Anal sex has been considered a taboo topic for far too long, but the good news is that tide seems to be changing. No longer is anal sex something reserved for non-heterosexual pairings or those into kink. One study found that one in three heterosexual-identifying people reported having engaged in anal intercourse in the past year (Hess). More than ever, people of all walks of life are dabbling in anal play to spice up their sex lives. And we’re here for it!
If you’ve thought about exploring your backside during sex or testing the waters of anal play, consider this your guide. We are excited to offer our expert tips on everything anal and help quell common anal misconceptions.
1. Get to know your anatomy.
The internal and external anal sphincters control the opening and closing of the anus and are abundant in nerve endings that can facilitate pleasure or pain. Many of these nerve endings are richest around the anal opening, but the outermost part of the rectum also has them. The anus and adjacent rectum both have the ability to expand and are very sensitive to pressure. In folks with a prostate, the pleasure from anal penetration can be even more intense as this erotic gland is easily stimulated through the rectal wall.
2. Anal play does not make you gay.
As implied above, anal sex can be enjoyed by anyone. One of the most unfortunate taboos surrounding anal sex is that persons who enjoy receiving anal play are somehow submissive or secretly queer. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Research shows that not all homosexual males engage in anal sex and it is not uncommon in heterosexual relationships. So, there is nothing inherently gay about liking anal sex.
3. Sodomy and the law.
Before 1963, every state in the United States had laws against sodomy, sometimes resulting in harsh sentences including life in prison. But over the next several decades, many states changed course and repealed these laws. In 2003, the US Supreme Court decided in Lawrence v. Texas that laws against sodomy were unconstitutional. Despite this, more than a dozen states in the United States have failed to repeal sodomy statutes even to this day. For a variety of socio-cultural and religious reasons related to sex as a function of procreation, anal sex carries with it even harsher punishments elsewhere in the world, sometimes even resulting in the death penalty. Still, many continue to regard anal sex as a natural and valid form of sexual activity equally fulfilling as other desired expressions of sexuality.
4. Beyond penetration.
Anal sex does not necessarily have to consist of penile penetration. In fact, many of the most pleasurable kinds of anal sex involve no penis at all. Anal sex can include fingering, use of sex toys or plugs, rimming, and pegging. Rimming refers to the act of performing oral stimulation to your partner’s anus (referred to sometimes as anilingus). Pegging generally refers to a sexual practice in which a person identifying as female performs anal sex on her male partner by penetrating his anus with a sex toy or strap-on dildo. The male recipient in this case does not necessarily identify as gay or queer. So when it comes to anal play, think outside the box and let your mind run wild about what you might enjoy.
5. Preparation is half the battle.
Preparing for anal sex starts long before the bedroom. Making sure things stay as ready as possible starts with your diet. Consuming a high-fiber diet or taking fiber supplements can make all the difference. High-fiber foods include legumes, vegetables (especially broccoli), leafy greens, berries and other fruits, avocado, whole grains, and unprocessed bran. With a Western diet, consuming a healthy amount of fiber daily may be challenging. Supplementing fiber can be as easy as taking an over-the-counter capsule or mixing fiber-rich powder with your favourite drink. A diet high in fiber helps ensure complete evacuation of stool during bowel movements so there’s less to worry about when it comes time for anal play. When you deliberately make fiber part of your daily regimen, cleaning before anal sex can involve simply using the bathroom and quickly rinsing off.
In addition to diet, some people who engage in anal play prefer to get an extra deep clean beforehand. This is typically known as anal douching. Many falsely assume that this is a necessary step before engaging in anal sex, but the truth is that the anus has natural bacteria that fight infection and stays relatively clean assuming regular hygienic practices. Douching before anal sex is a matter of preference, but one should consider a few facts before doing so regularly. Over-douching can lead to anal irritation, mucosal injury, and disruption of the bacterial gut microbiome. These effects can lead to higher rates of infections (STI) and micro-traumas like anal tears (fissures) and hemorrhoids. So douche at your own risk, but if you do so consider a natural, pH-balanced isotonic solution like The Future Method.
