One of the neat things about sex (other than the very intense orgasms, ofc) is that there are a whole lotta ways to have it. And while oral sex and outercourse (AKA foreplay) tend to be universally loved, the more complicated “anal sex” usually incites a very mixed array of emotions, especially if you’re new to the concept of butt play. The good news is, there are plenty of expert-advised tips, tricks, and factoids to keep in mind if you want to learn how to have anal sex. And trust us, you do want to learn.
You see, anal sex is an A+ play option because it’s pleasurable for all genders, but it does require a bit more preparation than, say, missionary sex. Since the anus doesn’t self-lubricate like the vagina, you need lube (like, lots and lots of lube) and plenty of foreplay to have good anal sex, explains ASTROGLIDE’s resident sexologist Jess O’Reilly, PhD.
Second, ensuring you’re comfortable talking openly and honestly with your partner is essential when having anal sex, says University of Connecticut health department ob-gyn Shon Cooper, MD. This is because despite what you might have seen in sexy movies or (ethical!) porn, good anal sex—like the type that feels good for both partners—doesn’t just happen. There’s a whole lotta prep work that goes into doing the deed. “Expectations should not be what you see on TV or read about,” says Dr. Cooper. “It’s what you and your partner discuss as expectations and fulfillment during intercourse.”
Between the lube, the chatting, and the foreplay, there’s a lot to keep in mind when exploring butt play. That’s why we’ve conferred with the pros to come up with this all-encompassing anal sex guide. Whether you’re ready to try something new or are just getting your learn on (love to see it), here’s how to have anal—good anal!—and walk away with an unscathed boot-ay.
1. Heat things up with toys or lube.
Warming lube can help heighten pleasure and make you even more comfortable in the moment. “The heat that is created actually helps to bring blood flow to the area and help increase stimulation to the pleasure receptors in the rectum/anus,” Niket Sonpal, MD, previously told Cosmopolitan.
But if warming lubricants aren’t your thing, no big deal. Consider trying a warming sex toy that heats up to just above your body temperature. Similarly to lube, it’ll help relax your muscles and get the blood flowing for what’s to come.
2. Go to the bathroom right after you’re done.
Just like peeing after vaginal intercourse is a must to help prevent UTIs, it’s important to go to the bathroom after anal as well. “During anal sex, there is a displacement of habitant organisms near the anus toward the vagina and urethra, which increases the chances of vaginal infections and UTIs,” says Ankita Gharge, MD. There’s a good chance you’ll probably feel like you have to go to the bathroom anyway.
3. Understand your butt is probably going to queef.
After anal sex, you have now, officially, opened yourself up to the joy of butt queefs. And no, they’re not farts, no matter what anyone says. Very simply, « a queef is a release of air, » says Dr. Jess. « It can sound like a fart, and it can happen during anal penetration because air is being forced in and it needs to escape. »
Unlike frontal queefs, anal queefs might go on for a few hours as the air escapes. You can’t really avoid them, but « the more aroused you are, the less likely you’ll be concerned about specific sounds, » explains Dr. Jess, so just let go and enjoy. On the bright side, you are a human beatbox, and your partner can lay a sick freestyle over the top if they feel so inclined.
4. You have a higher risk of contracting STIs.
Especially those of you who are cis women. Anal sex can increase the risk of STIs, especially if hygiene is not all there, explains Dr. Cooper. In fact, according to her, cis-women are “at least 17 times higher risk of contracting an STD during anal intercourse compared to vagina intercourse.”
While that doesn’t mean you need to steer clear of the booty, it does mean you need to keep things clean and have safe sex (like, with a condom) to protect yourself and your partner.
5. Sit this one out if you have hemorrhoids.
Whether you got them from pregnancy or not shitting for a week after surgery (hi, it’s me), hemorrhoids, which are a pillow-like cluster of veins trouvé(s) near your booty hole, are no fun—and they’re something to consider when having anal sex.
“Hemorrhoids can become exacerbated during anal sex resulting in rectal bleeding,” explains Dr. Cooper. And while a little bit of blood is totally normal (more on that later), if you already know you have hemorrhoids, chat with your doc to find a solution if anal’s really something you want to try.
6. Sorry, but you actually can get pregnant from anal sex.
Kind of. If you’re not quick and thorough with clean-up, you could have a surprise in about nine months. While it’s rare, if your partner ejaculates inside your anus but isn’t careful when they pull out, semen could leak down and get inside the vagina thus resulting in a pregnancy. Additionally, Dr. Jess says if someone ejaculates on you and the semen ends up in the vagina—like from drippage— »you could possibly get pregnant. » Again, it’s rare, but it’s another good reason to slap on a condom (which makes clean up way easier, btw) just to be safe.
