sex

'Use the bathroom first.' 5 things I wish I'd known before having anal sex for the first time.

I am a 24-year-old woman. I’ve had both good and bad anal sex.

Growing up in a conservative Muslim family, I was taught that anal sex was sinful and completely off-limits, even in the context of marriage. In my mind, this blanket prohibition gave the idea of anal intercourse a special erotic appeal.

Once I reached adulthood and rejected the constraints of my religious upbringing, I became interested in actively exploring this aspect of my sexuality. For so long, it had been forbidden fruit.

However, my first few experiences of anal intercourse were painful and unpleasant.

How to have better sex. Post continues after video. 

I lost my ‘anal virginity’ to an ex-boyfriend. While we were having doggy-style vaginal sex, he pulled out and then penetrated me anally without discussing his intentions first. Essentially, he took me by surprise. Although his penis was lubricated, the result was uncomfortable, stressful, and awkward.

Attempting anal sex without consent is disturbingly common. Unfortunately, research suggests my experience was far from unique. Consent and mutual enjoyment are not always a priority for men attempting anal sex with female partners.

In one study published in BMJ Open, many participants seemed to take for granted “the idea that women would generally not wish to engage in anal sex, and so would need to be either persuaded or coerced.”

Some men adopted “a ‘try it and see’ approach, where they anally penetrated a woman with their fingers or penis and hoped that she would not stop them.” (This is what my ex-boyfriend did.)

Others even framed their penetration attempts as “accidental slips”, which may have enabled them to gloss over the possibility that the penetration was calculated and non-consensual.

Researchers observed that disappointingly, “initial anal sexual experiences were rarely narrated in terms of mutual exploration of sexual pleasure.”

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Instead, the common portrayal of anal heterosex seemed to involve “men breaking women’s resistance” in a form of “conquest.”

Considerate communication can make a world of difference. As a woman who was genuinely curious about exploring anal sex, I found it a shame my ex-boyfriend didn’t see fit to talk about the act before he attempted it with me.

Maybe to some extent, he was ignorant about just how uncomfortable unplanned anal sex could be — but considerate communication could have helped make anal sexual exploration an interesting, playful new adventure for both of us. By contrast, because I wasn’t consulted beforehand, I felt less like an equal member of a sexual partnership, and more like my body was being used.

On the other hand, my first truly positive experience of anal intercourse took place much more recently. I tried it with a respectful partner who places as much importance on my pleasure as he does on his own.

Talking about the act beforehand, preparing it for both physically and psychologically, and taking things slowly made a world of difference to my enjoyment.

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Image: Getty.

I wanted to share what I’ve learned from my most recent, positive anal sex encounters, because I believe it’s important to resist the normalisation of coercion and unwanted pain.

The study in BMJ Open found that “women experiencing pain [during anal sex] were often depicted as naïve or flawed.” Many men viewed pain as “inevitable” for women, and “less painful techniques (such as slower penetration) were rarely discussed.”

Moreover, findings published in the international reproductive health journal on contraception suggest a scarcity in information about anal sex gained via formal avenues, such as school education or health care providers.

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In light of this, if we are to create a culture where those interested in anal sex can explore it safely, we need open discussion about this often stigmatised topic.

In my personal experience, certain conditions had to be met for mutual enjoyment of anal sex could occur.

If you’re considering trying out anal sex with your partner, feel free to bookmark this article and discuss each of the points below to ensure you’re both on the same page.

1. Ensure explicit, mutual consent.

In an ideal world, this one should be so obvious it would go without saying. However, since research points to the normalisation of coercion as a significant issue, I think it’s a crucial first point to raise.

To enjoy anal sex, both parties need to be fully willing participants.

Have a conversation to explore why anal sex appeals to you.

In his article The Psychology of Anal Sex, Joe Duncan describes some possible motivations for engaging in the act.

“In a very real way, for some, anal sex is their way of saying, ‘I enjoy you so much that I want you to have all of me,’ or the inverse, ‘I enjoy you so much that I want to have all of you — nothing disgusts me.’ "

One participant in a focus group study published in The Journal of Sex Research described a friend who enjoyed oral–anal stimulation because “she felt like a goddess, like she was being worshipped.”

Another described enjoying her partner’s willingness to violate a social taboo, interpreting it as an expression of love and devotion: “If he’s gonna [sic] lick my butthole, he totally loves me.”

For me and my current partner, anal sex is a physical expression of our complete acceptance of each other. I trust him to enter and respect a vulnerable part of me in the same way I trust him with my flaws and secrets.

The knowledge that he enjoys my whole body — and will not shame me or express revulsion at an aspect of me — is a massive turn-on. For him, the taboo nature of anal sex makes it sexually appealing.

For a truly intimate experience, discuss the erotic appeal of anal sex with your partner before you decide to enact it.

Confirm both parties are fully on board.

I enjoy anal sex with my current partner, but it’s a voluntary act of intimacy — not a necessity. He never assumes I want it; he asks me how I feel about it every time.

