Male-male penetration (anal sex) is okay if no direct or indirect harm is caused.
BIBLICAL NO-HARM TEST
The Bible provides a test to decide whether sex between men (including male-male penetration) and sex between women is good or bad. It is the no-harm test.
You ask Does the activity cause harm or not? This test is based on Romans 13:9-10, summarized as If you love (act for the welfare of) your neighbor, including not harming your neighbor, you then fulfill (meet all the requirements of) the Old Testament commandments.*
* See also Galatians 5:14 For the entire [Old Testament] law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” NIV
A more positive expression of no-harm is to say that people should act with caring love. However the concept of caring love is a rather fuzzy one because love can have a number of meanings, ranging from friendship to erotic love. It therefore seems clearer to say and require do not cause any harm.
Your neighbor is any person you come into contact with. In a sexual relations context, your neighbor means the person you are having sex with and any third party, e.g. the partner of that person. Of course, as well as not harming your neighbor, you should not harm yourself.
The no-harm test is supported by the Golden Rule, i.e. Treat people the same way you want them to treat you (Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31). If you do this, you will not harm others.
The no-harm test is also supported by Paul’s teaching that we can do anything provided that what we do is beneficial or helpful (to ourselves and others) and that we are not enslaved by what we do (I Corinthians 6:12).
It is considered that sex between men (including male-male penetration) and sex between women pass the no-harm test in circumstances where no one is harmed by the activity. This includes casual or recreational sex.
It is acknowledged that a man’s penetrating actions contravene the non-penetration command (Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13) and its cultural bases (the main purpose of sex is to have children, and men should not act like women when having sex). Nevertheless, the penetrating actions still meet the underlying and continuing requirements of the non-penetration command, ie. no harm to the participants or to the community (except for its cultural basis). So, if a man does not harm himself, the other man or any third party (e.g., a partner), then male-male penetration is okay.
If there is no harm (physical, emotional, mental or relational), the no male-male penetration texts can be set aside as no longer applying; just as the pro-slavery texts have been set aside as no longer applying because slavery harms people.
As the New Testament criticisms of male-male penetration (Romans 1:27, 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10) are based on the Old Testament non-penetration command, the New Testament criticisms can also be set aside as no longer applying.
Some people might argue that this test is invalid because it allows clear biblical requirements to be ignored. However the test is consistent with Jesus deliberately working on the Sabbath, contrary to one of the 10 Commandments. This commandment says that people shall not do any work on every 7th day (the Sabbath) 1. However Jesus healed sick people and picked grain (which counted as work) on the Sabbath. He agreed with people working on the Sabbath by lifting a sheep out of a pit. So Jesus set aside and ignored the Sabbath commandment when no harm (only good) was done 2. Similarly he declared all foods clean (contrary to the Old Testament law) because no harm was done by them 3. These actions of Jesus validate the use of the test. (Note that in each case the command still exists – Jesus said that he did not come to change the Old Testament law 4 – it’s just that we don’t always need to follow it if no harm is done. This applies to other commands also, e.g. those covering not planting mixed crops 5 and not charging interest on loans 6.)
It might be noted that Paul goes further than Jesus in this respect. In Romans 7 and 8 he says that Christians don’t have to follow any of the Old Testament laws (they have been released from those laws 7). Instead they must live in accordance with the Spirit 8, based on love of God, love of other people (including not harming them) and the words of Jesus.
1 Exodus 20:8-11 2 Matthew 12:1-14 Luke 13:10-16 3 Mark 7:18-19 4 Matthew 5:17-20 5 Leviticus 19:19 6 Exodus 22:25 Leviticus 25:36,37 7 Romans 7:6 8 Romans 8:1-9
The no-harm test applies also to male-female penetration (straight sex) and non-sexual activities too. For example, the system of slavery fails the no-harm test.
Some people might argue that incest would be allowed by using this test. But this wouldn’t be so because incest causes harm. In Old Testament times, a woman (mother, daughter, etc) was considered to be the property of a man (father, uncle, etc). Therefore a man having incestuous sex with her would be defiling someone else’s property. While these property views are not held today, harm would still be caused if there was emotional or physical abuse (from one person having power over the other) or if inbreeding led to birth defects. Even consensual adult incest with protection against insemination causes emotional harm because the relationships of the family members have been sexualized. A brother and sister, or a father and daughter, can never see each other again in the usual non-sexual way.
