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A Complete Beginner’s Guide To Anal Sex

Just when you think you have enough lube, add some more.
PHOTO: SHUTTERSTOCK
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For some, the words “anal sex” insight feelings of euphoria and excitement. For others, it makes them immediately clench their butt cheeks in panic. Whether you’re Team Love Anal, Team Not For Me, or somewhere in between, there are a few things you should probs know about the sex act.

For one thing, it's way more high-maintenance than other sex acts since the anus doesn’t self-lubricate like the vagina. This means you need lube—and lots of it, as well as plenty of foreplay and preparation to have good anal sex.

Secondly, you should make sure you're comfortable talking openly and honestly with your partner, since communication is the most important thing when having anal sex, says University of Connecticut health department ob-gyn Shon Cooper, MD. “Expectations should not be what you see on TV or read about, it’s what you and your partner discuss as expectations and fulfillment during intercourse.”

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Which brings me to my next point: Despite what you may see on movie screens or in porn, anal never just *happens*—especially not good anal that actually feels good for both partners. There's a lot of prep work that goes into making sure you have an enjoyable anal experience, and we have all the tips and tricks below for achieving just that.

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So whether you’re considering giving anal a try, are already obsessed, or are just trying to learn something new (love to see it), here’s how to have anal—good anal!—and walk away with an unscathed butt.

1. Heat things up with toys or lube.

Warming lube can help heighten pleasure and make you even more comfortable in the moment. “The heat that is created actually helps to bring blood flow to the area and help increase stimulation to the pleasure receptors in the rectum/anus,” says Niket Sonpal, MD, who previously told Cosmopolitan.

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But if warming lubes aren’t your thing, no big deal. Consider trying a warming toy that heats up to just above your body temperature. Similarly to lube, it’ll help relax your muscles and get the blood flowing for what’s to come.

2. Go to the bathroom right after you're done.

      Just like peeing after vaginal intercourse is a must to prevent UTIs, it’s important to go to the bathroom after anal as well. “During anal sex, there is a displacement of habitant organisms near the anus toward the vagina and urethra, which increases the chances of vaginal infections and UTIs,” says Ankita Gharge, MD. There's a good chance you'll probably feel like you have to go to the bathroom anyway.

      3. Understand your butt is probably going to queef.

      After anal sex, you have now, officially, opened yourself up to the joy of butt queefs. They’re not farts, no matter what anyone says. Unlike frontal queefs, they might go on for a few hours as the air escapes. On the bright side, you are a human beatbox, and your partner can lay a sick freestyle over the top if they feel so inclined.

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      4. You have a higher risk of contracting UTIs.

          Especially those of you who are cis women. Anal sex can increase the risk of STIs, especially if hygiene is not all there,” explains Dr. Cooper. In fact, according to her, cis-women are “at least 17 times higher risk of contracting an STD during anal intercourse compared to vagina intercourse.”

          While that doesn’t mean you need to steer clear of the booty, it does mean you need to keep things clean and have safe sex (like, with a condom) to protect yourself and your partner.

          5. Sit this one out if you have hemorrhoids.

              Whether you got them from pregnancy or not shitting for a week after surgery (hi, it’s me), hemorrhoids, which are a pillow-like cluster of veins found near your booty hole, are no fun—and they’re something to consider when having anal sex.

              “Hemorrhoids can become exacerbated during anal sex resulting in rectal bleeding,” explains Dr. Cooper. And while a little bit of blood is totally normal (more on that later), if you already know you have hemorrhoids, chat with your doc to find a solution if anal’s really something you want to try.

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              6. Sorry, but you actually can get pregnant from anal sex.

                  Kind of. Depending on where your partner ejaculates (and if they ejaculate), if you’re not careful with clean up, you *could* have a surprise in about nine months. While it’s rare, if your partner ejaculates inside your anus but isn’t careful when they pull out, semen could leak down and get inside the vagina thus resulting in a pregnancy. Again, it’s rare, but it’s another good reason to slap on a condom (which makes clean up way easier, btw) just to be safe.

