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Interested in trying anal sex? Run into some issues during anal sex you want to try and fix? Just plain curious? In this article, we’ll discuss how to prepare for anal sex to help ensure that it is both comfortable and enjoyable for you and your partner.
Preparing for anal sex
Believe it or not, anal sex is more than just penile-anal penetration. Anal play can involve fingers, sex toys, or a partner’s tongue (sometimes called “rimming”). It can be deeply or shallowly penetrative or non-penetrative and involve things like anal kissing and caressing. There is no right or wrong way to have anal sex.
Usually, one person will be the penetrative partner (the “top”), and one person will be the receiving partner (the “bottom”). This can switch during sex or within a relationship, or couples will choose a role that suits their bodies and desires (Wei, 2011).
How do you know which position you’ll prefer? One way to figure it out is by following our first preparation tip: experiment by yourself.
1. Experiment by yourself
Whether you’ll be the penetrating partner or the receiving partner, it’s helpful to explore what anal sensation feels like in the first place. This is especially useful if you’re new to anal sex.
With a lubricated finger, you can start to explore, caressing the area around your anus, experimenting with pressure, and slipping a finger or two inside. You’ll be able to feel the movements of your anal muscle—or sphincter—and can try relaxing it, contracting it, and pleasuring it.
If you’ll be the top partner, this will have the benefit of acquainting you with the kind of relaxation you’ll be helping your bottom partner to do and the kind of sensations they’ll be having.
If you’ll be the bottom partner, this can help you learn how to relax your muscles, see what feels good, and get used to the sensations. Either way, it will build your confidence and familiarity with what to expect when it’s time to have anal sex.
2. Sex toys
There are many sex toys with flared bases designed for safe anal play. Some toys help relax and stretch your sphincter, such as anal beads, vibrators, and butt plugs.
There are also toys designed to be used by the penetrative partner, like strap-ons and dildos. There is no shortage of options, and you can explore whichever feels right for you and your partner.
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However, exercise some healthy caution if entertaining the prospect of a non-purpose-designed anal sex toy. Emergency rooms abound with people suffering from “rectal foreign bodies”—household items inserted into the anus that a person could not remove themselves.
Serious complications are rare but include colon and rectal perforation, dangerous stomach infections, anal sphincter damage, abscess, and bleeding (Sajjad, 2021). To avoid these complications and a lofty hospital bill, stick to the perfectly safe option of purpose-designed sex toys.
3. Check in with your partner
Anal sex should be something that you and your partner are both genuinely comfortable with and interested in—a person should never try to convince or pressure their partner into anal sex. If you’re interested in anal sex but a little nervous, remember that you can always try it and stop at any point.
Checking in with your partner doesn’t need to be formal, but it should be clear. A fun and honest conversation in advance about both of your ideas, desires, comfort zones, and expectations is key to helping make anal sex enjoyable and comfortable for you both. You should also touch base about condom use, especially if you’re with a new partner.
You can also talk about anal sex roles to confirm who will be the top partner and the bottom, or if you’d like to keep things fluid. If both of you will be receiving at some point, make sure you connect about what your different comfort zones might be.
4. Do some “anal training”
This is certainly not mandatory but can be a fun and helpful way for a bottom partner to learn how to relax their anal sphincter. The goal is to make it easier and more enjoyable to accept a penis or strap-on later during anal sex.
You can do this with your fingers (starting with one finger, relaxing and breathing deeply, then gradually adding more) or with specially designed sex toys.
The butt plug is the basic toy for this. It’s often made of glass or silicon, is tapered in shape, and has a flared base. You can also buy an anal trainer kit of several plugs of gradually increasing size to be used over time.
Please only use specially-designed toys for anal training—they usually have a flared base that prevents the plug from getting swallowed into your rectum (yes, this can happen, especially when your sphincter relaxes) and keeps you from becoming one of the emergency room cases mentioned above (Hanumanthaiah, 2014).
Erogenous zones for women and men
5. Gather your supplies
You don’t need fancy supplies for anal sex: just plenty of lube and condoms. You can get toys if you wish, but it’s not essential.
