This is exactly what you should do to prepare for anal sex, according to experts

This is what you need to know to prepare for anal sex to ensure it's clean, safe, and orgasmic.

What do Lady Gaga, platform sneakers, and anal sex have in common? They’re all having a moment.

This morning, in the span of one hour, Truffle Butter played at my fave coffee shop (if you don’t know what that has to do with anal, two words: Urban Dictionary), an email about the launch of a new butt plug popped into my inbox, and my pal texted to ask which position—missionary or doggy—was a better position for first-time anal sex.

Still, the sex act we’re all intrigued by—and in some cases trying—is still shrouded in mystery. And, to be fair, it can be kind of intimidating. So, we tapped some sexperts to bring you a first-time anal sex how-to guide. To replace some of that confusion with clarity, read on for tips and tricks on how to prepare for anal sex that will make it as pleasurable, safe, clean, and orgasmic as possible.

1. Talk about it.

Sorry, folks, but you can’t introduce the tush without some chit-chat. For one, if you and your boo can’t talk about butt stuff, you’re probably not ready to do said butt stuff. Second, it will help make the actual act more comfortable and enjoyable for you both.

Everyone has a butt and anal sex can mean a lot of things, so, first, you’re going to want to decide what exactly is going down, says Amy Boyajian, co-founder and CEO of Wild Flower, an innovative online sexual wellness store. “Is penetration happening? Are toys going to be involved? Are there some things you don’t want to do? Are there other things you really want to try? What can be added—butt plugs, lube, condoms—to make your experience more comfortable?”

BTW, like all sex, anal sex is better when accompanied with foreplay. So, next, discuss what gets you both turned on, suggests Boyajian.

2. Experiment on your own.

“Before you even consider putting something in someone else’s butt, be sure to explore your own butt,” says Jessica O’Reilly, Ph.D., a sexologist and host of the podcast Sex With Dr. Jess. “If you’re not comfortable putting a finger in your own butt or exploring with a toy you are not prepared to penetrate another person’s butt, and vice-versa.”

Making your rear part of your masturbation session(s) will not only boost your confidence and comfort with anal play, but it’ll also help you learn your peach from a new ~dimension~. One good approach: Start with your go-to solo-sex moves. Then, lube up a fingertip and experiment with touch. “The chemical shifts that take place during arousal can help these muscles relax so that you can slide a finger inside,” says O’Reilly.

If you’ve never touched an anus before, it may feel foreign. Here’s what to expect: “You’ll feel two muscles contract around your finger: the external sphincter which you can contract and release at will, and the internal sphincter, which is an involuntary muscle, meaning it’s controlled by the autonomic nervous system,” says O’Reilly.

“Then, practice squeezing the external sphincter around your finger and allow it to release (like you’re pushing something out of your butt),” she says. When you’re comfortable, you can slide the finger little farther to feel the internal sphincter. Then, practice breathing slowly; you should feel it release slightly.

3. Clean up.

This is probably one of the first things you wondered about how to prepare for anal sex. FYI, poop is “stored” in the upper bowels—not the anal canal (aka far enough in that no penis is big enough to reach it). So the fear of poop droplets and fecal residue are a bit unfounded. “If you’re having regular and routine bowel movements, you should be more than in the clear,” says Evan Goldstein, M.D., CEO, and founder of Bespoke Surgical which specializes in helping men and women of all sexualities with anal play.

Still, “if you can, go to the bathroom 30 to 60 minutes before anal play, do,” says Alicia Sinclair, a certified sex educator and CEO of b-Vibe, an anal play product company. And a good shower also never hurts. “Washing off before anal sex can help make you feel clean and therefore more comfortable and sexy,” she says.

But if there’s no time to shower, an unscented baby wipe can do wonders, she says. Just don’t use this as a time to introduce new or different products or fragrances to your nether-bits, which could lead to irritation.

Ultimately, your primary goal here is to wash away any evidence of a bad wipe job (*shrug emoji*), and to make yourself feel clean so that you can enter the encounter with all the confidence of Gaga doing camp.

