People like anal play and anal sex for a variety of reasons but despite its increasing popularity—and studies like one showing that women who have anal sex orgasm more frequently than those who don’t—the stigma surrounding butt sex remains.
For some people, that stigma might come from the idea of butt play being dirty because, y’know, poop. For others it’s wrapped up in issues around sexual identity. In fact, the majority of anal sexers are not gay men, as sex scholar Justin Lehmiller has pointed out. The recent increase in the popularity of anal sex among virtually every demo makes total sense. Sure, humans have always had assholes but only recently have they been been able to casually browse through an array of insertables and other accoutrements and have them discreetly delivered to their home the following day.
If you want to jump on the A-train or make your version of anal sex better, consider the following.
Talk it out
If anal play is something you want to explore with a partner, begin a conversation by asking some questions about their thoughts on the matter. Have they done it? Did they like it? Does the thought of it appeal to them? From there you can establish if you and your partner may be heading out on an anal adventure at some point.
Familiarize yourself with the anatomy
Your anus is your asshole and, like the old saying goes, everybody’s got one. “It’s surrounded by two sets of muscles that open and close two sphincters, an external one and an internal one,” says sex coach Kenneth Play, explaining that the external sphincter is easy to access and relatively easy to clench shut or relax. The internal sphincter is located about an inch to an inch and a half farther in. It doesn’t take orders nearly so readily but, with practice, it too can brought under control.
Simply put, it’s the job of these muscles to stop doodie from falling out of your ass willy nilly. Beyond the vestibule of the anus is the rectum. It’s a tubular shaped sack that's around 4 four to six inches in length in most people. At the top of the rectum, the digestive tract takes a 90 degree turn like a kink in a hose. Beyond that kink is the sigmoid colon. For more than 99.99 percent of the human story, everyone would squat to poop. It’s a posture that unkinks the lower digestive tract and is more likely to result in getting everything out in one fell swoop. That’s important to remember if and when you begin to experiment with positioning later on.
Explore your own butthole
The next time you’re in the shower and right after you’ve had an awesome poop, put some shower gel or soap on your fingers and have a slow exploration session. Rest assured, I’m talking to both the receptive and insertive partner here. Why? Because if you’re the inserter, you have an asshole that’s virtually identical to a partner's. Discovering what it feels like to have something in your butt firsthand will give you invaluable insights if and when you have the honor of exploring between your partner's cheeks. “If you’ve never put so much as a finger in your ass, you’ve got serious cojones to think that you should be allowed to be putting things into anyone else’s,” Play says.
More from Tonic:
Anal sex done right shouldn’t hurt
Anal sex involves a lot of novel and intense sensory information. Indeed, that’s a big part of why it’s so popular. But while anal is likely to be an arresting and possibly challenging experience, it should never be a cause of what kinksters categorize as “bad pain.” If the receiving partner is new to butt play, you’ll be well advised to be all kinds of nice to their butt to create positive and pleasurable associations with it every time you have a non-anal sex session.
Don't fear a shitstorm
Yes. Poop comes out of your butthole. However, under normal circumstances the rectum should be clear of any significant amount of poop. By the time fecal matter enters the rectum, you’re usually en route to the nearest serviceable bathroom. “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,” says Los Angeles- and Kaua'i-based sex therapist Kat Van Kirk. But to make a mess even less likely...
Get wet and wild
The psychological effects of having an enema—which is essentially a bag with a nozzle that you can introduce liquid into the rectum with, to sort of flush out the area—may be as important to enjoyable anal sex as the physical ones. Sluicing out the rectum is simply a hedge against the possibility of a mess and if the receptive partner is less worried about spraying the immediate area with poop, they are more likely to relax throughout their body and enjoy the experience. You can get a disposable enema kit at your local pharmacy but if you find that you like anal sex enough to put it in your sexy time rotation, you can get something a reusable. This one even comes with FDA approval, but it still wouldn't hurt to talk to your doctor about how to do one of these safely and effectively.
Get a great anal lube
The two most important things to look for when selecting a lube for anal sex is viscosity and composition. Thicker lubes are best for anal sex. That’s because the walls of the anus are thinner than vaginal walls and require a lube that can keep them nice and slippery to reduce the chances of cuts and tears (ouch!) inside the rectum. A silicone-based lube is likely your best bet for anal sex because it’s condom-safe (unlike oil-based lubes), doesn’t evaporate quickly (unlike water-based lubes), and has the most slippery feel.
Invest in a butt plug
Another purchase you may want to add to your Amazon cart is a quality butt plug. Using a plug will get the receptive partner used to the feeling of having something in their ass. Start wearing it while having regular sex and you’ll begin to associate the feeling of being anally activated with sex rather than, y’know, pooping. You can also wear a plug in the lead up to anal play so that you’re feeling more pliant when the time comes. One great option is Fun Factory’s Bootie model.
Expect the best but prepare for the worst
Despite all this prep work, there’s still a slim chance that things could get the wrong type of raunchy. “Put down an old towel or sheet, have some moist wipes close at hand and, in the relatively unlikely event that shit happens, assure each other that a fuss won’t be made and that a contingency plan is in place,” Play advises. Get that towel in a washing machine, jump in the shower, and administer some serious TLC.
Get to a calm place, mentally
Again, the receptive partner's ability to breathe and relax is the difference between an experience that makes them go “wow” or makes them go “ow.” Have a glass of wine or imbibe something herbal if you find it helps you to relax and unwind. But don’t go crazy.“Just as you shouldn’t operate heavy machinery while under the influence, you shouldn’t experiment with anal sex while drunk, either,” say Emma Taylor and Lorelei Sharkey, authors of Sex: How To Do Everything. “Pain is a sign you’re doing something wrong, and if you’re wasted, you won’t know when to stop.”
Experiment with positions
If you’re the insertive partner, it may be a good idea to get behind your partner and let them boss the situation by backing into your penis at their own pace. Whether they’re new to anal or not, chances are they’ll need a moment or two to acclimate to the feeling and may need you to stay statue-still. Use this time to apply more lube to the area. Again—there’s really no such thing as too much when it comes to anal. For some people, anal sex is most comfortable "doggie style." Others prefer to be face-to-face, or even on top.
Don’t double dip
No matter how much butt prep you did, the anus and rectum is bound to have bacteria in it that doesn’t belong in a vagina. In porn, tongues, fingers, toys, and penises are pulled out of one hole and shoved into a neighboring one seamlessly, but IRL that sort of thing could potentially cause a bacterial infection. If anything goes in a butthole, it gets washed before it finds itself in a vagina. Cool?
Anal can be an intense experience, especially for a first-time receiver, so don’t forget to administer plenty of aftercare—if your partner is into it—in the way of kisses, cuddles, and sweet nothings when you’re done.
Know that anal sex is a high-risk sexual activity
Not to end on a bummer but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that anal sex is puts people at greater risk of contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections than pretty much any other sexual activity. This is because anal intercourse varies from vaginal since it involves "discrete types of tissue, muscle force, and natural lubrication, or lack thereof." So as usual, wrap it up if you feel like you're in a situation where you should.
This article originally appeared on VICE US.