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Davis, California

Friday, February 23, 2024

Column: Rear entry

Today’s topic is a bit sensitive. It involves an act that, as far as your standard magazines tell it, is considered the holy grail of sex by one gender and the bane of existence by the other. An act that women only give up for birthdays and anniversaries and that men must pursue relentlessly. That’s right, everyone, I’m talking about anal sex.

I have two problems with the common view of anal sex. First of all, it assumes — as so many sex cliches do — that the only people having sex are heterosexual couples. Secondly, any representation of a sex act that holds sexual behaviors up as a token to be earned puts me off. Sex, like any relationship, involves compromise. This much is true. But there is a difference between you and your lover taking turns choosing sexual activities and you dangling a given act in front of them like a carrot. There may be some people who have satisfying relationships built on that dynamic, but for many of us it’s not the best approach.

Some of you are probably thinking that I, consummate feminist that I am, am leading up to the advice that you should forget about anal sex altogether. But really, don’t you know me better than that by now? I’m here to tell you that anal sex, done correctly, can be quite pleasurable. Depending on your anatomy, there are various glands and nerve endings that feel really good when stimulated by anal sex. This makes it an excellent addition to your sexual repertoire.

If you are someone who wants to be on the giving end of the act, I want you to consider if you are willing (and I mean willing) to be on the receiving end. Your partner may never take you up on the offer, but the possibility should be there. If this gives you pause, think about why and discuss it with your partner. You may find that they are weighing similar pros and cons, and the discussion will help you decide just how anal sex will fit into your relationship. Oh, and for those of you who think this exchange doesn’t apply to you because your lover does not have a penis, let me remind you of something called a strap-on.

Now, communication is paramount during anal sex. If you are receiving and something is painful, tell your partner to stop. If you are told to stop, stop. That may be the end of anal play for that occasion, or it might just mean you need to re-group. But if you keep going when it’s uncomfortable, you are doing yourself and your partner a disservice. Even if things aren’t painful, feedback is important. Your enjoyment may require that the penetration is slower or faster, shallower or deeper, and your lover can only know this if you tell them how you’re feeling. So check in with each other throughout the process.

A guaranteed way to make anal sex painful is to try having it without properly relaxing the muscles in the area. You may be tense for all sorts of reasons, but if you stay that way the experience will be unpleasant for everyone. So, focus on your breathing and on removing the anxiety from your body (a bit like yoga exercises). If you’re the partner who’s on top, help your lover out. Massage them, paying special attention to their legs and butt. Whisper sweet (or dirty) nothings in their ear to keep them in the mood, as being turned on helps release any tension.

Once you’re relaxed, it’s time to explore without inserting anything large. Try stimulating the outside of the anus first and then working up to penetration with a finger or a small toy. For all of this, wear gloves. This is both for sanitary and comfort purposes, as sharp nails or callouses can cause painful sensations for the receiver. Latex gloves work fine, but if anyone involved has a latex allergy you should look for gloves made from alternate materials, such as nitrile.

Lastly, you can’t have good anal sex without lubrication. Unfortunately, unlike the vagina, the anus is not self-lubricating. So, outside lube is required. The recommended types are silicone-based lubes because they don’t dry out and don’t get too sticky. They do take slightly more effort to clean up but, much like anal sex itself, the extra work is worth it.

SAM WALL had a harder time than she cares to admit finding a printable title for this column. Ask her about it by contacting sewall@ucdavis.edu.

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