When I’m not in the mood for anal sex, I don’t hesitate to decline it, and he remains equally understanding and accommodating. This is what complete acceptance of another person entails.

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Honouring someone’s “no” is a beautiful indicator of acceptance; coercing them into intercourse is the total opposite. Even when I choose not to participate in anal sex, my partner shows me I am completely loved, in my whole body and being.

Interestingly, that is also the feeling I get from anal sex with him, and it’s that underlying feeling which makes me enjoy it all the more. Importantly, I know I have the freedom to say “no”, and that “no” will be respected.

It is absolutely okay if anal sex holds no physical or psychological appeal whatsoever for you personally. There are many ways in which you can express your connection to another person — and anal sex does not have to be one of them!

Genuinely connecting with a partner — as opposed to using their body to selfishly satisfy your own desires — means being mindful of their individual preferences and boundaries. A willingness to understand and respect each other’s needs is a loving act in itself.

Discuss the possibility of psychological pressure.

Shannon Ashley, writing about her own experiences of anal sex, has described finding “an overwhelming number of articles about anal sex which were shaming women into submission, playing up the idea that women who have anal sex are more fun, sexy, and confident.”

But there is nothing fun or sexy about feeling compelled to give in to cultural pressure, or being subjected to a pushy partner’s selfishness.

“Nobody talked about what to do if you had a more self-centred partner who wanted you to comply in every way so they could achieve orgasm but ignored your needs,” writes Shannon. “We still need to acknowledge that too many women are groomed to say yes — often to their own detriment.”

The study in BMJ Open found that “even in otherwise seemingly communicative and caring partnerships, some men seemed to push to have anal sex with their reluctant partner.” In the focus group study published in The Journal of Sex Research, desiring to please a sexual partner was the most commonly cited reason for women acquiescing to anal sex. In some instances, this desire to please took precedence over their own physical pain.

If you are both going to enjoy anal sex, you need to be equal partners in sexual decision-making. If one of you happens to be more enthusiastic about anal sex than the other, make sure that your partner doesn’t feel obliged to please you. Take the time to ask them what they really want, and make it clear that you respect their right to decline.

This leads us on to the next condition of mutually enjoyable anal sex.

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2. Agree to stop at any time.

Before I met my current boyfriend, I’d enjoyed being fingered anally and I’d fantasised about anal sex. However, this didn’t automatically translate to enjoying being penetrated anally by my ex-partners.

I had several excruciating experiences where it felt like my butthole was burning.

I was still curious about anal sex and wanted to explore it further, but I could only comfortably do so with a partner who — when asked to stop — would stop immediately without becoming resentful.

Worryingly, the study in BMJ Open revealed that “a verbal ‘no’ from the woman did not necessarily stop anal penetration attempts.” Such behaviours are gross examples of boundary violation, and we must keep challenging them.

Feeling safe made my anal sex life possible. When my current boyfriend and I were initially discussing trying anal intercourse, one of the sexiest things he said to me was: “I don’t want you to feel pressured into it just to please me… I won’t enjoy it if you’re not enjoying it. We can stop whenever you need to.”

If we were going to embark on this journey, then we would embark on it as a team, receptive to each other’s needs all the way.

I felt totally safe with my partner, and that’s what made our anal sex life possible. Joe Duncan suggests that for those who do not enjoy pain, engaging in anal sex can be a deep expression of trust. The person doing the penetrating similarly upholds that trust, acting in a way which communicates, “If you allow me to pleasure you in a way that could hurt you, I will not — I will be patient, gentle, and consider your wants and needs.”

That also means cooperating with a partner whenever they want or need to stop, and respecting their wishes if they choose not to repeat the act.

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Consent is an ongoing process, and you have the right to withdraw it at any time — even permanently, if you so choose.

If your partner wants to try anal sex with you, don’t take it for granted that they will enjoy it, or necessarily even want to continue once you start.

As Shannon Ashley states: ‘There’s nothing wrong with you if you try it [anal sex] and ultimately don’t like it.’

3. Plan and prepare for the act.

Personally, I do not like being taken by surprise when it comes to anal sex.

Prepare by using the bathroom.

If my partner and I feel like engaging in anal sex, we’ll discuss this verbally before we get to bed. If I know what to expect, I have adequate time to prepare myself.

For example, as the receiving partner, I can make sure I’ve used the bathroom ahead of time so that my rectum is empty. I can also rinse and soap up my perianal area sufficiently well so that I feel absolutely clean. It’s as much of a psychological need as it is a physical one.

Otherwise, if anal sex is sprung on me before I’ve triple-checked I’m completely clear, this is a surefire way to ensure I’ll hate every second and struggle to stay present.

Once my boyfriend and I have talked about anal sex and it’s on the cards, then I’ll be the one to initiate at the time that I feel most ready for it — usually soon after I’ve used the bathroom. This is the system that works for us!

Although my partner is very kind and would never humiliate me even if there was some kind of accident, preparing for the act with good hygiene is just as much for my own comfort and peace of mind as it is a courtesy to him.

Use lubrication, and get comfortable.

