Proper preparation and safety practices can reduce risks associated with anal sex.

image of a suggestive looking yellow pearShare on Pinterest
Tetiana Khrol/Getty Images

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.

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 popular sexual activity. As more people explore this type of sex, understanding the risks, rewards, and proper strategy is important.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Here’s some info on potential risks of anal sex and ways to mitigate them.

Transmitting STIs

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, especially for the receptive partner.

Here’s how to lower the risk of STIs during anal:

Anal fissures

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

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.

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:

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.

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.

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.

Adrienne Santos-Longhurst is a Canada-based freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and lifestyle for more than a decade. When she’s not holed-up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking around her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddle board.