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Anal sex and anal play

Anal play is sexual stimulation of the anus and rectum. Anal play can include external stimulation of the anus with fingers, toys or mouth, or penetration with fingers, toys or a penis/external genitals (anal sex).

People of all sexual orientations and gender identities can explore giving and receiving anal play. The anal region is rich with nerve endings, so stimulation in this area can feel good. People with prostates often enjoy indirect stimulation of the prostate through anal penetration. Anal play can also indirectly stimulate both the clitoris and the G-spot (an area located on the front wall a few inches inside the vagina/internal genitals).

A little about anatomy

The area around the anal opening is covered in hair for most people. Some people choose to remove this hair, while other people do not. It is normal to have hair around this part of the body.

The anus has two rings of muscles near the entrance. The outer ring can be controlled, which means you can tense and relax these muscles at will. The inner ring is involuntary, which means it can’t be controlled. Instead, you need to be fully relaxed for these muscles to accept penetration comfortably.

The rectum is the area inside the anus. It does not produce its own lubrication in response to sexual stimulation.

How does it work?

When first exploring anal play, go slowly. It takes time for muscles to relax enough to enjoy anal stimulation or penetration. Many people enjoy stimulation of the outside of the anus. This can involve using fingers, mouth or toys.  External stimulation can feel great on its own.

If you are exploring anal penetration, it’s best to start with a finger or a very small toy. Penetration can be uncomfortable if the muscles of the anus are tight because you’re nervous or not aroused. Pain is a sign to stop or slow down. If you are playing with a partner, it’s important to communicate and stop or slow down if there is any discomfort.

Lubrication is important for penetrative anal play. Lubrication will help protect the delicate skin of the anal area, and also creates more pleasurable sensations. Water based lube is safe with both condoms and toys.

If you are not used to anal penetration, the sensation may feel a little strange at first - like you need to have a bowel movement. This is normal, and it can take some time and practice for the feeling to become pleasurable.

People with prostates may enjoy gentle pressure or stroking on the front wall of the rectum. If partners are facing each other, the giving partner can insert a finger and make a gentle beckoning motion to stimulate this area. You can also use this technique to indirectly stimulate the g-spot of the vagina/internal genitals through the rectum.

Anal toys

If you’re using sex toys, make sure they have a flared base. A butt plug is a good example of this type of toy. A toy without a flared base can be pulled inside the rectum and may not be easily removed. If you do get a toy or any other object stuck in your rectum, go to a hospital emergency room right away.

Other types of anal toys include dildos of various shapes and sizes, vibrators, and anal beads. It’s a good idea to start with smaller toys, and only work towards larger toys or a penis if you feel relaxed and ready.

Health considerations

STIs and bacteria

If you practice anal play with partners, it is recommended that you get regular STI testing.  If possible, you should let your health care provider know that you have anal sex so that they can offer you the right tests.STI transmission can occur with:

  • penis-in-anus penetration
  • skin-to-skin contact between genitals and anus
  • oral-anal contact (rimming)
  • sharing sex toys without cleaning between uses

You can use internal (female) or external (male) condoms to reduce the possibility of passing STIs during anal play. With an internal condom, you can remove the inside ring and gently push the condom inside the anus using a finger or toy. Use plenty of lube on both the outside and inside of the condom. Make sure the condom is in place before skin-to-skin contact between genitals and the anal area.

PrEP is also a good way to protect yourself against HIV transmission. Visit our PrEP toolkit, or ask your health care provider for more information.

Healthy/bacteria that exist in the rectum can cause problems if passed to other body parts, like the vagina/internal genitals, penis, urethra or mouth. It is also possible to pass an STI from the anus to other body parts, or from other body parts to the anus.

Oral-anal contact (rimming) can pass STIs, parasites or fecal bacteria to someone’s mouth. It is also possible to pass an STI from the mouth to the anus. To avoid passing these organisms from one person to another, use oral or dental dams during oral-anal play. To increase pleasure, put water-based lubricant on the anus before placing the oral dam on top. Remember to put a new condom on a toy or penis after it comes out of the anus and before it goes into the mouth.

Bacteria in the anus can also cause urinary tract infections if it comes in contact with the vagina/internal genitals.  It is important to put a new condom on a toy or penis after it comes out of the anus and before it rubs up against or goes inside of the vagina/internal genitals.

Washing and douching

Many people feel self-conscious about cleanliness during anal play. Washing the anal area with gentle soap and water before anal play is enough to be clean for sex. Some people will gently insert their finger a couple inches into their rectum to help clean it while they are in the shower.

Some people choose to douche before anal play. This is personal choice and it is not necessary for enjoying anal play. While douching can clean the rectum more thoroughly, it can also strip away the protective mucous that coats the inside of the rectum. This can cause some inflammation and increase the chances of tissue tearing, which increases the chances of getting or passing STIs.

If you choose to douche, use lots of lube as well as condoms/barriers for sex to prevent STI transmission. Lastly, if you choose to douche, it is recommended to do it several hours before you are planning anal play so that you do not need to have an urgent bowel movement during sex.

Diet

Some people find that eating a high-fibre diet and drinking plenty of water helps maintain a clean colon.

Resources

Online

AVERT.org – helpful information about anal sex
Scarleteen: Anal Sex Lowdown – Questions & Answers on anal sex

Books (also available as ebooks and audio books)

Anal Pleasure and Health: A guide for men, women and couples by Jack Morin
The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women by Tristan Taormino
The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex For Men by Bill Brent
The Ultimate Guide to Prostate Pleasure by Charlie Glickman and Aislinn Emirzian

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