Anal Sex Safety: Everything You Need to Know Proper preparation and safety practices can reduce risks associated with anal sex.
If you’re adding anal sex to your repertoire of pleasure, safety needs to be a priority. The cool thing about it — aside from keeping all involved healthy — is that you can be safe without sacrificing satisfaction. We’ll show you how.
What is anal sex?
Think anal sex is nothing more than anal penetration with a penis? Nope. It’s so much more! While penis-in-anus is indeed anal sex, a finger, sex toy, or tongue in the anus counts too.
Anal sex is still something of a taboo, despite the fact that it’s an increasingly popularTrusted Source sexual activity. As more people explore this type of sex, understanding the risks, rewards, and proper strategy is important.
Is anal sex safe?
Anal sex is considered somewhat riskier than other types of sex, but probably not for the reasons you think.
For instance, having anal won’t stretch your anus out to the point of causing anal leakage or anything like that. Promise.
Any type of sex without a barrier increases your risk of contracting or transmitting a sexually transmitted infection (STI). What makes anal play a tad riskier is that the delicate skin of the anus and the tight quarters back there increase the risk of tiny skin tears. What these do is provide more opportunities to transmit STIs.
There’s also the potential contact with bacteria that could potentially lead to other infections, like urinary tract infections (UTIs) or gastrointestinal illnesses, depending on the sort of contact made.
Again, you can pretty much eliminate the risks with some preparation.
Things to consider
We’ll get to anal sex safety precautions in a minute. First, here’s what you need to know beforehand:
1. Unlike the vagina, the anus lacks lubrication
The vagina is a wondrous thing that often lubricates itself when aroused in preparation for sex. The anus — wondrous in its own right — does not self-lubricate. No worries, though, because you can buy lube. All kinds of it!
Lube is a safety and pleasure must-have for anal play. It helps make penetration easier and reduces the risk of skin tears, in turn lowering the risk of infection.
When choosing lube for anal, silicone lube’s thicker consistency is preferred, but water-based lubes — or a hybrid of both — work, too. Both are also safe to use with latex condoms and barriers.
The downside to silicone-containing lubes is that they can degrade silicone toys, so keep that in mind when choosing.
Oil lubes, while great for anal, aren’t safe for use with condoms.
Use lots of lube and reapply often!
2. As with vaginal tissue, tissue inside the anus is more sensitive than tissue outside the anus
External tissue and skin work as a protective barrier to help keep bacteria and other unwanted organisms out of your body — your anal skin and tissue included. The tissue on the inside, on the other hand, is a lot thinner and therefore prone to tearing and bleeding.
As mentioned above, this increases the likelihood of transmitting infections between partners — not just STIs. Even if each person does not have an STI, you can still transmit illness-causing bacteria to one other through those tiny tears.
What You Should Know About Anal Sex
To reduce the risk of injury and transmission of bacteria, use a lot of lube and take penetration slow and steady. Condoms help, too!
3. Like the vagina, the anus has a muscle that must relax to allow comfortable penetration
Consider the anal sphincter your rectum’s bouncer. The best way to get passed it is to relax and be patient. Greasing the bouncer helps, too. (We’re talking about the butt in case you didn’t pick up on it.)
The sphincter muscle needs to be relaxed for anal play to be enjoyable and prevent tearing. Being sufficiently aroused is a good start. You can also help relax tense muscles by taking a hot shower or bath first.
Anal training can help get your backside used to the sensation of penetration, relaxation — and penetration — a lot easier. Wanna try? Check out our guide to anal stretching.
4. Like the vagina, the anus has bacteria
One more time for those in the back: The bacteria living in and around the anus can be easily spread to parts you don’t want it to if you don’t tidy up after play. This includes the genitals, your mouth, your eyes… you get the gist.
To prevent transmission, thoroughly wash anything that makes contact with the anus when you’re done or before moving on to another activity. This includes your hands, genitals, and sex toys.
If using condoms, roll on a new one before switching to vaginal sex or oral. Bacteria from the anus that gets into the urethra can cause UTIs. This goes for a penis, fingers, or sex toy.
Speaking of toys, wash your toys well with soap and water and dry thoroughly before and after use. Use a condom over the toy to keep it clean and if sharing with others.
For more on the right way to clean your toys, read our guide to cleaning and safely storing sex toys.
Frequently asked questions
Here are answers to some common Q’s from folks considering anal play.
Will it hurt?
It could, but if you use lots of lube and take it slow, you should be fine.
A little discomfort is to be expected as your anus gets used to being penetrated. Being aroused and relaxed, and starting small with a finger or small toy, will help you get there.
Is it normal to bleed?
Yes and no. A tiny bit of blood your first time or two isn’t unusual. Same if you have an especially enthusiastic sesh, or don’t apply lots of lube or reapply as needed during your sesh.
All that said, if you experience severe or continuous bleeding, stop what you’re doing and contact a healthcare professional as soon as possible.
Will it affect your ability to poop?
