hile anal sex isn’t really taboo anymore, like any other sex act, there are still lots of misconceptions out there about it. Does it hurt? Can you orgasm from it? Is everyone having anal regularly now?
Here to help clarify some of the myths around anal sex are expert anal surgeon Evan Goldstein, DO, of Bespoke Surgical; LGBT sex expert Kryss Shane, MS, MSW, LSW, LMSW; Daire Faust of SmutGeek.com; Kat Van Kirk, PhD, a clinical sexologist and marriage and family therapist; and board-certified ob-gyn Terri Vanderlinde, a sex counselor.
The myth: There’s poop in your rectum and anus, which is where your partner’s penis would enter.
The truth: Dr. Goldstein explains that stool actually hangs out higher in your body, above the anus and rectum in a section known as the sigmoid colon. In reality, if you eat healthily and get enough fiber for regular, bulky stools, this should be enough to keep the anal canal clean for play. “People tend not to believe it when we share this information, so take a toy and test the landing strip. Prove it to yourself,” he says.
The myth: Transgender women may equate anal sex with vaginal sex.
The truth: “Attempting to equate gender identity with a sexual act is just totally incorrect,” explains Shane. “Although anal sex and vaginal sex both often involve insertion, a transgender woman is, as is true of all people, never required to engage in any sex act at any time.” There are plenty of other ways for transgender women to have sex.
The myth: Only men are interested in anal sex.
The truth: You don’t need to have a penis to be into anal at all! “Many women are interested in anal, both receiving and giving,” says Faust. “Lesbian couples and nonbinary gendered partners also can, and many do, enjoy anal using toys, finger, and rimming,” she adds.
The myth: Anal sex is just like what you see in porn.
The truth: Is any kind of sex just like what you see in porn? “Anal sex requires preparation,” Shane explains, and this can include conversations about consent beforehand, ensuring you have condoms ready, and more. When you watch it in porn, anal might seem like something you can launch into spontaneously, but real-life anal requires much more care and consideration and can go more slowly. “It can take multiple rounds to reach a point of full insertion and pleasure for both partners,” says Shane. “Both need to expect to be vocal about the experience and in agreement about how to proceed and when to stop.”
The myth: You can go from nothing to full-on anal intercourse right away.
The truth: “It’s critical to train your anal sphincters to accommodate butt plugs, toys, or penises, and that takes time,” says Dr. Goldstein. Just like any other muscle, your anal sphincters need “periodic exercise in order to increase flexibility and overall distensibility.” Dr. Goldstein recommends getting an anal dilation kit with three gradual dilators so you can work your way up. “Try to consciously relax to accommodate and then slowly remove—all in one continuous motion. Re-lubricate and insert again with a similar technique of slowly in, meeting resistance, and then slowly pulling out,” he says. If done correctly, you shouldn’t feel any pain at all. You should try practicing this technique four to six times before going for full penetration. It’s totally fine to take a few weeks to build up to the act too. Dr. Goldstein recommends practicing for two weeks with each of the three sizes before trying penetration with a partner.
The myth: No one is actually doing it.
The truth: Lots of people are. According to data from 2010, 40 percent of women between ages 20 to 24 had tried anal sex. That’s a lot of women.
The myth: You need an enema first.
The truth: Mmm, pretty sure there’s no such thing as “needing” an enema before a sex act. But understandably, a major concern about anal sex is that it’ll make you poop. First off, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll actually poop because of anal stimulation. But if you’re extremely worried about it, there are a few things you can do to avoid An Accident. The most obvious thing is to act like you’re preparing for a road trip by going to the bathroom before you embark on this venture. And avoid things like, you know, black bean tacos or that takeout you know always gives you crazy poops. You may feel like you have to go, because anal penetration stimulates the muscles around your rectum in a similar way to having a bowel movement, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you will.
The myth: It doesn’t feel good if you don’t have a prostate.
The truth: Wrong! Even without a prostate gland and all the nerve endings it contains, anal sex can still feel great. A study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that a vast majority—94 percent!—of women who received some sort of anal stimulation during their most recent sexual encounter had an orgasm.
The myth: You can jump right in.
The truth: Well, not quite. Your rectum isn’t as pliable as your vagina, and also unlike the vagina, it’s not self-lubricating. Vanderlinde strongly advises taking your time if you’re just starting out and working your way up using smaller things like fingers and thin toys. “Sometimes it takes a few different encounters,” Vanderlinde says. Patience!