7. It’s perfectly fine to have anal sex while you’re on your period.
Even though period sex is one of the pure joys of life for many, if you’re not a fan of blood or you just want to try something new, having anal sex while on your period is kind of amazing.
“Many women report feeling more pleasure practicing anal sex during their periods while wearing a menstrual cup inside their vaginas,” sex therapist Mia Sabat previously told Cosmopolitan. Apparently, the menstrual cup is thought to stimulate the internal walls of the vagina, which can be a v nice addition to the already erotic sensation of anal sex.
8. Stay away from enemas.
If you’re a real neat-freak, you might be tempted to go above and beyond and use an enema prior to anal thinking it’ll make the experience cleaner, but that’s a bad idea. “I highly recommend against the use of enemas,” says Sabat. « While some think enemas make anal play more hygienic, this is a highly misunderstood concept,” she adds. “Enemas bring many negative side effects as they can damage the area, irritate cells in the rectum, generate excess mucus, and cause dryness in the rectal area which can cause fissures and lead to the spread of STIs,” Sabat explains.
9. Please don’t look to pornography’s depictions of anal sex as a model for how you think anal sex should go IRL.
The anal sex you might see in pornography is a fantasy, Sabat says, and “does not reflect how physiology really works.” So if you see jackhammering anally, know that it’s…not what you should be aiming for in any way. “Anal sex should be practiced slowly, carefully, and safely, using a lot of lubricant,” Sabat explains, and most of all, “should be pleasurable for everyone involved.”
10. Make peace with the fact that anal sex is…anal sex.
“Let go of any stigma, shame, or embarrassment surrounding fecal matter,” suggests Sabat. No, you’re not going to be swimming in feces, but steel yourself to not freak out if you do see some. “It’s a natural part of anal play and don’t let it hold you back from enjoying a truly pleasurable experience,” Sabat adds. If you’re curious about anal play, focus on your pleasure rather than the fear of staining or possible excretion, as this can hold you back from enjoying an otherwise pleasurable experience, Sabat says.
She also adds that “unless you have a condition like ulcerative colitis that affects your digestive system, know that [feces] shouldn’t be a problem.” You can try to go to the bathroom to have a bowel movement beforehand, and. Sabat says, if you wash with soap and water (externally) before getting intimate, that’s likely to ensure you encounter “little-to-zero fecal matter.”
11. Relax your whole body.
Foreplay and anal massage can be a great starter for a night of anal, but it’s also important to make sure your entire body is relaxed. Sabat suggests massaging your lower back, caressing your inner thighs, and then slowly working your way up to massage the entrance of your anus.
“The reason it’s so important to stay relaxed, both mentally and physically,” Sabat explains, is “to avoid tensing the muscles in the anal region involuntarily as this can often lead to a negative or uncomfortable experience.” You know your body best, so whatever you have to do to relax your whole body and mind is good here. “Do what feels natural, sensual, and appealing to you at your own pace,” Sabat says.
12. You might feel like you need to fart after, which is normal.
“After anal sex, you may feel like you want to go to the bathroom or experience sensations similar to flatulence,” Sabat says. And while this could feel irritating or slightly embarrassing, as Sabat explains, there’s nothing to worry about if that’s all you’re feeling after safe (that means with a condom!) and pleasurable anal sex. “Anal sex is not dangerous if it’s practiced in a safe and responsible way,” she says. Yes, it requires time and relaxation and some prep work, but if you’re focusing on your pleasure and being safe and clean (AKA not going from anal to vaginal), you should be fine.
13. That being said, if something doesn’t feel right, definitely call your doctor.
« If you find yourself feeling tender or uncomfortable after engaging in anal sex, you should consult your doctor,” Sabat says. Don’t be embarrassed! It might also be a good time to reflect on your technique to see if anything you tried could be the cause of your discomfort, like not enough lube or not taking enough time to relax and get into the moment.
14. Know that anal sex can be romantic and don’t be afraid to lean into that if you want to.
It’s so important to be fully relaxed and aroused before anal. Sabat suggests thinking of a fantasy, reading or listening to an erotic story, touching yourself, or any other self-love activities that can make you feel excited and comfortable to explore. “Remember, it’s okay to embrace the romantic side of this sexual act as well, whether you’re alone or with another person,” Sabat says. You can light candles, play music, or engage in other sensual activities that make you feel comfier and turned on.