Now that you’re as clean as can be, consider prepping your sex space. You may want to grab a nearby towel or cozy pillow. A towel is a great tool to protect your bedding from the lubrication you will definitely need (more on that later). Placing a pillow under your lower back can also keep anal play more comfortable and give your partner better access to your backside.
6. Practice makes perfect
As we’ve discussed previously, figuring out what feels good on your own will only enhance your game time experience. Take things slow before jumping into (or onto) things with your partner. Try touching and penetrating your anus with a finger or a small sex toy and work your way up from there. Most of the time our sphincter muscles are clenched; to prepare for anal sex we have to train them to relax on-demand. Butt plugs and other toys come in various sizes and many adult toy companies offer anal training sets. Take advantage of these and start your anal dilation journey. Finding Astroglide toy-friendly lube can also make all the difference.
7. Stay lubricated.
The anus and rectum are delicate and do not provide the same degree of lubrication that the vagina does. So if you’re looking to delve into anal play, get used to the idea of using a personal lubricant.
Let’s be clear: there is no such thing as too much lube. This is especially true when you are beginning your anal exploration. For anal sex, silicone or oil-based lubricants may be better than water-based options. Water-based lubes tend to dry out more quickly and can get sticky. Silicone lubricants offer a slippery experience that works in the bedroom or shower. Most silicone and water-based lubricants are condom safe, but always check the packaging to be certain. One downside to silicone is that it can stain. Just another reason to grab that sex towel we mentioned above. Oil-based lubes are just as slick as silicone but are not compatible with latex condoms. Like silicone, they can stain so use with caution. Lubricants like this one can also be used as a massage oil. Generally speaking, you should avoid warming or cooling lubricants as most are not designed for anal sex and may be irritating. But when rimming or getting rimmed, you may want to consider a flavored lube to improve the experience.
8. Protecting yourself.
Peno-anal penetration without a condom is considered the riskiest form of sexual activity. Like with other types of intercourse, wrap it up before you engage in anal play. This will help reduce your risk of STI and HIV. Additionally, keep an eye out for potential injuries. Bleeding during anal play, while not uncommon, is not normal. Mild discomfort, especially when you’re first starting out, is also common but persistent pain with anal sex is not normal either. If bleeding or pain occurs regularly, it may indicate a bigger problem. But don’t freak out! Try over-the-counter remedies like stool softeners, suppositories or creams like Preparation H. Abstain from additional anal sex until the problem stops. If these issues don’t resolve, seek out medical advice.
Another way of protecting yourself is to regularly clean your toys between use. Vaginal infections, like urinary transmitted and yeast infections can result from vigorous anal play, especially if toys are involved. Regular toy cleaning is important if using between partners as well. There are a variety of toy cleaners out there that can help keep everything spick and span.
9. Things to remember.
Before this beginner’s guide comes to an end, there are a few important points left to be made about anal sex. First, anal play can add some excitement to your sex life but it’s not something you have to do. Explore your backside first on your own and if you don’t like it, that’s ok. Don’t feel pressured by your partner. Second, anal sex is not inherently dirty. We have a societal obsession with cleanliness when it comes to sex, but the truth is any kind of sex can be messy. When it comes to anal sex, the anus and lower part of the rectum actually have very little fecal material in them, so it’s not nearly as dirty as you might think. Third, anal sex is what you make of it. As we mentioned, it doesn’t need to involve a penis or even penetration. Go slow. Keep lubricated. And figure out what feels good to you.
Also, just because we have been talking all things anal doesn’t mean you should ignore your other erogenous zones. Anal sex can be made even better when combined with clitoral stimulation, nipple play, or masturbation. Lastly, communication is key. Discussing what feels good and how you want to delve into anal play with your partner is so important. Whether telling them to go slower (or faster) or to touch here or spank there, vocalizing what you want and like will only take your whole anal experience to the next level.