The myth: It will hurt.
The truth: Anal sex doesn’t have to hurt. It’s often just done incorrectly. Many women find it incredibly pleasurable, and some even report having orgasms with it. If you and your partner start slow, work your way into insertion with smaller implements like fingers and sex toys, and use plenty of lube, pain will be the last thing on your mind.
The myth: Once it hurts, it will always hurt.
The truth: So you tried it once and insertion hurt really bad. You made your partner stop and vowed never to go “back” there again. You don’t have to shut the backdoor because of one or two negative experiences. Most of these experiences have to do with not following the above instructions: Go slow, graduate in size, and use lube. Plus, there is a nice trick to get you relaxed. If you stimulate your clitoris at the same time, it can encourage the pleasure-over-pain response.
The myth: Only “sluts” have anal sex.
The truth: You’ve always heard that bad girls are the only ones willing to have anal sex. In actuality, anal sex was once voted the number one taboo sexual behavior that heterosexual couples want to try. So obviously, we all can’t be sluts. There’s a natural curiosity about our bodies and if there is pleasure to be had, you should feel you can explore that in a safe and healthy way.
The myth: Having anal sex will save your sex life.
The truth: Yes, I have actually heard this in my office more than once. It usually has to do with a couple that has more than one sexual issue, especially a female who might be inhibited about her sexuality and it is getting in the way of her sex life with her partner. Some men behold anal sex as the holy grail, and if they can just get their wives and girlfriends to partake, then the floodgates (so to speak) about sex would open in general. Those other issues need to be worked out ahead of time and only then, if and when she feels open to the experience, should they approach the subject. If she is just doing it out of fear of losing her relationship, she probably won’t enjoy it anyway.
The myth: Your partner won’t respect you later.
The truth: So he got what he wanted from you and now wants nothing to do with you? I’m sure this happens occasionally—but with any sort of sexual activity. Most men, though, are modern enough to see anal sex as just one component of a healthy sex life. And because of the taboo of anal sex, it might actually help you feel closer and more emotionally bonded to your partner.
The myth: It will cause you physical damage.
The truth: Having any sort of sex the “wrong way” could cause damage. Think about it: If you are vaginally dry and don’t use additional lube, you can cause micro-tears in the vagina. The same thing can happen with anal sex. Granted, the vagina does create its own lubrication usually (depending on hormones, etc.) and the anus does not, but that just means real lube (not saliva) needs to be used for a healthy experience.
The myth: You don’t need to use condoms when you have anal sex.
The truth: This is a misconception because many people think that because there is no pregnancy risk, you also don’t need to use a condom. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Most STIs are transferrable through the anus (chlamydia, gonorrhea, infectious hepatitis, and HIV). Some even more so, because the lining of the anus is much thinner and can be broken more easily if too much dry friction occurs (again, please refer to the importance of lube use).
The myth: Once you give your partner anal sex, it will be all he wants.
The truth: It’s no secret, many men do cop to the fact that they enjoy the additional tightness the anus affords as compared to the vagina. But most men don’t want to give up the main entry either. Vaginas are still revered. Anal sex tends to be a “treat” mixed in to your regular sexual repertoire.
The myth: Your anus will get all stretched out.
The truth: Just like the myth that the vagina gets irreparably stretched out from childbirth, this is also a misconception. There were rumors in the late ’70s of groups of men who engaged in so much anal activity that they actually lost control of their bowel movements. Regular, healthy use of anal sex will not lead to this outcome. Through regular anal sex, your anus does learn to become more relaxed, but much of that has to do with your ability to relax yourself mentally for the act. And we all know that the vagina accommodates a wide range of penises, so the anus can too—with the right introduction.
The myth: It’s dirty (literally).
The truth: This is probably one of the biggest misconceptions I run across. The anus and the lower part of the rectum actually have very little fecal material in them, which means it tends to not be nearly as dirty as you think. This doesn’t mean you should transfer the elements into the vagina by having anal sex and then vaginal sex, though, because they are two different environments, so even microscopic fecal elements can cause vaginal infections. Just be sure to wash with antimicrobial soap before vaginal reentry or just end your sexual exploits for that evening with anal sex. Regardless, if you are still concerned, you can always have a bowel movement prior, followed by an enema, if you want to be squeaky clean.