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Even though anal sex—or at least, talking about anal sex—has become significantly less taboo in the past decade, it still remains the big elephant in the bedroom, despite the world becoming a lot more comfortable with the derrière.
Butts have taken on an entirely new status (thanks, social media!)...and the good news is society has become more sex-positive overall (yay!). Still, actually having anal sex remains ~controversial~ among women, no matter how often it's discussed.
"Unfortunately, there is still a tendency to stigmatize acts that might be considered 'non-traditional' for some people, due to lack of information," explains Alexis Clarke, PhD, a licensed psychologist who specializes in sex and relationships.
Thing is, anal sex can oftentimes become the preferred method for women who don't have vaginas, for those for whom vaginal penetration is especially painful, and for women who simply experience more pleasure that way, Clarke says.
For some women, it's the cherry on top of a sexual sundae: a little extra treat that elevates something that was already delicious on its own (talking about sex here). But for others, butt sex is more like pâté: intriguing, worth a try, but absolutely not up their alleys (as in, a penis or dildo will probably not be going up that alley ever again).
If you're curious enough to find out, don't let misinformation keep you from safely exploring anal sex. Below, doctors, sex educators, and real women bust common anal sex myths, like that it’s supposed to be painful and bloody, or that it’s risk-free. Plus, explain why a trip to Bum Boneville can feel so good. (Hint: It rhymes with danal dorgasm).
Does anal sex hurt?
If you have to pick just one thing to remember from this article, make it this: Anal is never supposed to be painful! Seriously, n-e-v-e-r.
If anal sex feels painful, it’s a symptom that you’re doing too much too quickly, says Evan Goldstein, DO, anal surgeon and founder of Future Method, an anal wellness company. In general, pain is the body's way of letting you know that something ain’t right—so, unless that’s a sensation you are actively seeking out during sex, press pause or stop altogether.
The rub? Pleasurable peach play requires patience and some pleasure aids (mainly: lube)! Here's why: The entrance of the anal canal is guarded by two muscles, known as the anal sphincter muscles. Typically, these muscles are in a contracted position to keep poops and farts from sneaking out. So, in order for something to be able to enter the anus, these muscles need to relax, explains Lauren Demosthenes, ob-gyn, Senior Medical Director with Babyscripts. There are a variety of ways to begin that relaxation process, but generally it involves a combination of light touch, vibration, and teasing, says Dr. Goldstein. Skip this combo and the experience will be more nay than yay.
Another common reason anal sex can be uncomfortable is that people aren’t lathering the area with an adequate amount of (store-bought) slippery stuff. "The anus does not have the same capability to self-lubricate as the vagina," says Dr. Demosthenes. Unless you use lube, the frick-frack fest will be all friction, no slide and glide. Ouch.
Friction, she explains, increases the risk of irritating—or worse, tearing—the internal canal tissues. "The tissues in the anal canal are more prone to tearing compared to the vaginal tissues," Dr. Demosthenes says. When torn, these tissues can sting, feel sore, or even bleed.
But FTR: While "bleeding may be common during anal sex, it is not normal," Dr. Demosthenes says. Bleeding during or after anal sex is a sign that the walls of the anal canal were irritated or accrued a micro-tear during penetration. Not ideal. If you’re bleeding heavily or still spotting 24 hours after your sex session, she recommends talking to a healthcare provider.
In addition to going slow and using and re-applying lube, filing fingernails ahead of anal fingering, using only sex toys made of body-safe materials, and avoiding numbing creams and oils can all also help reduce the risk of pain and/or blood during anal sex. Certain oils can damage latex condoms and numbing creams can desensitize your nerves so much you won't know if something's wrong.
Will it affect my ability to poop?
The short answer: No. The longer answer: It won’t, so long as you don’t go from zero to full-on fapping.
To understand why anal sex shouldn’t impact your bowel movements, you need to understand a bit more about GI tract geography. Ready to be shocked? Poop isn’t stored in the anal canal itself. Really! It’s stored higher up the digestive tract in the colon, explains Dr. Goldstein, which is separated from the anal canal (a.k.a. rectum) with a third anal sphincter muscle.
