Anal Sex Prep 101
By Cody Smith
During a recent dinner with friends, the PG conversation took an inevitable turn toward matters of a sexual nature — anal sex, in particular. I was at a table with mostly heterosexual women, and though anal play has become a growing fascination for the media, nearly every single one of my friends had yet to try it themselves.
I was not totally surprised (though having surrounded myself with gay men for the past four years in college, anal sex seems pretty standard). Anal sex has a reputation for being painful, dirty, and “unnatural,” not least because of its association with gay male sexuality.
Despite anal sex being depicted in popular television shows like Girls, How to Get Away with Murder, and The Mindy Project, only about one-third of young men and women have ever had anal sex with an opposite-sex partner, according to the National Survey of Family Growth. Notably, this proportion has increased steadily — over 3% from when the survey was first given in 2002. Unfortunately, and somewhat mystifyingly, this survey did not track the prevalence of anal sex between male same-sex partners, but rather grouped anal and oral intercourse together, nor did it address anal sex at all between female same-sex partners.
Heterosexual folks are playing with their partners’ butts more than ever, which might indicate that the stigma surrounding anal play is decreasing. But the conversation I had with my friends shows there was still significant misinformation and lack of education regarding anal sex practices. “How can you make sure there isn’t any… you know, mess?” a friend asked me. “And doesn’t it hurt?”
The anus is a very sensitive part of the body filled with nerve endings, and some people find it pleasurable when these nerves are stimulated by a finger, tongue, penis or sex toy. For people with penises, the prostate is another spot of increased sensitivity and pleasure. The prostate is about half an inch inside of the rectum on the wall across from the genitalia, and is often called the “male G-spot.” Some males can ejaculate from prostate stimulation alone. And while anal penetration can be uncomfortable for first-timers, there are plenty of ways to enhance pleasure.
1. Use lubricant. A lot of lubricant.
The anus doesn’t produce natural lubrication like the vagina does, so it’s important to supplement with a lubricant to ease friction and help prevent tearing. Silicone lubricants are a popular choice because they last longer than water-based, but both types are compatible with condoms (unlike oil-based lubes). Any tearing of the rectal wall can increase the risk of STI-transmission for the receptive partner. Need help choosing the right lubricant? We got your a̶n̶u̶s̶ back.
2. Start out with a sex toy.
The anus doesn’t expand as easily as the vagina does, so before attempting full-on penetration with a penis or dildo, start out by applying pressure with a finger or a tongue. Once your partner is comfortable, slip in a finger or a small sex toy (with their permission, of course). The receiving partner may want to lie face down to minimize pressure on the anus. If you’re starting out with a sex toy, it should have a flared base to prevent the sphincter from pulling the toy farther into the rectum. Dildos should also be made of a relatively flexible material to prevent tearing. Bear in mind that silicone sex toys are incompatible with silicone-based lubes (although, this can be avoided by using a condom with the toy!).
3. Use multiple condoms (no, not at the same time).
If you’re alternating between anal and vaginal sex, always use a new condom. This prevents transferring potentially harmful bacteria from the anus to the vagina. Also if you’re using a sex toy, remember to clean it properly after every use and use a condom for extra protection. STIs can still be transmitted when sharing sex toys.
4. Use an enema or a douche.
One of the biggest concerns surrounding anal sex is cleanliness. The reality is that fecal matter might be involved, and it’s perfectly normal and nothing to be ashamed of. Everyone poops, right? However, precautions can be made to ease anxiety. If the receiving partner recently had a bowel movement and hasn’t experienced any recent digestive issues, there shouldn’t be much of a mess to worry about. For extra measure, you can cleanse the anus externally (the skin, not the inside) with a gentle, non-irritating soap and warm water in the shower.
Enemas, also known as anal douches or “Fleets,” are a popular method of cleaning out the anal passage before sex. This method is particularly popular among gay men. In fact, a slight majority of gay men reported using enemas at least once in their life, and a third of gay men reported douching sometime within the past three months, according to a study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. Douches kind of look like turkey basters — a bulb attached to a long syringe that can be inserted into the anus. Fill the bulb with lukewarm water close to body temperature — believe me, avoid cold and burning hot water at all costs. You can use a lubricant on the syringe to help insert it into the anus. Once inserted in the proper place, squeeze the bulb gently. The rectal cavity is only a few inches long, so water doesn’t need to travel too far up the rectum for most sexual activity. Release the water into the toilet and repeat until it comes out colorless.
While douching can relax concerns about cleanliness, it can also have adverse side effects. Anal douching is associated with higher rates of contracting STIs, possibly because the water may damage the epithelium which can increase the risk of transmission. Too many enemas can also lead to enema dependency, so don’t overdo it.
Anal sex and stimulation can be pleasurable for anyone, regardless of sexual or gender identity. It doesn’t have to be “dirty” or tabú. So as the old saying goes, everyone has an asshole — so have clean and safe fun with it!
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Cody Smith is a Kylie Minogue lover. Sunscreen-obsessed. Native of Frederick County, Maryland. Tweeting insignificant opinions @cody_s_smith.