Anal Sex

Bottoms Up: An Anal Sex Q & A

Written by: Joshua Gonzalez

Anal sex is not new. In fact, it has been around since the beginning of time. We have numerous artifacts documenting that anal sex dates back as far as the ancient Greeks. Anal sex is enjoyed by people of all cultures, all genders, and all sexual orientations. There’s even evidence that animals routinely engage in anal sex. So, rest assured that it’s as common as it is natural. 

With its pervasiveness in all societies throughout history, it’s unfortunate that there’s so little common knowledge about anal sex. So, in this intro to anal sex, we’re going to take a deep dive and get to the bottom (see what I did there?) of some of the misconceptions and myths about this sex act. Plus, you’ll get a few helpful how-to tips in case you’re considering adding this to your boudoir repertoire. 

What is anal sex?

This may seem like a silly question, but anal sex involves much more than just the insertion of a penis into an anus, even though that’s the most commonly known definition. A broader definition of anal sex can include stimulating the nerves in and around the anal sphincter and prostate with your fingers, your tongue or sex toys like vibrators, butt plugs or dildos.

Rimming, for instance, is the act of using your tongue to stimulate your partner’s anus. This is also called anilingus, and it can be a good way to warm up to anal penetration, or it can be sufficient stimulation on its own.

Pegging, another common practice, is when a man or woman, gay or straight, uses a sex toy or strap-on dildo to penetrate their partner’s anus. Both of these practices are good examples of the broad spectrum of anal play.

There are abundant nerve endings all through the anus and rectum, so you don’t have to go too far to find something that feels good. Even the lightest touch around the anus is enough to drive most people crazy. The feel-good nerves continue into the rectum and are especially sensitive around the prostate (for men) and the clitoris (for women), both of which can be stimulated through the rectal wall.

What is bottoming?

Bottoming refers to someone who likes and receives anal sex. Even though this term is used commonly in the gay community, you don’t need to be gay to enjoy bottoming. It’s a colloquial term, but its meaning can hold quite a bit of significance. It can refer to a person’s total vibe – how they carry themself, their cultural identity, and how they show up in the world.

Bottoming doesn’t mean that you’re submissive. It doesn’t mean you aren’t sexually assertive in the bedroom, either. You could be what they call a power bottom, so don’t fall prey to outdated power dynamics and stereotypes. The person on the top is not stronger or more male and the person on the bottom is not more passive or more feminine. It’s 2022 – it’s way past time to correct society’s archaic thinking on this.

Does anal sex hurt?

There’s no sexual act that should hurt, and anal sex is no exception. To avoid discomfort, the most important item you can have on hand during anal sex is lube. Lots and lots of lube. The anus is less elastic than the vagina, which means it’s tighter and can provide greater pressure and stimulation. However, the anus doesn’t have as much lubrication as the vagina either, which is why lubricant is so important.

Using the right lubricant can help make anal sex a pleasurable experience for everyone involved. Avoid the warming or cooling lubes because they can cause irritation. And, if you’re using sex toys, make sure your lubricant is toy-friendly. Don’t be afraid to use as much as you need – before and during anal sex. When it comes to lube, more is definitely more.

If you do experience pain with anal sex, don’t freak out. It is common, but it’s not necessarily normal. Make sure that you’re communicating with your partner in real time so that you can tell them to go slower or take it easier if necessary. It is possible to be injured during anal intercourse, so be on the lookout for any bleeding or persistent pain.

Over-the-counter products like stool softeners, suppositories or Preparation H can help you heal after an injury. Make sure to abstain from anal sex until the pain and bleeding stops, and if it doesn’t stop or it keeps recurring, make an appointment to go see your doctor to make sure there’s nothing more serious at play.

anal sex

Do I really need to wear a condom during anal sex?

The answer to this is yes, yes and more yes! Even if you can’t get your partner pregnant from anal sex, you still need to wear a condom to prevent STIs like HIV. What we know about safe sex came largely from the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the 1980s. Unprotected peno-anal penetration is considered the riskiest form of sexual activity, so it is extremely important to protect yourself and your partner. Every. Single. Time.

What about poo?

As they say, shit happens. All sex can be a bit messy. After all, there are a lot of bodily fluids involved. That being said, there are some ways to minimize the amount of fecal material present during anal sex. Your body stores most of your feces in the colon, so fortunately, there are generally much smaller amounts located in the anus and rectum.

One of the best things to do to prepare your body for bottoming is to eat a diet that’s high in fiber. Fruits, vegetables, legumes, leafy greens, berries, avocados and whole grains are all naturally high in fiber. Getting your fiber through food is best, but if you have trouble consuming enough fiber in your diet, you may also want to try some fiber supplements, which can come in the form of pills, gummies or powders that you mix into water or juice.

So, what does fiber have to do with anal sex? I’m getting there… A diet high in fiber aids in the complete evacuation of the stool during bowel movements, leaving very little fecal matter behind. If you’re routinely having well-formed stools and regular bowel movements, then all you have to do to prep for anal play is take a quick trip to the bathroom and rinse off.

Many people use anal douches to make sure they’re all clear up there. However, this isn’t totally recommended. While there are some bad bacteria in fecal matter, there are a whole lot of good bacteria that line the entire length of our gastrointestinal tracts. Just like with vaginal douching, too much douche can cause irritation, mucosal injury and disruptions to your bacterial gut biome.

No matter what you do to minimize the messiness associated with anal sex, it’s a good idea to take a few hygienic precautions. Showering before and after sex can help to prevent urinary tract infections, and you should refrain from having vaginal sex right after anal sex. Also, make sure to clean any sex toys that you use with soap and water, or use cleaners designed specifically for toys.

How do I get started?

OK, so you’ve heard the good, the bad and the messy, and you’re like, “Sign me up!” Kudos to you for wanting to try something new. However, if you’ve never engaged in anal sex before, it can be a bit intimidating. My advice is to go slow. Start out by exploring this nether region on yourself or with your partner. Lightly stimulate the area to see what feels good. When you’re ready, try gentle penetration with your finger or a small toy.

It’s always important to be relaxed. Your sphincter muscles are designed to stay clenched most of the time, so it can take a little bit of work and concentration to get them to loosen up. Practice deep breathing while you’re experimenting. And remember, no matter what stage of the anal game you’re at, always keep an open dialogue going with your partner so that you can communicate how you’re feeling.

As you become more comfortable with anal penetration, you can try different positions to find out what works best. For instance, if you want more control over the interaction, then you can try sitting on top of your partner. If you’re looking to make insertion easier then you can try propping your hips up on a pillow or having your partner enter you from behind while you’re spooning or on your hands and knees.

Even though anal sex can be mind-blowing for some, if it doesn’t feel good to you for any reason, then tell your partner and try something else. At the end of the day, any kind of sex should feel good physically, mentally and emotionally. You should never feel pressured or forced to engage in a sex act that you don’t want to do. However, if you find that anal play is a welcome addition to your sex life, then enjoy, and know that you are engaging in one of the oldest pleasures known to man.

Dr. Joshua Gonzalez

Dr. Joshua Gonzalez

Dr. Joshua Gonzalez is a board-certified urologist who is fellowship-trained in Sexual Medicine and specializes in the management of male and female sexual dysfunctions. He completed his medical education at Columbia University and his urological residency at the Mount Sinai Medical Center. Throughout his career, Dr. Gonzalez has focused on advocating for sexual health and providing improved healthcare to the LGBTQ+ community.