Anal Sex 101

author: Sunny rodgers
ILLUSTRATIONS BY ARI SAPERSTEIN

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Anal sex is the #1 subject I’m asked about.

A report from the Kinsey Institute found that nearly 40 percent of people have had anal sex in their lifetime and about 37 percent are open to the idea. With people I’ve spoken with, anal sex is something that almost everyone has on their “Must Try Once” list.

Often, people want to try anal sex, but have no idea where to start. Many hear that anal sex can be painful so they shy away from attempting it. I won’t beat around the bush— anal sex is going to hurt a few times before it becomes enjoyable. All the preparation and anticipation in the world will not make up for the fact that something is entering through an exit. There will be sensitivity and stretching. I do not recommend using any types of numbing agents because pain and discomfort will be your gauge when determining depth and speed. Pain can be a healthy indicator to slow down or stop.

So why try it?

There are a multitude of sensitive nerves located in the anal region and many people relish in how responsive they are at the slightest touch. Anal play can be an intensely erotic experience for people of all shapes, sizes, and sexual orientations. Anal intercourse can be a way to share sex play experiences that are intense and bonding for both yourself and your partners.

Anal sex has been typically perceived as taboo – which makes the allure of it almost magnetic. Some clients I’ve spoken with share that they choose anal sex because there isn’t a possibility of them getting pregnant. It is also a way to “safekeep” their vaginal virginity. Others have told me that they experience such intense orgasms via anal sex that it’s their preferred sex play method.

According to a study by Statista, the number of people who’ve tried anal penetration has risen by 20% since 2009 and this number continues to rise.

Let's talk about poop.

Poop is always a possibility with anal sex. While it’s highly unlikely that a person will poop during anal sex, you may find fecal matter transferred to fingers, a penis, or a pleasure product. For prevention, I recommend a bowel movement and a shower about an hour before anal sex play. An additional measure is using an enema, available at most drugstores. Always remember to thoroughly clean your sex toys – you can read more about pleasure product care in my The Sex Ed essay: Sex Toy Safety (Care & Maintenance).

Please keep in mind that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, receptive anal sex is 13 times riskier than insertive anal sex for acquiring HIV infection. The CDC recommends using condoms consistently to reduce the risk of acquiring a sexually transmitted infection.

I’m hoping to provide you with a lot of helpful information that will allow you to make a better decision about anal sexual pleasure.

Go slowly, breathe into it & relax, and use plenty of lube.

First things first—get your mind acquainted with anal sex. Are you intrigued? Or are you going along with someone else’s wishes? If your mind isn’t into an anal encounter, your anus will tighten, which can make for an uncomfortable experience.

Before trying anal sex play, get to know your bottom first. Take time to explore your anal region. Discover which areas are sensitive. Massage the outer part of your anus before placing your finger inside.

Remember to take your time and go slow. Anal orgasms can be incredibly intense and can often be felt throughout the entire pelvic floor.

My #1 Anal Sex Tip for Beginners - Have the receiving partner back up onto their partner’s penis or strap-on toy rather than having them insert into the receivers’ rear. This is so that the receiver can go at their own pace and can control the insertion and their own comfort level, which will allow for a more enjoyable experience. Laying on your side with your legs bent at the knees and pulled forward slightly is the best position for rectum muscles to be totally at ease. A spooning position where the receiver backs up may be the most comfortable for a first timer.

2nd Tip: The rectum doesn’t self-lubricate so I recommend using a lot of lubricant and reapplying as often as needed. We covered anal-appropriate lubricants in my The Sex Ed essay: Prostate Health and Pleasure. Silicone lubricants, such as JO Premium Anal Personal Lubricant, are often recommended for anal products because they have a slicker formula and last longer. The rectal canal is a moisture permeable membrane capable of transmitting soluble chemicals into the bloodstream so I like natural, water-based lubricants that have less chemicals and are easier for clean-up with no residue. Sliquid Sassy Natural Lubricating Gel has a thick water-based formula designed to offer extra padding during anal activities. Coconut oil is an excellent choice for anal pleasure because it’s antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory and is very nourishing to delicate anal tissue. Keep in mind that coconut oil does degrade latex condoms. The decision on which lubricant to use is a personal preference but I advise taking time to learn about the different options that are available.

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Try rimming.

Rimming or anilingus is when you kiss, lick, and/or penetrate your lover's anal opening with your tongue. Try combining regular oral sex with a little extra action down south by using your lips and/or tongue to explore your partner’s backdoor.

Please be aware that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and HIV.gov both recommend using plastic wrap during rimming to reduce the possibility of oral transmission of a sexually transmitted infection.

Using pleasure products can make anal sex easier.

If you’re new to any type of anal play, a simple, small pleasure product is where you should begin if you want to become accustomed to what anal insertion feels like. Doc Johnson makes a very petite silicone anal toy, The Mini’s Smooth, that is the size of a slender finger and is perfect for beginners.

It can be sexy to know that you’re wearing a slender anal plug while out for dinner that your partner will remove during foreplay later. This will also make anal sex play more comfortable.

Anal beginners should shy away from anything rigid or inflexible, such as glass or metal. For an anal beginner who wants to try a toy that will help them prepare for anal intercourse, use a toy that is smooth, flexible and has a flange around the base – something like the JIMMYJANE Tapered Teaser. This particular toy is also adaptable to harnesses for people who want to try pegging. 

What is pegging?

Pegging is the term commonly accepted for a person without a penis to have penetrative anal sex.

