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Anal sex recipients should start solo, use lube, and carefully coach inserters If you feel revolted by anal sex, don’t do it. No one should ever feel pressured to be sexual in ways they’d rather not. But if you’re curious about anal or hope for less pain and more fun next time, this primer should help.

What is anal sex? Many assume it’s penis-anus intercourse (PAI). Actually, PAI is the least popular variation. Most couples limit things to sphincter massage, shallow fingering, insertion of small toys, and oral-anal contact (analingus, rimming).

The Allure?

According to several surveys:

  • Forbidden fruit. Many consider anal play taboo, therefore, exciting.
  • Novelty. It’s different. Novelty releases dopamine, the neurotransmitter of pleasure. Novelty is sex-enhancing.
  • Intimacy. To some, anal feels unusually intimate. It’s a metaphorical way for recipients to say, “I’m all yours.” And for inserters to say: “Every bit of you excites me.”
  • Happy accident. A finger or tongue may wander. Some like it, and continue.
  • Domination/submission. Anal play fits well into BDSM.
  • Birthdays. Some recipients reserve PAI as a special treat.
  • Better orgasms. The anal sphincter muscles contract during orgasms. Anal stimulation can intensify them.
  • Pleasure. In a Czech survey of women who engaged in frequent PAI, more than half (58 percent) said it felt “arousing and pleasurable.”

How Popular?

In erotic fantasies, anal play is quite popular. The male fantasies of porn often depict anal. “Feminist” porn specifically produced for women also contains anal play. And Fifty Shades Darker, book two of the wildly popular BDSM romance trilogy, has dom Christian Grey presenting sub Anastasia Steele with vibrating butt plug. She’s happy to wear it turned off or on.

In actual sex, anal remains a minority pleasure. But recent research suggests increasing popularity.

  • Surveys of the Czech population (1993-2008) show lifetime prevalence of heterosexual PAI increasing—among women from 17 to 20 percent, among men from 16 to 25 percent.
  • Indiana University researchers surveyed 5,865 Americans age 14 to 94. Among teens and those over 70, lifetime experience with PAI was low—only around 5 percent. But among men 18 to 69, lifetime PAI varied from 10 percent (age 18-19) to 45 percent (30-39). Adult women’s lifetime PAI experience varied from 20 percent (18-19) to 46 percent (25-29).
  • The Indiana team also asked about PAI during the previous year. Men topped out at 27 percent (age 25-29) and women 23 percent (20-24).

Anal is more popular than many believe, but it remains a minority pleasure, usually an occasional addition for added spice.


Our culture considers the anus dirty and taboo. Some overcome this belief, others don’t.

The anal canal and rectum usually contain only traces of stool. Most is stored above the rectum in the descending colon. But traces may appear on anything that enters the anus.

Cleanliness is crucial. Wash the area with soapy fingers. Some people also use enemas. Disposables (Fleet) are available at pharmacies. Anal rinsing helps lovers relax, and if recipients wash well, anal play—including rimming—is clean and reasonably safe.

However, nothing that touches the anal area should contact the vulva or vagina. Anal bacteria may cause urinary tract infection.

Ass-to-mouth play, shown in some porn, is medically hazardous. Don’t.

Unlike the vagina and mouth, the anal area is not self-lubricating. Use plenty of lube. Even with it, anal insertions may cause minor bleeding, especially if the recipient has hemorrhoids (10 million Americans). Minor bleeding is no cause for concern—unless the inserter is HIV-positive. Then the recipient risks infection. Unless you’re confident that your lover has no sexual infections, use condoms.

It Should NEVER Hurt

Anal play causes pain because the anus contains not one, but two sphincters, one visible, the other an inch inside. The sphincters are highly touch-sensitive. The external muscle ring is easier to relax, the internal ring, more difficult, and more likely to cause pain. But with practice and patience, most recipients learn to relax the inner sphincter.

In addition, compared with the mouth and vagina, the anus is less receptive to insertions. Many recipients—both women and men—have experienced pain, especially during PAI, among them noted New York sex educator Betty Dodson: “My first time was a disaster. We were in our twenties and inexperienced. I wasn’t relaxed. We didn’t know enough to use lube. When my boyfriend pushed in, I hated it. But he mistook my screams for pleasure and pushed deeper. I pulled away, furious. It was twenty years before I tried anal again.”

In a Czech survey of 1,893 adult women, 68 had tried PAI (4 percent). Three-quarters (79 percent) said their first time hurt. But most said that with practice, pain subsided as they learned how to enjoy it.

Before any anal play, recipients should feel deeply relaxed. Try hot baths or showers. Wash with soap in and around the receiving anus.

Recipients should begin by fingering themselves. Use plenty of lube. Popular water-based lubes (Astroglide, KY) may not work for your anal play. Try thicker jellies, vegetable or nut oils, or Crisco.

While breathing deeply, slowly press a finger through the outer sphincter. An inch inside you encounter an obstruction. That’s the inner ring. Touch it. When you feel ready, slowly, gently press a finger through. Over time, you might try two fingers or a small butt plug. Plugs have flared bases to prevent getting lost inside. Start with short, thin plugs. To accustom themselves to insertions, some recipients insert plugs an hour or so beforehand.

If recipients proceed to partner anal play, couples should begin with extended hugging, kissing, deep breathing, and gentle whole-body massage everywhere except the recipient’s back door. Foot massage can be a wonderful preparation for anal play.

Inserters, start by gently placing one well-lubricated finger on the recipient’s well-lubed outer sphincter, then hold still. Don’t push in. Only the recipient should move. The recipient should slowly press back, drawing the finger inside. Recipients should decide if they wants shallow insertions through just the outer ring, or deeper insertions through the inner ring, and move accordingly.

Recipients should always control the speed and depth of insertions, and coach inserters how to proceed. Inserters should remain still until recipients invite movement, and then only slow, gentle, well-lubed movements unless recipients request otherwise. Good positions: recipients on top, or standing bent over with the inserter behind.

Some recipients enjoy being anally fingered or using a plug as lovers bring them to orgasm by hand, mouth, or vibrator. Other recipients prefer not to have orgasms with anything inside the back door. It’s the recipient’s call.

If Only One Wants It

If you’re eager and your lover is reluctant, never force anal play. Explore your partner’s reluctance. Listen carefully. Address the person’s concerns. Ask if there’s any type if anal play your partner might consider. Sphincter massage? Rimming? Shallow fingering? Always respect limits. If your partner says stop, stop immediately.

Other Issues

Anal play does not permanently stretch the anus or soil underwear. Sphincters open and close throughout life. Assuming yours close normally after defecation, they’ll do the same after anal play. Even extended plug insertions don’t permanently stretch the sphincters.

Some people think that men who enjoy receptive anal are gay. Not necessarily. Sexual preference is all about which gender(s) you want to undress—not what you do naked. Gay men kiss, hug, and enjoy oral sex. Are those activities gay? Many 100 percent of heterosexual men enjoy receptive anal.


Intimacy means self-revelation, divulging who you really are, and learning the same about your partner. Compared with most other lovemaking, anal requires more self-revelation and negotiation, which can deepen intimacy and enhance couples’ emotional closeness.

For more, read Anal Pleasure and Health by Jack Morin, Ph.D. or The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women by Tristan Taormino. Or watch Taormino’s DVD, Expert Guide to Advanced Anal Sex.

More great, useful sex information from Michael Castleman, the world’s most popular sexuality writer.

Sizzling Sex for Life

The Cure for Premature Ejaculation

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