Let’s talk about anal. Yup, anal sex. Chances are, more people than you imagine are engaging in butt play, including many heterosexual couples. While anal sex is often perceived as painful or dirty, it’s increasingly a part of many people’s sex lives, as evidenced in this 2015 article in Cosmopolitan, which spotlighted how the practice has picked up in both the bedrooms of America and in media representation. Data highlights anal’s popularity — a review in the Journal of Sexual Medicine in 2015 found that 13.2% of heterosexual women had recently engaged in anal intercourse, with an overall stat that 36.2% had had anal sex sometime in their lives.
Why anal? Well, for starters, it can feel really good. The anus is full of nerve endings that can provide pleasure, whether you’ve got a penis or a vagina. That doesn’t make it any less intimidating if you haven’t tried it before, and you may be concerned about pain, cleanliness, or overall logistics. But if you’re anal-curious, we’ve got your back.
Here is our expert advice about how to make the experience of trying anal sex an enjoyable one.
Talk it over: While it’s totally ok to feel intimidated or freaked out at first, anal sex is a completely normal aspect of any sex life—as long as both partners are on board and the sex is consensual. Dr. Debra Laino, a sex therapist and sexologist, explains: “It can be emotionally bonding, but it’s important for both partners to agree on having anal sex.” Talk it over with your partner beforehand, being honest about any fears, hang-ups, or concerns. Having everything out in the open will make the whole experience better, says Laino: “Start the conversation with “how do you feel about….” and share your feelings about the behavior as well. Keep in mind that the goal isn’t to agree, force, or acquiesce—it is to understand your partner’s thoughts on the topic.”
Prepare: Read up on positions that might work for you (a common one for first-timers is for the person being penetrated to be on top, so they can control the level of penetration, but side-lying is a good option, too). You can check out anal scenes in porn films as well, although they might not look exactly like what could happen in your own bedroom.
If it makes you feel better, you can wash your butt and genitals before sex, but it’s more important to make sure that the toy or penis (the thing that’s actually going in!) is clean. You can have sex on a towel or another surface if you’re worried about poop or lube spreading to sheets or furniture.
One of the most important things is to make sure you’re totally turned on before penetration, with lots of foreplay and stimulation on and in your other erogenous zones. You or your partner can prepare with other anal play, too, like finger insertion or oral sex. The anus is not self-lubricating like the vagina, so lube is definitely your friend. Make sure you have a lot of it on hand for every anal sex session, but especially when you’re just getting used to it. With lube and anal sex, more is definitely more.
Even if you’re having sex with a trusted and established partner, it’s a good idea to use a condom, according to Planned Parenthood. Laino adds, “And never go from having sex in the anus to having sex in the vagina in the same “session” without washing the penis or other penetrative object. It can transmit bacteria that aren’t beneficial to the vagina.”
Go slow and be open to changing the plan: Ask your partner to go slow. Focus on breathing deeply, which will help relax you (and your anal sphincter). A little bit of pain at first is pretty normal, but it shouldn’t be unbearable or excruciating. Check in verbally with your partner throughout the experience. If things seem too painful, awkward or otherwise not good, feel free to pause and reassess. You can even stop and try again another time — or never!
You may love receiving anal penetration (or giving it to someone else), or you may find it’s really not your jam. We can’t stress enough how important it is to be open and communicative with your partner about your feelings — and that includes what you’re feeling in both your butt and in your brain. Feeling comfortable emotionally and mentally is a huge part of having a great anal sex experience. So talk it out, lube it up, and get it on!