                  7. It's perfectly fine to have anal sex while you're on your period.

                      Even though period sex is one of the pure joys of life for many, if you’re not a fan of blood or you just want to try something new, having anal sex while on your period is kind of amazing.

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                      “Many women report feeling more pleasure practicing anal sex during their periods while wearing a menstrual cup inside their vaginas,” says sex therapist Mia Sabat who previously told Cosmopolitan. Apparently, the menstrual cup is thought to stimulate the internal walls of the vagina, which can be a v nice addition to the already erotic sensation of anal sex.

                      8. Stay away from enemas.

                      If you’re a real neat-freak, you might be tempted to go above and beyond and use an enema prior to anal thinking it’ll make the experience cleaner, but that’s a bad idea. “I highly recommend against the use of enemas,” says Sabat. "While some think enemas make anal play more hygienic, this is a highly misunderstood concept,” she adds. “Enemas bring many negative side effects as they can damage the area, irritate cells in the rectum, generate excess mucus, and cause dryness in the rectal area which can cause fissures and lead to the spread of STIs,” she explains.

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                      9. Please, for the love of all good things, do not look to pornography’s depictions of anal sex as a model for how you think anal sex in real life should go.

                      The anal sex you might see in pornography is a fantasy, Sabat says, and “does not reflect how physiology really works.” So if you see jackhammering anally, know that it’s...not what you should be aiming for in any way. “Anal sex should be practiced slowly, carefully and safely, using a lot of lubricant,” Sabat explains, and most of all, “should be pleasurable for everyone involved.”

                      10. Make peace with the fact that anal sex is...anal sex.

                      “Let go of any stigma, shame, or embarrassment surrounding fecal matter,” suggests Sabat. No, you’re not going to be swimming in feces, but steel yourself to not freak out if you do see some. “It’s a natural part of anal play and don’t let it hold you back from enjoying a truly pleasurable experience,” Sabat adds. If you’re curious about anal play, focus on your pleasure, rather than the fear of staining or possible excretion, as this can hold you back from enjoying an otherwise pleasurable experience, Sabat says.

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                      She also adds that “unless you have a condition like ulcerative colitis that affects your digestive system, know that [feces] shouldn’t be a problem,” You can try to go to the bathroom to have a bowel movement beforehand, and Sabat says, if you wash yourself with soap and water (externally), before getting intimate, that’s likely to ensure you encounter “little-to-zero fecal matter.”

                      11. Relax your whole body.

                      Foreplay and anal massage can be a great starter for a night of anal, but it’s also important to make sure your entire body is relaxed. Sabat suggests massaging your lower back, caressing your inner thighs, and then slowly working your way up to massage the entrance of your anus. “The reason it’s so important to stay relaxed, both mentally and physically,” Sabat explains, is “to avoid tensing the muscles in the anal region involuntarily as this can often lead to a negative or uncomfortable experience.” You know your body best, so whatever you have to do to relax your whole body and mind is good here. “Do what feels natural, sensual, and appealing to you at your own pace,” Sabat says.

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                      12. You might feel like you need to fart after, which is normal.

                      “After anal sex, you may feel like you want to go to the bathroom or experience sensations similar to flatulence,” Sabat says. And while this could feel irritating or slightly embarrassing, as Sabat explains, there’s nothing to worry about if that’s all you’re feeling after safe (that means with a condom!) and pleasurable anal sex. “Anal sex is not dangerous if it’s practiced in a safe and responsible way,” she says. Yes, it requires time and relaxation and some prep work, but if you’re focusing on your pleasure and being safe and clean (aka not going from anal to vaginal), you should be fine.

                      13. That being said, if something doesn’t feel right (beyond momentary flatulence like above), definitely call your doctor and get that checked out.

