss PrEP with all sexually active adults and adolescents, and prescribe it to anyone who asks for it.