Anal sex is still a taboo subject although it’s increasingly a popular sexual activity. Regardless of sexual orientation, genitals or body type, anal sex can be enjoyed by anyone. However, for many, the anus is a dirty area that should never be touched during sex. Maybe you imagine painful penetration or fecal matter ruining the mood. In reality, experimenting with anal play can be an incredibly pleasurable experience for both partners. Understanding the risks, rewards, and proper strategy is important if you wish to try anal sex.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), anal sex is primarily growing in popularity with couples under age 45. A national survey shows 36% of women and 44% of men report that they’ve had anal sex with an opposite-sex partner.
Many might think of anal sex as anal penetration with a penis, but there are a few more options. Anal sex can also be performed with fingers or the tongue; or sex toys, like vibrators, dildos, and butt plugs, are used as well.
Like any sexual activity, anal sex isn’t inherently unsafe. It just requires planning, preparation, and communication than some other forms of sexual activity. Safety during sex should be a top priority, but having fun is certainly important, too.
Why would anyone want anal stimulation?
Anal stimulation is linked to the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS). This system provides us with many of the sensations we experience every day, including cranial, spinal, and vagus nerve stimulation.
Specialized neurons surrounding our organs when stimulated causes the brain to deliver the PSNS sensations we feel. It is the vagus nerve sensations that makes anal stimulation so pleasurable — sometimes even causing a woozy, pleasure-filled, trance-like experience.
Things to consider
If you’re curious about anal sex, it’s important to be prepared before your next bedroom romp. Following proper precautions — which we’ll get to — is the only way to reduce your risk of injury or illness. And when you feel confident, you’re more likely to enjoy the experience.
What exactly is anal sex?
Analingus or oral, fingering, sex toy usage, and penile penetration are all forms of anal sex.
Here are the things you may wish to consider:
1. Unlike the vagina, the anus lacks lubrication
The vagina is a bit of a natural wonder. When a woman is aroused, the vagina provides its own lubricant for sex. The anus, however, does not. That means you have to provide it. Penetration without lubrication can tear the delicate tissue inside the anus, which can lead to pain and bleeding.
Regarding lube, it is important that you use it and use plenty of it.
Water-based lubes tend to glide on smoothly and do an excellent job of reducing friction. Unlike most silicone- or oil-based lubes, water-based lubes are extremely easy to clean-up, and are washing machine safe. Further, water-based lubes are also far less prone to causing allergic reactions, and due to their watery nature, are easy to apply.
Silicone-based lubes are less likely to get absorbed into the body than water-based lubes, so these might actually be better for prolonged play. Silicone-based lubes are known to compromise latex condoms and degrade silicone toys.
2. Tissue inside the anus is more sensitive than tissue outside the anus
The tissue and skin around the anus acts as a protective barrier for the bottom half of your digestive tract. However, the tissue inside the anus is thinner, delicate, and more likely to tear and bleed as a result of penetration. This increases the likelihood of passing infections, viruses, or bacteria between partners. Even two partners who don’t have any sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can still pass bacteria between each other through these tears in the skin.
3. The anus has a muscle that must relax to allow comfortable penetration
The anal sphincter acts as a bit of a gatekeeper for the rectum. For anal sex, however, it’s important that this muscle relaxes. Not only does it make the experience more pleasurable, it reduces the risk of tearing or discomfort. Relaxation involves patience, both at the time you’re attempting penetration, and as you become more accustomed to anal sex.
4. STI and Bacteria
An STI isn’t the only thing you have to worry about sharing with anal sex. Bacteria living in or near the anus can be easily spread if you don’t take precautions to tidy up after anal penetration.
If you’re wearing a condom, be sure to remove it and roll on a new one before moving on to vaginal sex. If you’re not wearing a condom or if you’re using your hands or a toy, be sure to wash thoroughly after anal sex. Bacteria, such as hepatitis A and E. coli, can be spread from unclean anal sex practices.
