From the Archives: Bum’s the Word

Q: I’ve been toying with the idea of anal sex for MONTHS, literally months, and I can’t get up the courage to try it. Baby steps, yes, but taking that final leap still freaks me out for some reason. I think it’s a combo of the poo issue and the horror stories you hear about rips/tears, etc. I know that’s not how it’d go, but even the remote possibility of that makes it really hard for me to get relaxed enough to be comfortable with the idea.

A: It sounds like you’ve spent some time mulling over not only your feelings about trying anal sex but why you feel the way you do, which is really important and makes our job somewhat easier! Figuring out what exactly you’re wary of is the first step in addressing and getting past that wariness, if that’s what you decide you want to do. (And if you end up concluding that you’re not interested in bum sex or that you’re not ready now but may be in the future, that’s obviously completely fine too – this is all about what you want and your comfort level.)

So let’s get the most uncomfortable part out of the way first, shall we? The poo concern is one that many people have – it’s one of the myths that Tristan Taormino addresses in the first chapter of her book The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women, that anal sex “is dirty and messy.” Something that you may not know (paperispatient didn’t know this until she started reading about anal sex when she was interested in trying it for the first time) is that poo generally doesn’t hang out in the rectum; it’s stored in the colon, and only a small bit remains in the rectum and the anal canal after a bowel movement. Basically, as long as you don’t have sex right when you feel like you need to poo, your chances of encountering anything substantial are very small. There may be a little smudge or two on the condom (and yes, you always, always need to use a condom if you’re receiving anal sex from someone with a penis, though we tend to recommend them on strap-ons too), but that tends to be it. Preparation-wise, all you really need to do is shower or take a bath. Some people prefer to use enemas before engaging in anal play, but experts like Taormino agree that it’s really not necessary.

Knowing that you don’t need to worry about poo may help you relax, which is a big factor when it comes to the comfort and ease with which you can have anal sex. We regard those horror stories kind of the way we do stories about terrible and rare drug side effects – the people who have terrible stories are more likely to share them than the people who had an uneventful or positive experience because, well, those make better stories than, “We tried anal sex and it was nice enough but kind of boring. I might do it again.”

You mentioned that you’ve been taking baby steps – we figure that means some fingering, maybe a small toy? Excellent! This will help you get accustomed to what having something up your butt feels like, and it will get your muscles used to relaxing – anal sex can feel a little strange at first, since most of us are only used to having things come out instead of going in – and slowly working up to penetration with something larger like a penis, dildo, or even fist (for the truly adventurous and experienced anal sex-ers). If you’re concerned about lubrication, try a few different kinds; regular old silicone or water-based lube can be used for anal sex, but there are also some thicker lubes out there specifically made for anal play that you could try if you find that the lube you’re using isn’t lasting long enough or feels too thin. (A note: even though there are some warming lubes on the page of anal lubes that we linked to, don’t. Just, trust us. Don’t.) There are also a lot of “desensitizing” anal lubes on the market, but these are, to put it kindly, a terrible idea that no one should ever try ever. Pain is your body’s way of telling you you’re doing something you shouldn’t, and you need to know if something hurts in order to avoid causing any damage. If you find that you enjoy and make bum sex a regular part of your sexual repertoire, you may find that it gets a lot easier after a while and that you don’t need to dedicate much or even any time to working up to it, but in the beginning you definitely want to err on the side of taking things slowly (and experiences vary widely – some people will always need a lot of preparation, other people never need any).

Position can also play a really big part in how easy and comfortable penetration is. You can have anal sex in any position you like. Many women like to be on top especially the first few times they have anal sex because that allows you to be completely in control of the speed, angle, and depth of penetration, and you’ll probably want to go very gradually and slowly at first. If you or your partner feel your muscles tensing up or if it’s difficult to penetrate any further, stop where you are and give it a moment or two. Personal anecdote: the first time we had bum sex, it was in a kind of modified doggy-style; future Mr. sat back on his heels and paperispatient controlled the movement until she felt comfortable enough to tell him to thrust. (And if/when your partner does start thrusting, slowly is still the key word, at least until you’re certain that everything feels good.) For a slightly more intimate experience, you can lie on your back with your hips tilted back and legs in any number of places (knees bent, legs in the air, feet on his shoulders, etc). Experiment – what is heaven on earth for one woman might be awkward and uncomfortable for another, and small changes can make a big difference in how it feels for you.

