Anal Sex 101: a beginner's guide to safe and pleasurable anal sex

By Maya Khamala

Anal sex, AKA butt sex.

Whether you’re into men, women, or any of the other genders in the rainbow, you might count it among your favorite sexual acts. In fact, according to the CDC, 36% of women and 44% of men in couples under 45 reported that they’ve had anal sex with an opposite-sex partner.

As a worthwhile exploration for those in a committed longterm relationship as well as anyone hanging loose on the dating scene, anal play can take many forms. And knowing how to have anal sex safely is integral to getting pleasure out of it (since that’s the whole point).

If you’re in a relationship, be sure to first discuss your newfound desire to experiment anally with your partner in order to make sure you're both on the same page. But don't skimp on the communication if you're playing with someone new for the first time either! Surprises and safe butt stuff don't mix. 

Whether you’re thinking of having anal sex for the first time, are a beginner looking for best practice pointers on how to do anal the right way, or you just want more information for future reference, this one’s for you!

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What constitutes anal sex?

While many people think of anal or butt sex strictly as anal penetration, or anal intercourse (when a man’s penis enters the anus), anal sex actually includes any type of sexual act that engages the illustrious anal area. This includes using fingers or sex toys to stimulate or penetrate the anus, using the tongue to stimulate the anus (AKA ‘rimming’), or fisting (where the whole hand is used for deep penetration).

Anyone can enjoy anal sex, whether they giving or receiving—as long as they do it right and on their terms.

How to have anal sex

Despite depictions in some porn where the warm-up happens offscreen, anal sex can’t just happen like magic without proper prep and a ton o’ lube. Ultimately, if you’re willing to put in some prep work and do your research, anal sex has the potential to be a mind-blowingly pleasurable act. Personally, I never thought I’d like it at all until I tried it the right way and loved it. Here are a few tips on how to do anal well, and safely:

1. Take it nice and slow.

When it comes to anal sex, rushing is never a good idea. The biggest cause of discomfort is anxiety that causes the body to clench and tighten up, so the key is to promote relaxation as you move into it. Try beginning by slowly touching and caressing (or having your partner touch and caress—as the case may be), in order to quite literally ‘ease’ into the idea.   

2. Lube, lube, and more lube.

Anal sex or even just anal play requires a whole lot of lube to be a comfortable experience. Unlike the vagina, which self-lubricates to some degree, the anus requires a quality lube to help the penis, fingers, or toy move smoothly and prevent any damage to the delicate anal tissues. Silicone lube lasts longer, but if you're playing with silicone toys or condoms, it’s best to use a water-based lubricant as silicone will wear on your toys, and oil-based lubricants can weaken condoms.

3. Keep working it, gradually and patiently.

Seriously, go slow. Even slower than you think. No need to rush this good thing if you want it to be good and pain-free. Start by teasing and massaging around the anus. Then penetrating a little--a small toy, a finger tip might be plenty. Then pause. Give yourself a chance to breathe and relax into and around the new sensation. 

If you are the receiver, be sure to tell your partner when you’re ready to go a a bit further, if you need more time to adjust (or if you want to stop altogether!). This may feel like it's taking a long time; you may worry that you're annoying your partner with how long you're taking. Breathe and let those thoughts go -- they're only keeping you tense. The only thing you'll get by rushing it is hurt.

The giver should encourage comunication from the receiver to gauge how they're feeling, if they need more time, or if they're ready to go deeper. And reassure them that they can take all the time they need!

Once you're in, stay in. Slide as you please, but we recommend not pulling out until you're done (see #7 for more reasons why) unless the receiver has explicitly told you how god it feels when you pull out and re-enter like that. 

Continue sliding in deeper—patiently—until fully inside.

4. Take cross-contamination seriously.

If you’re switching back and forth between anal and vaginal stimulation—whether with a penis or with a toy—you’ll want to wash said penetrative implement first, or switch condoms, as the case may be. Otherwise, you could develop a vaginal infection from the cross-over of bacteria from your butt. No one wants that.

5. Stopping is totally cool.

Contrary to what Hollywood and some porn may have us believe, having sex for a while and then stopping without climaxing, or without “finishing” an act (whatever that means) is very totally sexy and cool—especially since it indicates a strong, communicative bond between you and your partner and a willingness to explore without undue pressure. You can end the scene whenever you're ready. 

6. If you’re not into it, say so.

Whether you’re on the giving or receiving end, if you’re not enjoying it, don’t pretend you are. Communicate with your partner if you feel anal intercourse simply isn’t for you. There’s zero shame in having preferences.

7. Accept that with anal may come a bit o’ poop.

I mean, it quite literally comes with the territory. If you want things on the cleaner side, you can always use a gentle anal douche, but it’s not necessary. Just be sure to have a bowel movement and shower.

This is another reasons to not slide out completely until you're done with your booty fun. 

8. Orgasm may or may not be in the cards.

The anus is an erogenous zone (full of sensitive nerve endings), and for some, anal sex can lead to orgasm. But as with any sex, that doesn’t have to be the goal. It can just be a good time. For the top partner (the ‘insertive’ partner), the tightness around the penis can be insanely good too. Anal sex for someone with a prostate as the bottom (the person receiving penetration) can stimulate the prostate gland, which can vastly enhance their orgasm. As for the vaginas in the room, some can cum during anal as the elusive deep A-spot is a thing for some people. More often, it's a result of indirect g-spot stimulation, or else with the help of simultaneous clitoral or vaginal action going on.

Is anal sex safe?

While adhering to the above tips can help keep you and your partner safe while experimenting with anal penetration, it’s perfectly natural to wonder how safe anal really is. While it’s useless to get fixed on risks in their percentage form, anal does carry a higher risk of STIs than vaginal sex. This has a lot more to do with how delicate the anal tissue is compared to the vagina than it does anything else. The vagina is designed to get beat up and brush it off; the butthole often needs a little more TLC to open up. 

Just be careful, and you’ll be okay. Unless you’re in a monogamous relationship and have both been recently tested for STIs, we recommend condom use. (This aids in clean up too!) Regardless of gender or sexual orientation, and regardless of whether you’re the ‘bottom’ or the ‘top,’ ’it’s important to protect yourself against the risk of STIs when engaging in anal sex. This means condoms, for starters, lots of lube, dental dams for rimming, and medical gloves for fingering and fisting. It’s also smart to put condoms on any sex toys you happen to be using, always making sure you change them between parts and partners. 

Bottom line

Only engage in a sexual act unless you feel good and ready. Anal sex is no exception.

Lube up, go as slow as YOU need, remember to breathe, and always be sure to communicate clearly and honestly with your partner -- before, during, and after. Abide these golden rules and pleasure will surely abound. 

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