4. Maybe use an enema.

Turns out, an enema (the introducing liquid through the anus and into the large intestine to clear the bowels) is absolutely *not* a must to prepare for anal sex, says Sinclair. “But if you want to take extra precautions beyond a baby wipe or soap and water—which are definitely sufficient—you can use an enema for a deeper, more comprehensive clean.”

You can buy a disposable enema kit (sometimes called a “hot water bottle and syringe kit”) at your local pharmacy which will include a hot water bottle, a hose, a plug, and a rectal tip. Most disposable kits come with a laxative or saline solution; dump this out (it’s not necessary) and then rinse the bottle. About an hour before play, lubricate the tip (~foreshadowing~), either sit on the toilet or tub, insert the nozzle into your bum, and then squeeze the water into the hole. “Hold the water for 10 to 15 seconds, then expel it into the toilet. Repeat this until all the water being released is clear,” says Sinclair.

Note: “If you continue to use enemas regularly, there are risks related to muscle function and an imbalance of the electrolytes,” says O’Reilly. “I generally don’t believe they’re necessary.”

5. Stock up on lube.

Lube, lube, lube. Once more for the folks in the back: LUBE. This is non-negotiable. “Unlike the vagina, the anus is not self-lubricating,” says Boyajian.

There a few considerations to keep in mind when making your lube purchase: “Water-based lubes are compatible with silicone toys and are easy to clean off sheets and clothes. Silicone lube has more of silky feeling and lasts longer, but can’t be used on silicone toys.” And remember: While oil-based lubes can be a great sexual lubricant, most oils are not compatible with latex condoms and barriers because they’ll break down the latex. (Here’s everything you need to know about lube—plus the best ones to buy.)

You might be tempted to add a numbing lube or cream to the mix. Please don’t, say the experts. “By temporarily numbing your butt (and by extension, your partner’s genitals during anal intercourse), you are not only less likely to stop if you experience a small tear and more likely to experience pain once the cream’s effects wear off,” says O’Reilly.

TD;LR: Yes to lube, no to numbing lube/cream.

6. Don’t forget steps 1, 2, and 3.

So you and your partner have consensually agreed that tonight’s the night for anal sex. That isn’t a green light to pass “Go” (read: foreplay) and collect $200 (read: anal). Just as you warmed your bod up during your solo anal exploration, you want to be warmed up to prepare for anal sex too.

“Get yourself riled up using the techniques you normally use,” says O’Reilly. “Better yet, have an orgasm first…Your body is most responsive to pleasure and primed for arousal when your endorphin and oxytocin levels are elevated post-orgasm.”

7. Try rimming.

Oral-anal play has many names: Rimming, analingus, tossing the salad, to name a few. Whatever you call it, Dr. Goldstein is for it. “I highly recommend rimming for those about to engage in anal sex, as it will help get you relaxed and ready to receive!” he says. “It’s amazing what a little tongue action can do. It can help put the receiver’s mind at ease while warming them up to relax their sphincters.”

Still, there’s an undeniable…intimacy…of having someone’s tongue doing swirlies in and around your backdoor, so make sure you and your partner are on the same page before introducing tongue to the action.

Friendly PSA from Dr. Goldstein: “Even if you try rimming, make sure spit is not your lubricant of choice.”

8. Use toys to prepare for anal sex.

If you remember any single thing from this guide, make it this: Never insert anything into your butt that doesn’t have a flared base. Unlike the vagina, which comes to a full stop (hi, cervix), the rectum keeps going into the abyss of your GI tract. A flared base will keep any toy firmly rooted on the outside of your bod.

Once you have a trusty toy, use some lube, start slow, and insert the plug into your rear bit by (little) bit. “As the toy is being inserted, try to consciously relax to accommodate it. Then, have your partner remove it. Re-lube it, then insert again, suggests Dr. Goldstein. Repeat this technique of slow-in, slow-out five or six times, or until you can completely insert the toy.

