Dropping the soap, dancing the chocolate cha cha, punching the starfish, slipping in the back door, stirring the peanut butter – anal sex has long been the subject of taboo and comedy euphemism, yet this sensitive part of the male and female anatomy also holds the key to exploration of a new erogenous zone.
The skin of the perineum, surroundings of the anus, internal valves and indeed the prostate are packed with pleasure-sensitive nerve endings that can be stimulated alone or in combination with genital regions to create mind-blowing orgasms.
The ‘legs’ of the internal anatomy of the clitoris extend backwards, reaching the anus in some women, and indirect stimulation of the G-spot is possible through the thin wall between the anal passage and vagina.
Men are blessed with a prostate, a walnut-sized gland located between the bladder and penis, but can be felt a few inches into the rectum. It adds secretions to the semen on ejaculation but is also highly sensitive to touch and pleasure. Some men who are unable to maintain an erection are still able to ejaculate through prostate stimulation alone.
All in all, why is this area so often neglected as a pleasure-zone?
A combination of historical religious taboo, fear, secrecy and an association with being ‘dirty’ are more than enough to discourage many from exploring. We are advised that anal sex is especially risky for HIV and other STI transmission, that regular anal sex can cause functional bowel incontinence (studies on this have concluded there is little to no difference long-term) and men often feel shame or embarrassment about their sexual identity in relation to anal play.
Does anal play make you gay?
- No, many heterosexual men enjoy both giving and receiving anal play.
Is anal play painful?
- If you are unprepared, tense or not sufficiently lubricated, anal insertion can be uncomfortable or painful. The key is to prepare. Unfortunately, many people’s first experience of this sexual art is in the form of ‘surprise anal’. This is never recommended. Preparation, consent and taking your time is key.
Is anal play dirty?
- Again, adequate preparation can ensure there is little risk of unpleasant accidents or odours
Why are people so keen on anal?
In addition to the physical sensitivity and enjoyment that is possible, anal has a strong psychological allure – its ‘forbidden’ status makes it all the more tempting. But there are many more reasons:
- The anus itself feels exceptionally tight for your partner to penetrate.
- It’s extra-naughty. And it is often considered to be ‘special’.
- In a world where casual sex is available on apps and often mundane, for a man to be ‘given’ anal can hold for him a special sense of status. For a woman to provide it can give her an extra sense of self-worth as a sexual siren.
- For a woman to perform anal sex on a man (via a toy or strap-on) can be a special, intimate act of allowing him to explore deep, unknown pleasures.
How can receiving anal sex be enjoyable?
Though many of the nerve endings typically associated with sexual pleasure are located around the penis or clitoris, the whole area is sensitive and can be stimulated. Many women, and especially men, say they have amazing orgasms from anal/rectal stimulation, either alone or in combination with genital or nipple stimulation.
Do you just have to brace yourself and receive anal sex until you are used to it for it to be enjoyable?
Absolutely not. Plenty of anal play can be non-penetrative, focussing on the sensitive skin around the anus or gentle internal stimulation with a well lubricated finger or purpose-designed toy. Combining anal or prostate-stimulating toys with other sexual activities can add a whole new dimension to the enjoyment of your intimacy.
How should I prepare?
- Plan ahead.
- Avoid times when you might be suffering from any painful conditions, like haemorrhoids or constipation, and start your preparation at least 24 hours in advance.
- Some people suggest planning a week ahead – sleeping with butt plugs or anal-safe dildos of increasing size in (inserted with lubricant) to help the muscles of the area stretch, relax and become used to sensation in this area.
- A minimum of two hours before anal play, use a gentle enema or douche in the anal passage (an enema will clear further up) to make sure the passage is free of stool and the experience will be clean and pleasant for you. Ensure you are near a toilet for the time being, as you will probably pass fluid a few times (if nothing else) over the next hour or so. Some people prefer to repeat this process to be as clear as possible, while others find once is enough.
- Shower and make sure your anal area is clean on the outside. Some people like to remove hair from the area or even have the surrounding skin bleached to look attractive. If you are doing any waxing or irritating treatments, do them at least 2 days in advance to allow the skin to settle down, reducing sensitivity and avoiding any open areas that could increase the risk of STI transmission.
- Select a good lubricant designed for anal play. If you are using condoms (and you certainly should) ensure that it is not oil-based.
Should I always use a condom?
Even if you have a regular partner and you already have unprotected sex with them, it is probably worth still using condoms for a few reasons:
- The anal passage contains bacteria that the vagina doesn’t, however clean it seems. These can also infect your genitals (staphylococcus, for example).
- Everyone who isn’t young enough to have been vaccinated is most likely a carrier of various strains of HPV, which typically causes no visible issues and will not show up on a STI screening. Introduction of these strains into the anal passage, however, has been linked with an increase in various types of polyps and rectal cancers. So, show your partner you value them if you plan to have anal sex by protecting them from this.
- If the anal sex, despite your best efforts, isn’t working out, or you decide to switch to oral or vaginal intercourse, it is easy to take the condom off and have a relatively clean penis. Switching straight from anal to vaginal or oral sex without careful cleaning in between is likely to give your partner an infection or illness.
- If, despite the best efforts to prepare and clean, there is any leakage or mess, it will be much easier to whip the condom off to clean yourself up.
- A number of anal-safe condoms are available, which are usually a bit stronger and thicker than standard condoms. This is both to prevent STI transmission more effectively and to reduce breakage. The anus, especially if your partner is unused to anal sex, is much tighter than the vagina, with two very strong muscular rings – one by the entrance to the anus and another much further up. Wearing a condom may also help to contain any over-excitement at the novelty of the experience or intense squeezing sensation, allowing you to prolong your frolics and make the most of the session.
