6 Myths About Anal Sex, Busted
By Emma McGowan
You’ve heard the hype about anal sex and want to give it a go, but you're a little nervous about the pain factor (among other things). Totally understandable! The truth is, anal sex can be pleasurable and pain-free for many people, but there are also a lot of myths out there that can make the whole experience seem way more intimidating than it needs to be.
So before you write it off as just not for you, we want to debunk some of the biggest anal sex myths so you can make an informed choice and have the best experience possible. You deserve to have the kind of sex you want to have. Armed with the facts, you'll be in the best position (wink!) to determine if anal play is right for your pleasure palette or not.
Myth #1: Anal sex is always painful
A lot of people experience pain during anal sex, but that doesn't mean it has to be that way. One of the biggest myths is that anal sex should always hurt. This just isn't true! With the right preparation and technique, anal sex can be pleasurable.
“If you have the time, dilate prior to anal intercourse. Use a modest-sized toy (I like the Rimming Plug Petite) to train your sphincter muscles and ready them for intercourse,” Bobby Box, certified sex educator and b-Vibe brand ambassador tells Ohnut. “Nobody understands your body like you do, so some solo play to warm up those muscles will definitely make things more comfortable before you engage with a partner who may not (but hopefully will) be just as cautious and considerate with your body.
Once you’re ready to go with a partner, the first thing you have to do is relax. Being tense will only make any discomfort worse. Do some deep breathing to help your muscles relax. Have your partner give you a sensual massage. The more aroused and relaxed you are, the more your anus will naturally loosen up.
Next, “be liberal with lube,” Box says. “Since our bums don’t lubricate themselves, we need to make sure we not only use it, but we use it everywhere: the hole, the toy/penis, and the inside of the rectum using a lubricant applicator.”
Then start slow. Have your partner gently massage the outside of your anus with their finger to help you get accustomed to the feeling. When you're ready, have them slowly and carefully insert just the tip of their finger. Take your time exploring to allow your muscles to relax.
The key is to go at your own pace. Move to the next step only when you feel ready. If at any point you feel pain, stop and give your body time to adjust. Remember, there's no "right" way to have anal sex. Do only what feels good for you.
And if you’re feeling some pain as your partner or toy goes in deeper, know that Ohnut is an option for controlling that depth :)
Myth #2: Anal sex will stretch out your anus
This is a common misconception that prevents many from even trying anal play. The truth is, your anus is very elastic and designed to stretch and contract. While the sphincter muscle around the opening of the anus may feel tight at first, it will relax and loosen during arousal and stimulation. Engaging in anal sex or using anal toys will not cause your anus to become loose or make bowel movements less controlled.
“In most cases, the booty bounces back,” Box says. “Not to mention the concept of ‘tight’ and ‘loose’ is subjective, considering the sphincter muscle is four times stronger than it needs to be in order to properly function. The muscles in your bum are incredibly resilient and will snap back after you’ve engaged in penetrative anal sex.”
- Your anus is surrounded by muscles that can naturally tighten and relax. After anal sex, your anus will tighten back up, just like a vagina does. With regular anal play over time, insertion may become easier as you learn to relax those muscles, but your anus will still function the same way.
- Start with fingers, small toys, or a slender penis to allow yourself to get accustomed to the feeling. Use plenty of lube to minimize discomfort, and go slowly. The key is to relax — if it hurts, you might be tensing up. Take deep breaths and pause as needed.
- Only move up in size or try more vigorous activity as your comfort level increases. There's no need to rush into anything that causes pain. You're in control of the speed and intensity.
Myth #3: Only gay men have anal sex
Anal sex is not just for gay men. Many straight couples incorporate anal play into their sex lives and fully enjoy it. While anal sex may be more commonly associated with gay male couples, people of all genders and sexual orientations engage in and enjoy anal sex.
“Everybody has a butt, meaning everybody can experience anal pleasure if they choose to,” Box says. “It is a universal source of pleasure that’s been marginalized through stigma and homophobia (among other things). The gay community never ‘claimed’ anal sex, we just actively participate in it and aren’t afraid to admit it. As I always say: Butts don’t have sexual orientations, people do.”
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 30-40% of straight cis-women have tried anal sex. Some do it to please their partner, but many women find anal sex pleasurable for themselves and willingly engage in it. Men who have anal sex with women report that it can be an exciting new experience that provides a different sensation.
For some straight couples, anal sex is seen as a way to preserve virginity or prevent pregnancy while still being intimate. However, anal sex does come with risks like transmission of STIs, so protection like condoms should always be used and both partners must give their full consent.