Infections and diseases that are shared during sexual intercourse — such as HIV, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and herpes — can be shared through anal sex. In fact, among types of sexual activity, anal sex has the highest for transmitting and getting HIV for both men and women. People on the receiving end (or “the bottom”) of anal sex are 13 times more likely to become infected with HIV than the inserting partner (or “the top”).
5. Will it hurt?
If done correctly, it can feel great. But that doesn’t mean you won’t experience some discomfort the first time — or even the first few times — you have anal penetration. Take your time, stop if it becomes uncomfortable, and try using fewer fingers or a smaller toy as you become accustomed to the sensation.
6. Is it normal to bleed?
It’s possible you will experience some bleeding your first time or two. However, the bleeding should stop in future sessions. If it doesn’t, or if bleeding becomes worse with each round of intercourse, talk with your doctor. This may result from rough penetration or be a sign of an underlying concern.
7. Will it affect my ability to poop?
You might experience an urge to use the bathroom soon after your raunchy romp is over, but anal sex won’t prevent you from pooping. And, despite urban myths that suggest otherwise, anal sex won’t stretch out your anus and prevent you from holding in bowel movements.
8. Hemorrhoids, colon perforation
Hemorrhoids - Stretching and pushing from anal sex can irritate existing hemorrhoids, but it’s unlikely to cause the dilated and stretched blood vessels inside the rectum and anus.
Colon perforation - This is very uncommon, but it’s possible that anal penetration can puncture a hole in your colon. Surgical repair is necessary, so if you experience heavy rectal bleeding and abdominal pain following anal sex, see your doctor.
9. Talk with your partner
Anal sex shouldn’t be a surprise request while you’re already making love. And no “Oops! It slipped!” excuses here — that’d be a major violation of trust and consent. If you’re interested in trying anal sex, have a conversation with your partner. Just come out with it one day, and let them know you’re curious.
If the feeling is mutual, adventure awaits. If one of you decides anal sex just isn’t your thing, that’s OK. There are lots of options for spicing things up in the bedroom without adding anal sex.
10. To enema or not to enema?
As for an enema, that’s ultimately your call.
While anal stimulation with a toy during “warm-up” rounds may not constitute the use of an enema, all-out anal sex may be a different story.
If you are worried about making a mess, opt for the enema approach beforehand, and keep baby wipes on hand.
If you want things squeaky clean down there, you can use an enema to clean the lower half of your rectum after a bowel movement, but it’s not necessary. Bite the Fruit offers several types of enema delivery products.
11. Cut your nails
Reduce your risk of cutting or scratching your partner by trimming your nails. Long nails might tear the thin, delicate tissue of the anus, which could lead to bleeding. It also increases the risk of spreading bacteria that could cause infections. Be sure to wash your hands well and scrub under your nails after anal sex, too, especially before inserting them into the vagina or mouth.
12. Wear a condom or dental dam
People who have anal sex have a higher risk of sharing STIs, but using a condom or dental dam reduces that risk. If you want to move from the anus to the vagina, be sure to use a new condom. If you’re not using a condom, wash the penis — or a toy if you’re using that — well before inserting it into the vagina.
13. Get in position
Many people find lying on their stomach with their partner behind them works well for anal sex. Missionary can work, too, as long as you adjust the point of entry. Doggy style is also an easy position. The receptive partner can slowly back up onto the inserting partner to control depth and pace.
14. Go slow and check in with your partner during
Don’t jump into anal sex cold. Give yourself 10 to 15 minutes of foreplay to warm up. This helps you — and the anal sphincter — relax, which can make the experience more enjoyable.
Take things slowly, use plenty of lubrication, and stop if it becomes too painful. Don’t aim to have full penis penetration your first go-round. Try using a finger, and then upgrade to two or three fingers. A toy might be a good option, too, as you grow more comfortable with the sensation. After the first time or two, you and your partner will likely find that the pleasure trumps any initial discomforts.
