Welcome to Let’s Talk About It, the column where we answer questions posed by our readers regarding sex, sexuality, gender and other related topics, brought to you by the student-led organization Sexual Empowerment and Awareness In Tennessee (SEAT). This week, we are discussing safe anal sex practices.
“Butt stuff” of all kinds has become more a much more recognized topic over the past five years, with articles coming out in mainstream publications on both anal penetration and anilingus, and an episode of “Broad City” featured pegging.
At Sex Week, we’ve had two events in 2016 and in 2018, which featured Dr. Lindsey Doe’s presentation on pegging. Despite an increase in information becoming available on this topic, misconceptions and misinformation on anal sex abound, so we’re here to make sure that should you choose to try anal sex, you and your partner are safe, prepared and properly informed.
Before we begin discussing anal itself, let’s talk preparation.
“Anal” remained one of the top five PornHub categories in 2018, but porn is not going to show you the precautions that come before anal sex to prevent tearing, other injuries, and/or STDs/STIs being spread.
One of the keynote speakers for this year’s Sex Week, Dr. Megan Stubbs, has said, “The thing we don’t see in porn is the behind-the-scenes magic. These are professionals who have probably had anal sex before and know how to prepare, they are stretching their anus, and they are using plenty of lube.”
Unlike what you see in porn, spitting is not enough lube for anal sex. Without liberal amounts of lubricant, anal sex can be painful and potentially very dangerous, if not close to impossible.
Lubricants are a critical component of safe anal sex, and therefore knowing what types of lubricants are safe with each type of condom is highly important. The vast majority of condoms are latex-based, but there are also polyurethane and polyisoprene condoms for the small percentage of the population who are allergic to latex.
Silicone and water-based lubricants are compatible with all three types of these condoms, but oil-based lubricant is compatible with none of them. While some people like to use oil (coconut, vegetable or even Crisco) for anal sex, these erode condoms and therefore cannot be safely used with them.
However, we highly recommend using silicone lube because silicone lubricant has all the benefits of oil – being slicker and longer-lasting than water-based lubricants – without the risk of breakage. However, silicone lube stains cotton and other fabrics, so it's important to lay a towel down before using silicone lube. Also, silicone lubricants erode silicone-based toys, so always use a condom over a sex toy before applying those types of lube to them.
In regards to toys, always be sure to use something with a flared base before insertion. The rectum can “suck” objects deep into the colon unexpectedly. Because of this, object extraction is an incredibly common procedure for ER visits.
For those of you concerned about the presence of fecal matter: In general, unless someone “needs to go,” and has a pressure around the general area, there should not be issues. As long as someone eats a proper amount of fiber, fecal matter doesn't really hang out in the rectum. That being said, on the off-chance that there is unnoticed residue, we once again emphasize usage of a towel underneath the recipient partner.
People have asked us before at events and sex ed presentations if anal sex is “always supposed to be painful.” The simple answer is a resounding no!
No sex that you have should be unpleasant or painful. Oftentimes, it is due to a lack of knowledge (not your fault, especially in this state) or misunderstanding.
It is important to understand how anal sex differs from penis-in-vagina sex. The vagina is a naturally, self-lubricating mucous membrane while the anus consists of much tighter sphincter muscles – holding your breath tense these muscles, and consequently will hinder penetration.
It is a good idea to “work your way up” to anal penetration with a penis or penis-sized toy, beginning with a finger and plenty of lube. If you are the penetrating partner, you especially need to remember to check in with your partner because some people get too overwhelmed to state that they're uncomfortable unless prompted. Constant communication is critical to safe anal sex. Relax, whether you are receiving or giving penetration, breathe deeply like you’re in yoga class, and make sure to have continual communication with your partner.
Here is an awesome how-to guide from Teen Vogue, including anatomical diagrams and advice for how to communicate and ask for anal sex. For those with prostates, anal sex can be pleasurable because the prostate is located near the front of the rectum and can cause an orgasm when stimulated by toys, a penis, or a finger. For those with vaginas, anal sex and stimulation can be pleasurable because of indirect pressure against the g-spot and the internal branches of the clitoris; yes, anal orgasms and female anatomy can coexist!
The Center for Disease Control recommends using a condom with anal sex as you would with any other type of sex to reduce your risk of STI/STDs. Sexually-transmitted infections and diseases such as HIV and chlamydia can still be passed through anal sex, whether you are receiving (the bottom) or the inserting partner (the top). The CDC also recommends using an adequate amount of lube to prevent anal tearing, which make it easier for viruses such as HIV or herpes to get through, or condom breakage.
You should never use same condom for vaginal sex that was used for anal sex, or vice versa, due to the risk of spreading E. coli bacteria and other pathogens.
We hope you all feel a little more informed about how to have healthy, pleasurable anal sex!
Do you have a question about sex, sexuality, or relationships? You can ask us to find you accurate and reliable information from experts by tweeting @SexWeekUT, DM'ing @Sexweekut on Facebook, or by filling out an anonymous question form here.
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