There are a number of anal-specific lubricants to choose from. Some contain muscle-relaxing agents, which can be helpful, and some also contain numbing agents. Whether to use numbing agents is a personal choice – although it might initially seem a good idea, they may disguise any damage being done (micro-tears, etc), which you will feel later. [Editors note: As for the vagina, the anus has a specific pH, which is why we recommend Yes But ].
What are ‘poppers’ in relation to anal sex?
Some people use ‘poppers’ available from sex-shops (sold as room odourisers- they are not classed as fit for human use) as they are also an anal relaxant, though their effect is relatively short lived, and can have medical consequences as they dilate the blood vessels and can be dangerous for those with heart problems, glaucoma or anaemia. Avoid them altogether if you are taking blood pressure medication or medication for erectile dysfunction, such as Viagra. Poppers are fatal if swallowed and can only be sniffed. It would not be recommended to try them for your first attempt at anal.
- It might make you feel more relaxed to put down a waterproof undersheet and towel before you start. Even if there isn’t a lot of mess, it feels easier to clean up properly afterwards. Small amounts of leakage or slightly stained lubricant coming out is not abnormal.
- Insert a lot of lubricant. More than you think you could possibly need, and have more handy beside you.
- Rather than starting with anal intercourse immediately, start by gently exploring the area. Gentle fingertip strokes around the anus, or use of lips and tongue for those who are more adventurous, can be a very gentle, pleasant sensation.
- Use of well lubricated, anal safe toys, can help to relax the passage. There is a great selection of anal-play toys available, some with vibration or even electrical impulses to stimulate different areas. Even without a toy, a gentle finger (with short nails!) or a medical glove over it can be a gentle and enjoyable exploration. If the person receiving the anal play is a man, it can really ramp up the enjoyment to locate the prostate (3-4 inches up, and towards the front of the body) and gently stroke or tickle. It is possible to learn to ‘milk’ the prostate, which can cause ejaculation without any genital stimulation in some men. Most men will find having their prostate stimulated intensely arousing and pleasurable, and may even ejaculate very quickly, so check how your male partner is responding carefully when you are exploring his prostate.
- Insertion, and play with well lubricated dildos, vibrators or strap-ons of different sizes can help to relax and accustom the anal passage gently, without pain or trauma. Although most people will be used to relaxing this area on a daily (or so) basis to an inch or two in width, trying to relax these muscles from external stimulation alone can be a very different feeling to the morning ablutions after coffee. Adopting a position where the knees are brought towards the chest (curled up, doggy-style or bent over) can help to make the opening process as easy as possible. Going slowly and gently, always adding lubricant, helps both the muscles and the mind to relax.
- Are the toys going well? Are you and your partner enjoying the sensation? It is absolutely fine to perform anal play as part of your normal sexual repertoire, without taking it any further. Try combining anal and clitoral stimulation to give a woman a mind-blowing orgasm, or prostate, anal and genital stimulation on a man to make him ejaculate in a spectacular fountain like a porn star.
Moving on to anal sex
Are you feeling like you want to try full anal sex? Are the toys of adequate size to approximate your partner’s member? Are you feeling relaxed, open and ready for more?
Whether you are a man, woman or any other identity doing the receiving, ensure you are relaxed and ready, tell your partner when you feel ready to try, and ask them to start very slowly.
- Ensure they have their condom on, add additional anal lubricant over it and around your anus, assume the position you find most comfortable and allow them to gently slide it in a little way. Alternatively, place yourself on top and slide down onto it, maintaining control if you feel worried or unsure.
- Take it in an inch or two, wait for your body to adjust, then go further. Do not start sliding in and out until your body is completely relaxed and adjusted to the sensation.
- Start very slowly at first, gently building up speed if and when you feel comfortable. Many people receiving anal sex for the first time take great pleasure in their partner’s reaction and intense arousal, but ultimately remember that they want you to be enjoying it too, and if you are forcing yourself to go too quickly or experience pain in order to please them, this is unnecessary. You can always build up slowly, or even try again another day as you get more used to it.
Remember to change condoms every 15 minutes to prevent breakage.
When your partner is deep inside you, you may experience pressure on the internal sphincter – this area is loaded with nerve endings that usually indicate to you that you need to go to the toilet and open your bowels. Having your partner thrusting into this area and suddenly feeling like you are about to do a big poo can therefore be worrying (or mortifying) if you aren’t expecting it. If the stimulation to this area is too intense, ask them to slow down or go shallower. If you are really worried, ask to take a break and go to the toilet so you can double check that you haven’t actually stirred something loose. Generally after a few minutes of stimulation, the urge to open your bowels will pass and you can relax and enjoy the sensation.
You don’t need to make your first session long, or make it exclusively anal (though do get your partner to wash carefully if they have been inside your anus, with fingers, penis, toys or whatever else you have been using). This can be a part of your exploration, and you may or may not experience orgasm as part of it. Sensory exploration is a journey, and the more confident and comfortable you become with your own body and your partner’s, the happier you will be exploring your limits and trying new things.
Human anatomy, and sexual responses in particular, are an incredibly personal and variable thing. What is orgasmic and intense to one person is ticklish to another. What one person can’t tolerate, another will adore. If you and your partner gently explore anal play and it isn’t for you, whether for psychological or physiological reasons, this doesn’t make you any less of a sex god/goddess. We all have natural preferences, our tastes develop over time and nobody can change the way their bodies naturally respond to different stimulation.
What is important is to be open to trying new experiences, and making sure you take all the steps to give yourself the best possible opportunity to be open and embrace it.