When you have to do a number two, your body sends a SMS to your brain, and you head to the loo. It’s only when you’ve officially popped a squat on the throne that your brain will allow that third anal sphincter muscle to release, and for the poop to travel through the anal canal into the toilet, he explains.
During anal sex, the penetrative device (finger, penis, dildo, etc.) only passes through the first two sphincter muscles. Unless the device is super-duper (like super-duper) long, the third anal sphincter muscle is left totally untouched, he says. Meaning, the muscle that controls when you poop stays in or comes out the same as it would before anal entered the scene (#themoreyouknow!).
There is, however, one major caveat here: When you’re doing anal sex correctly, you're coaxing the first two anal sphincter muscles into relaxation before penetrating the canal. If you're not patient and try to insert something into the canal before these muscles have taken a chill pill, you can stretch them out, explains Dr. Demosthenes. And relaxed muscles ≠ stretched muscles.
Just as over-stretching a hammy can cause issues, over-stretching your anus can, too. "If the sphincter is repeatedly over-stretched it can cause a problem," says Dr. Demosthenes. Yep, meaning pooping problems, like incontinence or looser stools.
What about anal sex and sexually transmitted infections?
Any sex act can result in the transmission of STIs if one or more of the individuals partaking is positive. (Friendly reminder that the only way to know your current STI status is to get tested—STIs don’t always come knocking on your door downstairs with symptoms to let you know they’ve arrived.)
The type of STI varies based on what kind of anal play you're having (anal-oral contact, penile-anal contact, anal-toy contact, etc.). But, HIV, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C, HPV, herpes, gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis are all a risk, says Dr. Demosthenes.
Luckily, there are ways to protect yourself. First, get the hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and HPV vaccines, she says. (Yes, these are all available for adults.) Next, "wear internal or external condoms during anal intercourse," she advises. Condoms can help reduce skin-to-skin contact, as well as fluid exchange, thus reducing the risk of transmission.
Oh, and grab a dental dam for anal-oral play, a.k.a. rimming. This will prevent any poo particles, which have the power to transmit the various strains of hepatitis, as well as e. Coli and Giardia (an intestinal parasite), from getting into your mouth.
Finally, even if you use protection during anal intercourse, Dr. Demosthenes suggests letting your healthcare provider know you’ve been having anal sex the next time you go to the doctor. That way, they can test for all STIs you’re at risk for, including anally-transmitted STIs.
Can anal sex lead to an orgasm?
You bet your cutie bootie it can. No matter your anatomy or your partner's anatomy, an anal-induced O is possible. Many people can have anal orgasms, according to sexologist Marla Renee Stewart, sexpert for Lovers sexual wellness brand and retailer.
For people with prostates, the orgasm comes as a result of prostate stimulation vis-a-vis anal penetration, she says. And for people with vaginas, the orgasm is a result of the fact that anal penetration stimulates vaginal hotspots like the G-zone, A-spot, and clit through the anal walls. The anus and vagina are next-door neighbors, after all.
Some people prefer anal orgasms and anal stimulation to genital-induced orgasms and genital stimulation, she says. "So anal is absolutely worth giving a try."
7 Tips To Keep In Mind Before Trying Anal Sex
If you've yet to add anal to the sexual menu but are curious to taste test it, there are some things you should know first:
1. Try anal training. Again, aIf you're worried about tearing or pain, you can work your way up to full-blown anal by starting with a butt plug, anal beads, or fingers. "If you're comfortable with any of these things in your anus for about 15 to 20 minutes, there's a good chance you're at a point where you can successfully insert a penis [or a dildo]," explains Shawntres Parks, a licensed marriage and family therapist in San Diego. The biggest challenge, she says, is getting the sphincter to relax enough for something to penetrate it. Don't stress, it's not unusual for it to take a few tries. But, when you feel your sphincter relax whether it's a toy, finger, or penis coming through, you'll know you're ready.
2. Lube, lube, lube. To make things way more comfortable, remember that lube (and lots of it) is your best friend. The anus is not self-lubricating, so it'll need a little extra help to make the experience smoother. Parks recommends water-based lubes since anything petroleum- or oil-based will break down the materials in your condom (if you're wearing one) or a silicon strap-on.