Nope, that’s just a myth. Anal sex won’t affect your ability to poop or to hold it in.
Just a heads-up: You might *feel* like you need to poop when you’re first penetrated or shortly after you finish your romp, but it’s highly unlikely that you’ll have an accident.
Risks of anal sex
Here’s some info on potential risks of anal sex and ways to mitigate them.
Anal sex can transmit the same infections and diseases that vaginal intercourse can, like:
In fact, anal sex has the highest risk of transmitting or contracting HIV compared with other sex acts, especiallyTrusted Source for the receptive partner.
Here’s how to lower the risk of STIs during anal:
Use condoms correctly — every time.
Use lube, lube, and more lube.
Get tested for STIs frequently.
Talk with your partner(s) about STI status and testing.
Consider taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to help prevent HIV infection.
Anal fissure is the medical term for one of the tiny skin tears in the lining of the anus mentioned throughout this article.
Anal fissures are small but can be deep enough to cause severe pain and bright red bleeding during and after anal sex and bowel movements.
Anal fissures usually heal on their own in a few weeks. To help speed things along, take a break from anal play while healing. If needed, take a stool softener to prevent hard poop from irritating the fissure further.
Colon perforation from anal sex is rare but possible. Knowing the signs is important since a perforated colon is a medical emergency.
Head to the nearest emergency room if you experience severe rectal bleeding and abdominal pain following anal penetration with a penis, toy, or other object.
How to practice safer anal sex
Ready to take your pleasure to the backside? Here’s how to do it safely.
1. Talk with your partner(s)
Anal sex isn’t just something you spring on a partner. A convo must be had!
Let them know anal play is something you’re interested in trying and ask how they feel about it. Like with any physical act, you both need to be onboard and consent before going ahead.
Be prepared to accept and respect their choice, even if it’s a no-go. There are plenty of other body parts and sheet-twisting activities to enjoy.
If they’re into it, welcome to the world of backdoor bliss! Remember to set some clear boundaries before going in.
2. Consider an enema
Soap and water will suffice, but if you’re worried about the poo thing to the point that it might interfere with your pleasure, consider using an enema.
An enema pushes water into the rectum for a deeper clean.
3. Cut your nails
Anal fingering is a great way to get started with anal, but clean, trimmed nails are a must. Unkempt nails increase the likelihood of tearing the thin and delicate skin of the anus and spreading bacteria.
Clip your nails, then wash well and scrub under the nails before and after anal.
4. Use a condom or other barrier method
Again, the risk of transmitting STIs is higher during anal, but using a barrier method like a condom greatly reduces the risk.
Be sure to use a new condom if switching to vaginal sex or anal with another partner.
5. Get in position
Most P-in-V sex positions can work for anal, too, with a few adjustments, but these are good starter positions:
Doggy style is an anal sex staple because it gives the penetrating partner easy access and the receptive party the ability to raise or lower their bottom.
Reverse missionary, with the receiver lying on their front and the giving partner on top, is another popular position.
Missionary works best for anal when you use a pillow or wedge to adjust the point of entry.
6. Lube is a must
Let’s hammer home the importance of lube for anal sex safety and enjoyment.
Opt for water-based, silicone, or a hybrid lube if using a latex barrier method. Skip the silicone if you’re incorporating silicone toys. Steer clear of oil lubes if using a barrier.
Use lots and reapply as needed. ’Nuff said.
7. Go slow and check in with your partner during
Jumping into anal without warming up first will have the same sphincter-clenching effect of jumping into a cold lake.
Give yourself time to get amply aroused to help relax those tense muscles and get you primed for play.
To help things along, you can:
masturbate — solo or with a partner
engage in your favorite nonpenetrative moves, like oral or dry humping
show your erogenous zones some soapy love in a hot shower or bath
use a finger, toy, or tongue on the outside of the anus to leave it wanting more
8. Accept there will likely be some poop involved
Yup, poop is a possibility when you’re poking around back there. It’s totally natural and NBD, but we get why you might be worried about it.
The rectum — a marvelous thing — is designed to keep your poop higher up in the colon until you’re ready for a bowel movement.
An enema is an option but not necessary. Having a bowel movement before sex and washing the area with soap and water is just fine.
Put a dark towel or sheet down to keep any mess discreet and off your sheets… or hardwood.
9. Clean up afterward or before you do anything else
Remember that microscopic fecal matter is there even after a thorough cleaning. This makes proper cleanup before and after anal play super important. Especially if you want to move to the vagina, mouth, or another partner after being in and around the butt.
Can anal sex lead to orgasm?
Anal sex absolutely can lead to orgasm, but it can still be incredibly pleasurable if it doesn’t.
Anal play can lead to orgasm a few ways. For receptive partners with a prostate, the stimulation from a penis, finger, or toy can result in body-encompassing O’s. For those with a vulva, anal orgasm happens via indirect stimulation of the A-spot, on the anterior wall of the vaginal canal.
