My friend recently said the word “bussy” over dinner. This shouldn’t have come as a shock considering we were two gay men talking about sex. But the portmanteau of “boy” and “pussy” was uttered so casually — something to the effect of, “and then he ate this bussy up” — that I almost didn’t realize it was there, wilting next to a spicy tuna roll and a carafe of sake. Time slowed as I acquainted myself to the acoustics: the hard and guttural bus, the sí a definitive yes, though everything in my body was saying no.
Like “schadenfreude” and “late capitalism,” there’s a literary quality to “bussy,” in that I’m far more used to reading the word than hearing it spoken aloud. It’s most familiar to me on the freaky back channels of Gay Twitter, a way for mostly cis gay men to comedically revel in their messiness.
My friend, who’s in his 20s and aggressively identifies as a bottom, said “bussy” to signal that he was a Fun Gay, the vernacular equivalent of whipping out poppers on a crowded dance floor. I am, on the other hand, the type of gay man who hears the word “bussy” over dinner, squirms and then writes an essay about how uncomfortable it makes me feel.
Because there is so much to hate about “bussy” — starting with the way it qualifies the vagina as something inherently gendered. To that end, some argue that it translates to “butt pussy,” though I’m under the impression that might be another instance of straight white culture cannibalizing gay black slang — and I oop!
It actually derives from the Latin mussy, or man pussy, which whiffs of the same misogynistic pussyfooting as “murse,” “man bun” or “guybrator,” because yes, I want something up my ass massaging my prostate but — no homo — only if it looks like a contraption out of Star Trek. Around five years ago, however, “mussy” was banished to whatever purgatory words go to die, replaced by the younger, more effervescent “bussy,” which caused a friend to wonder, “When did my mussy become so old and obsolete?”
There’s an inherent slapstick to “bussy,” in the way cis gay men employ it to express horniness without actually being sexual. BuzzFeed frequently uses “bussy” as a gag on its video segment “Thirst Tweets,” in which celebrities like Taron Egerton are made to read tweets like “Taron Egerton is a white boy that I trust to destroy my bussy,” followed by the actor innocently asking the camera crew, “What’s a bussy?” There’s also a rap song called “Bu$$y” (“Make this bussy cream like a Twinkie when you’re in my tunnel”), and an anti-hemorrhoidal soap called BUSSYBOY, which Azealia Banks released in 2018 with the promise to “lighten and tighten” (though one user claimed the soap burned his butthole for three hours).
Like most stupid things today, “bussy” feels generational and purely of the internet. As MEL’s Alana Hope Levinson put it in a piece about the word “benis,” “millennials love to play with words because our brains have been poisoned by the internet.” These words serve a purpose though, she points out, as signposts of belonging: “Now that there’s so much content everywhere, you need ways to signal who you are, or your community.”
So it wasn’t a total surprise to see that in pockets of the internet, some trans and gender-nonconfirming folks were embracing “bussy”:
“It felt perfect to me,” says Dennis Norris II about the first time they heard the word “bussy.” The 34-year-old writer, who identifies as a nonbinary femme, first tried to make “boogina” happen in 2007 after watching Noah’s Arc, the dramedy about four gay friends living in L.A. When it came to Noah, the show’s lead, Norris says, “I’d never identified with someone so deeply because I’d never seen a black gay effeminate character be taken seriously like that on TV.” Hearing a character on the show tell Noah “You let him get your boogina?!?!” was an “oh my god” moment, explains Norris, because “it was the very first time I understood that I could feminize my anus.”
But try as they might, “boogina” didn’t stick. “Then I heard ‘bussy,’ and I was like, ‘Oh, that’s the real term.’”
Norris says they use “bussy” with “everyone,” from kiki-ing with friends to discussing sex on their podcast, Food 4 Thot. They see aggressively identifying with the word “as a way of moving beyond bottom shame,” adding “I’ve always been very femme, and for most of my life, I’ve been told that that was undesirable.”
“Bussy” also serves as a litmus test for new partners. “If a guy really is so turned off by hearing the word ‘bussy’ come out of my mouth in reference to my own body, he’s probably not going to be someone who feels good taking me on a date when I’m wearing a very short dress, sparkly heels and a full face of makeup — which is how I like to go out,” says Norris. “So it’s usually indicative of a larger thing.”
