What are anal sex and anal play?
AKA ‘anal’ or ‘butt stuff,’ anal play is any sexual activity that includes your butt. Anyone – any gender and any sexual orientation – can give, receive and enjoy anal play!
Butt stuff is not for everyone, but when explored safely between consenting partners, it can be hot.
A real quick anatomy of your butt moving from the outside in:
Perineum: This is the external area between the anus and your scrotum/balls (on someone with a penis) or between the anus and the vagina.
Anus: The opening of your butt.
Sphincter muscles: The muscles that relax or contract that surround the anus, allowing things to move in and out of your butt. You have an internal and external sphincter.
Anal canal: The 1/2 inch canal connected to your anus. With your sphincter muscles relaxed it can expand and become engorged when aroused.
Rectum: After the anal canal, the rectum is about 5 inches of soft tissue that can expand a lot.
Prostate: This is the gland that produces semen in people with testicles. Though it’s not technically found in your butt, it can be felt through the anal canal and stimulated, which can be very pleasurable during anal play. This is sometimes called the P-spot.
What about poop? How can I make sure I’m clean?
Listen, we’re all human, shit happens (pun most definitely intended). When you engage in anal play, there’s always a risk you’ll come into contact with feces (that’s why comfort and communication with your partner are key) but simply cleaning yourself with soap and warm water should do the trick.
That said, don’t use soap inside your butt!
For a deeper clean you might consider an enema or anal douche – both involve injecting fluid (warm water is simplest and best) into your butt. An anal douche can easily be done over the toilet – insert the nozel into your butt (use some lube to avoid any pain) and inject warm water to clean out any residue. You can repeat this a few times if necessary. Be wary of any homemade solutions or soap that might cause irritation or infection.
How to safely engage in anal play
Your butthole is a tight little hole. Typically, for stimulation to feel pleasurable, the person receiving must be relaxed and receptive. Lube is almost always required. Unlike most vaginas* the anus is not self-lubricating, so to avoid pain or tearing, use plenty of lube and apply liberally as you go.
If you’re using condoms, lube and/or toys, be sure they’re all compatible. For example, silicone toys don’t mix well with silicone lubes. Some condoms – like Jems – are lubricated with silicone oil and should only be used with toys made of hard plastics, metals, ceramics or glass. If you’re using a silicone toy, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions or choose a water-based lube.
Start on the outside and slowly work your way in, letting your butthole adjust to the size of the phallus – or whatever is doing the penetrating. Check in on yourself and your partner every step of the way.
Of course, anal play is an activity you can explore all on your own.
Your butt has a way of sucking in anything that goes inside. Toys designed for anal penetration are usually flared at the end for this reason. It’s very important you don’t put anything in there that you don’t have a way of getting out!
To protect yourself and your partner from STIs and/or bacteria, it’s recommended you use a condom or gloves. Toys used for anal play should be washed thoroughly, or you might consider using a condom on them (no muss, no fuss!). If switching a toy/phallus/cock from one hole to another (example, from the anus to the mouth, or anus to vagina) change condoms or take the time to wash up properly so you don’t accidentally transfer bacteria.
TYPES OF ANAL PLAY
Rimming involves using fingers or a tongue to tease and play on the exterior of the butthole. Rimming is great beginner butt stuff and can be enjoyed alongside other types of play.
Fingers and fisting
It can feel quite nice to have a finger, from the tip to the whole thing, a few fingers or your whole fist (called ‘fisting’) inside your butt. People with a prostate might enjoy stimulation with a come hither finger motion. Wear gloves or wash up afterwards to avoid the transfer of bacteria, and be wary of long fingernails – you don’t want to scratch or tear the sensitive tissue.
Strap-on play and pegging
Strap-on play typically involves a phallic-shaped appendage or dildo strapped to one's body to penetrate a lucky receiver. A strap-on is usually attached with a belt or harness and is designed to sit on the body similarly to the male penis.
Strap-ons are used in all kinds of relationships! For many queer and trans people, regularly engaging in anal or vaginal penetration with a strap-on is an integral part of their sex lives. In heteronormative relationships, a woman can wear a strap-on to penetrate a male partner's butt, commonly known as 'pegging.' One of our fave portrayals of this in pop culture comes c/o Abbi Jacobson in Broad City (awkward yes, but hella sexy). Although pegging is a widely used term to describe strap-on play within hetero relationships, it is not a term loved by all.
If you're new to strap-ons, make sure you find one that properly fits – ideally, someone from your local sex shop can guide you. Always ensure the dildo is clean (if we learned anything from Abbi, handwashing is best) or consider using a condom. But remember, avoid using a condom with silicone lube and a silicone toy at the same time!
Bottoms and tops
‘Bottoms’ and ‘tops’ are labels often used in the queer community to indicate a preference for insertive anal sex. A top is someone who prefers the insertive/penetrative role, while a bottom is someone who prefers the receptive position, i.e. to be penetrated. And some people like both – (AKA a ‘switch’)!
There’s a whole world of toys that make anal play extra fun, from butt plugs to anal beads, and plenty of variations in size and material that can lead to all kinds of sensations. Some are specifically for beginners who are new to anal play. Generally speaking, butt toys are tapered at one end, so your butt can adjust to the size, and have a flared end so they don’t get lost inside you. When experimenting, make sure your toys are clean or wrapped in a condom, and use plenty of lube. Insert slowly and check in with your partner along the way.
–There’s lots of information out there if you’re interested in learning more. We particularly like this guide to more pleasurable bottoming by physical therapist Jason Wong. Remember, whatever your experience level, try to relax and enjoy anal play (no ifs, ands or butts)!