When it comes to having first-time anal sex, there are a few things you should know ahead of time to guarantee a pleasurable and safe experience. While anal sex can elicit a ton of pleasure — one study showed that nearly 44 percent of women have experienced pleasure from some form of internal or external anal touch — anal sex can also put your health at risk when not done correctly.
Thanks to the lack of sexual education on the subject, there aren’t a lot of resources out there that provide the facts you should know about anal sex — including how to have anal sex, how to enjoy anal sex, and tips for anal sex. So to answer some common questions, we spoke with experts, who explained everything you need to know about how to have anal sex.
Before we dive into this booty-pleasuring guide, though, it’s important to clarify that anal sex is not inherently dangerous or something to be feared. Monica Grover, MD, chief medical expert at the VSPOT, describes anal sex as “a natural way to find excitement and intensity for any type of relationship.” While you must take proper care to stay safe, as you should with any type of sex, consensual anal sex can be a wonderful thing.
How to Prepare For Anal Sex
For starters, you’ll want to make sure anal sex is something you actually want to do for yourself — and not for anyone else. “As with any other sexual fantasy or interest, sharing curiosity about or desire for anal is best when it happens ahead of time so you can make sure you are both informed, ready, and enthusiastically consent to the exploration,” says Carol Queen, PhD, a sexologist for sex-toy retailer Good Vibrations. In other words, anal sex is not something to “gift” someone for their birthday or “give into” after your partner repeatedly begs you to try. (And for the record, dump any partner who begs you to do any sexual act you’re unsure about.)
Once you’ve both decided to try anal sex with an enthusiastic “f*ck yes” attitude, Dr. Queen recommends taking the time to educate yourself on it. You can do this by reading books like “Anal Sex Basics” and “Anal Pleasure and Health.” You can also watch other couples have anal sex via ethical porn sites and discuss what you like and don’t like about those scenes with your partner.
Next, you’ll need to invest in lubricant, Dr. Queen says. This is nonnegotiable: your anal glands do not self-lubricate, and having anal sex or engaging in anal play without lube can tear the sensitive tissue. And spit is not enough. You can use a silicone-based lube if you’re using your hands and a water-based lube if you’re using toys (since silicone-based lube can break down the material of sex toys). Either type is generally safe to use with condoms.
If you’re worried about what, ahem, comes out of the butt, you can do a little cleaning beforehand. You can start by making sure your bowels are empty and you don’t feel the need to poop. Some people also like to use an enema (like this one), which rinses the rectum with water, Queen notes. But you don’t have to use one, and some experts warn that when done excessively, it can “thin the tissue inside of your anus” and make you more prone to infections, the Cleveland Clinic reports. Another option is to gently insert your (clean) finger inside an inch or so and do a quick sweep to remove anything residual, Marla Renee Stewart, a sexologist for Lovers, a sexual wellness brand and retailer, previously told POPSUGAR. That said, know that poop might inevitably make a debut, and this is normal and completely OK. Laugh it off, clean it up, and move on from it with your partner.
How to Have Anal Sex
If the end goal is to have penetrative anal sex, you’ll likely need to work your way up to that. Experts recommend starting with anal masturbation or encouraging your partner to start small with a lubed-up finger or a small, anal-friendly sex toy. (Sex toys for anal play are toys that have a flared base, since this will prevent the toy from becoming unretrievable in your anal canal.) Begin with slow, gentle penetration. Then, when you’re comfortable with that sensation, you can invest in a larger sex toy or add additional fingers with lube. “Using anal beads and butt plugs and other devices helps create a new type of orgasm,” Dr. Grover says. Once you’re comfortable with these amounts of pressure, you can move to penetration with a large dildo or penis — if it’s something you’re still interested in. (Remember: you’re allowed to change your mind at any time.)