In bed, Norris says they actually prefer referring to their anus as “pussy,” but they notice that “bussy” tends to go over easier, calling it “gateway language” for sexual partners. “Bussy” also feels more anatomically correct. “At the end of the day, I’m a male-bodied person — I have a penis, I don’t have a vagina — and sometimes I feel like it’s not fair for me to co-opt the word ‘pussy.’”
Twenty-eighty-year-old Cherry Iocovozzi first heard of “bussy” in 2014, when the Fly Young Red song “Throw That Boy Pussy” (in which the Houston rapper exclaims, “Hold it open, I’ma eat it like a Pac-Man”) went viral on gay Tumblr. Because Iocovozzi identified as female at the time, “bussy” mostly seemed “like a funny word that gay men could use for their buttholes,” they say. “I’ve always seen it as a word that didn’t have a lot to do with me until I started transitioning and identifying more with masculinity and maleness. Then me and my trans guy friends started using it, mostly in a joking context, but also when we were having more serious conversations about sex and intimacy.”
Today, Iocovozzi identifies as nonbinary trans masculine and says “bussy” has become a way to refer to both their anus and vagina, especially when talking about their sexual health with friends. “It’s 50/50 front or back hole,” they say. “It just depends on the context of the sentence to figure out which one you’re talking about.” When it comes to their front hole, Iocovozzi says “bussy” feels appropriately less gendered. “Not that I believe words like ‘penis’ and ‘vagina’ are inherently gendered,” they clarify. “It’s just an easy way to talk about a subject that’s hard to talk about, so you bring a little joke to it. It’s like, ‘Yeah, my bussy itches. I think I have a yeast infection or whatever.’”
They have yet to bring “bussy” in the bedroom, but aren’t opposed to the possibility. “I might giggle, but if the person is hot enough, why not?” they say. “‘Bussy’ will definitely go down in the history books. It’s an iconic word.”
Through this lens, “bussy” belongs to the lexicon of queer vocabulary meant to deconstruct and reimagine the possibilities of gender, often with a playful nudge. The anus, after all, isn’t a vagina — though I do worry that applying a hetero framework to queer sex urges some bottoms to glorify their assholes supposed vagina-like qualities, like self-lubricating (as a friend recently insisted theirs could).
Because those claims simply don’t check out, according to Evan Goldstein, an anal surgeon and founder and CEO of Bespoke Surgical, a practice specializing in gay men’s sexual health. He tells me that while the rectum does produce a thin mucus meant to assist in the passage of stool, which can activate during anal sex, “those glands produce very, very little amounts of that mucus.” In other words, he says, “It’s not this self-lubricating component.”
“It’s from trauma,” says Goldstein, explaining that when the rectum and colon are irritated — most commonly from over-douching, double penetration or fisting — it produces a thick layer of mucus to protect itself. “You could have a rip-roaring chlamydial infection, and the only manifestation is increased mucus. And you’re like, ‘Great, my bussy is leaking and everyone loves it!’”
Goldstein points to the added appeal for tops, similar to squirting scenes in straight porn where a typically internal expression of pleasure, like the female orgasm, is made legible. “Tops are like, ‘Oh, I made his ass cum,’” he says. “But it’s clearly some element of a problem. I understand why people are bringing that terminology over, because they feel like [the anus] is a sexual organ: People love to lick it and play with it and love for it to produce something that shows that it’s being stimulated. I want people to keep whatever is going to get them off, but you have to look at that critically and see if there’s something harmful you’re doing in that action.”
What a word like “bussy” ultimately reveals, then, is the lack of available language for what the anus becomes when it’s purely a gateway for sexual pleasure, resulting in a queer buffet of word salads. Lateef Abdullah, a 26-year-old fashion stylist, says he prefers “pooter clat,” “goochata” and “boogina,” explaining, “I say what comes to me and stick with it.” Henry Lau, a 40-year-old designer, favors “shitoris,” “tropical fantasy” and “‘garden of eating’ — when it’s fresh.” “I like funny creative words,” he says. “It’s a way to be smart about the banal and finality of words.”
Meanwhile, my friend J Cagz, a 33-year-old nurse, embraces a much more straightforward option: “hole.” She acknowledges, though, that it’s a case-by-case basis. “I don’t care what they call it as long as I’m getting some,” she says. “Just kidding. One time this guy called my ass a ‘fart burger,’ and I was like, ‘Absolutely not.’”