15. Anal play can very much be considered pleasurable for someone with a vagina.
While the prostate and P-spot is widely associated as being known for the reason why butt stuff feels so good for prostate and penis-having folks, there are plenty of valid reasons why anal could still be pleasurable for non-prostate having people as well.
There’s not a lot of information on cis-women’s motivations and attitudes on anal play due to a lack of research surrounding the subject (hi science, get on it!), says Amanda Cruz Gerena, counseling psychologist and sex therapist. However, she adds: “The few studies that have centered on pleasure in anal play have trouvé(s) that what some cis women find pleasurable is: the arousing sensation due to wonderful nerve endings, avoiding vaginal sex due to menstrual period, pleasing their sexual partner, the eroticization of pain or discomfort (which is likely related to the ‘forbidden experience’), and arousing feelings of sexual submissiveness.”
Remember, a pleasurable experience can be just as much mental as physical! If you’re turned on by taboos and the power play experience anal can entail, that’s valid too!
16. Know some background about what anal sex entails and some basic ground rules before your first time.
For newbies, you’ll want to prep and get lots o’ lube ready before you go into things. Gerena suggests applying lube directly on the anus, as well as adding lube to what you’ll be penetrating with (be it fingers, a toy, a penis, etc.). Unlike the vagina, the anus does not self-lubricate, meaning you’ll be opening yourself (or your partner up) to potential tears and cuts in the skin as well as a whole lot of pain if you go it unlubricated.
If you’re using condoms and toys, go with a water-based lube, as these are universally condom and toy compatible (oil and silicone-based lubes can deteriorate the material in condoms or toys). “Researching for the right lube is a must,” says Gerena—so don’t assume the ol’ trial-sized bottle of whatever you got from that sex store one time will be fine. It’s worth the prep work to look into a good anal-specific lube if you can.
17. Don’t go from anal to vaginal in one session.
It’s best to avoid going from anal to vaginal sex, says Gerena. Why? Any bacteria trouvé(s) in your stool can increase your risk of acquiring infections like UTIs, bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections, and more. If you absolutely must go from anal to vaginal, “wash the penis, finger, or toy that was introduced in the anus before introducing it in the vaginal canal,” says Gerena.
18. Don’t forget the condoms and dental dams.
Gerena says that dental dams are a good source of protection when you or your partner engage in rimming. Fecal bacteria is no joke, and dental dams are absolutely worth the peace of mind.
19. Try anal training first.
As the saying goes, “Don’t go from 0 to 60 without anal training first.” (Just kidding, this isn’t actually a saying, but it should be.) Going from having nothing up your ass ever to suddenly a whole penis can be jarring (in many ways). You can make it easier for yourself by anal training or gradually introducing larger and larger toys into your anus to “train” your muscles to get used to it.
20. Get your space ready.
The rumors are true: Anal does have the possibility of getting messy. Like anything sex-related, when you’re swapping bodily fluids, unwrapping condoms, and using lube, there’s the potential to stain or make a mess. If you want extra peace of mind, make sure the surface you and your partner engage on is comfortable and washable. “That way, you can focus completely on creating a memorable experience for yourself,” says Danyelle Fima, cotrouvé(s)er of the innovative sex toy company Velvet Co.
21. Stay away from numbing creams.
Sure, the idea of a numbing cream that protects you from feeling any potential pain during anal is nice, but the risk for injury down the line is not worth it. “Avoid numbing creams. I know they are tempting, but pain is your body’s way of letting you know something is wrong,” says sex educator Wendasha Jenkins Hall, PhD. “If your anus is numb, you can’t tell if any of your activities are causing damage. You can’t feel if you need more lube or if your body is tightening up to the penetration or impact.”
22. Try it solo first.
Take any pressure to perform off yourself by trying penetrative anal sex alone first. Get a toy and a condom (for easier cleanup) and go at your own pace. “Solo anal play allows your body’s sensations and responses to flow more freely, helping you gain a much better understanding of what feels good and what doesn’t, which you can then share with a partner before you try anal sex together,” explains Dr. Jess.
23. Don’t try it if you don’t want to.
There’s a big difference between, “I don’t necessarily fantasize about this but I want to blow my partner’s mind,” and, “I would rather die than do this but I guess I can suffer through it because they’ve been pressuring me.” If you’re in a mutually caring, healthy relationship (with someone who goes down on you for half an hour, minimum), maybe you’ll want to do it for your partner or you won’t. Either way is a hundred percent fine.
