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anal sex lowdown

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Confused asks:

I am considering trying anal for the first time. My boyfriend of 2 years (we're both 17) and I have been tossing the idea around for a while, but first, I have a few questions!

C'mon, its my BUTT. Will anal smell nasty? Will my bf end up getting crap on his penis? (Ew.) I've also heard you can really mess yourself up like this... like... having the squirts for a while and such. Last question! why are guys so intrigued by this anal fad? It's my bum!! I'm trying to have an open mind, because maybe, just MAYBE this could be something I'll enjoy... but seriously - what is so appealing about being up my ass? I just dont want to get into something i'm not sure about! (Hence the reason i'm asking lots of questions.) Help!

P.S. We are not considering anal as an alternative to vaginal intercourse. neither of us are avoiding sex because we are virgins; we lost it to each other. (We're still planning on using a condom with anal though... yuckie...)

Heather Corinna replies:

I think it's sage to listen to yourself when you say that maybe you don't want to get into something you're both not sure about and are not sure you'll like. If only one partner has any interest in doing an activity, and the other either has none, or is opposed to it, it's generally best to just decline.

Starting anal play with penis-to-anus intercourse full-stop isn't the best idea, anyway, on both those counts and more.

So, for starters, to figure out if you even have any interest in this yourself, and enjoy this at all, rather than starting with something so much larger -- and in some ways, less easy to control -- instead, if you (emphasis on YOU) want to experiment with anal play, the way to start is with something much smaller and more gradual, like his or your own gloved, lubed pinky finger. If playing like that isn't compelling for you both, or if that doesn't feel good, anal intercourse isn't likely to feel good either.

That said, here's the lowdown on your other questions here:

Smells/Feces: The anus and rectum aren't the bowel, where feces is stored. They're passages through which fecal matter passes. So, while there can be trace amounts of feces in there, and yes, that may have a scent, that's all that's there. And yes, some of those traces may sometimes show up on a condom/penis/fingers/toys when engaging in anal play. Consider it about the same level of matter/scent that you'd find when you have intercourse at the very end of your menstrual period.

Damage/Injury: Gradual, mindful anal sex of any kind should not, and usually does not, cause injury. What does that mean? Well, for starters, it means always always using plenty of latex-safe lubricant and a latex barrier with anal play -- anal sex of any kind carries STI risks at the level vaginal intercourse does, as well as additional bacterial infection risks, and the anus and rectum don't self-lubricate like the vagina does, so both are vital to safe play with such delicate tissue. That also includes never going back and forth between anal intercourse and vaginal intercourse with the same condom, hand, or unwashed/uncovered toy: if you're ever going to do that, each activity needs a new barrier. Using a condom with anal sex isn't about putting a barrier up because the anus and rectum are gross: it's important to keep everyone healthy.

That also means a partner (or yourself, if you're adding anal stimulus to masturbation), being very slow and very gradual with any kind of anal sex. Like the vagina -- but often even more noticeable sometimes because it's a tighter orifice -- someone playing with someone else's anus can often feel the anus sort of open up and pull whatever is going inside it in in small increments, and they should go with that flow: forcing anything into the anus roughly can cause fissures and injury. But to toss some mythos aside, because -- again -- the anus and rectum aren't the bowel, anal sex can't and doesn't cause bowel problems.

Appeal of Anal Sex: Lately, it's pretty clear that teenage and college age men and boys wanting to engage in non-receptive (as in, not them receiving -- more on that in a sec) anal sex is most likely just because it's something seen in porn a lot, and also because it's seen as a sort of acceptable kink, much like occurred with oral sex a couple decades ago.

For some, there's also an element of power or even social status in it, as in, my girlfriend LET me do this thing to her (sometimes -- but not always -- with the affixed notion that she let them do something she doesn't even like). But for others, it may just be a curiosity about yet another way to have sex, the same way anyone is curious about the multitude of ways to be sexual. Some people have interest because of the "ew" factor you're having right now: because it's somewhat taboo, or because the assumed "dirtiness" of it is sexy to them. For those who have engaged in it before and want to again, it may be about enjoying that particular sensation: the anus tends to have a tighter "grip" than the vagina because it is a smaller orifice.

And some women DO enjoy receptive anal intercourse, even though women, unlike men, don't have a prostate gland tucked in there (the male prostate is the equivalent to the female g-spot) to really up the ante. Because men DO have that, one suggestion I often make to women with male partners who want to try anal play -- if you're interested - is to suggest to the male partner that you BOTH try it. Not as a "if you do this awful thing to me, you're getting it, too," but because sometimes men are interested in anal sex because they enjoy their OWN anuses, and because they are ashamed or afraid to ask for THAT play, receptively, for themselves. Also, because it usually IS very enjoyable for most men, and because it's always a plus with any sexual activity when partners have the same bits to learn about, and when any given person can be (and want to be) both giver and receiver, it makes for a pretty great learning curve: men who have also been on the receiving end tend to have a much better idea of how sensitive the anus and rectum can be, of what can feel good and what just plain hurts, and tend to be more patient, gentle partners when their partners are receiving.

If you ARE interested, for yourself, in some anal play, start slow and see if you even like anal stimulus in general before pulling out the big guns, as it were.

And if you find you aren't, or you just don't even have that interest at all, then it's no big deal to have any given sexual thing that just isn't something you want to do: most partners you'll have will have at least one thing they don't want to do, too.

written 10 Jun 2007 . updated 27 Jan 2014

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