The anus is a pretty magical body part. In addition to its well-known, uh, cleansing benefits, the tubular organ can pave the way to big time pleasure, given it’s proximity to the prostate and the internal clitoris and their plethora of nerve endings.
If you enjoy anal sex or want to enjoy it, you’re not alone. Around 36% of women and 44% of men reportedly engaged in bum play in recent years, according to National Center for Health Statistics. Surely plenty of non-binary people engage in it as well.
To make the most of your anal sex experiences, avoid these seven mistakes.
Diving in Without Clear Consent
It can be easy to get swept into the moment - and your partner’s rear - when arousal runs high. But particularly if you’re fairly new to anal sex or haven’t engaged in it with a particular partner yet, making sure the receiver is ready and willing is vital. Consent is important with all sexual activities, of course, but anal sex without consent can feel especially invasive and painful, potentially leading to injury.
“My partner totally surprised me with anal in the middle of sex,” said Kelli, a nursing student in Los Angeles. “We eventually got to a place where we both enjoyed it, but that first time was awkward and not remotely pleasurable for me.”
If you find yourself wandering toward your partner’s anus, pause and ask how it feels and if they’d like you to continue. Or shift gears regardless and bring the subject up later, outside of sex, so you can both be prepared to try it another time.
Not Using Protection
Plenty of folks rely on anal sex for birth control without realizing that pregnancy is possible whenever semen gets near a vagina or that other risks need consideration. Many STIs are transmitted anally, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Plus, the receiving partner is 13 times more likely to acquire HIV than the top partner. Without a condom, you can also bring on other health problems.
“It is possible to get some fecal matter in the urethra of the penis, which can travel up the urethra and cause infections,” said sex therapist Rhoda Lipscomb, PhD.
Engaging for Iffy Reasons
Sara McQueen’s team at Bad Girls Bible spoke to more than 1,000 Americans in 2019 to explore Americans' cognitive biases and found that a substantial number of folks tried anal sex because it seemed popular, AKA the “bandwagon effect." This may be due to anal's increased prevalence in mainstream porn and pop culture.
“We found that 37% of people who tried it because they thought everyone else was doing it regretted it, showing that it's important to feel personally ready to experiment,” McQueen said. “Feel the pressure to do things just because you think others are doing it too, and it will affect your experience in a tangible way.”
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try anal sex if you’re curious about it. Just make sure you and your partner are enthusiastic about it before dipping in. If you’re a newbie, experiment with your rear during masturbation first.
Skipping the Lube
The notion that anal sex is painful is a big myth, fueled by the common mistake of bypassing lubrication. Unlike vaginas, the anus doesn’t self-lubricate. It’s also less pliable than other orifices. All of this makes adding commercial lube important for comfort and pleasure. Without enough moisture, you also raise the risk of abrasions.
“Lube helped so much,” said Kelli of her more enjoyable anal sex experiences. “I like it when he starts with massaging around the hole with it and I do the same for him when I’m on top.”
Thicker lubes work best by keeping the anus more slippery. Choose a silicone-based option, which isn’t only thick, but longer-lasting than water-based varieties, which the anus absorbs quickly.
Failing to Bear Down During Insertion
Tenseness, whether physical or emotional, can make anal sex challenging and uncomfortable. Thankfully, there are ways around this.
While it can feel counter intuitive, bearing down when you’re pushing out during anal sex “invites the same muscle group to relax and reduces the risk of tearing, including fissures,” said sex therapist and coach, Cyndi Darnell, whose "Atlas of Erotic Anatomy and Arousal" includes a module on anal sex.
Two main muscle rings control whether your anus is open or closed. You can consciously control the ring known as the external sphincter. Pushing gently, almost as though you’re easing a bowel movement out, opens this sphincter, making insertion easier.
Controlling From Behind
When you’re doing the penetrating during anal sex, it’s easy to feel as though you’re in the driver’s seat. This is a mistake, said Stefani Goerlich, LMSW.
“If anal sex is new or has been uncomfortable for the recipient in the past, try reversing this,” she said. “Once the penetrative partner has entered, they can remain still and allow their partner to be the one to move.”
These movements, she said, can take the form of rocking forward and backward, sliding a toy or penis in and out or grinding or rubbing against the penetrative partner. While keeping the penis or toy within the receiver’s body, explore what feels good.
“By allowing the recipient to control the movement, you allow them to relax - physically and mentally - and can avoid accidentally causing sensations that would decrease their enjoyment of anal sex,” Goerlich added.
Using an Anal Desensitizing Cream
Many people use desensitizing creams to take the potential sting out of anal sex, but any pain is a signal well worth your attention.
“Pain is the body's way of letting you know something is wrong, and if done right, anal sex should not be painful,” said Lipscomb. “The problem with these creams is that once you desensitize the area, you do not have the same level of feeling, so you don't know when something needs to be adjusted and real damage can be caused.”
Rather than using a topical cream, Lipscomb suggests slowing anal play down and starting with a lubricated finger around the anus before shifting to fuller penetration. Work your way in gradually, pausing to relax any muscles that get tense. Doing so not only staves off pain but invites arousal and pleasure.
Exploring Anal Sex Together (or Alone)
If you're interested in anal sex, that's great! You should talk with your partner. You also have the option of trying out anal toys on yourself to learn more or prepare for anal sex. Don't forget to look around here on Kinkly to learn more about anal. You'll be glad you did!