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Years ago, I visited my high school beard, who lives in New York City, for a long weekend of fun that I thought would focus on food. Our teenage years in Southern California were characterized by getting drugged and driving to the famous The Hat restaurant, where the divine level order is stacked pastrami sauce, onion rings and an orange. Even though we were locked up in high school, now we’re both out, him, a gay man, and me, a non-binary dike.

While we were planning meals for the trip, he turned down my requests for Balthazar and Momofoku, instead of making a lunch reservation for a now-closed Meatpacking District restaurant, where his favorite dish was thinly sliced ​​pumpkin. on porous pancakes. In the mornings I religiously drank a puree of green vegetables so dirty that I spat it out in the sink when I shared it with me.

At the time I didn’t understand it, but the culture of the toxic gay diet had already reached him. It made more sense as he watched his Instagram grid fill up with Fire Island group photos with other cisgender gay men in six-packs and wavy shorts. It adheres to what some degradingly call the “bottom diet”: a restrictive form of eating designed specifically to try to avoid what the community calls the “mess” in the bedroom when it is at the receiving end of anal sex. This diet usually involves a regulated intake that avoids rich foods such as meat and dairy, eliminates cruciferous vegetables and other foods that induce swelling, is prepared before sex by anal shower, and mixed with generous portions of the Pure Fiber Supplement. for Men. The goal of all of this is not necessarily a six-pack of abdominals, but sex without anxiety.

The idea that backgrounds “should” or “should be” adjusting their options for a cleaner sexual experience inspired a viral meme: an image of a plate of ice cubes accompanied by a knife and fork. In a culture that is already brazen when it comes to talking about our bodily functions, down to greater extremes, the restless backgrounds for a night of sex can even turn to starvation before sex. This kind of abstention still exists in the gay community, even though the conversation about background food has reached new heights this Pride season. Joel Kim Booster’s Fire Island inserted a joke that the characters wouldn’t touch bottom while eating cheese. Earlier this month, Postmates launched a national campaign claiming to have created the “world’s first friendly bottom menu” that was criticized on social media for appropriating an intimate part of the queer experience for his influence on marketing and to steal digital creator and chef Alex. Hall, who popularized the idea.

But food personalities and chefs have been stepping back, in recent years, in favor of revitalizing pleasure in the background diet. Hall, who founded the viral account The Bottom’s Digest in June 2021, cooks fund-friendly food year-round with the goal of leveraging the funds. “We created Bottom’s Digest with our recipes doing something as a top priority, and that priority is to minimize swelling and gas,” Hall says. “For people who eat pastrami and such, have it. As long as you don’t like a sack of potatoes afterwards and you still feel better, go for it. That’s the question.” Hall has more than 132,000 TikTok followers and 28,000 on Instagram, numbers that have only grown in support of his work since the Postmates debacle.

To understand the background food today, we have to go back to San Francisco in the eighties. Food writer, author, and sometimes fundraiser John Birdsall had just graduated from UC Berkeley and lived in the Bay Area. He recalls how the gay community at the time, despite emerging due to the exclusion of the United States, closely imitated cisgender and heterosexual sexual attitudes and bodily ideals. “There was anxiety about being thin enough and having a waist small enough to be attractive,” she says. But that began to change as the AIDS crisis escalated and those affected were challenged to maintain weight, experimenting with cannabis to increase appetite and fermented foods to boost their immune system. As a complement to the thin, hairless homosexual male trope, bear culture began to emerge, where larger bodies and appetites reigned. Birdsall is reminiscent of a Starbucks in the Castro that was called “Bearbucks,” where bears would gather, drink rich, milky drinks and go fetch puppies.

Birdsall recalls that there was no roadmap for eating bottoms or bottoms, but Bay Area Reporter (BAR) service journalism and the book The Joys of Gay Sex filled some gaps when public sex education was sadly inadequate. , or rather non-existent. Female behaviors and bodies have long been a target of degradation, and Birdsall shares that the underlying shame was prevalent at the time in the misogynistic reverence for the more masculine peaks. Lack of education left the gay community to be educated, to the point of mockery and discomfort. These are attitudes that the “Gaytriarchy” still maintains today, which continues to reduce the empowerment of funds.

Now, that narrative is changing. Fred Latasa-Nicks, the chef and gay owner of Provincetown’s famous restaurant, Strangers and Saints, says staff see most of their bookings by the end of the week, but aren’t sure whether to attribute it to a party in early in the week or in the background. being bottom ”saving their dinners for later.