One could argue that the no-harm test is flawed because it requires an individual to decide whether some action is harmful or not (as opposed to a sacred document telling us what is harmful). A counter argument is that this is beneficial because it overcomes the problem that what is harmful in certain circumstances may not be harmful in other circumstances*. So it is better for individuals to work it out for themselves.
* For example, it could be argued that male-male penetration would have failed the no-harm test in Old Testament and New Testament times because people of those times would have thought that the men or the community was harmed by such penetration.
In practice, many or most harmful actions are obviously so. Where some action is not obviously harmful, persons could ask whether the way they are, or will be, treating another person is how they would like that person to treat them, including with respect and dignity. If the answer is no, then it is harmful.
We don’t know why the biblical no-harm test was not applied in Paul’s time to the no male-male penetration texts and the pro-slavery texts other than to say that it would not have been practicable to allow male-male penetration or to stop slavery in the culture of the day or for some time after. It was finally possible to stop most open forms of slavery in the 19th Century and the attitude to male-male penetration is currently slowly changing.
Therefore despite the Biblical prohibition and criticisms, if a man wishes to indulge in penetration (anal intercourse) with another man, he can do so with a clear conscience provided that he does not harm himself, the other man or any third party (e.g. a partner), physically, emotionally*, mentally or relationally, directly or indirectly.
* Emotional harm would include, among other things, harm to a person’s honor or rights.
Further, this test applies to men having any form of sex with men and also applies to sex between women. The test applies both to sex in a loving monogamous relationship and to casual or recreational sex. The participants pass the test if they act with caring love and do not cause any harm.
An important benefit of not causing any harm is that it is one of the keys to having eternal life. Jesus said that if you love God and love your neighbor [not harming your neighbor], you will have eternal life (Luke 10:25-28).
Finally, not harming others is a foundational principle of the Bible, like love.
The Love Commandments
There are 2 Love Commandments. 1. Love God totally. 2. Love other people as you love yourself.
These commandments were first stated in the Old Testament: 1. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your being and with all your strength. (Deuteronomy 6:5) 2. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Leviticus 19:18)
These commandments were repeated by Jesus: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your being and with all your mind and with all your strength [and] love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37-9, Mark 12:30-1, Luke 10:27)
Here love means self-giving or selfless love, which seeks the other person’s welfare.
How do you love God? Jesus (who was God in human form) gave the answer as If you love me, you will keep my commandments (John 14: 15; compare John 14:21 & 15:10).
Jesus said that on the commandments to love God and your neighbor depend (or hang) the whole Old Testament Law and the Prophets (Matthew 22:40). Paul later adds that the person who loves his or her neighbor has fulfilled (or carried out) the Old Testament law (Romans 13: 8 & Galatians 5:14). Therefore loving your neighbor as yourself can result in you keeping the entire Old Testament law.
And how do you love (act for the welfare of) your neighbor as yourself? By not harming your neighbor (Romans 13:10). In practice you would only do to other people what you would want them to do to you. This would include both you and the other person fully consenting to what is done or proposed, and treating each other fairly. It would also avoid deception, force and injury.
As Joe Orton (a gay British author) said, You must do whatever you like, as long as you enjoy it and don’t hurt anyone else, that’s all that matters.
In legal terms, you must take reasonable care to avoid acts or omissions which you can reasonably foresee would be likely to injure your neighbor. (Lord Atkin, Donoghue v Stevenson).
And who is your neighbor? Any person you come into contact with (See the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:29-37). In a sexual relations context, your neighbor means the person you are having sex with and any third party, e.g. the partner of that person.
Paul sets out a number of ways to show practical love. These include carrying each other's burdens (Galatians 6:2), honoring others more than yourself (Romans 12:9) and not hurting others by the foods you eat (Romans 14: 15). These actions reinforce the no-harm concept.
The Golden Rule
You follow the Golden Rule for living by doing to others what you would want them to do to you. Jesus expressed this as Treat people the same way you want them to treat you (Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31). This would include treating other people with kindness and honor and not harming them. Similar expressions were stated by Confucius, Aristotle, Socrates, the Jewish Talmud (Shabbat 31a) and J S Mill. The Golden Rule sums up, and is the basis of, the Old Testament Law and Prophets (Matthew 7:12).
Following this Rule helps to ensure that no harm is done to other people.