Before choosing the best type of toy, or ‘attachment’, you can use with a strap-on dildo for pegging, make sure you and your partner have tried anal massage and inserted pleasure products. Jumping straight from being an anal virgin to inserting a toy may cause discomfort and pain.

If your goal is prostate stimulation, thereby increasing pleasure and the promise of anal orgasm, look for curved attachments the will be able to reach the prostate gland easier.

Back to anal toys.

Plenty of lubricant should also be used with any type of anal pleasure product. Lay down on your side with your legs curled up a bit to insert. This position will naturally relax your anal muscles and allow for easier insertion with less resistance. Go slow! This isn’t a race. Take your time and gradually rock your anal toy as you slowly insert it. The benefit of using an anal toy is that the anal area has a high concentration of nerve endings that are pleasingly stimulated by even the smallest butt plug.

How you insert your anal toy is very important because it can make the experience a good one or a bad one. Remember to never forcefully insert a toy.

A triangular flange base makes any plug that a beginner wears more comfortable between their cheeks. You can see an example of this type of base on the NEON Petite Anal Anchor. Beginners should also consider using a condom with anal pleasure products because it not only makes clean up simple, it also provides a slick surface that can help make insertion easier.

Something I’ve found interesting when speaking with my clients is that vibration near a male’s anal region tends to cause him to tense, but the opposite happens for females. When vibration is introduced via an anal toy, most females naturally relax their anal muscles. So, using an anal toy that features vibration may be a great option for a beginner.

Silicone is the best material for anal toys because it’s soft, flexible, hypoallergenic and is non-porous which lessens the likelihood of bacteria. Silicone also easily warms to your own body temperature, making it extremely comfortable to wear. Silicone products without vibration can also be cleaned in a myriad of ways – many that we covered in my The Sex Ed essay: Sex Toy Safety.  Not as expensive as silicone is TPE/TPR, which are forms of rubber and are more porous than silicone and cannot be cleaned in the same way. TPE/TPR products purchased from well-known U.S. manufacturers must meet certain quality control standards and are phthalate-free. Phthalates is the compound which creates flexibility in some products manufactured in China – this is one reason why any products that you select should be purchased from a reputable source.

Sometimes, people will go to the extreme to gain sensual pleasures. I have been told numerous stories about items that have been used as anal pleasure devices, only to have said items drawn up inside due to the intense amount of suction in the rectum. Rectal foreign objects that have become trapped inside include bottles, fruit, vegetables, and flashlights - but the most common item I am told about from two of my friends who are emergency room nurses are light bulbs, which are chosen for their shape. Unfortunately, light bulbs have a smooth surface with nothing to hold onto. Therefore, I always recommend an anal toy with a flange made specifically for this purpose.

Consider Anal Beads
Anal beads can be a great way to take anal sex play to the next level. The sensation produced by the movement of anal beads can cause intense arousal.  Some people experience pleasure during insertion. Others enjoy the sensation of the beads being pulled out when reaching orgasm, as this can enhance climax. Many anal beads are organized with smaller beads at one end and progressively larger beads along the cord, so you can work your way up or choose to just insert smaller beads only. I also recommend attaching the ring of the anal beads to a vibrator or something larger so there isn’t a possibility of the beads being sucked up inside the rectum.

Please Your Prostate
For males-- the prostate (often called the male G-spot) naturally swells when you’re aroused, so begin with whatever routine you prefer to get yourself turned on, then elevate your legs and gently massage the anal entrance. Apply lubricant to your fingers once your muscles are nice and relaxed, for an easy, smooth insertion. You’ll recognize the prostate as a small, chestnut-sized bump situated approximately two inches inward.

You can read more about prostates in my The Sex Ed essay: Prostate Health & Pleasure.

Often, fingers are not long enough to massage the prostate comfortably, which is where a prostate massager comes in. High-quality  prostate massagers are ergonomically designed to naturally align with the prostate once inserted, making them ideal for beginners and experts alike.

What if a beginner is ready for more adventure? 
For a beginner who is ready for more adventure, increase the size of the butt plug just a bit, which will increase sensation, the feeling of fullness and pleasure. I also recommend trying a curved shape to stimulate the prostate gland or the Skene gland. When the Skene gland (considered the female prostate) is stimulated, as it can be during anal insertion, it can expel fluid during orgasm just like the prostate.

Very advanced anal play

Anal play can be extreme in size and creativity. There are pleasure products created for the most experienced anal connoisseurs, who prefer larger-than-life backdoor action. A couple of such collections are Doc Johnson’s American Bombshell line and a portion of Pipedream Products King Cock series. Not for the faint of heart, these designs come in a variety of supersized shapes, for advanced players only.

Create a safe word.

Much like master/submissive play, it’s not a bad idea to create a safe word that can be used if the action heats up to a level that’s above your comfort range. Choose a word or phrase that cannot be misconstrued. A National Institute of Health study shows that no and yes can be misunderstood during sex. It’s best to make sure that you and your partner are both consenting to this type of sexual play. We’ve heard of all kinds of safe words including “orange” “banana” and “light”— be creative!

As with trying anything new, take it slow and do what feels good to you. It is healthy to explore your sexuality and try new things. Who knows, you may discover anal pleasure is right up your alley. Remember to always go slow and don’t force anything – be it a plug, dildo, or penis. There are two ringed sphincter muscles and just like any other muscle in your body, there is a possibility of a muscle tear or injury. This is why it’s very important to use copious amounts of lubricant and to relax and take your time.

Have you tried anal sex? Would you like to? The Sex Ed would love to hear from you! Share your experiences, tips, and anal adventures. Have a question about anal sex we didn’t answer? Let us know! We are here to help.