15. Testing out toys
If you plan on playing with toys, start small, opt for a highly reviewed body-safe design, and make sure it has a base. The smooth muscles in the anus can suck things into the body. Nobody enjoys a trip to the ER, especially when it’s to have a sex toy surgically removed from their rectum. Ensure that any toy you buy has some sort of flared base.
Once you become comfortable with a smaller toy, you can slowly graduate to larger butt plugs, dildos, anal beads or prostate massagers.
As for intermediate anal sex toys, look for a dildo, anal bead, or butt plug with a solid plastic or metal core, and a jelly “sheath” around its exterior. This will provide you with both firmness and forgiveness, and makes for an excellent warm-up experience ahead of full-on penetration.
16. Learning to relax
Safely experimenting with butt stuff requires more than just going slow with a few toys and a sense of adventure.
You need to allow your body to relax, because a clinched rectum is only going to make penetration difficult and potentially painful.
Try to fully relax all of your sphincter muscles, and concentrate on what feels good. Focus on what turns you on, both physically and mentally, and don’t forget to take slow, steady breaths.
A great way to relax the anal sphincter is to relax your throat! Your anal sphincter and throat sphincter are connected, so when you relax one, the other automatically relaxes as well.
17. Keeping it clean between the sheets
Accept that there will likely be some poop involved - This is, quite simply, a reality of anal sex. Even if you do wash or use an enema beforehand. If the idea of poop getting on you makes you uncomfortable, anal sex may not be the right option for you.
While the human anus is not so filthy as society would have us believe, the rectum does still contain bacteria, even after an enema.
This is why it is so important to change condoms and/or wash yourself, your partner, and your toys before and after anal sex. I highly suggest using a dental dam during analingus, as it helps prevent harmful bacteria, like shigella, from entering the body.
Since you will be using a generous amount of lube, having a plush towel or two on hand is also a good idea. If you are concerned about turning your bed sheets into a mess, place the towels across the area where you plan on playing.
Another option is to have a dedicated set of “sex sheets” that you break-out just for butt stuff. It may seem like overkill, but this is the best way to have uninhibited anal experiences while not ruining your favorite linens.
Although your anus and rectum are cleaner than you might think, microscopic fecal matter will always be present. You can reduce your risk for infection by changing condoms and washing well. You should never go from anus to vagina or mouth without cleaning up first.
18. Can anal sex lead to orgasm?
Anal sex can lead to orgasm, but that doesn’t have to be the intended outcome. Anal sex can just be a fun way to play.
For some people, the anus is an erogenous zone. So even just a little play can be a turn on. The anus is also full of sensitive nerve endings, so it’s very receptive to sexual stimulation. For the inserting partner, the tightness around the penis can be pleasing as well.
Anal sex also stimulates the prostate gland in men, which can enhance a man’s orgasm. For women, clitoral stimulation may be necessary during anal sex to reach climax, but not every woman will reach orgasm this way. Oral or vaginal sex may be necessary to reach climax.
The act of anal penetration can be extremely pleasurable when done correctly.
Much like any other form of penetration, getting into the mood, and letting your mind do most of the “dirty work” is the best way to kick things into high gear.
Being that anal sex and other types of erotic butt stuff are still revered as a taboo subject in many cultures, the naughtiness of it all may help break down any mental blockades that still might be in the way.
19. Stop, collaborate, and listen
When the time comes to tryout some butt stuff with your partner, be sure that you have a few set boundaries in place beforehand.
Clearly communicating what you like, what you would like to try, and what has not worked for you in the past should all be key topics of discussion before you even walk into the bedroom.
And finally, establish a safe word so your partner knows when to stop.
20. The bottom line
If you and your partner have an established relationship where you feel comfortable talking about what turns you on, what you’re curious about trying, and how you feel during sex, anal sex is another fun way to explore your sexuality. Take the proper precautions to make anal sex safe and enjoyable, and it can be a great option.
If you try it and you don’t like it, no harm done. There are many other ways to have fun, enjoy one another, and experiment. Being open and honest with one another about the experience can help your relationship deepen and grow.