                      "If you find yourself feeling tender or uncomfortable after engaging in anal sex, you should consult your doctor,” Sabat says. Don't be embarrassed! It might also be a good time to reflect on your technique to see if anything you tried could be the cause of your discomfort, like not enough lube or not taking enough time to relax and get into the moment.

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                      14. Know that anal sex can be romantic and don't be afraid to lean into that if you want to.

                      It’s so important to be fully relaxed and aroused before anal. Sabat suggests thinking of a fantasy, reading or listening to an erotic story, touching yourself, or any other self-love activities that can make you feel excited and comfortable to explore. “Remember, it’s okay to embrace the romantic side of this sexual act as well, whether you’re alone or with another person,” Sabat adds. You can light candles, play music, or engage in other sensual activities that make you feel more comfy and turned on.

                      15. Know that anal play can very much be considered pleasurable for women, even though you might not have a prostate.

                      While the prostate and P-Spot is widely associated as being known for the reason why butt stuff feels so good for prostate and penis-having folks, there are plenty of valid reasons why anal could still be pleasurable for non-prostate having women as well.

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                      There’s not a lot of information on cis-women’s motivations and attitudes on anal play due to a lack of research surrounding the subject (hi science, get on it!), as Amanda Cruz Gerena, counseling psychologist and sex therapist explains.

                      However, she adds: “the few studies that have centered pleasure in anal play have found that what some cis-women find pleasurable is: the arousing sensation due to wonderful nerve endings, avoiding vaginal sex due to menstrual period, pleasing their sexual partner, the eroticization of pain or discomfort (which is likely related to the ‘forbidden experience’), and arousing feelings of sexual submissiveness.”

                      Remember, a pleasurable experience can be just as much mental as physical! If you're turned on by taboos and the power play experience anal can entail, that's valid too!

                      16. Know some background about what anal sex entails (aka lube) and some basic ground rules (ie, don’t go from anal to vaginal without washing) before your first time.

                      For newbies, you’ll want to prep and get lots o’ lube ready before you go into things. Gerena suggests applying lube directly on the anus, as well as adding lube to what you’ll be penetrating with (be it fingers, a toy, a penis, etc.). Unlike the vagina, the anus does not self-lubricate, meaning you’ll be opening yourself (or your partner up) to potential tears and cuts in the skin as well as a whole lot of pain if you go it unlubricated.

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                      If you’re using condoms and toys, go with a water-based lube, as these are condom and toy compatible (oil and silicone based lubes can deteriorate the material in condoms or toys). “Researching for the right lube is a must,” says Gerena—so don’t assume the ol’ trial-sized bottle of whatever you got from that sex store one time will be fine. It’s worth the prepwork to look into a good anal-specific lube if you can.

                      17. Don’t go from anal to vaginal in one session.

                      It’s best to avoid going from anal to vaginal sex says Gerena. Why? Any bacteria found in your stool can increase your risk at acquiring infections like UTIs, bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections, and more. If you absolutely must go from anal to vaginal, “wash the penis, finger, or toy that was introduced in the anus before introducing it in the vaginal canal,” says Gerena.

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                      18. Don’t forget the condoms and dental dams.

                      Gerena says that dental dams are a good source of protection when you or your partner engage in rimming. Fecal bacteria is no joke and dental dams are absolutely worth the peace of mind.

                      19. If you haven’t already tried dipping into anal training, try that first. Your muscles probs need it!

                      As the saying goes, “Don’t go from 0 to 60 without anal training first,” (just kidding, this isn’t actually a saying, but it should be). Going from having nothing up your ass ever to suddenly a whole penis can be jarring (in many ways). You can make it easier for yourself by anal training or gradually introducing larger and larger toys into your anus to “train” your muscles to get used to it.

                      20. Get your space ready.

                      The rumors are true: Anal does have the possibility of getting messy. Like anything sex related, when you’re swapping bodily fluids, unwrapping condoms, using lube, there’s the potential to stain or make a mess. If you want extra peace of mind, make sure the surface you and your partner engage on is comfortable and washable. “That way, you can focus completely on creating a memorable experience for yourself,” says Danyell Fima, cofounder of Velvet Co.