Despite this, Latasa-Nicks says, “I don’t like to say that, but younger queers seem less mindful of things in general. And food is one of them. You see people eating and drinking and really living a lifestyle. more balanced and enjoyable, and then practice preparation, if you will, instead of denying yourself a meal. “

Strangers and Saints sells thousands of their entire dishes of burrata with grilled peaches, jalapeño and arugula pesto at the end of the gay tourist city season. Cavatelli with homemade ricotta, white Tuscan beans and endive is another of the best sellers, along with the ham and cheese croquette, directly in opposition to what the toxic background diet preaches.

“Even within these gay community subcultures, there’s always this regulation like, ‘Oh, I need to do this, or I need to do this.’ And what I see changing is the regulation. For many of us, we don’t want to live by someone else’s rules, we want to live by our values ​​and our rules that we set for ourselves, ”says Latasa-Nicks. “I think the ultimate goal is to seek pleasure. So you will eat good food, you will prepare when you need it, today you will be a top, tomorrow you will be a bass, maybe you will be in a trio. Why not?”

On TikTok, YouTube and Instagram, Hall of the Bottom’s Digest shares cheeky recipes “for a clean peach time” that are predominantly vegan and high in fiber. The most popular recipe on the bill is vegan cheese, a food that would scare some funds, but that allows many to reintroduce a “risky” item into their diet. The account is also reintegrating the consent and assertion of funds into the equation.

“One of my phrases is‘ submissive is not equal to weak, ’” says Hall, who often talks about the anxieties of bottoming out on his own. He states that he should never interfere in the way you live your life. “I’ve heard people use the term ‘down’ as an insult. And now I’ve recovered that, like, ‘No, you have to ask my permission to make fun of me, let alone put your cock on me.’ “. I won’t go hungry. There’s no consent to that, it’s just peer pressure.”

Hall takes the background food story a little beyond his account, directly addressing the dreaded “mess” that sometimes accompanies anal sex. Hall likes to say “shit happens all the time,” he recently made a video of a gay porn star saying he couldn’t make a bottom because he hadn’t cleaned down there. Hall, who uses pronouns they / he / she and is not binary, noted from his first video that the background identity is not limited to the cisgender male male. Each recipe that Hall’s account drops is tested by a team of 10 people that includes trans people taking hormones and people suffering from IBS. They have even received messages from cis women from their home state of Hall, Texas, who are trying anal sex for the first time for fear of an unwanted pregnancy.

One thing that has changed drastically since the gay culture of the 1980s is who uses the top / bottom / verse label and who the bottom diet applies to, and this includes people from many different orientations, genders, and inclinations. . Writer Chingy Nea, who describes herself as a “top girl,” told me that her ex-girlfriend wore a T-shirt that said, “Lesbians love anal too.”

Regardless of all the preparation a background can make, Nea says she likes to play “fast and loose” with food, enjoying a diet rich in meat and carbs. I’ve even seen her brag on social media about eating a Reuben and being reprimanded, and when I spoke to her on the phone for this story, she shared an anecdote about how she put her fingers in a club spontaneously. gay downtown Los Angeles and go out clean. . “My girlfriend says I have an immaculate ass and most of the time I can eat a lot of food and do anal and how the toy will come out pretty clean,” Nea said. “When I was little I tried to be good with what I ate before, but now you can’t always plan these things.”

Consent is at the heart of recovering from your diet: consenting not only to your partner, but also to your gut. Those who claim for background food are filling the sex education that was previously taboo, and while food personalities and younger generations may be more permissive with attitudes around food and background, a source told me remember that whatever your diet, I will still do it. In the end you will have to go to the bathroom.

In research into Birdsall’s acclaimed biography of gay American chef James Beard, he found materials that referred to the first time Beard cooked for his 30-year-old partner, Gino Cofacci, inviting him to lunch. with the head of a heated calf. Beard cultivated an image of eating massive amounts of extremely rich foods, so the food, by comparison, was quite a savings.

“I wouldn’t say Spartan food, but it was very moderate. There was a course of beef head broth. There was cold veal head with bread and some cheese, and that was it,” says Birdsall, adding: “Who knows, maybe I was thinking about the next step after eating.”

Rax Will (they) is a graduate of the MFA fiction program at UC Riverside and is working on a memoir that explores their multiracial identity through food. Jett Allen is a cartoonist and illustrator based in Los Angeles, California.

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