Including the questions you were too scared to ask
Anal sex used to be a major taboo. Yet there is plenty of evidence that more and more couples are trying it.
Many people find anal sex enjoyable because the anus is richly endowed with a body of nerve endings, is interconnected with the main pelvic muscles and contracts rhythmically during orgasm.
While some report some pain when first attempting anal sex, as a person learns to relax, the discomfort often turns into pleasure. For men, anal sex also offers stimulation to the prostate, an organ that provides a rush of pleasure during orgasm.
Countless men and women, straight, gay and bisexual, are exploring anal sex and enjoying it.
However, there are, of course, some associated risks, rules and reservations. So if you’re curious about giving anal sex a go, but are a little apprehensive, read on:
What are the risks?
- Passing on infection if one partner has an STD
- Damaging the anus if penetration is not slow and gentle enough
- Spreading germs from anus to vagina if you have vaginal sex immediately afterwards
- Possibly transferring HPV
The absolute rules
- Condoms should be worn to protect against STDs, which are transferable through the anus.
- Rectal penetration always requires plenty of suitable lubricant, as the rectum is not self-lubricating, and dry friction is neither comfortable nor safe.
- Foreplay and arousal are needed to relax the PC muscles.
- The receiving partner takes charge of the pace and degree of penetration.
- If it does not feel good, stop!
But isn’t it unclean?
The most common reservation concerns the hygiene of anal sex. There is a fear that the rear passage will be dirty, that stool material will escape or be disturbed and that there could be bacterial contamination.
In fact, the anus and the lower part of the rectum have very little faecal matter in them, which means they tend not to be even nearly as dirty as expected. However, having vaginal sex straight after anal sex is not desirable, because even microscopic faecal elements can cause vaginal infections. To safeguard against such concerns, a bowel movement prior to sex can give reassurance.
Will it hurt?
Another common concern for those contemplating anal sex is that it will be painful. The way the rectum curves shortly after the opening means that great care has to be taken to insert the penis at the right angle so as not to cause pain. If the sphincter muscles that are around the opening of the anus are pushed against too strongly, their reflex is to tighten. As the rectum is narrow and its lining is fragile, before any penile anal penetration is attempted, it can help to get accustomed to new sensations in this area with a finger massage or through gentle probing with a toy, using lubricant to moisturise when exploring the entrance. This helps overcome the probability of protective flinching.
Do some women really enjoy it?
A further reservation on the part of many women is that it will be more stimulating for their male partner, as the anus is tighter than the vagina, but that they will not take pleasure in it. Some women regard it as a treat or favour that they grant on an occasional basis, an experience to be tolerated rather than actively enjoyed. For enjoyable anal sex, partners have to share great sexual communication, trust and confidence that both want to do it, as opposed to one trying to pressure the other or consenting to it reluctantly out of fear that the other partner will find someone else who will.
Lube is essential
Anal play should never be uncomfortable for either partner, so using a good-quality lubricant is absolutely essential. However, conventional vaginal lubricants are designed to be slightly acidic, making them less suitable for anal play, as the strong chemicals they contain, like glycerine and polypropylene glycol, are known to damage the lining of the rectum. But there are lubricants out there that are specifically designed for anal play.
So, for those who are interested in trying anal sex, they should prepare well, communicate honestly, wear a condom and apply plenty of anal lubricant to ensure a comfortable and pleasurable experience.
Susi Lennox is a sexual health expert and co-founder of organic intimacy company Yes Yes Yes.