Adding some external stim can lead to orgasm during anal, too. Think touching the clit or getting a HJ at the same time.
And for the partner doing the penetrating, the tight squeeze of the anus around the penis can feel ahh-mazing.
The bottom line
As long as all parties consent, anal sex can open you up to a whole new way of giving and receiving pleasure. To keep it safe and fun, take a little time to prep first so you have everything you need on hand.
How to have anal sex
Many people – whether they are straight, gay or bisexual – enjoy anal sex, some are curious about it and others dislike it.
If you are thinking of trying anal sex for the first time or wondering how to have safe and enjoyable anal sex, this page can help answer some common questions.
Keep in mind that having unprotected anal sex puts you at higher risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) than other types of sex. Using a condom correctly will protect you and your partner.
Using lubricant (lube) along with a condom will help sex feel more enjoyable!
What is anal sex?
Anal sex is sex where a penis, a sex toy or fingers enter the anus. Oral-anal sex is where a person stimulates the anus with their mouth – this is also known as ‘rimming’. Read more about this on our ‘How to have oral sex’ page.
Anyone of any sexuality can enjoy anal sex, whether they are giving or receiving it.
How do you have anal sex?
When you first explore the anal area it can feel strange, so start slowly.
If you decide to try penetrating (entering) the anus, touching and caressing it can help you relax. This is important because the sphincter (a muscle in the anus) needs to relax so that penetration is comfortable.
Use lots of water-based lubricant and start by penetrating a little. Then, pull out completely. When your partner is ready, penetrate further and then pull out again. Continue this until you are in. Listen to your partner and be ready to stop at any point if they are uncomfortable or in pain.
Anal sex can feel good for both the person giving and receiving it, but it can also take a while to get to that stage. Your experience might not be perfect the first time, so be patient.
Is anal sex painful?
Anal sex might be uncomfortable or even painful if you rush into it, especially if it’s your first time.
There are things you can do to reduce pain. These include:
making sure you and your partner feel relaxed
starting off slowly
using lots of water-based lubrication
starting with objects such as fingers or sex toys
talking with your partner so you know what works for you both.
If you feel it is too uncomfortable or painful, you should stop immediately. Just because you have started something doesn’t mean you need to continue.
Can I get pregnant from anal sex?
It’s not possible to get pregnant from anal sex because semen cannot get from inside the anus to the vagina, but there is a chance of semen leaking out of the anus and into the vagina after anal sex, which could lead to pregnancy. Use condoms to protect yourself against STIs and pregnancy.
Should I have anal sex?
Before you try anal sex, make sure you and your partner are comfortable with the idea. If one of you is not interested or ready, it is important to respect this. Read ‘Am I ready for sex?’ to help you think about it. Remember: it is okay if you want to try it and then change your mind!
How do I stimulate a man’s prostate gland?
Many men have nerve endings in their prostate which is between the bladder and the penis. They might enjoy having it stimulated during anal sex. You can stimulate it with a finger or sex toy in the anus. However, there are lots of blood vessels in and around the prostate and it can bruise if handled roughly, so be gentle and use lots of lube.
Can I get STIs and HIV from anal sex?
Unprotected anal sex carries a higher risk of getting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) than other kinds of sex. This is particularly the case if you are receiving anal sex. This is because the lining of the anus is thin and tears easily, making you more vulnerable to infection.
There are simple steps you can take to protect yourself and your partner.
Condoms protect you and your partner during anal sex. You can use an external condom (also called a male condom) or an internal condom (also called a female condom) which is inserted into the anus before sex. Some people feel safer using extra-thick condoms for anal sex. You should also put condoms on any sex toys you use and change condoms between partners. Dental dams can protect you during oral-anal sex.
Take pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)
PrEP is another way to prevent HIV infection, but remember: it does not protect you or your partner from other STIs. Also, PrEP may not be available everywhere.
A good water-based lube helps to make sex comfortable and to prevent damage to the anus. Oil-based lube (like baby oil or Vaseline) can weaken condoms and make them more likely to break.
Always wash your fingers, penis or sex toys when switching from anal to other types of sex. If you are using an external condom, make sure you use a new one if you move from anal sex to vaginal or oral sex. This is important so that you don’t introduce bacteria from the anus to the vagina or the mouth when you move from one area to another.
Some people clean their anus before anal sex because they want to be sure there is no faeces (poo). If you do this, only use water or a mild soap and be very gentle. Otherwise, you might tear or scratch the anus, which can put you at higher risk of STIs.
See a healthcare professional straight away if you’ve had unprotected anal sex and are worried about STIs. You may be able to take post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) to prevent HIV infection, but you must take it within 72 hours for it to work. Remember: PEP is not a replacement for condoms and is not available everywhere.
Knowing your HIV and STI status helps protect you and your partner. Have regular tests for HIV and other STIs so that you can get any treatment you might need. If you have HIV and are taking treatment, the level of HIV in your blood can become undetectable. This makes it impossible for you to pass on the virus.
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