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Why is anal sex so wrong?

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Teenie asks:

I have a question about anal sex. I hear from a lot of people that it's okay as long as your safe about it and consider health risks etc. But I've heard from many friends that it is shunned from society because it's just wrong to insert a penis there...that's where bowel movements are made! I've tried it once with my long time monogamous boyfriend of 2.5 years and it can be such a nice experience; just as nice as your first vaginal experience. I want to understand why it can be such a big deal...it would make me feel much better if I knew what was actually wrong with it.

I look at this way: if you've never tried sushi before, and you look at it and think that it's gross, you'll never try it. It's like that with anal sex. If you look at it and you've never tried it before, you might think it looks gross or isn't a nice experience...but you'll never know unless you've tried it. Is that in anyway close to how I think about it? I wanna know why it's such a bad thing! THANK YOU!

Heather Corinna replies:

It's not a bad thing when it isn't a bad thing for you.

NO consensual sexual activity is a bad thing, per the activity alone, when everyone involved WANTS to be doing it, and feels good physically and emotionally doing it.

But you're right: there are a lot of negative attitudes about anal sex and the anus.

For certain, some of that comes down to a basic fear of or disgust about feces and anything having to do with feces. But more of it is often based in homophobia and heteronormativity. In other words, the homophobia comes from the idea that anal sex is something only gay men do, or which gay men started. That homophobia is also some of why we see anal sex where women are the receptive partner more accepted in the mainstream than the other way around, even though it's more enjoyable for a majority of men to be receptive partners than for women, primarily because men have a prostate gland anal sex stimulates when they receive it, and we don't. Toss in panic about HIV/AIDS -- and certainly, anal sex does present big HIV risks when anal sex is unprotected, but the same risks exist with vaginal intercourse -- and you can probably see why homophobia has such a big hand here.

Per the heteronormativity, really, nearly ANY sexual activity which a) isn't about penis-in-vagina intercourse or b) isn't expressly for men (like blowjobs) is often maligned. It's very important to a whole lot of people that sex is both defined only as vaginal intercourse and as "best" when it's vaginal intercourse, in terms of them feeling like everyone is in their proper place when it comes to gender and when it comes to the "proper" kinds of sex "real" men and women are supposed to be having. Overall, people tend to be very insecure and worried about being normal in terms of the sex they're having and the sex/gender they are. They often apply those insecurities to their attitudes about the sex anyone is having.

Too, right now, a lot of women are feeling pressured to have anal sex when they don't want to, which is coming, from what we can gather, from the popularity of female-receptive anal sex in porn. So, in talking to your female friends about this, if you're hearing them be very negative about it, some of that might be based to them feeling pressured to do something they don't want to do (and possibly even feeling like you're part of that pressure -- if that's the case, all you need to do is let them know that you're not trying to convince them to do something they don't want to, you're just expressing liking something for yourself).

And you make a very good point at the end of your first paragraph there when you talk about how it can be as nice as vaginal intercourse. Vaginal intercourse isn't nice or enjoyable for a whole lot of people, and yet it is for others, which shows up the big flaw in defining what's okay and what isn't by a sexual activity itself, for all people.

Not everyone has to try anal sex -- be that anal intercourse or other anal sex -- to evaluate these attitudes. In other words, even if someone did try it and didn't like it, that wouldn't justify saying the activity, full-stop, was nasty or awful. They could only speak to how it felt for themselves. A person doesn't have to have enjoyed anal sex to recognize and accept that it's something plenty of other people do enjoy.

What I hear you saying is that this is, thus far, an activity you enjoyed, that's left you and your partner feeling good. Just like some folks feel about sushi. :)

What that means is that it's not been wrong for you and anyone else having sex with you, and that really is all that counts.

For more on this, see:

written 30 Sep 2007 . updated 18 Jan 2009

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