5 Myths of Anal Sex Uncovered

Setting the record straight on anal sex

Hilda Hutcherson, M.D. is the author of What Your Mother Never Told You about Sex

Of all sexual acts, anal sex is the most misunderstood. Despite the fact that one out of every four women has engaged in anal sex, the practice remains taboo. Many women are reluctant to experiment with anal sex because of the many myths and misconceptions that surround the practice.

But once you learn the right techniques, it's easy to see why anal sex can be so enjoyable. The anus contains a vast supply of nerves, and is one of our most sensitive erogenous zones. Stroking, massaging, and otherwise stimulating the anus can be intensely pleasurable. In fact, some women are able to orgasm from anal stimulation alone. Here you'll find answers to the most common concerns about anal pleasures:

1. The anus is dirty

Early in our childhood, we are taught that the anus is dirty and should not be touched. Thorough hand washing after accidentally touching this area is stressed. You may also have heard similar sentiments voiced about your vulva and vagina, but of course stimulation of these body parts can certainly provide a multitude of pleasurable sensations.

With routine daily hygiene, the anus is as clean as other parts of your body. It does contain its own natural bacteria, though, and to avoid infections, you must never move anything from your anus to your vagina.

2. Anal sex is painful

Anal sex should not be painful. If it hurts, you are doing something wrong. If you learn the proper techniques prior to experimenting, you may find it enjoyable.

The keys to pleasurable anal sex are relaxation, lubrication and education. The anus is a tube that is one and a half inches long and surrounded by two rings of muscle. One ring, the external sphincter, is under your control. The other, the internal sphincter, will automatically tighten whenever something is pushed into your anus. Relaxing the external sphincter will make anal sex easier and more pleasurable. Your anus does not produce its own natural lubrication, so use lots of water-based lubricants to further increase your pleasure.

3. Anal sex is harmful and unhealthy

Many women fear that anal sex will cause hemorrhoids, fissures or tears. Some even fear that they may become incontinent and spend the rest of their lives in adult diapers. Pleasurable anal sex does not cause harm to your anus or rectum. And as long as your partner does not have a sexually transmitted infection, neither semen nor sperm are harmful to your rectum.

If you are not sure about the sexually transmitted disease status of your partner, use a lubricated latex or polyurethane condom during anal sex. Avoid condoms with spermicides -- they may cause irritation of the sensitive anal and rectal tissues.

4. Anal sex is a perverted, unnatural act

Anal sex has been an accepted sexual practice for centuries. In some cultures, women engage in anal sex with their male partners for sexual pleasure while protecting their virginity. You must decide for yourself what feels natural. If you are uncomfortable with any sexual act, don't do it! You are in charge of what you do sexually.

5. Anal sex is enjoyed only by homosexuals

Long considered a purely homosexual act, anal sex is enjoyed by many heterosexual couples as well. Anal sex is simply another option for sexual gratification and is unrelated to your sexual identity.

Know your anatomy

To better understand anal sex, you need to understand the anatomy of your anus and rectum. With a mirror, and a good light source, take a look at your anus. As you spread your buttocks, you will notice the opening to your anus. Though it appears small and tight, it is capable of stretching enough to accommodate a finger, toy or any size penis. You will notice that the skin surrounding your anus is dark and wrinkled, and contains hair, sweat and oil-secreting glands. The tube-like anus contains numerous nerves and is exquisitely sensitive to touch and stretching. At the top of the anus is the rectum. The five-inch rectum is not straight, but makes several turns. And because the tissue of the rectum is delicate, sharp objects or unusual force can easily damage it. Though not as sensitive as the anus, some women enjoy the feeling of rectal "fullness" that is created during anal sex play.

Want more info? Head over to our Sex & Sexuality message boards to share your thoughts and find out what other women are saying about anal sex and other sexual taboos.

Hilda Hutcherson is a contributing writer for iVillage. Follow her on Google+.

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