10 things you should know about anuses

If you’re in the dark, start here

Written by Abigail Swoap

Information about anuses can be hard to come by due to stigma and myths surrounding anal sex. It’s a topic that’s seldom-discussed in sex ed or health classes, and much of the stigma surrounding anal sex derives from homophobia. Anal sex is not “gay sex;” everyone has an anus, so let’s talk about them! Here are the top ten things everyone should know about anuses, anal play and penetration. 

First up: some anal anatomy!

There’s a lot of confusion about where the anus rectum starts and the anus begins, and we’re here to clear that up for you. Both are part of your digestive tract, but the rectum is the middleman connecting the large intestine to the anus. Most of the time it’s empty because stool is actually stored in the large intestine. The anus is the opening at the end of the digestive tract, and it’s kept closed by a ring of muscles called the anal sphincter. 

It is 100% possible for people with vulvas to come from anal stimulation

Anal sex is typically thought of as something that’s only pleasurable for people with penises. It’s true that people with penises who receive anal penetration are likely stimulating their prostate gland, an erogenous zone that fills up with fluid during arousal and can enhance or ignite an orgasm.

But it’s possible for people with vulvas to orgasm as a result of anal stimulation, too! The anus has a rich nerve supply, and stimulation can feel very pleasurable for some vulva-havers. Also, according to sex researcher Kristen Mark, “Separating out the experience of an orgasm based on body part doesn’t really make much physiological sense.” An orgasm is an orgasm is an orgasm.

Some sex researchers are using anuses to make their work more inclusive

According to Kristen Mark, even during an orgasm where there isn’t any anal stimulation, the anus always contracts as part of the physiological orgasmic response. One of Kristen Mark’s colleagues is using this fact as a way to study orgasms in a more inclusive way. Because everyone has an anus, they’re using anal probes to measure the physiological experience of orgasm more accurately and consistently regardless of genitals. 

The popularity of anal in hetero sex has stayed pretty much the same

According to research gathered by the CDC, the percentage of males and females who have ever had anal sex with an opposite-gender partner stayed around the same in 2002, 2006-2010 and 2011-2015. 34-37% of heterosexual men have self-reported exploring the back door with a partner, compared to 30-33.3% of women. 

Lube is a must

Unlike the vagina, the anus has no natural lubrication. So in order for things to remain comfortable, pleasurable and safe, you’ll need to provide your own lubricant. Look for a water-based option so that it won’t break down the condom you’re using. Don’t skimp on it, either! The more lube, the better. Just make sure you’ve got a towel or some tissues nearby to wipe up any excess. 

Gradual progression is key

Of course, lube is the first and most important ingredient to a successful anal sex experience. But another key element is ensuring that things progress gradually. Don’t go straight for the full insertion; instead, “ring the doorbell” a few times and play around with the outside of the anus. (Coral advisor Dr. Ian Kerner recommends at least 10-15 minutes of foreplay before anything is inserted.) Once you’re warmed up, insert a finger/toy/penis a little bit, then play around the rim before going back in. 

Make sure you’re relaxed 

The anal sphincter acts as the gatekeeper of the rectum, so in order for anal penetration to happen, it’s important that this muscle is relaxed. Find whatever works for you: a glass of wine, a hot bath or a Coral mindfulness meditation could be good places to start. Figure out what relaxes you, and integrate that ritual into your anal sex foreplay.

If you’re new to anal play, incorporate sex acts you’re familiar with already 

Sometimes, two (or three or four) sex acts can be better than one! Don’t be afraid to stimulate the clitoris or the glans penis during anal penetration. That combination can be really pleasurable for many people, and it’s also a way to incorporate elements of your sexual comfort zone into your anal experience for maximum pleasure. 

The anus does not get ‘bigger’ if you have anal sex 

Just like the vagina, tha anus is a muscle, and it gets used to being penetrated through muscle memory the more you use it. Also, as any power bottom might tell you, the more you use a muscle, the stronger it becomes! 

Hygiene and safety are your friend

Because anal intercourse carries a slightly higher risk of sexually transmitted infection than other types of penetration, it’s particularly important to stay on top of your STI testing and utilize barrier methods. 

For people with vulvas who have anal sex, bacteria from the rectum can also cause bacterial vaginosis or urinary tract infections. It’s essential not to use the same condom for anal and vaginal intercourse and wash your hands between sex acts for this reason. As always, peeing after sex can also help people with vulvas prevent UTIs.

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