Despite what movies and pop culture may have you believe, it's not optimal or totally realistic to just spontaneously jump into anal play without doing some prep work first. And we're not just talking short-term, empty-your-bowels-take-a-shower-and-buy-some-lube prep work, but, like, setting aside a few weeks—or even months—to work your body towards being physically prepared for backdoor sex.
This process is also called anal training, and is basically a series of exercises meant to prepare the anus for those interested in anal play, says Janet Brito, a clinical psychologist and certified sex therapist in Hawaii. As fun as it is to imagine your ass lifting weights, the "exercises" are really more about putting things (fingers, toys...) in there slowly and letting them stay for short periods of time (based on your comfort level), in order to gradually expand the anus for anal play involving larger toys or a penis.
If you're curious about anal training, here are some tips:
1. Basic training never hurt anyone.
Not sure if anal training is for you? If you're curious about butt stuff, you really can't go wrong with training, which is basically prep work for anal sex or other butt stuff, explains Nicola Relph, owner of Adult Toy Mega Store.
2. It might be a good idea to try it alone before you do it with a partner.
Dipping into anal play alone can help you get an idea of what to expect and better understand which sensations are most pleasurable for you. Plus, as Candice Smith, co-founder and partner at sex toy delivery box service TheKinkKit adds, this can also take away any pressure to "perform" for your partner.
3. If you are doing it with a partner, don't go silent.
Make sure you keep the lines of communication open, says Smith. It can be tempting to get quiet and focus on what's happening, but if you're the receiver and your partner is practicing on you, you'll want to keep talking throughout the process so they know where you're at and how it's feeling.
4. If you want, you can try to poop and/or take a shower beforehand.
If you're concerned about any potential mess, the risk is actually pretty low, as Evan Goldstein, DO, previously explained to Cosmo. If you eat healthily and have regular poos, it should be enough to keep your anal canal clean, since stool doesn't just wait an inch from the gates until you're ready to move it out. Stool actually hangs out higher in your body, above the anus and rectum in a section known as the sigmoid colon, Dr. Goldstein says.
5. You'll likely need time, so be patient with yourself.
This isn't something that can be sorted out in a three-hour binge one Friday night just because you feel like it. Anal training implies going back and keeping the routine up so that you can gradually take on larger and larger fingers or toys in order to graduate to a penis or dildo.
So, if you're using an anal training kit, don't feel pressure to work your way through the whole thing ASAP. It could take a week or longer before you work your way up a size, explains Danny Garrett, a sex and relationship expert for theenhancedmale.com. "There’s no set timeline to follow—it's about what's comfortable for you," he adds.
6. Get your lube sitch sorted out prior.
TRULY, go overboard with the lube. While your vagina self-lubricates, your anus does not, which means any anal activity will be suuuuuper painful (not to mention potentially harmful if you tear your skin and it gets infected!) if you don't have lots of lube on hand.
Smith recommends silicone lube over water-based when it comes to butt stuff, as silicone tends to last longer. BUT, you can't use silicone with silicone-based toys as it degrades the material.
7. Having an orgasm before also helps!
Fun fact: This gets your sphincter to relax and enjoy things more, according to Smith. Don't need to tell me twice!
8. Start with your own digits first.
Your pinky finger, up to its first knuckle, is a good starting size for practicing insertion, explains Garrett. Once you're comfy with that, you can gradually work your way up to more girthier fingers, like your thumb.
9. Avoid bulbous things for now.
If you are going the toy route, go with a smaller size first. You don't want to run before you can walk, Relph says. Try a butt plug that's wider than your fingers.
Make sure the toy has a flared base so it doesn't get lost in your rectum, which can result in a not-so-fun ER trip. The larger the base, the easier the toy will be to control, explains Relph. She also recommends staying away from toys that are too bulbous in the beginning, as you want to take it slow.
10. Breathe deeply and slowly.
Not only is this a good idea in general, but not doing so could actually have a negative impact. "If you tense up, the two muscles of your sphincter will automatically tense, which could cause you pain," adds Smith. Not helpful if the goal is to get something in there!
11. Don't thrust!
No need to jackhammer. You're taking things slow, remember? "Just be very gentle and feel your muscles as they stretch. Lube up the object and slowly insert it into the anus. Emphasis on the slow." Relph explains. "This isn't the time to be thrusting!"
12. Listen to your body. If something hurts, stop.
"Even with lube, it is possible to tear the lining of the rectum, so the name of the game is to go slowly and listen to your body," adds Smith. "Resistance is your body's way of saying it's not ready yet to accept more of the toy." It's okay to be a pain weenie in this sense—it's better to be safe than sorry.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.