The key to any sort of anal sex is to relax. “If you can’t relax those sphincters, anal penetration will almost certainly hurt,” Dr. Queen says, and experiencing pain during anal sex is not a good sign. “Pain is a signal that you are being hurt, and in some cases, permanent harm can result from ignoring those signals.” In order to relax, Dr. Queen recommends focusing on deep and slow inhales and exhales. Pause or stop the action whenever you need to.
You should also be regularly communicating with your partner during anal sex — tell them what feels good, what doesn’t, what’s making you uncomfortable, and more. It may be helpful to establish a safe word like “pineapple” or “red” beforehand, in case you want play to stop completely or slow down.
Lastly, as a general safety note, while it’s OK to go from vaginal stimulation to anal stimulation, it’s not advised to move toys and fingers from the anus to the vagina without washing hands and toys first. Otherwise, you could be putting yourself at risk of infection.
Best Positions For Anal Sex
The most common position for anal sex is any sort of variation of doggy style, which involves one partner on their hands and knees, while the other partner enters them from behind. This allows the partner on top to use their hands easily for either leverage or stimulation.
Another popular one is the spooning sex position, which looks like two people lying side by side, facing the same way. One partner can enter (or insert a toy) from behind and/or reach around for manual stimulation.
If you are the receiving partner and want to be more in control of the depth and pressure, you can get on top of your partner in a girl-on-top variation, also. This is what happens when one partner lies face up while the other partner climbs on top, usually kneeling and straddling the bottom partner’s hips.
Can You Get Pregnant From Anal Sex?
You cannot directly get pregnant from anal sex alone. However, Dr. Grover points out that “there is a small chance [pregnancy] can happen indirectly” via anal sex. Though the chances are very slim, depending on your sex position, it’s possible semen could seep into the vagina or vulva. In these very rare cases, it’s possible you could get pregnant. But there are plenty of other reasons to use a barrier method of protection during anal sex besides preventing pregnancy (see below).
Can Anal Sex Increase Your Chances of Contracting an STI?
According to the NHS, penetrative anal sex has a higher risk of spreading STIs than many other types of sexual activity. Dr. Grover says this is because “the anus is a very thin membrane and can easily tear.” She explains the anus can “harbor a lot of bacteria and viruses such as HIV, hepatitis, HPV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis, and due to the susceptibility of how thin the lining is, some of these infections can become blood-borne such as HIV, types of hepatitis, and syphilis.” For this reason, though you cannot get pregnant directly from anal sex, it’s important to adhere to safe-sex guidelines and use a condom to protect yourself from STI transmission (or a dental dam, if you’re engaging in oral sex).
Is Bleeding After Anal Sex Normal?
Slight bleeding can be normal, Dr. Grover says. “Since the anus is actually a very thin membrane, it easily has to expand and contract. Due to the lining being thin, it is easily susceptible to tearing. Anal intercourse can result in enough friction to result in tearing because of it.” If you’re experiencing heavy bleeding or bleeding that doesn’t stop after a few days or bleeding with pain, it would be time to consult a doctor, Dr. Grover says.
Can Anal Sex Cause Colon Cancer?
The colon is part of the large intestine and goes into the rectum and then the anus, Dr. Grover says. “The anus, due to having such a thin lining, is highly susceptible for contracting sexually transmitted infections, such as the human papilloma virus (HPV).” She continues, “Although there are cases of colon cancers showing a viral strain of a high-risk HPV, there has not been a direct cause of it found yet. As a result, we cannot conclusively say that anal intercourse can cause colon cancer.”
Can Anal Sex Cause Hemorrhoids?
Per the Mayo Clinic, hemorrhoids are “swollen veins in your anus and lower rectum” that can develop inside the rectum or under the skin around the anus. But Dr. Grover confirms that anal sex doesn’t cause hemorrhoids, though “having hemorrhoids can make anal intercourse very uncomfortable.” Most commonly, hemorrhoids are caused by strained bowel movements or sitting for long periods of time on the toilet.