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                      21. Stay away from numbing creams.

                      Sure, the idea of a numbing cream that protects you from feeling any potential pain during anal is nice, but the risk for injury down the line is not worth it. “Avoid numbing creams. I know they are tempting, but pain is your body’s way of letting you know something is wrong,” says sex educator Wendasha Jenkins Hall, PhD. “If your anus is numb, you can’t tell if any of your activities are causing damage. You can’t feel if you need more lube or if your body is tightening up to the penetration or impact.”

                      22. Try it solo first.

                      Take any pressure to perform off yourself by trying penetrative anal sex alone first. Get a toy and a condom (for easier cleanup) and go at your own pace. “Solo anal play allows your body’s sensations and responses to flow more freely, helping you gain a much better understanding of what feels good and what doesn’t, which you can then share with a partner before you try anal sex together,” explains Jess O’ Reilly, resident sexologist at Astroglide.

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                      23. Don’t try it if you don’t want to.

                      There’s a big difference between “I don’t necessarily fantasize about this but I want to blow my partner’s mind” and “I would rather die than do this but I guess I can suffer through it because they've been pressuring me.” If you’re in a mutually caring, healthy relationship (with someone who goes down on you for half an hour, minimum), maybe you’ll want to do it for your partner or you won’t. Either way is a hundred percent fine, and if they keep pressuring you when you have made it clear that it is not on the table, they're not someone you should be sleeping with.

                      24. Try out non-penetrative anal play first.

                      Before embarking on the full monte of penetrative anal sex, you can—and should!—give lighter anal play a try. This is open to interpretation and could mean anything from toys to fingers or mouths. It’ll give you a lower-pressure idea of what the ~sensations~ of anal stimulation feel like and is a way of working up to the big show. Or not! If you decide some light anal play is all you’re interested in, camp out there forever. No rules here, except to use lube, have consent, and USE LUBE.

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                      25. If it hurts, stop!

                      Some, well, let’s call them new sensations are to be expected—a lot of people say it feels like they need to poop or like a primal, pressure feeling. But like any other sex act, if things start to hurt in a way that’s no longer fun, you should stop. Injuries from anal sex are possible but super rare. Pain most commonly comes from anal fissures, or little tears in the tissue around the anus, which is very thin and delicate. A good way to remedy that is using lots of lube and smarting with smaller objects, rather than big ones.

                      26. You might bleed a little.

                      As always, if you’re bleeding profusely or persistently (like for longer than an hour), you should call a doctor. But a little blood during anal play or sex isn’t abnormal. Partha Nandi, MD, a gastroenterologist and health editor with WXYZ-TV in Detroit, tells Cosmopolitan.com the most common reason for bleeding after anal sex is anal tears—small tears or fissures in the delicate anal canal tissue. Before you freak out at the thought of “anal tears,” know that most of these are so tiny you won’t even feel them, and a lot of them don’t produce any blood at all. But, like snowflakes, no two anal tears are the same, so yours may bleed a bit. These little guys should heal within a few days but may cause a bit of mild discomfort when you’re pooping.

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                      Another really common cause is a hemorrhoid (yup, we’re talkin’ hemorrhoids, folks) you didn’t know about. This is a bit more alarming, because a hemorrhoid holds a bunch of blood inside. You’ll probably feel some level of discomfort or pain if you have a hemorrhoid, and if it bursts, you’ll definitely see some bleeding that should totally subside within a few days.

                      27. You’re gonna wanna be vocal during this process.

                      Even if you’re normally very quiet during sex, this is a time you’ll wanna speak up—especially your first time trying it out with a new partner. Tell them if they’re going too fast (or too slow), if you feel like you’re literally about to poop everywhere or if you’re experiencing pain/discomfort. Also, tell them if it feels good! If you’re feeling nervous, chances are your partner is too. Positive feedback—we love it!

