Second Opinions: Anal Sex

Anal sex is one of the last taboos in the bedroom, which is exactly why it's tantalizing to some and sordid to others. The anus, which is loaded with nerves, is a pleasure center often ignored by the heterosexual set, usually because there are several misconceptions surrounding the act. Many women fear anal sex will cause hemorrhoids and permanent stretching '- forcing them to spend the rest of their lives in adult diapers. But if it's done gently and safely, anal sex won't cause bodily harm and can be powerfully arousing. If you're curious about anal sex or if it's something your partner is interested in exploring, here's how to make it the safest and most enjoyable experience possible.

Get clean
You've probably been taught from an early age that the anus is dirty, but a regular hygiene routine '- showering daily and wiping thoroughly after each bowel movement '- can keep the area clean. "It's also best to have a bowel movement before anal sex," suggests Tristan Taormino, author of The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women. If you're not feeling the urge to evacuate '- because who can go on command? '- an enema may be employed. While not a necessity, enemas can flush the system and better assuage those wary of fecal contact. After going to the bathroom but before having sex, clean the area thoroughly with soap and water.

Lubricate, lubricate, lubricate
Unlike your vagina, your anus doesn't have its own natural lubrication, so using a long-lasting water-based lubricant such as Astroglide gel is key to making the practice pleasurable. Lubrication is also important because it reduces friction during penetration, which could cause the fragile tissues of the anus to tear, allowing sexually transmitted diseases to enter. Before sex, apply lubricant to the outside of and just inside the anus, suggests Gloria Brame, PhD, a clinical sexologist in private practice in Athens, Georgia. You should also lube up the object that will enter you, such as fingers, a sex toy or a penis, to make insertion much more comfortable.

Use protection
"Anal sex is safe, but you have to take certain precautions," says Hilda Hutcherson, MD, author of What Your Mother Never Told You about Sex. If you are not sure about the STD status of your partner (and you should be), use protection '- a lubricated latex or polyurethane condom '- a lubricated latex or polyurethane condom during anal sex. Also, never go directly from anal sex to vaginal or oral sex unless you change condoms or clean yourself off in the shower. "You don't want to take bacteria from the anus and put it in the vagina, because it can cause an infection," explains Hutcherson. Be conscious of which fingers or apparatus have been placed in the anus, and make sure to keep them clear of the eyes and mouth as well.

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