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What is anal sex?

Anal sex is when a penis or other object is inserted into a partner’s anus (bum hole or back passage). Like any other sexual behavior, some people find it very pleasurable and others don’t.  Some people are curious about it, and others know it’s not something they are comfortable with.

How common is anal sex?

Men who have sex with men: Many men who have sex with men (gay or bisexual men) have anal sex, but research says that that not all men who have sex with men are comfortable with it or enjoy anal sex. It is estimated that approximately 90% of men who have sex with men have anal sex.

Women: Some women engage in anal sex either with a male partner or with other objects. It is estimated that between 5 to 15% of 16- to 29-year-old women have ever tried anal sex.

Men who have sex with women: Some men enjoy their anal area being stimulated, either with fingers, a mouth or other objects.

While many people find anal sex enjoyable, it is important that you know the risks and how to make sure it is safe and comfortable for you and your partner.

How safe is anal sex?

Anal sex carries the highest risk of passing on sexually transmitted infections, followed by vaginal and then oral sex. You cannot get pregnant from anal sex.

There are ways that you can make anal sex safer:

1. Always use condoms

Using a condom with lubricant will protect you from sexually transmitted infections. Remember to change condoms if you switch from anal sex to vaginal sex. Always use a condom to protect you and your partner from sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

2. Always use extra water-based lubricant (e.g. KY jelly, etc.)

  • The anus lacks the natural lubrication the vagina has. 
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Inserting something into the anus can tear the tissue inside the anus, allowing bacteria and viruses to enter the bloodstream. This can result in the spread of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. Studies have suggested that anal exposure to HIV poses 30 times more risk for the partner receiving anal sex than vaginal exposure. Exposure to the human papillomavirus (HPV) may also lead to the development of anal warts and anal cancer. Using lubricants can help prevent tearing.

  • Always use plenty of water based lubricant.
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It is important to know that the anus has no natural lubrication (fluid that makes it slippery and easy to have sex), which increases the risk of pain or tearing. Keep in mind that oil-based lubricants damage latex. For that reason, you should use only water-based lubricants with latex condoms. There are special lubricants for anal sex which contain benzocaine, an agent that desensitizes the anus, relieves pain, and makes penetration more comfortable.

3. Always introduce the penis (or other object) slowly and carefully into the anus

  • When you are tense or nervous you tense your muscles; it is important that you don’t rush or push yourself otherwise it may hurt.  The lining inside the anus is not as well protected as the skin outside the anus.
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Our external skin has layers of dead cells that serve as a protective barrier against infection. The skin inside the anus does not have this natural protection, which leaves it vulnerable to tearing and the spread of infection. It's especially important to take your time and start slowly if it's your first time trying anal sex. Without proper lubrication and slowly introducing the anus to the experience, anal sex may be painful. If you have never engaged in anal sex, it would be a good idea to go step by step when exploring this area. There is a large number of nerve endings in the anus region that feel great when stimulated. You can start by using your partner’s finger, engaging in this step a few times on different occasions before you continue exploring.

4. Good hygiene is important

  • The anus is full of bacteria (Bugs that cause infections).
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Even if both partners do not have a sexually transmitted infection or disease, bacteria (bugs that cause infection) normally in the anus can potentially infect the giving partner. Practicing vaginal sex after anal sex can also lead to vaginal and urinary tract infections.

  •  Ensure cleanliness and your anal passage is empty of faeces.
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Make sure that your partner has clean and cut fingernails before starting to explore, in order to avoid scratching or passing bacteria. You can then move on to exploring with sex toys, or move on to protected anal sex with your partner. Make sure you have emptied your back passage.

5. Try a position that feels comfortable and gives you as much control as you need

If you are new to anal sex or have found it uncomfortable but want to try again, try different positions that give you more control. It is very important that you communicate with your partner to ensure they know when you are ok and when you want to them to stop or try something else.

My partner wants to have anal sex, what should I do?

You are in control of what happens.  Safely explore your own limits – solo or with someone you trust. You have rights to enjoy your body, and rights to set limits on what you are comfortable with.

Before having anal sex, make sure that you and your partner have discussed and agreed upon it. Never pressure someone or let someone pressure you into something you don’t feel comfortable with and don’t want to do.

Remember that consent (click for YouTube video) means saying yes or no at the time you are going to do something together not at any other time. It needs to be given every time.  You may say yes to begin with but want to stop, make this clear at the time.

If you are a guy and want to have sex with a guy the Love Your Condom (LYC) website will give you all the information you need, including a helpful video guide to anal sex.

If you are a girl your male partner may want anal sex but you should agree only if you feel comfortable with this. Remember, you have rights to feel respected and rights to not be pressured into sex you don’t really want or feel comfortable with.

Finally, sex should be fun and enjoyable – don’t be pressured into any sexual act that you are uncomfortable with just because you want to please your partner.  This link will help you both make decisions that are good for you http://www.sexnrespect.co.nz/Sex-'n'-Respect/