« You don’t have to do everything in order to enjoy a fulfilling sex life, » explains Dr. Jess. And if your partner keeps pressuring you after you’ve made it clear anal is not on the table (or the bed, or the floor, or wherever), consider if they’re someone you actually want to be sleeping with.
24. Try out non-penetrative anal play first.
Before embarking on the full monty of penetrative anal sex, you can—and should—give lighter anal play a try. « There are so many different ways to pleasure the butt, » explains Dr. Jess. She suggests stimulating the outside of the booty hole with anal toys or butt plugs, or even your fingers to get a lower-pressure idea of what the ~sensations~ of anal stimulation feel like. This can help you physically and mentally work up to penetration before gradually experimenting with insertion—or not! If you decide some light anal play is all you’re interested in, camp out there forever. No rules here, except to use lube, have consent, and use lube again.
25. If it hurts, stop!
Some, well, let’s call them new sensations are to be expected—a lot of people say it feels like they need to poop or like a primal, pressure feeling. But like any other sex act, if things start to hurt in a way that’s no longer fun, you should stop. While lasting injuries from anal sex are possible but super rare, Dr. Jess says most often people experience pain during anal sex because they’re tense, didn’t use enough lube, or inserted too big of an object to start with. This can result in teeny little tears in the delicate tissue around the anus called anal fissures.
« Listen to your body’s signals to know when you’re ready for penetration and start slowly with a small object like a pinky finger, » suggests Dr. Jess. « Incremental experimentation and penetration can lead to more pleasure and amazing orgasms. If you’re the receptive partner (the person who has an object up their rear), choose positions that allow you to control the depth of penetration. »
26. You might bleed a little.
As always, if you’re bleeding profusely or persistently (like for longer than an hour), you should call a doctor. But a little blood during anal play or sex isn’t abnormal. Gastroenterologist Partha Nandi, MD, says the most common reason for bleeding after anal sex is the aforementioned anal tears—small fissures in the delicate anal canal tissue.
Before you freak out at the thought of “anal tears,” know that most of these are so tiny you won’t even feel them, and a lot of them don’t produce any blood at all. But, like snowflakes, no two anal tears are the same, so yours may bleed a bit. These little guys should heal within a few days but may cause a bit of mild discomfort when you’re pooping.
Another really common cause is a hemorrhoid you didn’t know about. This is a bit more alarming because a hemorrhoid holds a bunch of blood inside. You’ll probably feel some level of discomfort or pain if you have a hemorrhoid, and if it bursts, you’ll definitely see some bleeding that should subside within a few days.
27. You’re gonna wanna be vocal during this process.
Even if you’re normally very quiet during sex, this is a time you’ll wanna speak up—especially your first time trying it out with a new partner. Tell them if they’re going too fast (or too slow), if you feel like you’re literally about to poop everywhere, or if you’re experiencing pain/discomfort. Also, tell them if it feels good, Dr. Jess says. Or better yet, show them what feels good (you know, since you practiced on yourself first, right?). If you’re feeling nervous, chances are your partner is too. Positive feedback and teamwork—we love it!
28. Throw other stimulation into the mix.
Listen, they don’t make those wild-looking, three-pronged sex toys for nothing. « Anal sex doesn’t have to mean only anal stimulation, » says Dr. Jess. « Increase overall pleasure by stimulating other hot spots. » Once you’re in the groove of things, add in some clit stimulation, some vaginal stimulation, or heck, all three. Some people say this combo feels overstimulating in the best way. In any case, most women need some combination of stimulation to orgasm—whether that’s clit/vaginal, or anal/clit+vaginal is totally subjective. But isn’t it fun to learn new things about your own orgasms?
29. Even if you’re monogamous, a condom is probably a good idea.
It prevents bacteria from the bowels spreading anywhere. (I know, you really wanna fuck now.) Sexpert Emily Morse advises keeping baby wipes on the nightstand and to “never use the same condom going from vaginal to anal and back again,” because you, obvi, want to avoid spreading leftover fecal matter or bacteria to the vagina.
30. Use more lube than you think.
You might have heard that too much lube takes away the friction that makes anal sex feel good. It turns out, that’s total bullshit. « Lube is your best friend, » says Dr. Jess. « To ensure the most pleasurable and comfortable experience with anal sex, lube is a must. » As for how much to use, Dr. Jess says to « be generous, » and that you’re better overdoing the lube than skimping because when it comes time for penetration, there’s really no such thing as too much. Apply during foreplay, apply just before insertion, and keep applying as you play to keep things comfy.