Condoms are an important part of anal sex. If you are with a new partner or if you are monogamous but have not both been tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), you should use a condom. STIs—including gonorrhea, chlamydia, genital herpes, and HIV—are a risk with anal sex (Lee, 2021).
Anal sex is the riskiest kind of sex for transmitting HIV, and receptive anal sex is far riskier for getting HIV than penetrative anal sex (CDC, 2021). Condoms are a way of safely enjoying anal sex while reducing your risk of STIs.
Lube is another key player. The rectum is not self-lubricating like the vagina is, so you’ll need to use plenty to keep things comfortable. You can use water-based or silicone-based lube. There are even many lubes that are designed specifically for anal play.
- Water-based lube has the advantage of being easier to wash off of clothes and sheets and is compatible with silicone sex toys.
- Silicone is often preferred for anal sex because it lasts longer before absorbing into the skin and tends to be thicker, but it isn’t compatible with silicone toys.
- Oil-based lubes work well but can be staining and aren’t compatible with latex condoms.
If you’re worried about a mess (from lots of lube or possible fecal matter), you can choose to have a towel handy.
6. Perform some anal hygiene
At the end of the day, sex is messy, and a small amount of fecal matter will likely show up at some point during anal sex. This is normal, expected, and not something to feel embarrassed or guilty about.
Still, if you’ll be the bottom partner, some good basic anal hygiene is important and might help you focus more on enjoying yourself and less on possible cleanup. It’s also a courtesy to your partner. (If you’ll be the top partner and any fingers will be used, making sure your nails are short and filed is an important courtesy as well.)
Showering with thorough attention to cleaning your anus or using unscented baby wipes are both great basic options for cleaning up. Showering together beforehand can have the added benefit of creating good foreplay opportunities.
What is douching, and is it safe?
Some people choose to clean out their rectums through a process called anal douching. This is done an hour or two before sex and involves squirting a small amount of water or a saline solution into the rectum, holding the fluid in the rectum for a few seconds, then pushing it gently out. It can remove any fecal residue and help you relax mentally about having a deeper clean—but it’s completely optional.
Here are some basic steps to follow if you want to douche before anal sex (Carballo-Diéguez, 2018):
- You can use an enema bulb, a small ear syringe, or an old-fashioned enema bag for anal douching.
- Use cool water to avoid burns.
- Be sure to lubricate the tip of the device.
- Be very gentle to avoid damaging delicate rectal tissue.
- Avoid soaps since they can dry out your rectal tissue and make it prone to tearing during sex.
7. Start with some anal foreplay
Foreplay and lube will be your best friends for making anal sex most enjoyable. You and your partner can do any combination of touch, masturbation, or kissing you like—your main goal is to help the bottom partner relax the anal sphincter muscle.
This shouldn’t feel like a chore! The anus is full of nerve endings, and many people can orgasm just from anal stimulation (Taormino, 2006).
You can try gently inserting a lubricated finger shallowly and massage gently as you slowly insert it more deeply. You can insert a second finger and use it as a channel to add more lube. You can also use sex toys if you have them. The main goal is to relax together, have fun, and help lubricate and relax the anal muscles.
Once you’re warmed up, you can go ahead and progress to anal sex using the same approach of starting slowly and penetrating gradually as the bottom partner is ready.
Explore what feels good for you both and experiment with different positions. If the bottom partner starts to feel uncomfortable at any point, just slow down and repeat some of your preparation tools before carrying on.
Common concerns about anal sex
There are certain concerns many people have before engaging in anal sex for the first time. Will it hurt? Will I poop? What if I don’t like it?
Is there more risk of contracting HIV during anal sex?
People who have had anal sex also echo these concerns after finding it did hurt, fecal matter was involved, or they just didn’t like it. And they may be wondering if there is anything they can do to “troubleshoot” the process to make it more enjoyable. Fortunately, there are some tips that you can try to help rectify some of these concerns.
Bleeding or pain
Sometimes, especially if it’s your first time having anal sex as the receiving partner, you can experience some pain or a little bleeding afterward. It’s not uncommon, but it’s also not normal.