3. Prep the pipes. Anal douching is always available to you, but your best bet is just pooping before the act. If you're having trouble, Parks says to try an herbal supplement or tea such as Smooth Move that goes easy on the stomach. "If you try it the night before, by the time you wake up in the morning you'll probably have a bowel movement" and again later that night, says Parks.
4. Talk it out. Be sure to communicate with your partner about how you're feeling when it comes to anal. If something doesn't feel right: Stop! Even after the act, Parks says the conversations should continue. Check in afterward and ask your partner what they thought of the experience, how it made them feel, and what they might like to do differently next time.
5. Cleanliness is key. If you're planning to transition from anal to vaginal sex, be sure to thoroughly clean yourself in between, especially if you're not using a condom you can change, says Parks. "There's a big increased risk of STIs when you're transitioning from anal sex to vaginal sex because of the transfer of fecal bacteria into the vagina." When shopping for body-friendly wipes, Parks says to "look for things that don't have harsh chemicals" and try them out for a few days. If you find you're able to use them on a day-to-day basis without irritation, then they're probably a good bet for a post-anal wipedown.
6. Hop in the shower. In addition to wiping yourself down, you and your partner should take a post-coital shower to clear yourselves of any bacteria. Taking a break to deal with practical stuff, like preventing STIs, can present a challenge when you're trying to build up arousal for a round two of vaginal or oral sex, says Parks. She recommends showering with your partner to keep the sexy time going during the transition. It'll get you both clean and ~prepped~ for the second act.
7. Clean the place up. It's not just your bodies you should clean post-butt sex. Make sure you immediately get rid of condoms and throw any towels or sheets that may have gotten a bit messy in the laundry. You don't have to go overboard with buckets of bleach or anything, says Parks. Just be sure to pay special attention to anything that might have fecal bacteria on it and get it in the trash or washer ASAP. Otherwise, "general practices for keeping your space clean are enough," she says.
What Anal Sex Feels Like, According To People Who've Actually Had It
Before your first go, you'll also want to peep these stories from women who have dabbled in butt sex and lived to tell the tale. Read on.
"My ex and I had been dating for about three years before we ever tried anal. We did it not because we were bored with our sex life, but because neither of us had ever done it, and we wanted to 'have a first' together. He had slept with a lot of women in his teens and early 20s, so I loved the idea of doing something with him that he'd never done before.
"We talked about it for months before finally going through with it. It wasn't really planned, but one night after we both had a couple of drinks, we started hooking up in my bedroom, and he whispered in my ear, 'Should we try it?' I nodded my head yes. We slathered ourselves in lube—I'd always heard that you need to use way more than you think you do—then had him enter very slowly, like, centimeter by centimeter, in the doggy position. Within about five minutes, he was pretty far inside, and it felt like nothing I'd experienced before—a fullness that made me feel like I'd never had sex before.
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What made the whole thing that much better was how he kept asking if I was okay and the look of sincere and utter pleasure on his face, as if he was having an otherworldly experience, too. We made a ton of eye contact—I liked turning my head and watching him lose himself to the pleasure—and we kissed a lot as he got close to coming. Despite my nerves, I actually orgasmed, too (I rubbed my clit to put myself more at ease). It was the most intimate night of my life." —Marianne E.
Speaking of orgasms, there's a lot you might not know about them...
"I [tried it] and began to realize that I liked the feeling and got pleasure from it. Now in my current long-term relationship, it's one of the activities in the rotation.
Most important, you need to properly warm up. Just like a vagina, it is easier and more pleasurable when the hole is ready to go. Proper foreplay is essential—bring in lube, fingers, mouth, toys, whatever you prefer. It could take more time than vaginal sex. I think of anal as the second course because it's better once you're already excited and feeling great. My advice is to trust your body, and if you feel up for it, go for it!" —Michelle R.
"I tried anal for the first time with my ex. I was incredibly comfortable with him, but using lube would have made it a more pleasant experience for both of us, since there is no natural lube. I would recommend doing it with someone who you feel comfortable with because it definitely is a much more vulnerable area." —Sandra O.
"We tried it for the first time a year and a half into our relationship. We were in a place where we were comfortable with each other and eager to explore more. So one day, we tried it out of curiosity. I did some research beforehand just to make sure we would both be safe and comfortable doing it. The first time we did it, we used a generous amount of lube and made sure to prepare first. It was definitely interesting for both of us and something neither of us had done before.