If it feels good and comfortable, continue. “If it’s too much, it’s okay to end that session and then try again another day,” says Dr. Goldstein. “I instruct most of my clients to use a small plug for two weeks, then both a small and medium plug for the following two weeks, and then finally a large plug for two weeks.” Basically, going from zero to hero (err, penis or dildo) in one night is asking a lot of your anal sphincters.

Why does it take so long? Because your anal sphincters are a muscle, like your biceps. Exercising them increases your ability to flex and relax them on command. “Remember, since your anus is always in contraction mode, deliberate muscle relaxation is key for getting it into tip-top shape, and that takes exercise and practice,” says Dr. Goldstein.

9. Or a finger

If you don’t have a toy on hand (heh), anal fingering is a good option. This will help your partner learn how your anus works, anatomically. “The nice thing about finger dilation is that your partner can massage the muscles in the anus to get them to fully relax, which should lead to the most pleasurable engagement,” explains Dr. Goldstein.

Generally, one finger is more than enough. “Just do what feels right and always be aware of your limitations. There are no awards given to whoever can get the most fingers inside!”

Dr. Goldstein notes that “long or jagged fingernails can lead to localized injury.” He suggests trimming and filing your nails so that there are no sharp edges or hangnails. Yikes. (Same goes for vaginal penetration, ICYDK.)

10. Now, onto the P- or D-in-B anal sex.

You feel it, you like it, you want it? You got it. If you and your partner have comfortably prepared for anal sex this far, pat yourself on the back (butt), grab the lube and get at it—slowly. There are lots of great positions, but for your first-time, doggy style, missionary (and lifted missionary), and spooning are best.

“Practice breathing deeply as your partner inserts a quarter-inch at a time,” suggests O’Reilly. “As the depth increases, practice mindfulness by tuning into your breath. You’ll likely find that your muscles relax as your heart rate slows.”

As your partner is filling you, play with other parts of your body that bring you pleasure at the same time, she suggests. “You might use your hand to rub yourself or use a powerful vibrator against your clit to ensure that you enjoy the entire experience.” (Like you needed convincing.)

Your partner may also lend a helping hand. But heads up: If your partner was using their fingers in your butt, they absolutely must wash their hands before touching your vagina, vulva, or clit, says Kim Langdon, M.D., an ob-gyn at Parenting Pod in Valley Cottage, NY. (More on this below).

No matter what, follow the golden rule of anal: If it’s painful, stop. It’s that simple. “Anal sex should be pleasurable. It should never hurt,” says O’Reilly. “If penetration is painful, stop and go back to doing whatever turns you on.”

11. Don’t forget protection.

There’s a misconception there’s no reason to wear protection during anal sex, but that’s not the case, says Felice Gersh, M.D. an ob-gyn and founder of the Integrative Medical Group of Irvine in Irvine, CA. “There are still STIs to worry about.”

“If your partner wears a condom and uses it properly, the degree of protection is excellent for such diseases as gonorrhea, chlamydia, HIV, hepatitis B and C, syphilis,” says Dr. Gersh. But because HPV, herpes lice, and crabs can be contacted through skin-to-skin (and pube-to-pube) contact, she and Dr. Langdon recommend wrapping it up *and* sharing STI-status with your partner.

12. Pick a side and only one side.

“Never ever should the penis or dildo travel from the rectum to the vagina,” says Dr. Gersh. “The rectum is highly contaminated with bacteria which can be transmitted to the vagina by the penis or dildo.” This, in turn, can cause a UTI, bacterial vaginosis, or other vaginal health issues. Um, no thanks.

The fix: Make sure your partner changes condoms before heading North. Wearing a condom protects your partner, too. “Having anal sex without a condom could lead to the male partner developing urinary tract infections as well,” says Zvi Zuckerman, M.D., a certified sex therapist a the online Between Us Clinic.

Still have questions? Here are 12 More Anal Sex Facts. And, hey, if this guide made you realize anal sex is not for you (totally fine!), try these fun twists on common sex positions instead.

This story originally appeared on Shape.