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                      28. Throw other stimulation into the mix.

                      Listen, they don’t make those wild-looking, three-pronged sex toys for nothing. Once you’re in the groove of things, add in some clit stimulation, some vaginal stimulation, or heck, all three. Some people say this combo feels overstimulating in the best way. In any case, most women need some combination of stimulation to orgasm—whether that’s clit/vaginal, or anal/clit+vaginal is totally subjective. But isn’t it fun to learn new things about your own orgasms?

                      29. Even if you’re monogamous, a condom is probably a good idea.

                      It prevents bacteria from the bowels spreading anywhere. (I know, you really wanna fuck now.) Sexpert Emily Morse advises keeping baby wipes on the nightstand and to “never use the same condom going from vaginal to anal and back again.” For obvious reasons/poopy vagina.

                      30. The right lube is twice as important as it is when having vaginal sex, which is already super important.

                      You might have heard that too much lube takes away the friction that makes it feel good for the dude. That’s bullshit. There is no such thing as too much lube, because it makes it feel slightly less like you are using your butthole as a handbag for a flashlight.

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                      31. Between thin water-based lubes and thicker ones, go with the thicker ones, because they don’t dry out as quickly.

                      In sex educator Tristan Taormino’s crazy-helpful Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women, she mentions that Crisco has been a favorite of the LGBTQ+ community for a long time, but it’s bad to use with condoms because it can eventually poke tiny holes in the latex.

                      The oil-based ones are also pretty annoying to get off afterward. We used Vaseline, but my boyfriend later realized that it deadens sensation on the skin, which was obviously helpful for my asshole but bad for his orgasm. So maybe don’t do that or start with a bit of that but then switch, because it’ll take really long for your partner to come, if they even can.

                      32. Getting the tip in hurts the most, because the head of the penis is the widest part.

                      Once you’re past that and up to the shaft, it’ll feel a little better. Remember how painful it was receiving vaginal sex for the first time was (at least, for some of us)? It’s the same deal here since oftentimes the head of the penis is wider than the rest. Take things v-e-r-y slow and breathe through the insertion—it gets a little better after the initial poke!

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                      33. Relax your PC muscles as much as possible.

                      Relaxing and constricting the pubococcygeus (PC) muscles is like the anal version of doing Kegels. You can worry about that later on—right now just let your butthole muscles go, like you’re about to poop (you won’t, probably).

                      34. You’re going to freak the fuck out that you’re pooping but you’re not.

                      Honestly, it becomes hard to tell if you are or aren’t, but you’re probably not gonna poop. If there’s a little bit of poop, as my partner said, it’s not a big deal, because “[he] asked for this.” (There wasn’t.)

                      35. You can lie flat on your stomach, get in doggy-style, or do missionary—and that is the order of what will hurt the least to the most.

                      At least, in my (minimal) experience. You can tear your anus if you use a certain position that allows for more penetration before you're ready, and Taormino points out that the missionary position allows for the least clitoral stimulation and suggests receiver-on-top for beginners. “Insertive partners who are inexperienced, nervous about how to penetrate their partners anally, or fearful of hurting their partners may find this position most relaxing because the receiver can do much of the decision-making and work.”

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                      Don’t worry about disappointing your partner by wanting to go slow and gently. You’re not being a buzzkill who’s squashing their porn-influenced fantasies of pounding the shit out of a butt. You are being an awesome and selfless (if butt sex is not on your list of must-have sex) partner.

                      36. If you despise it, never do it again.

                      It shouldn’t take you a few hellish rounds to finally decide it’s not for you. If you hate it, you hate it, and that is fine. I didn’t hate it, and it was psychologically gratifying to watch my partner’s mind being blown. I’d do it again as a “special occasion” thing, like on our anniversary...or Flag Day.

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                      This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.