Homosexuals, it seems our community has overlooked a matter that should be of great significance to any conscientious sodomite. Take a moment to sit down. Perhaps on something soft.
Apparently we should not be using soap on our butts.
This, at least, is the unequivocal instruction of Dr. Richmond, my pleasantly dad-like colorectal specialist, whom I started seeing a few months ago for hemorrhoids. (I’ve been dealing with hemorrhoids for some time, every six or 12 months waltzing into the office of an invariably affable, married heterosexual man who will call me “buddy,” finger me, and inject something magical into my ass. Over the years I've come to have a real affection for colorectal specialists, who in their masculine, fraternal way are probably a strong source of comfort for men at their most uncomfortable. You just get the sense with a colorectal specialist: The guy's a doll.)
Dr. Richmond has assured me that the hemorrhoids will stop if I stop using soap on my butt. This, of course, is patently out of the question for — well, I should think for pretty much anyone, gay or straight, who plans on getting into bed with another human being and having a halfway decent go at things (shouldn’t one go into every sexual encounter with the feeling that anything could happen?). And let’s be clear: Gays, if you in particular are not giving your butthole a good soapy scrubbing before you let anyone near you, then you are as much a blight on our community as Republicans or sexually ostentatious couples who practice monogamy.
Or so I’ve always thought. According to Dr. Richmond, soap is like poison to your butthole.
“Would you put soap on your eye?” he asked.
“Would you lick an eye?” I shot back.
“It's just sort of problematic because, you know, I'm a homo,” I told him, stating what I assumed was obvious.
“OK,” he said, seeming to mull this over. Then he said, “You could use baby wipes. They have no soap.”
“Baby wipes?” Can you imagine? “Just let me freshen up a bit, dear,” you’d say, reaching for a Pampers towelette.
“Stool is water-soluble,” he said with easy assurance. “Water will get you just as clean.”
“Would you lick a vagina if someone had just like, rinsed poo off of it?” I demanded.
At this point Dr. Richmond’s nurse came in to tell him he had a phone call. I eavesdropped as he spoke with some guy who was clearly terrified to get a colonoscopy. “The only way I can treat you is if I can see your colon,” he was saying. “Anyone who tells you you don’t need this is just wrong.” His tone was authoritative but not contemptuous, and I found myself deeply moved by his firm directness in the face of another man’s fear. By the time Dr. Richmond came back I was lost in reverie over the heart-swelling humanity of the colorectal specialist, and I’d forgotten my question.
I did leave Dr. Richmond slightly buoyed by the knowledge that poo is water-soluble … which I suppose means that if you pour a lot of water on your butt, the poo there will become … tiny enough to be OK. I wondered, Could I really do this? Live a life in which a butt washing involved nothing more than a baby wipe and a powerful faucet?
No. Surely, surely, the homosexuals had an answer to this. I headed over to Chi Chi La Rue’s sex shop on Santa Monica Boulevard, where I surveyed an endless array of ass-related hygienic products before finally approaching a clerk and asking, “Do you guys have … butthole cleaner?”
“No, like a nonsoap cleanser. For your butthole.”
The clerk — a trafficker, mind you, of gay-marketed ass products—thought long and hard before pronouncing, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen that.”
I tried Amazon. The closest thing it seemed to have was a product called Balneol, a “hygienic cleansing lotion” formulated, somehow, for the region in question. Offered a discount, I bought a three-pack. Whenever I thought anyone might be about to interact with my butt, I’d hop in the shower and squeeze a small mountain of the unlatherable stuff onto a loofah, which I’d then practically assault myself with.
Life continued like this until I happened to find myself in the beauty aisle at Rite-Aid, and I glanced upon a product that, perhaps thanks to my complete immersion in the homosexual lifestyle, I hadn’t thought to consider: Summer’s Eve vaginal wash. I leapt at the shelf, nearly knocking over an actual woman as I grabbed for the bottle, flipped it over, and practically fist-pumped the air as I read the description: This “nonsoap cleanser” promised to leave me “fresh, clean, and confident”! This might, I thought, be the product I’ve been waiting for my whole life!
