Are you curious about anal sex? If so, you’re far from alone! According to one study, 43 percent of men and 37 percent of women have had anal sex at some point in their life. Read on to learn everything you need to know about safe and pleasurable anal play.
What is Anal Sex?
At its most basic level, anal sex refers to a penis entering an anus. However, a more expansive definition of anal sex can include activities like anal fingering, playing with toys, and analingus aka “rimming” – oral stimulation of the anus.
Who Has Anal Sex?
There’s no such thing as a typical practitioner of anal sex and people of all different genders, sexualities, and levels of sexual experience enjoy it.
Anal sex is stereotypically associated with gay men. However, while many do enjoy it, there are also plenty of men who love men who don’t care for anal sex. Straight, gay, bi, cis, and trans people can all enjoy anal play in its various forms.
In short, if you’re curious and want to try, it can be for you!
Is Anal Safe?
The short answer is yes.
The longer answer is yes with caveats. As long as you listen to your body and use tons of lubrication (more on that in a minute), anal pleasure can be perfectly safe.
The butt contains a lot of sensitive tissue that can get torn or irritated if you’re not careful. As with vaginal sex, relaxation and arousal are essential for pleasurable anal sex. If you’re tense or tight, the anal sphincter (the muscle just inside the rectum) won’t open as easily and you’re more likely to feel pain or damage something. But as long as you relax and use plenty of lube, it’s not dangerous.
The other thing to know from a safety perspective is that the butt houses bacteria which can be spread if you’re not careful. Fortunately, it’s easy to protect yourselves. Wash your hands thoroughly after any anal contact. And never move (with hands, a mouth, a penis, or a toy) from the anus directly to the mouth or vagina.
It’s worth noting that anal sex has a higher risk of transmission of STIs (including HIV) than vaginal, oral, or manual sex. So unless you and your partner are fluid-bonded in a closed relationship, you should protect yourselves by using a condom for penis-in-anus sex. You can be extra careful by using gloves for hand-butt sex and a dam for mouth-butt sex, too, if you wish.
Lube and Why It Matters
The anus, unlike the vagina, does not have any natural lubrication. Therefore, it is absolutely essential to use plenty of lubricant when you do any kind of anal play. If you don’t, you risk tearing that delicate tissue and causing pain or bleeding. It’s also much more physically difficult to have anal sex without sufficient lube, because there’s too much friction.
Choose a body-friendly lube of your preferred type. Water-based, silicone-based (as long as you don’t use silicone toys,) or oil-based are all fine. You want to use something that feels good and lasts as long as possible.
You can buy specially formulated anal lubricants, but read the label and check the ingredients first. Anything described using words like “numbing” should be avoided. Not only does this mean you won’t feel all that delicious pleasure, but it can also lead to damage that you don’t recognize until afterwards. Pain is your body’s way of letting you know something is wrong, so you need to feel everything.
A natural lube with as few ingredients as possible is your best option. Most importantly, use plenty of it – even more than you think you need. It is almost impossible to have too much lube when you’re doing anal sex.
How to Play Safely
You’ve put down a towel, you’ve selected your lube, and you’re ready to go. How do you get started with anal play?
The most important single tip we can give you is to take things slowly. You probably won’t achieve full anal penetration with a penis or toy the first time, and that’s absolutely fine. If all you do is enjoy a little external stimulation and then stop, consider that a win!
Take time to get used to the sensations and see how you feel. You might find that anal play feels very different to how you imagined. It might feel more intense and your body might need more time to adjust than you envisioned. All of this is normal.
When you feel ready to try penetrative play, start with a single finger or a very small butt plug. Again, add more lube than you think you need. Let your body adjust to the feeling before you attempt penetration with anything bigger.
If you decide to play with a partner, talk before you start about what you want to do and your limits. Keep communicating throughout and don’t be afraid to pause, check in, or stop if you need to. It’s always okay to say no, and it’s always better to end a session feeling satisfied rather than feeling as though you went too far.
You can take the pressure off if you experiment with anal play on your own before getting a partner involved. Try mixing up your usual solo sex routine with a little bit of anal pleasure before you introduce it to your sex life with your partner.
Pro tip: adding genital stimulation can make butt play feel more pleasurable. Why not play with your penis or clitoris while your partner plays with your butt, or vice versa? Or, if you prefer to play on your own, put in a butt plug and then masturbate as you usually would.
Do I Need an Enema First?
Enemas are a divisive topic among people who enjoy anal sex and you might wonder if you need to do one before you play.
An enema involves injecting fluid into the lower rectum to clean it out. If you feel self-conscious about hygiene and want everything squeaky clean, you can do an enema before anal sex, but it isn’t necessary.
Some people find enemas erotic, either on their own or as part of foreplay. If this is you, feel free to enjoy but don’t feel pressured to do an enema unless you really want to.
Realistically, even if you use an enema or just wash thoroughly beforehand, anal sex is likely to involve a small amount of fecal matter. If you can’t handle this, it’s best to avoid anal play, because it really cannot be avoided.
Anal Toys 101
Whether you play by yourself or with a partner, there are numerous different types of anal toys you can use for anal play. Here are just a few you might want to consider:
- Butt plugs: These sit inside the butt and stimulate you as you have sex, masturbate, or just move around. They come decorative or plain (some even come with jewel adornments or animal tails) styles and they can be vibrating or non-vibrating.
- Dildos: Many dildos are safe for anal play, as long as they have an appropriate handle or base. Try to choose dildos made of non-porous materials like silicone, stainless steel, or glass.
- Prostate massagers: These toys press against and stimulate the prostate in men and people assigned male at birth. They can be vibrating or non-vibrating.
- Anal beads: These are strands of interconnected beads ranging from large to small. They can feel particularly pleasurable if you insert them while you play and then pull them out at the point of orgasm.
- Inflatable anal toys: Inflatable anal toys start small and get blown up to larger sizes once inside. They can be fun if you like a challenge, or a good choice if you don’t know what size toy you’ll enjoy.
The most important thing to remember is that any anal toy you use must have either a large handle or a flared base. Otherwise, they can get sucked up into the rectum and become stuck. At best, this means you’ll have to make an embarrassing trip to the emergency room to get it taken out. At worst, it can be a medical emergency that can do lasting damage or even require surgery. Please don’t take the risk.
Conclusion: It’s Supposed to be Fun!
Anal sex can come with a lot of built-in pressure. But remember that, like all sexual activities, it is meant to be enjoyable! If you and your partner aren’t having fun, stop and do something else.
Remember, too, that you only ever have to go as far as you want to. If that means stopping short of full penetration, that’s fine. The only thing that matters is that you enjoy yourself. Consent is the most important thing in all types of sex. That means honoring your own and your partner’s limits.
Have fun exploring!