Another benefit of advance notice is that it gives you time to stock on up lubrication. I would not recommend even attempting anal sex without it.

I don’t think I’m alone in needing time to prepare for anal sex, either. Respondents in the focus group study emphasised that comfortable anal sex rarely happens spontaneously.

In addition to the serious consent issues that arise when you attempt anal sex without planning for it, I think spontaneous anal sex also fails to give you enough time to relax, both physically and mentally.

I’ve found that being sufficiently relaxed and comfortable in your partner’s presence is a game-changer.

Find out more about preparing for anal sex in this episode of Sealed Section. Post continues after audio.

4. Go slowly and gently to aid relaxation.

The focus group participants identified “physical relaxation, facilitated by trusting and feeling comfortable with a partner” as especially important during anal sex. A partner’s approach was seen as a significant determinant of pleasure, and penetration attempts “needed to be gentle.”

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In my experience, I was only able to relax and enjoy anal sex with the right person. In a comment on a draft of this article, Joe Duncan made an excellent point when he stated:

“The giving partner has everything to do with it [enjoyment of anal sex]. While the receiving partner has to relax, get their mind their right place, and so forth, none of that can happen with an impatient giving partner.”

I certainly found this to be true in my own experience. My partner’s willingness to take things as slowly as required gave me a sense of security. The dynamic of tenderness and compassion in our day-to-day relationship translated into a dynamic of tenderness and compassion during anal sex.

Take time to unclench your external sphincter.

I looked up an article about anal anatomy on Gay Men Fighting Aids (GMFA), a British sexual health education website. Their online resources contain a lot of useful pointers which heterosexual couples attempting anal sex can also learn from.

GMFA state that the external sphincter is a muscle that “holds the anal canal in shape.” It’s one “which we can learn to tense and relax at will.”

At the start of anal sex, you can end up contracting this muscle without thinking about it as you feel something enter you — which makes the process more uncomfortable. Therefore, having time to consciously unclench can make a significant difference.

The first time I enjoyed anal sex, my boyfriend entered me gradually, and then for a while, we lay still together holding each other. This gave me time to get used to the sensation of him inside me, and practise unclenching my external sphincter before he progressed to any thrusting movements.

Take time to get used to pressure in the rectum.

One of the most distracting parts of anal sex is the pressure sensation in your rectum following penetration. Usually, you experience pressure in your rectum when you need the toilet. As explained by GMFA, the pressure sends a message to your brain that you need to empty your bowels. This is why engaging in anal sex as the receiving partner can make you feel like you have to use the toilet immediately.

Training your mind to accept this feeling without going into panic mode requires a patient giving partner who is willing to give you all the time you need to adjust.

Knowing that you’ve already used the bathroom also gives you psychological assurance when your rectum reacts automatically to pressure. This is yet another reason why preparation and planning are so important.

Take the time to allow your internal sphincter to relax.

I found that the greatest benefit of taking things at a leisurely, loving pace was a noticeable loosening up of the anal canal as my internal sphincter steadily relaxed itself.

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GMFA say the internal sphincter performs a similar function to the external sphincter, in that it “prevents any unwanted entry or exit to the anal cavity and also holds the anal canal in shape.”

The major difference is that this muscle is controlled by the autonomic nervous system (the system which controls blood pressure, respiration rate and other bodily functions). This makes it harder to learn how to relax it.

In my case, I haven’t yet learned to control my internal sphincter at will. However, by going slowly enough, my partner and I were able to reach a stage where it relaxed of its own accord.

Once this happened, it meant that thrusting, and even exit and re-entry, suddenly became relatively comfortable. My anal passage no longer felt greatly constricted in comparison to my vagina.

In my experience, the most difficult part of anal sex was getting to the stage where my internal sphincter relaxed. After that, having my partner inside me was intensely pleasurable and arousing. But we certainly needed to go slowly to make it to this point.

5. Experiment with more comfortable positions.

GMFA describe the pubo-rectal sling as a “strong supportive muscle that creates the first curve in the rectum.”

When this muscle is poked or pressure is applied to it, it responds by “clamping down to close the rectum”, which can obviously prove painful if you’ve got a penis inside.

To avoid this, GMFA recommend adopting a position which straightens out the rectum more. Such positions could include: “squatting down over the penis; lying on your back or your side with your knees drawn up to your chest; or on your knees bringing your chest as close to the bed/floor as possible.”

Personally, I’ve felt most comfortable while lying on my back and being penetrated anally in the missionary position, but it may require some trial and error for you to find out what works best for you.

Analysis published in The Journal of Sex Research emphasises “the importance of cooperation and communication among partners” for successful, enjoyable anal sex. In contrast to vaginal sex, it seems to require “more planning.”

If we are to resist the normalisation of coercion and create the conditions for mutual enjoyment, then we need more open conversations about both men and women’s experiences of anal sex — positive and negative, so that we can learn from them.

Consent is a must, and mutual pleasure is the goal!

This article was originally published on Medium and has been republished with full permission. 

Tags: anal , features , relationships-tag , rogue , sex
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