31. Go with the thicker lubes.
While water-based lube is a *chef’s kiss* choice for vaginal penetration, you might want something a lil slicker, stickier, and stronger for anal. Dr. Jess says most people use silicone-based lubes for anal sex since it’s longer lasting but still latex condom safe (unlike oil-based lubes).
That said, you’ll want to make sure it stays far away from any silicone toys since the lube can actually break those down. She suggests something like Astroglide X Silicone Gel because the lube will last a looooong time and it won’t wash away if you’re having sex in the bathtub (which yup, can be very relaxing during anal since warm water = soothing vibes).
32. Getting the tip of the toy or penis in hurts the most.
This is because the tip/head of the penis is the widest part. Once you’re past that and up to the shaft, it’ll feel a little better. Remember how painful it was receiving vaginal sex for the first time was (at least, for some of us)? It’s the same deal here since oftentimes the head of the penis is wider than the rest. Again, Dr. Jess says to take things v-e-r-y slow and breathe through the insertion—it gets a little better after the initial poke!
33. Play around with positions.
Don’t just stick with one position if it’s not doing the job. Typically, lying flat on your stomach, getting in doggy-style position, or trying missionary are some common go-to’s. That said, sex educator and author of the crazy helpful Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women, Tristan Taormino, points out that the missionary position allows for the least clitoral stimulation and suggests receiver-on-top for anal beginners. “Insertive partners who are inexperienced, nervous about how to penetrate their partners anally, or fearful of hurting their partners may find this position most relaxing because the receiver can do much of the decision-making and work.”
Don’t worry about disappointing your partner by wanting to go slow and gently. By easing into anal and communicating along the way, you’re laying the groundwork for better, hotter sex down the line, both anal and otherwise.
34. Relax your PC muscles as much as possible.
Relaxing and breathing is essential to enjoying anal sex, Dr. Jess says, and learning how to control the muscles in and around your anus is major. « Though you can easily control your outer sphincter muscle with your central nervous system (the same system that allows you to contract and the other muscles in your body at will), your breath can help you to relax your inner sphincter muscle which is controlled by the autonomic nervous system, » Dr. Jess explains. « Just as deep breathing and other relaxation techniques can help to slow your heart rate, so too can they help you to relax the inner sphincter ring to make anal play more enjoyable. »
While relaxing and constricting the pubococcygeus (PC) muscles is like the anal version of doing Kegels, you don’t really need to worry about working these out for sex right now. To start, just relax and let your butthole muscles go like you’re about to poop (you won’t, probably).
35. You might think you’re pooping. That’s okay.
Not to get all blunt on you, but the sensation of something moving around in your butt feels a lot like having a bowl movement. During anal sex—especially the first time–it becomes hard to tell if you are or aren’t pooping. Don’t worry: It probably won’t happen. For peace of mind though, try going to the bathroom beforehand (and cleaning really well with soap and water). If there *is* a lil bit of fecal matter, just be cool about it. Assuming your partner isn’t a total jerk, they should understand it comes with the anal sex territory.
36. If you despise it, never do it again.
It shouldn’t take you a few hellish rounds to finally decide anal isn’t for you (unless you want to keep trying, of course). While you could always play around with different positions, toy sizes, and breathing/relaxation techniques, the truth is: Anal isn’t for everyone. If you hate it, you hate it, and that is totally fine. There are tons of other types of sex out there to explore that *don’t* include butt play. Not liking anal doesn’t mean you’re any less kinky or sexually liberated. It just means you don’t like anal, period. Thank u, next.
Writer. Things I appreciate: Ghosts, white wine, men who look like they could protect me from predators, and a great homemade deviled egg. Also, I have a VERY ambivalent obsession with Sex and The City but I’m not like any of them, other than maybe Miranda’s cat.
Rachel Varina is a full-time freelance writer covering everything from the best vibrators (the Lelo Sona) to the best TV shows (The Vampire Diaries). She has over 10 years of editorial experience with bylines at Women’s Health, Elite Daily, Betches, and more. She lives in Tampa, Florida, but did not feed her husband to tigers. When she’s not testing out new sex toys (100+ and counting so far!), she’s likely chilling with her dogs or eating buffalo chicken dip. Ideally at the same time. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.