The three weeks I had with Summer’s Eve were some of the freshest, cleanest, most confident weeks I’ve had in a long time. I’d hacked the system, obeying my ass doctor’s orders while also holding my physical upkeep to a basic standard of decency.
But of course, all summers' eves must end. When I showed Dr. Richmond my vaginal cleanser, he flipped over the bottle and announced, “Fragrance,” pointing a big dad-like finger at the word where it appeared in the ingredients list. “You don’t want fragrance anywhere near your bum.”
Fragrance? First of all, let’s agree that “fragrance” is not an ingredient; fragrance is in fact basically by definition an intangible thing. Still, I suspect “fragrance” is a rather key component to my vaginal deodorizer, and apparently it’s wreaking havoc on my butthole.
Sensing my exasperation, Dr. Richmond folded his arms and said, “I really don’t know why you’re so obsessed with this.”
“You don’t understand!” I said to him, with a sort of girlish adolescence. “You’re an old, married heterosexual. You don’t know what it’s like!”
“I may be old,” he said, “but I’m pretty sure I know a few things about sex.” (Around this time I started to wonder if, with my parents across the country, Dr. Richmond might in time come to be like my Los Angeles father, and if he might have any compatible feelings for me.) Then he came up with this mind-numbingly clueless gem: “Most guys are just happy to be down there!”
A part of me was touched by the magnitude of Dr. Richmond’s suggested marital ardor, that no degree of feculence could repel this man from the splendor of his wife’s anogenital region. Either that, or I should have been deeply depressed by how little access he seemed to be getting to it, given that he seemed to be willing to stick his face into anything. (He did assure me that he’d had “way more” sex than I’d ever had, which means he must have a terrific marriage.)
We left things with Dr. Richmond’s deflating suggestion that I stick with the afore-purchased Balneol, and that I should try witch hazel. I had no idea what witch hazel is, but I certainly liked the name, with its hint of black magic. I imagined it’d be kept in a cordoned-off part of Rite-Aid I’d never noticed before, and that I’d have to ask for it by name. “It’s witch hazel you’re after?” the Rite-Aid clerk would ask, studying my eyes, before finally beckoning me with bended arm: “Come this way, child.”
As it turns out, witch hazel is sold next to rubbing alcohol, to which it looks identical. I picked up the bottle, noting it contained a solution that was 14 percent alcohol, and immediately realized I had absolutely no desire whatsoever to douse any part of myself with it.
“You’re not supposed to wash with it,” my roommate Michael said. “You put it on a cotton ball or something.”
No, people. I will do a lot for you all, but stuffing my ass with astringent-soaked cotton balls is not going to happen. I might as well just use the baby wipes.
It’s insane that this is the best we can do. I’m wondering, in fact, how it is we’ve managed to accomplish so much — marriage equality, for instance — without yet having come up with a product that will clean our butts without slowly destroying them at the same time.
Given that we now live in an age in which the approval and outrage of gay people can be financially meaningful, I hereby call upon the Homosexual Agenda to direct the full fierceness of its aspirational and vindictive powers at the bathing industry. Johnson & Johnson, if you guys can make a shampoo for babies’ eyes, you can make a wash for our buttholes. It should be rich, lathery, and free of soap — and certainly of whatever the hell “fragrance” is. It should not come in the form of a sheet. Bonus points if you figure out how to market it to homosexuals while still making something to be sold at every major pharmacy chain. Perhaps an advertising tie-in with No More Tears? Like a gay couple shampooing their infant and smiling at each other: “Johnson & Johnson: Everyone nice and clean”? (If anyone has any other ideas, I’m sure @JNJCares would love to hear them!)
At the very least, guys, come up with this thing, take your name off it if you must, throw a lewd sticker on the bottle, name it something like “Ass Sauce,” and sell it by the truckload to Chi Chi La Rue.
We would all buy it.
BEN KAWALLER is a writer based in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @benkawaller.