There’s only one way to dispel a taboo, and that’s by talking about it. We know that talking about sex is still taboo in some communities. Yet, understanding our sexuality and sexual preferences remains an important aspect of our lives.

One topic that needs more conversation, especially in certain communities, is anal play (or anal stimulation). There are some misconceptions about who engages, for what reasons, and with whom. However, regardless of one’s gender, sexual orientation, or relationship status, folks are interested, curious, and have questions.

What is anal play?

For starters, there are a variety of ways you can receive pleasure by stimulating the area around the anus without any penetration. Anilingus is oral stimulation of the anus (“eating the booty”) and rimming, which includes using the mouth, tongue, and lips, can lead to an increased and intense amount of pleasure. Penetrative activities can include the use of fingers, fists, toys, or a penis that is inserted into someone’s anus for sexual pleasure and enjoyment.

There are a host of beginner guides that can be found online, depending on your interests. You should also talk to your partner about what you want and gauge their interests. Sexual communication plays an important role in having enjoyable and pleasurable sexual experiences with your partner(s).

In addition to communication, here are a few things to consider to enhance comfort: proper hygiene, safety, arousal, and aftercare. Let’s walk through each of these briefly.

Hygiene

Cleanliness is key. If you feel you need to have a bowel movement, go ahead and get that out of the way before bathing or showering. Some folks (Type A folks, you know who you are) may want to take an extra step which involves using an enema or anal douche). This is totally up to you. If you do decide to douche, make sure it is done a few hours in advance. Hands, mouths, and toys should be clean prior to activity. However, DO NOT brush teeth or floss because this can cause small tears in the mouth and lead to unintended consequences, like the spread of sexually transmitted infections or lead to other infections.

Safety

It is important that you know there are risks associated with anal play and penetration. The anal area is very sensitive to damage and therefore you are more vulnerable to tears, pain, and the presence of blood. Condoms and dental dams are recommended barrier methods to prevent and reduce the spread of infections. Another aspect of safety is awareness of one’s body and limits. Too much pressure or friction can lead to discomfort and pain. However, it is unlikely that this irritation will lead to the development of hemorrhoids. If someone already has hemorrhoids, and especially if they are painful, it is better to abstain from anal activity until they have healed or are no longer causing discomfort.

Arousal

Since the goal is to have a pleasurable experience, it is important that you are aroused. You must warm yourself up or get ready for any type of anal stimulation. You will also want to be relaxed. Finding a comfortable position can help. If you intend to insert anything into the anus, you should have some lubricant on hand because the anus does not self-lubricate. I recommend that you have Booty Eaze, a soothing gel, or a silicone-based lubricant nearby. Anal trainer kits are another tool you can use to get used to the sensation. Keep in mind, if you are planning to insert an object into the anus, it must have a stopper or plug attached.

Aftercare

When your activity is over, take the time to clean up. This includes cleaning any toys that were used. Relaxation and comfortable positions are also a great idea. Aftercare is an essential component of sexual experiences and can increase intimacy. Use this time to share with your partner what you enjoyed, and perhaps things that can improve future experiences.

If you’ve never tried anal play, it could be the perfect time for you to try something new. It’s more common than most people think with 36% of women and 42% of men in the U.S. saying they’ve tried anal sex at least once. Try out these tips and see if you enjoy it!

Ashley Townes

Ashley Townes

PhD, MPH, Epidemiologist at Centers for Disease Control
Dr. Ashley Townes (she/her/hers), is a native of Cincinnati, Ohio. She attended Walnut Hills High School and the University of Cincinnati, where she received both her Bachelors and Master of Public Health degrees. She received her doctorate degree in Health Behavior and Epidemiology from Indiana University.

Dr. Townes has experience working as a Community Health Educator and Disease Intervention Specialist in Cincinnati and the surrounding areas. She has worked on several initiatives related to the dissemination of national HIV prevention and care campaign materials tailored for African Americans, Hispanic/Latinx, and transgender women of color. Dr. Townes has taught collegiate-level Human Sexuality courses, served as an Epidemiologist at the Ohio Department of Health, and currently works as an ORISE Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention’s Epidemiology Branch at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, GA.

Ashley’s research background includes work on the sexual experiences of African American/Black women accessing health information and utilizing sexual health services. In 2018, she received grant funding from the Patty Brisben Foundation for Women’s Sexual Health to translate sexual health research data into educational materials. Her career interests are aimed at providing quality sexual education and working towards health equity.