It’s not exactly a secret that our society’s interest and curiosity in anal sex are growing. Research indicates that 20–30% of US women have had anal sex. Approximately one in five Americans reported making a new addition to their sex life since the pandemic began, with 7% of people having newly experimented with anal stimulation. Even data from PornHub reveals that from 2009 to 2015, search volume for anal sex videos skyrocketed by 120 percent.
Yet, despite anal sex being a common activity of growing interest, it still comes with its fair share of taboos – in particular, surrounding hygiene and risks of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Though anal sex does come with potential downsides, it shouldn’t completely deter you from participating in it. Nevertheless, it’s still important to be mindful of those risks and know what to do to prevent them.
So, if you’re curious about giving anal a go and want to know about safety precautions, here’s a quick breakdown:
Barrier methods to consider
First and foremost, anal sex encompasses more than a penis inserting an anus. Anal sex includes stimulation with hands, vibrators, tongues, and more. The options for ways to engage in anal play are endless, but anal sex does carry a higher risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI) than other sexual acts. This is because the lining of the anus is thinner than the vagina, and it lacks natural lubrication.
Condoms and dental dams help prevent STIs, including HIV, from being transmitted between sexual partners. If you’re exploring the booty with any other parts of your body (fingers, tongue, etc.), there are other barrier methods you can use as extra protection.
A finger cot, also known as a finger condom or finger glove, is a flexible tube-like cap that covers a finger. Like condoms, they protect against infections, especially the human papillomavirus (HPV), which can affect fingers and other exposed areas of the skin. Some are textured to add more pleasurable sensations to your sexual rendezvous.
Sex gloves are also a good choice to protect the oh-so-delicate skin of the anus from potentially injurious nails and calluses. They’re made with materials like rubber, latex, and nitrile, allowing you to choose based on your allergies and personal preferences.
Aside from STIs, bacteria from the rectum can also cause bacterial vaginosis (BV), an infection marked by an abnormal vaginal discharge that’s associated with an odor, fever, or a urinary tract infection (UTI).
Luckily both BV and UTIs can also be treated with antibiotics, but it’s a good idea to save yourself the discomfort by switching condoms and washing your hands if transitioning from back to front. Peeing after sex can also help prevent a UTI.
How to ease into anal sex safely
Before doing it backdoor, aim for at least 15 minutes (though more is encouraged) of foreplay before inserting anything at all — fingers, sex toys, a penis — into the anus. By spending ample time on foreplay, it’ll prepare the body to become as aroused as possible, allowing muscles, especially in the anus, to relax.
Remember, the rectum doesn’t self-lubricate like other areas of the body. So, it can get dry quickly. With that said, one of the best ways to prevent potential pain is to use A LOT of lube. Even if you think you’ve used enough, you might need a bit more.
For lube, many sexual health experts recommend silicone or hybrid-based formulas, as they’re less likely to dry you out than water-based lube.
Hygienic considerations before and during anal
You may be freaking out over the potential mess that anal sex could cause. Don’t worry. That’s a normal and valid concern. The good news is that there are a few ways to avoid an accident with poop.
Here are some quick tips:
- Go to the bathroom and poop within 5 hours of anal play to better your chances of having a clear rectum
- Douching isn’t necessary for anal prep. After all, a high-fiber diet is the key to having a clean rectum). Though, if you decide to use an enema, don’t overdo the cleaning process, as it can cause trauma to the rectum and increase the risk of injury during anal sex, which subsequently increases the chance of contracting an STI.
- Take a shower. When cleaning the external part of your butt, mild soap and water should suffice.
- Once it’s time to get frisky, keep a dark towel placed on top of the bed, couch, or another surface you’ll be occupying.
Now that we’ve covered the good news, here’s the inevitable. If you make anal play a regular part of your sexual repertoire then shit is bound to happen. Literally. Bodies can be unpredictable, and that’s okay.
Fortunately, with trust, proper education, and effective communication regarding potential risks and mishaps, anal sex can be a wonderful experience.