Also, anal sex doesn’t have to be the only activity going on. Some women find anal sex on its own extremely pleasurable and satisfying, likely because anal penetration can indirectly stimulate any sensitive spots in the vagina that provide pleasure during vaginal intercourse or because there are so many nerve endings in that body part that can provide some unique sensations. Other women really enjoy additional stimulation – you or your partner can lend a hand with some clitoral stimulation if that’s what does it for you (just make sure that any fingers or toys that have been in your ass don’t go near your vulva). Many women find that being ridiculously aroused and even having had an orgasm before beginning anal sex makes them more relaxed and makes that penetration feel even better. If it doesn’t immediately feel amazing, give it a chance (as long as it doesn’t hurt or feel unpleasant) – paperispatient has found that every time she has anal sex, the first few thrusts just feel vaguely like she’s taking a poo and are mostly about her body adjusting to the feeling, and it starts getting very pleasurable after that.

We should also mention, though, that plenty of other people find that they just don’t enjoy anal sex or that it is painful and unpleasant no matter how much preparation and precaution goes into it (or that they’re simply never interested in it in the first place). We don’t want to suggest, as some other columns and websites are wont to do, that anyone who doesn’t like it is doing it wrong or not trying hard enough. (It’s also worth pointing out that not all men enjoy and are dying to have anal sex, though you might not know it from the way that anal sex is often framed in our culture.) One of the themes in most of our posts has been that different things work for and feel good to different people, and that always bears repeating!

If you’re interested in learning even more about all things anal sex related, we’ve heard Taormino’s book praised as well as the book Anal Pleasure and Health: A Guide for Men, Women, and Couples by Dr. Jack Morin. It’s fantastically detailed and is packed with information that will help you (and your partner) understand your ass and explore different ways to enjoy it.

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Keep the great ques­tions com­ing! (Hee.) Got a ques­tion to ask, sub­ject you’d like us to dis­cuss, or myth you’d like us to bust? You can e-mail us at FriskyFeminist@persephonemagazine.com or send us an anony­mous mes­sage via the spiffy new Ask Us! fea­ture here.

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paperispatient

I recently earned my MA in women’s studies. I enjoy reading, working out, playing Scrabble, watching cheesy movies, and cooking yummy vegetarian meals with my partner and Frisky Feminist co-author, Future Mr. paperispatient.

4 thoughts on “From the Archives: Bum’s the Word”

  1. OK… a couple of questions. Every once in a while, my husband and I give anal sex a try. It doesn’t do much for me, but my husband really likes it, and I’d be willing to try it more often for him if it weren’t for the aftereffects. The actual sex doesn’t feel bad, but it seems like it wreaks havoc on my bowels for a day or two afterward, like in a reduced control sort of way. Is this common, or is there some way to avoid that? Or is this something you’ve never heard of before?

    Second question: why is the condom recommended? We haven’t used a condom, and would that make any difference?

    1. I’ll answer your second question first. Basically, you don’t want all the germs that are up in your butt getting into any other body parts, and while it’s generally much harder for that to happen to men, it’s still a possibility if he’s penetrating you anally without a condom. So to protect him from potentially getting a UTI or other infection, we highly recommend using a condom. (Most if not all of the anal “experts” whose writing we’ve read recommend it as well.)

      As for the funkiness happening with your bowels…hmm. I’ve never experienced that, and I’m not sure why that might be happening. I’ve definitely been a tad gassy afterwards, but that’s more immediate and doesn’t last for even a day, and I haven’t experienced any poo/control-related changes. I’ll keep that question in mind and do a bit of pondering and digging, and if I find anything useful I’ll let you know! (Any other Persephoneers experience this?)

  2. Amazingly, this is today’s A Softer World:

    coincidence? I think not!!

    But seriously, go you guys. Great, thoughtful column, and I love this:

    We don’t want to suggest, as some other columns and websites are wont to do, that anyone who doesn’t like it is doing it wrong or not trying hard enough. (It’s also worth pointing out that not all men enjoy and are dying to have anal sex, though you might not know it from the way that anal sex is often framed in our culture.)

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