Anal Play

Updated: JUNE 27, 2023
Reviewed by Dr. Sunny Rodgers
on June 3, 2023

Anal play refers to any sexual activity involving stimulation of the anus. Some forms of anal play include:

Why People Enjoy Anal Play

Anal play can be very pleasurable as this area is full of nerves. Anal stimulation can directly stimulate the prostate, commonly known as the P-spot, and indirectly stimulate the G-spot and parts of the clitoris and vagina. Stimulating these areas can be intensely pleasurable and trigger orgasms. As the anal sphincter is smaller and tighter than the opening of the vagina, anal penetration can also feel really good for givers and receivers.

People may also have psychological reasons for enjoying anal play. Because anal play has been taboo for many generations, many people enjoy feeling like they’re doing something illicit or forbidden. They may also feel free knowing that anal play has a very low risk of pregnancy.

How common is anal play?

It can be difficult to gauge how common anal play is, as many people are private about their sexual habits. However, in 2019 Future Method interviewed more than 880 American adults about their experiences with anal play. They found that 72% of Americans had tried anal sex at least once, with more than 25% giving and receiving anal sex. As it turns out, Americans have anal sex an average of 2.56 times per month. When these statistics are broken into binary genders, men have anal sex an average of 3.13 times a month while women have anal sex 1.66 times a month.

The survey also found that anal sex was much more prevalent among gay men, with 100% of those surveyed saying they’d tried it. More than 94% had bottomed, more than 90% had topped, and nearly 85% had tried both options. The gay and lesbian population also have anal sex 6.91 times a month on average, compared to 3.05 times for bisexual people, and 1.85 times a month for straight people.

While anal sex is the most common type of anal play, it’s not the only anal play Americans are experimenting with. Nearly 53% said they’d used anal toys or fingers to stimulate themselves, with nearly 49% saying they’d used anal toys and fingers to stimulate someone else. Roughly 42% of people had either tried giving or receiving analingus, or both. Nearly 17% of Americans had tried pegging. Millennials are more adventurous than Generations X and Z, with more of this demographic trying almost every type of anal play than their older and younger peers. The only exception was trying anal toys or fingers for self-pleasure, which was most common among Generation Z.

More About Anal Play

People preparing for anal play for the first time should research anal play to clear up any myths and establish realistic expectations. If they’d like to play with a partner, they should have an honest conversation about what this kind of play might look like. This gives people a chance to discuss what anal play activities they’re interested in and any hard or soft limits or reservations they may have. They could also establish a safeword to use when they want the play to slow down or stop altogether.

It's a good idea to try anal play solo before bringing in a partner. Solo exploration through anal fingering or the use of sex toys can help someone feel comfortable with the sensations of anal play. Anal beads are a good starter toy because they’re most often very small.

Cleaning the anus before anal play can help people feel more comfortable. Many people wipe their anus with a baby wipe or take a shower, which can be a fun couple’s activity to warm up. An enema or anal douche can provide a more thorough clean.

Tips for Safer Anal Sex

These tips can make anal play safer and more enjoyable:

  • Use plenty of lubrication: The anus and rectum aren’t self-lubricating, so use a water-based or silicone lube to make penetration easier and reduce the risk of tearing.
  • Relax when you’re bottoming: A relaxed anus is easier to penetrate, so enjoy plenty of foreplay and take deep breaths to stay calm.
  • Start slow: Think analingus before penetration, small sex toys before large ones, and slow penetration before vigorous thrusting.
  • Be gentle when topping: The delicate tissues of the anus and rectum can tear with too much force, which can increase the risk of transmitting and contracting STIs.
  • Use condoms: Covering penises and sex toys can also help prevent the transmission of STIs and bacteria.
  • Choose penetrating sex toys with flared bases: These toys are less likely to get lost in the rectum. Others might. It happens!
  • Try anal sex-friendly positions: Doggy style, missionary and spooning all suit anal sex.
  • Communicate: Keeping the lines of communication open can help all parties involved have a more positive experience.
  • Expect a little mess: A washable, waterproof throw can make clean-up easier.
  • Clean anal toys thoroughly: Using a mild soap and water or specialized cleaner before and after use and between use with different partners can help prevent the spread of diseases and bacteria.

Anal Play and Anal Orgasms

Anal orgasms aren’t required to enjoy anal play - but they’re nice to have! Being relaxed and fully aroused can help people orgasm when receiving anal pleasure. Practicing anal penetration with a butt plug can make a receiving partner more comfortable with the feeling of anal penetration. An anal orgasm may come from any type of anal stimulation, including deep analingus and anal penetration.

How to Perform Anal Play on a Partner

Anal fingering lets the giving partner feel for the P-spot, located about three inches inside the rectum. Stimulating the G-spot through anal play is a little more challenging, as the stimulation is indirect, but paying attention to the giving partner and their responses can be helpful. Circling these spots or pressing them gently, like a doorbell, can be very effective. Giving partners may also curl their fingers as if they’re motioning for someone to come towards them. Vibrating sex toys can also enhance the sensations of anal play and trigger orgasm. Fingering the clitoris, penis, or other erogenous zones during anal play may make orgasm more likely.

Do you have to be gay to do anal?

Anal play is something that people of all genders and sexual orientations can and do enjoy. While it’s most common in the gay community, many heterosexual people have tried it at least once.

"Let me stress that the enjoyment of anal play in no way defines your sexual orientation," confirmed Melissa Cook, an AASECT-certified sex therapist and writer for FunWithFeet. "Sexual orientation is about who you're emotionally, romantically and sexually attracted to, not the sexual practices you enjoy. So, if you're a straight man who enjoys anal stimulation, it doesn't imply that you're gay or bisexual. It's simply about finding pleasure in the diverse spectrum of sexual activities available to you. There's no need to label or categorize your sexual practices within the framework of sexual orientation."

The anus and rectum have an abundance of nerves and stimulating them simply feels good, regardless of your orientation. Some people also enjoy switching up their usual gender roles and becoming more dominant through topping or more submissive through bottoming. Submissives can still be masculine, just as dominants can be feminine. Interest in anal play is natural (and relatively common!), regardless of your sexuality.


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