Bottom line: anal sex is not defined by gender or sexual orientation. All that matters is that those participating feel open, comfortable and cared for. Myth busted!
Myth #4: You can't get STIs from anal sex
You've probably heard that you can't get STIs from anal sex. Hate to burst your bubble, but that's totally false. Anal sex actually carries a higher risk of STI transmission than vaginal sex.
- HIV and hepatitis B can be spread through unprotected anal sex. Unprotected anal sex is one of the riskiest sexual activities when it comes to transmitting HIV between partners. Hepatitis B can also be passed through anal sex and other sexual activities.
- HPV and genital warts are easily spread through unprotected anal sex. HPV is a very common STI that often has no symptoms. Certain strains of HPV can lead to genital warts and even cancer.
- Herpes, chlamydia, and gonorrhea can all be transmitted through unprotected anal sex. These STIs often don't show symptoms at first, so you could have one and not even know it. Getting tested and using protection is the only way to lower your risk.
Condoms and dental dams can help reduce the chance of getting an STI during anal sex, but they do not eliminate the risk entirely. The safest way to prevent STIs is to avoid unprotected anal sex altogether or be in a mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner.
The moral of the story? Never assume any sexual act is "safe" when it comes to STIs. The risks are real, so get tested, use protection, and talk to your partner(s) about their status before engaging in anal sex. Your health and your partner's health should be top priorities.
Myth #5: You have to douche before anal sex
Douching before anal sex is completely unnecessary and can actually increase the risk of infection or irritation. Your rectum is self-cleaning, so douching disrupts its natural balance.
“You don’t have to douche prior to anal sex,” Box says. “Some choose to because it makes them more comfortable knowing they’ve thoroughly rinsed the rectum. In most cases, pooping roughly an hour prior to intercourse, hopping in the shower and giving your booty hole a scrub is more than enough. If you want to be extra cautious, slip a finger in and feel around for any pesky lingerers.”
The rectum contains good bacteria that help keep it healthy, and douching washes these away. This can lead to infections like proctitis, an inflammation of the rectum. Douching also washes away the mucus lining of the rectum, which acts as a natural lubricant and protects the sensitive rectal tissues.
Without this lining, anal sex may be more painful or cause small tears. The rectum will replenish its good bacteria and mucus lining over time, but frequent douching prevents this and causes ongoing problems.
The most important things for enjoyable, safe anal sex are communication, relaxation, lubrication and starting slowly. Don't fall into the trap of thinking you need to douche to have anal sex — your body has a built-in system to keep your rectum clean and healthy. Respecting this natural process will help ensure anal play is a positive experience for you.
Myth #6: "Real men" don't have anal sex
This myth is rooted in outdated ideas of masculinity and sexuality. The truth is, anal play can be pleasurable for people of all genders.
Anal sex, pegging, and other anal play activities are enjoyed by many heterosexual and homosexual couples alike. A person’s sexual preferences say nothing about their masculinity or gender identity. Any consenting adult should feel free to explore whatever kinds of sexual activities they find pleasurable without judgment.
- Your sexuality and the kinds of sex you enjoy have no bearing on your worth or value as a person. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to have sex as long as it's safe and consensual.
- Pegging, where a person with a vagina penetrates a person with a penis anally with a strap-on dildo, is becoming more popular and helps dismantle the notion that anal play is only for gay men. People of all genders and orientations can enjoy giving and receiving anal stimulation.
- Communication and consent are key. Speak openly with your partner about any anxieties you have regarding anal play, set clear boundaries, start slowly, and make sure all parties give their enthusiastic consent each step of the way. This can help ensure a positive experience for everyone involved.
In the end, the kind of sex you have says nothing about your masculinity or gender. “Real men” can enjoy any kind of consensual sexual activity they please. Let go of harmful stereotypes, communicate openly with your partner(s), focus on mutual pleasure, and explore whatever kinds of intimacy you find most enjoyable.
“For people with penises, anal-based orgasms are described (and have been verified by research) as much stronger and fuller bodied than those derived from the genitals,” Box says. “Now why would you want to miss out on that?”
So there you have it: the biggest myths about anal sex debunked. The most important thing to remember is that any kind of sex should be safe, consensual, and pleasurable for all parties involved. Don't feel pressured into anything you're not comfortable with, go slow, communicate with your partner, use protection, and make sure to relax and enjoy yourself. Anal play can be a fun new experience for couples, but it's not for everyone and that's perfectly okay! You do you—listen to your body and only do what feels good.