This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.
Given how much we write about the topic here at VICE, you'd think the basics of anal sex were well understood both in and out of the office. But the reality is there are still a ton of misconceptions and myths about the, uh, ins and outs of butt stuff. Can you do it too much? Does it have to hurt? Is there always poop? I put these questions to sex educator and Anal Sex Basics author Carlyle Jansen. She was shockingly patient with my weird queries and very graciously explained all things anal while I tried not to laugh because I am a childish idiot.
So here's everything you ever wanted to know about anal sex.
VICE: Is anal sex overrated?
Carlyle Jansen: People who have tried it the standard way (ie: "hey let's try anal sex"; "OK"; insert penis) and found that it hurt will definitely feel that it is overrated. Women in particular often ask, "Can it actually be pleasurable?" or are surprised when I say that it does not have to be painful, as many assume that pain is just an inevitable part of anal sex. I think that is where the overrated comment often comes from.
I would say in general that anal sex is underrated, especially if you also include rimming, fingering, massage, butt plugs, and vibrating toys as a part of anal sex. But it is underrated mostly because it is under-explored as a whole as well as in diversity of options. We don't think of sex as a skill and we just do what we think we are supposed to do or what "comes naturally." Most of us (especially women) had to do a fair bit of exploration and variation before we felt more pleasure from other kinds of sex. Anal is no different.
What's the number one myth you want to bust about butt stuff?
That it shouldn't be painful. Pain is an indication that something is wrong. Your butt is trying to tell you something is wrong. And a lot of ppl endure the pain and then what happens is the anus, next time something goes near it is like "nooo I don't want anything to go in there, that hurt last time!" and it tightens up and the more it tightens up the more painful it's going to be. You need to seduce the anus. You need to make it trust. And then it will open up and enjoy lots of pleasure. Pain means stop, add some lube, use something smaller.
Yeah I think a lot of ppl think you need to get through the pain, but you're saying pain means something's wrong?
Yeah it's not like a marathon. Anal sex, like all sex, should be about pleasure. The more you're worried about it the more your anus is going to be like, "no way."
There's also a myth that men enjoy it more than women, is there a real difference in sensation for men and women?
Men find it generally tighter than a vagina and so it can feel more pleasurable for a penis (as well as the psychological excitement of the taboo of anal sex). Receiving anal sex is intense. The anus (first inch inside) is really sensitive to both pain and pleasure. Men and trans women with prostates will feel an intense sensation with deeper penetration (3-5 inches inside). It can produce intense, full bodied orgasms that are usually deeper and more profound than penis-only ones. And they might be non-ejaculatory orgasms. Sometimes an erection is lost with prostate stimulation—that is okay, it just means that the focus has moved.
A woman or trans man will feel the anus and the perineal sponge about a thumb-depth inside on the front wall of the anus (and back wall of the vagina).
Read more: Why Girls Should Only Have Anal Sex
What's the biggest mistake anal noobs make?
One of them is starting too big and the other one is not using enough lube or the right lube. A lot of people use what's called a desensitizing lube because they want to take the pain away. But what ends up happening is you tear the area because you're going too fast and then what you'll find is that when you use the toilet later you'll notice you tore the area. Use a thick lube that will stay in place and that's natural so it won't irritate your rectal canal when it's absorbed.
You want to start small. My favourite beginner toy is the Quatro. It's small, about a finger width and it's black. Black sex toys are great because they camouflage any traces of poop that might be left behind.
OK yeah cool. [tries not to laugh]
And you can insert it up the butt and use it as a butt plug while you play with your vagina or penis and if you move ever so slightly you will feel it. And then you can also, like with anal beads, enjoy a slow, you're not going too fast, a slow in and out. It feels really exquisite as the anal sphincter opens and closes. So when choosing toys to start out, don't choose something large, choose something versatile and choose something that will fit with other kinds of sex you'll be having.
Read more: When Ass Eating Goes Wrong
Speaking of, is there always poop? Like do you always just have to have poop on your toys or penis?
If you have what we consider "goldilocks poops," not too hard, not too soft, somewhere in the middle, there will only be traces of poop left behind. You'll get little bits on the toy or penis, especially if there's crevices but you won't encounter a big bowel movement.
Is there a downside to only doing anal?
Well the only thing you don't want to do is clean out your butt too often and mess with the ecology of your butt. Other than that there's not really a downside to doing it all the time.
Can you do it too much and stretch it out?
Right that's a big misconception. I don't wear diapers. There's a myth that you can stretch the anus, it doesn't work that way. It's actually relaxing the anus. The more relaxed it is the more open. In fact, a lot of people say anal sex is a great way to prevent hemmoroids because the area is much more relaxed.
What if you just don't want to have anal sex? Are you sex deprived if you just skip it?
There's nothing that says you should do anything. I'm a big fan of, if you're saying no, do you know what you're saying no to? I'm not saying everybody should go out and try anal sex. I've known people and I've had a lot of lovers who have said, "You know, I'm not really good with the inside but the outside feels great!" Give it a try on the outside and often what happens is you waken the area and you crave more.
Follow Amil on Twitter but don't @ her anything about anal sex please.