After that we only tried it one more time, and we ultimately decided it wasn't something that we wanted to continue doing. It was more special doing it with my partner rather than a random hookup because I felt safe and comfortable throughout all of it." —Elise T.
"If you're backed up or on an empty stomach, it sucks. You definitely feel like you're going to poop, either all over yourself or on his d*ck.
But if you're not and you do it nice and slowly, it's euphoric. It's different from regular sex because it feels like he's going way deeper. Anal doesn't help me orgasm more easily, though." —Madeline R.
"I was always afraid it would hurt, but anal sex actually isn’t so much painful as it is uncomfortable... The key, apparently, is to be relaxed, which you really aren’t gonna be—in fact, knowing it’s about to happen will make you tense up more than usual—unless you happen to love it.
I…do not love it, but my boyfriend is super into it, and he’s very respectful and lovely about not pressuring me. We maybe do it once every couple of months. He’s a big advocate of using a butt plug beforehand to 'loosen everything up.'" —Anna B.
"It's not the worst thing ever, but kind of like the same way flossing isn't the worst thing ever. There's nothing fun about it for me. It's not that it's painful, it's just mildly uncomfortable and really not my thing." —Jo R.
"I tried it once a long time ago. The guy I was seeing wanted to do it, and I was resistant but eventually gave in. He tried to put it in, but it just hurt too much. I don't think he used lube, and it's just really tight. Maybe I'd do it again with the right person if I had a lot of trust in him. Either way, it's not something at the top of my list." —Clara A.
"Amusingly, my first sexual intercourse was via anal penetration. My high school sweetheart was raised strictly Catholic and was 'saving it for marriage.' While I was disinterested in this wait time, he did explain that, to him, anal sex didn't count since it couldn't lead to procreation.
His being exceedingly well-endowed made taking it slowly and using plenty of lube the obvious choice. The oddest thing I noticed was that the initial penetration would generate a tight sensation in my throat, similar to what you might feel after a bad scare. But it was an exciting feeling, not scary at all. It's a slow but pleasantly luxurious sensation of being gently and benignly pulled inside out. It certainly was extremely erotic, and I felt aware of my entire body as an erogenous zone. I discovered I was able to orgasm via anal penetration, and anal play is something I enjoy to this day." —Mollena W.
"I used to be obsessed with anal. At one point in high school, I was having more anal than regular sex. When done right—and by right, I mean when the guy doesn't shove his d*ck into you like a horse in heat—anal can teeter on that dangerous line between pleasure and pain. He feels bigger than ever and completely fills you up. As he's going in, you have to hold your breath because you feel like your body doesn't have room for air and his d*ck at the same time, but once he's in, the pleasure radiates through your whole body." —Nina T.
"The key to good anal—yes, that's a thing—is having a partner you trust completely and who will do it right. That means lots of lube, starting small with a pinky finger just like in Fifty Shades, then working your way up to small toys or butt plugs. After that, anal can be amazing! It is super-intense, and your lover has to be extremely delicate and careful and be a good listener and super patient—and you as the receiver have to have a lot of trust in that.
This is not an act that should ever be undertaken with a random dude or at a random moment; you both have to want it, and you both have to be prepared. No assholes allowed in the asshole! I think that's one of the best parts of the whole ordeal. It takes so much time, trust, and communication that it just amplifies everything physical going on because you are so connected with your partner." —Tess N.
"For me, being penetrated during anal sex can cause a little soreness during insertion and in the first few minutes. Lots of lube, slow, gentle motions, and patience move it quickly to the next phase, which is an exciting, pleasurable pressure. I find that I can have stronger orgasms while being penetrated anally, but these are clitoral or vaginal orgasms, not anal orgasms—those are quite elusive. For me, it's probably the added stimulation, the intimacy, and the emotional intensity of anal that make orgasms stronger.
But if the angle is wrong in anal sex, with too much of a sharp upward or downward angle, a sting-y and unpleasant pain can be the result. Having the right angle of entry is important for me. Also, pegging someone with a strap-on can be very pleasurable with an insert-able double-ended dildo, or even just the harness or base of the strap-on grinding up against the clitoris." —Margaret C.
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