At a recent conference I attended for sexuality professionals, one of the vendors was giving out pins. I grabbed - and proudly wore - the “Fisting Champion” button. Fisting is one of those acts that queer folks have been engaging in for ages. It's recently gone a bit more mainstream. But despite gaining greater visibility, vaginal fisting still sounds impossibly extreme to some. For others, it’s their sexual bread and butter.

Here’s a way to wrap your mind around it: Being inside of your partner, or having your partner inside of you, creates incredible intimacy. This is one of the principals behind any penetrative sex act. Also, anything that must be done slowly and carefully gives partners a chance to really connect. So, fisting packs a double whammy.

There’s an obvious drawback, too. Fisting can become goal oriented. And being goal oriented about sex is a sure fire way to be disappointed. Let fisting be a journey, not a destination. Here's a step by step guide for those who want to give it a try.

Understand the Risks of Fisting

Like any sex act, fisting comes with some risks you should be aware of. To get the lowdown on exactly what those risks are, I talked to a couple of experts. According to Evelin Dacker, MD: “[Risks include] possible tears of the introitus and vulva, abrasions, bruising of the vaginal walls and cervix. On the rare side is a hematoma or tearing of the vagina. Air embolus is very rare, but also possible. Probably the most common would be a urinary tract infection. There are of course the usual risks of infections which could lead to [pelvic inflammatory disease] since so much more pressure is being put on the cervix, as well as STIs and also group B strep, E. Coli, and even staphylococcus.”

Despite these potential risks, Vera Levitt Casey of Sexdoula.com emphasizes how much the vagina can take. “Seriously. Entire humans come out of vaginas - even hang out in there for extended periods of time - fisting is way less traumatic.” She goes on to say, “Risks can include tearing, but it's highly unlikely a vagina owner wouldn't request the fisting to stop before a significant tear. Micro tears can lead to infection if bacteria is present, but gloves and lube and well trimmed fingernails prevent most of this."

Get the Right Supplies

And that leads us nicely into a discussion of supplies. You’re going to need gloves, body-safe lube, your favorite sexy toys, and probably a towel.

Let’s break that down a little. Gloves are great for any hand sex, but especially for fisting. Even with well trimmed nails and freshly washed hands, bacteria can be present. Gloves add an extra degree of safety to keep scratches and tears from happening. They also help keep bacteria from getting into those tears if they are present. Gloves also smooth the edges of your hands and nails. You’re going to want all the smoothness you can get for fisting. Make sure you get gloves that fit snugly, without wrinkles. Nitrile gloves are great, especially for those with a latex allergy.

Next up is lube. Lube is a welcome addition to most sex, and it’s absolutely essential for fisting. Choose a lube that you’ve already tried and know that you like. You don’t want to have any untested variables here. Find a lube that’s body safe and won’t irritate. That means no glycerine, parabens, petroleum, propylene glycol, or chlorhexidine. Be sure to read the ingredients list and not simply trust words like “natural” on the packaging.

Be Prepared

All bodies are different. The same body is different on different days. So go into this experiment knowing that while full fisting likely won’t occur on the first try, the attempt can still be sexy, fun, pleasurable and intimate.

Before you even begin, the person being fisted should be very aroused. The erectile tissues of the clitoral complex can take 40 minutes (or more) to be fully engorged, and it’s that engorgement that helps make penetration pleasurable. So don’t rush through foreplay.

Make sure you’re communicating as you go. You’re going to need a lot of check-ins, and the person being fisted is going to need to stay aware of their body and what it needs. Be ready to slow down, or take breaks, as needed.

Step One: Set the Stage

Get ready to commit some time and get your space ready. Have towels down on the bed, have your gloves, lube, and toys within reach, and have a glass of water nearby too. Pick a time you’re likely to be free of distractions for a while. Play some music or light some candles - whatever feels sexy to you.

Step Two: Body Prep

The fister should wash their hands and scrub their nails (even if gloves are being used). Make sure jewelry is removed from the fingers and wrist. The person being fisted should go to the bathroom and empty their bladder. The feeling of fullness that fisting provides can feel like having to pee, and so can G-spot stimulation. Having an empty bladder helps set the mind at ease and keep things more comfortable.

Step Three: Arousal

Do whatever you normally do when getting sexy with your partner. Just because you’re going to try fisting doesn’t mean you should ignore the rest of the body. Kiss, massage and play for a while to connect and set the mood.

Step Four: More Arousal!

You want the body receiving fisting to be very warmed up. If the person being fisted can have multiple orgasms, then having orgasms as warm-up can be great. Either way, plan to spend a lot of time on vulva massage, clitoral touch, and G-spot stimulation - depending on the desires of the person being touched.

Step Five: Penetration

Wait until the person is ready. Ask first. Then, start with one or two fingers. Some people like clitoral stimulation along with penetration and some find it distracting. Be sure to ask about this. The person doing the fisting can provide this stimulation if it’s desired. The person being fisted might want to touch themselves or use toys. For many people, having a vibrator on their clit is a great accompaniment to fisting as well.

Step Six: More Penetration

Checking in as you go, keep adding fingers. Get four fingers, up to the knuckle and then hang out there for a while. The next step is the trickiest. When everyone is ready, tuck your thumb in, try to elongate your fist and minimize your knuckles, and apply light pressure. You want to focus on collapsing your hand as much as possible. So, the ring finger and pinky should collapse inwards as well. This is the point at which you’re going to want lots and lots of lube. Twist side to side a bit, to work your fist in. At this point the feeling is often at it’s most intense. Don’t rush and make sure to have lots of communication with your partner as you proceed.

Step Seven: All In

You might not get here on your first try, or ever. And that’s OK. If you make it past the knuckles and up to your wrist, now’s the time that you can make an actual fist. See what feels best, but many people like a slight upward motion, aiming for the G-spot area. Be very mindful not to run into the cervix. And remember to enjoy the feeling of being fully inside your partner! Keep checking in about what they need, and what additional kinds of stimulation might feel good. Focus on subtle motions, as this is already pretty intense all on its own.

Step Eight: Removal

When you’re done, remember to remove your fist (or fingers) as slowly as you went in. You need to collapse your fist/hand as narrow as possible again. It can be helpful to have the person you’re inside of guide your hand with their own, or slowly pull off of you. You might need to use the fingers of your other hand to break suction, or help hold everything in place as you pull out.

Step Nine: Snuggles!

No matter what step above you reached, be sure to focus on snuggles and aftercare. This is an intense form of play and it’s important to connect after play, not just during. The person who has been fisted should go to the bathroom again, to help clear any bacteria from the urethra. Drink some water, eat some chocolate and take some time to care for yourself and your partner. If you had fun, you'll be ready to rinse and repeat another day!