Anilingus is having a moment.

Long considered a taboo in heterosexual circles, oral-anal sex, or anilingus—known colloquially as "tossing salad," "rimming," and "eating booty"—has been a steady topic of conversation over the past few months. Trend pieces have been written in New York, GQ, and Cosmopolitan. Chris Brown Instragram'd (then promptly deleted) a picture of himself licking a model's ass with the caption "Eat da booty! #idgt [I don't get tired] lol." Nicki Minaj, on her latest single "Anaconda," speaks of a man who "[tosses] salad like his name Romaine." Straight people seem to have finally discovered that they too have assholes that can be explored for sexual pleasure; that gay men don't have a monopoly on anuses.

Naturally, the turn toward publicly embracing anal pleasures among heterosexuals is not without its critics, many of whom call anything involving that region "gross," "dirty" and/or "gay." The sudden popularity of eating booty brings an array of questions to the fore—Is this a 'queering' of straight sex? What has been the cause of this shift in attitudes? Is booty eating completely mainstream now? And, perhaps most interestingly, who is and who isn't 'eating da booty,' and whose booty is getting eaten?

The origins of the current booty-eating moment—at least within hip-hop culture—can be traced to a series of interviews with Louisana-rapper Kevin Gates. In the first, with DJ Whoo Kid, Gates responded to a question about groupie love by saying, "When a woman see me she may just break out and cry. Her pussy may just get instantly wet. I'm passionate about whatever woman that I'm making love to at the time—I'm supposed to suck yo' toes, I'm supposed to eat yo' pussy, I'm supposed to eat all yo' booty. This how I'm living." The interview then morphs into a conversation strictly about tossing salad, with Whoo Kid chiming in that he, too, has been known to eat booty, though he hasn't done it in a while and might need to "get a book" on it. Gates responds as such:

Gates: Aw man, just do it before you eat the pussy, because the clit is way more sensitive than the booty, so you eat the booty first and then you eat the pussy.

Whoo Kid: Jesus it's like thanksgiving in this bitch! [laughs]

Gates: It's a beautiful thing.

Whoo Kid (to random guy in the room): You ate booty before, right?

Random guy (off camera): All the time!

The reaction to this interview was instant, spreading across social media and giving Gates—who until this point had been grinding on the underground—the most publicity of his career thus far. Gates then gave an interview to Revolt TV and spoke on the controversy surrounding his initial comments, reiterating that "If I love a woman I'm supposed to lick her pussy, lick her toes, eat her booty." He then offered his now-infamous quote, "Yeah I eat booty! Real niggas eat booty! Real niggas please they bitches!" Vine parodies, Instagram memes, diss songs, and endless discussions on hip-hop forums and gossip websites ensued. Suddenly, everyone had an opinion on eating booty.

The inherent ridiculousness of "real niggas eat booty" aside, Gates tapped into something with his comments. While there were, of course, many who attacked Gates as "disgusting" and "gay" for speaking on his appreciation for anilingus, there were just as many who came out in support of him. In a thread entitled "Video:*Kevin Gates Addresses*Everyone Talking About He*Eats Booty!" on hip-hop forum Boxden—which, in the past, has been a great barometer for how people are thinking about rap topics and controversies du jour—responses ranged from completely and hilariously disgusted ("if i ever find out one of my homies eat ass, they are never joining a [smoke] session with me again—no sh*tty lips on a blunt or bong that im using") to completely co-signing Gates ("damm right i eat my gurl ass with pleasure anytime any day of the week.... yall little dudes better wisen [up] these chicks waana be pleased just like we do…"). Gates himself spoke on the split reaction his comments received, stating, "I thought I was gonna get bashed for it, but then so many brothas that's in support of that was like 'Yeah Kevin Gates you tellin' the truth.'"

Miami rap legend Trick Daddy has taken the booty eating proselytizing even further than Gates, christening August 5th National Eat-A-Booty Day, and naming himself "the President and CEO" of the Eat-A-Booty Gang. In an interview with Vlad TV, Trick revealed that he has "recently retired from eating pussy" and now solely dines on booty, warning, "if you don't eat your girl's booty I will." Trick also added, somewhat surprisingly, "I like the ladies to eat me out too! Don't get it twisted, I don't have no complex." The jokes about the Eat-A-Booty gang write themselves, and there were no shortage of them around social media. In the following days, many called Trick and his gang of salad-tossers gay, which he took particular exception to, responding, "Ain't nothing funny about me. Ask your momma and your sister am I funny."