It’s caused by small anal fissures or tears. They usually resolve on their own without medical treatment but can be very painful. Taking daily sitz baths, taking a stool softener, eating a high fiber diet, and avoiding straining on the toilet can help the healing process (Jahnny, 2021). That said, you should consult your healthcare provider if bleeding is continuous.
So, how do you have anal sex without bleeding? Listen to your body. Slow down, go back to foreplay, use more lube, and try more anal training in the days before having anal sex.
You can also try different anal sex positions. Receiving-partner-on-top, missionary, and reverse-spooning are great positions for the recipient to control the depth and speed of penetration, improve communication, and help things be more relaxing. This makes them great positions for anal sex beginners.
More poop than you’d like
A quick note on anatomy: poop is not actually stored in your rectum; it only passes through. It’s stored in your colon, which is higher up than you would ever reach during sex and is safely contained by a tight band of muscle.
It’s extremely unlikely that you’ll poop during anal sex, but again, a small amount of fecal matter is an occupational hazard of anal sex. If it’s more than you’re comfortable with, there are some things you can do to try and prevent it next time:
- Poop before sex: If possible, try to have a bowel movement a few hours before planning to have sex. This can help reduce physical pressure on your rectum and alleviate emotional stress about the possibility of poop during sex.
- Try an enema: Try gently using an enema to clean out your rectum a couple of hours before sex.
- Maintain a healthy diet: A great basic way to keep your rectum clean and healthy is by maintaining a good diet. When your bowel movements are healthy and regular, your rectum empties more effectively each time you poop. This means eating lots of fiber, fruits, and vegetables, and eating less red meat and greasy or processed foods.
If you find that you still have continual constipation or diarrhea, contact your healthcare provider in case an underlying digestive issue is the problem.
Peeing after sex: is it necessary?
You just didn’t like it
In any sexual relationship, communicating honestly with your partner is key. That means that if you didn’t enjoy anal sex for whatever reason, you should talk about it. Try to identify what you didn’t like and figure out if there is something you’d like to try to do differently next time (or not).
You can also incorporate anal play into your repertoire in another way that doesn’t involve penetration. Again, listen to your body. If it hurts, makes you uncomfortable, or just plain doesn’t feel right, stop. There are infinite possibilities for intimacy and sexual exploration, and you can find the ones that work for you and your partner.
- Carballo-Diéguez, A., Lentz, C., Giguere, R., Fuchs, E.J., & Hendrix, C.W. (2018). Rectal douching associated with receptive anal intercourse: A literature review. AIDS and Behavior, 22, 1288–1294. doi: 10.1007/s10461-017-1959-3. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5878987/pdf/nihms917516.pdf
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2021). Anal sex and HIV risk. Retrieved Feb. 8, 2022 from https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/risk/analsex.html
- Hanumanthaiah, K. S., Gopivallabh, M. M., Babannavar, P. B., & Jaganmaya, K. (2014). Retained rectal foreign body and its management protocol. People’s Journal of Scientific Research, 7, 51-5. Retrieved from https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.662.5190&rep=rep1&type=pdf
- Jahnny, B. & Ashurst, J.V. (2021). Anal fissures. [Updated Nov 21, 2021]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK526063/
- Sajjad, H. & Paish, L. M. (2021). Rectum foreign body removal. [Updated Sep 17, 2021]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557557/
- Taormino, T. (2006). The ultimate guide to anal sex for women. Retrieved Feb. 8, 2022 from http://diadmo.free.fr/TOOLS/Cours%20pdf/Loisirs/Taormino,%20Tristan%20-%20The%20ultimate%20guide%20to%20anal%20sex%20for%20women.pdf
- Wei, C. & Raymond, H.F. (2011). Preference for and maintenance of anal sex roles among men who have sex with men: sociodemographic and behavioral correlates. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40(4):829-34. doi: 10.1007/s10508-010-9623-2. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20464471/
Dr. Steve Silvestro is a board-certified pediatrician and Senior Manager, Medical Content & Education at Ro.