While hip-hop culture's varying portrayals and performances of masculinity are often criticized as being regressive and restrictive—particularly when it comes to sex—the recently popularity of "eating booty" among rappers and rap-fans demonstrates the ways that hip-hop can be a space for progressive, even transgressive discussions about black pleasure, masculinity and sexuality. The initial Kevin Gates interview is noteworthy for the way it values black female pleasure. In Gates' world, women aren't degraded sexual objects, they are partners meant to be pleasured—he sees eating booty as an extension of that attention to pleasuring a woman. Trick Daddy thinks of eating booty in similar terms. In the context of contemporary rap music—where sex talk is often more about asserting dominance than giving pleasure, and the female partners are nameless hos and groupies—this is a profound stance. Booty eating has long been referenced by female rappers, from Lil Kim ("He be looking kinda fruity, but he still could lick the booty") to Khia ("lick my pussy and my crack") to Nicki Minaj ("Somebody point me to the best ass eater"). But, curiously, until Gates and Trick Daddy, few male rappers were openly stating their affinity for eating the booty. Clearly someone was eating it, but doing so was a hidden pleasure, not a public one.

The openness of black male celebs talking about their love of tossing salad is refreshing, however, it is important to note that all of this talk of eating booty has been decidedly one-sided—"real niggas" eat booty, but do "real niggas" get their booties eaten?

Aside from Trick Daddy, whose "realness" is sacrosanct, none of the other male celebrity endorsers of booty-eating have (publicly) stated that they enjoy being on the receiving-end of the sexual act. The 'complex' Trick Daddy referred to—the paranoid anxiety that having your booty eaten as a male makes you gay—is prevalent in discussions about eating the booty among heterosexuals. Many straight men do, indeed, have a "complex" about receiving anilingus. While ass eating seems to be becoming less taboo, being the male receptive partner of anilingus is a line too far to cross, and still very much read as "gay."

One rapper who allegedly likes to get his booty eaten is Drake. Drake's performance of masculinity is complicated—to many he is hip-hop's most sensitive, progressive guy, though a deep listening of his records reveals him as the kind of dude who will quote bell hooks just to sleep with you, then never call you again. But Drake occupies a space of constantly questioned masculinity, so it was no surprise when, recently, blogs—including Gawker—were abuzz with rumors that the Toronto rapper likes to get his salad tossed. The story was one of the more hilarious entries in the 'groupie tales' genre, describing Drake's penis as "not really big, but it's THICK" and leaving us all with the image of Drake saying "my turn" and then "laying there on the bed with his leg spread open and my face in his butt and his legs shaking."The response to the rumors about Drake were telling, and completely expected. In the comments section to the original MediaTakeOut article, Drake is called a "gay ass nigga." On Boxden, no one was surprised, Drake, according to users, is the type of soft dude who would be into getting his booty licked.

Drake isn't the only straight male whose sexuality has been questioned for (allegedly) liking to get their booty licked. Porn actor Brian Pumper, who is known for his outsized personality, forays into rapping, and dating Laurence Fishburne's daughter, is something of a pioneer in the "straight men getting their booties licked" world. A Google search for "Brian Pumper booty eating" brings up videos with tawdry titles such as "Brian Pumper Gets His Black Ass Eaten By Hoodrat." Rumors of Pumper's bisexuality persist, with many pointing to his being the receptive partner of anilingus on camera as incontrovertible evidence of this. In another instance, retired NBA player Shaquille O'Neal urged his former teammate/rival Kobe Bryant to "tell me how my ass taste," to which sports fans worldwide responded by calling him gay. Similarly, Jamaican Dancehall artist Alkaline's song "Fuck You," in which he talks about getting his ass eaten ("batty wash," in Jamaican parlance), has caused massoutrage throughout the dancehall community, with many questioning his sexuality. Lady Saw, the queen of raunchy dancehall, reacted by saying, "that is so gross...I can't even comment on it." Alkaline remains unapologetic.

Trick Daddy, Alkaline, Brian Pumper, Drake (allegedly), and countless gay men (such as rapper Fly Young Red, whose viral hit "Throw That Boy Pussy" included the line "Hold it open, I'ma eat it like a Pac-Man") publicly extoll the pleasures of receiving anilingus for one reason—it feels good. There are physiological reasons for this—primarily the large amount of nerves endings around the anus. Certainly, there are a number of straight men who privately enjoy recieving anilingus. If sex is about a loss of control and giving into pleasure, why is admitting that you enjoy a highly pleasurable act so rife with implications about your sexuality? The public expression of masculinity is one without much space for vulnerability; and, let's face it, bending over in front of someone's face is a fairly vulnerable position to be in.

But this fear of vulnerability is not specific to black men. The pervasive anxiety surrounding masculinity in our culture at-large—the same anxiety that causes headlines every time Young Thug wears a skirt or calls another man his "lover''—is the reason why statements like Trick Daddy's and Kevin Gates' are so controversial, and why many straight men are very uncomfortable talking about tossing salad. The recent trend toward openly speaking about private pleasures is a step in the right direction of eliminating that anxiety, and should be encouraged. Who knows, maybe anilingus's newfound popularity will lead to a slew of ass-eating anthems on Drake's forthcoming album, Views From the 6. I, for one, look forward to the 40-produced slow jam, "It's My Turn."

Tyrone Palmer is a Brooklyn-born, Chicago-based writer. Follow him @yngblksocrates.

[Illustration by Jim Cooke]