Sex & Relationships

Why Some People Enjoy Anal Sex—And Others Really Don't

The backdoor is not always open.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

It’s been said there is no appetite more powerful than that for sex, and the hungriest adventurers might hope to see something anal on the menu every now and again. But while anal play has gone more mainstream in recent years, not everyone shares the desire to partake or experiences as much pleasure when they give it a try. Why is anal sex such a divisive issue? Those who love it swear by it, and those who don't swear never to do it (again). Listed below are six possible reasons why.

1. Some bodies say no.

As anyone who’s ever survived a stomach bug knows, the anus can be an awfully sensitive space. Those prone to fissures, hemorrhoids and other unpleasantries might have an especially hard time participating in butt-based activities like anal sex. So let’s run with a little ditty: If it hurts during defecation, it’s not right for penetration.

2. Some partners are better than others.

Nothing communicates vulnerability quite like lying naked and ass-up on a bed. If you find yourself in that position, let’s hope the person you’re doing it with is someone you can really trust. Landing that kind of partner means you’ll be comfortable communicating what you want and what you don’t want; what feels good and what doesn’t. If you need to stop—or keep going—you want to be with a person who will listen. As sexologist Carol Queen explained to AlterNet, “A partner who is pushy, not tuned in to your pleasure, or clumsy is probably not the right one to explore anal with, unless they devote themselves to learning more about being a good lover.”

Sex therapist Susan Block once told us, “I say if you’re going to go into the asshole with your penis you should be willing to send a scouting mission in with your tongue.” When revisiting the subject, she explained that a little extra stimulation goes a long way, and nowhere is this more true than in the realm of anal sex. “Put a vibrator on your clitoris if you’re a girl. If you’re a guy, you should have your lover stimulating your penis, your balls, or whatever feels good... Work the parts of your body that are tried and true; that you know feel good. Those areas are very often neglected.”

3. Some people have a better understanding of the butt.

If you find yourself on the receiving end, you might want to remind your partner to take it slow. First-timers especially need time to adjust to the sensation of have something inserted into a place designed to expel things. As Tristan Taormino explains in the second edition of her bookThe Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women, we actually have two sphincters. There’s the external sphincter, which we control, and the internal sphincter, which is controlled by the autonomic nervous system. “Unlike the vagina, the rectum is not a straight tube, but has a subtle curve to it,” she writes. “These curves are part of the reason that anal penetration should be slow and gentle, especially at first. Each person's rectum and its curves are unique, and it is best to feel your way inside the rectum slowly, following its curves, rather than jamming anything straight inside.”

Queen explains that some people simply don’t have enough information to be able to access a pleasurable anal experience. “They have never gotten good sex education about it, and they have never heard that anyone who desires anal pleasure for themselves can probably achieve it.”

Fortunately, there is is a method for decoding the mysteries of your own anus: masturbation. Block tells us, “It might be a good idea to give yourself a masturbation session in which you play with all the parts you enjoy, and start rubbing that nice little butthole.” She added, “It’s going to help you relax more. It’s going to make things more familiar. You’re also going to be able to communicate to your lover what feels good to you. I would say that’s an important part of preparation.”

Taormino writes in her guide, “The best introduction to anal eroticism starts with your own behind.”

4. Some come more prepared than others.

In contrast to what we see in porn, spontaneity isn’t always the best approach to anal sex. Empty bowels are key to avoiding embarrassing accidents. Of course, that’s not always something we can control. Those who fall on the cautious side of things might choose to have an enema to clean things out before anal sex. Taormino notes that flushing everything not only leaves you with a clean ass, but with feelings of reassurance and confidence as well.

But it’s important not to cap your list of props there. The butt produces no natural lubrication of its own. Fortunately, the necessary solution to that universal predicament can be found on the shelves of your local drug store. The Walgreens online store has nearly 300 different lubricating items to choose from (though most experts suggest using a water-based lubricant). The more, the better.

5. Some people get stuck on stigmas.

Logistics are only half the battle. Queen tells us, “Some people have extremely negative or fearful associations with anal sex.” That could come back to a fear of pain and the belief that it always hurts, which is just not true. There can also be deep-seated psychological reasons for the aversion, like the possibilities that people have "had draconian toilet training, their pastor harangued them about Adam and Steve and said things were only supposed to exit and not enter,” or perhaps someone was, “shamed by a partner for their desire."

Block explains that many women who participate in anal sex fear it will result in them being labeled sluts or whores. Straight guys who enjoy anal stimulation are often hit with the pressure to defend their sexuality. But as she reminds us, “Anal sex doesn’t have anything to do with your orientation. It has to do with your butthole.”

6. Some want it, some don’t.

Those most likely to enjoy anal sex will be those who actually want it. Block says, “Desire is like a painkiller. It opens you up. If you don’t desire, you freeze up.” She advises, “Figure out why you want to do this, and go from there. If you want to do this to give something to your boyfriend or your girlfriend, then it might be difficult.” In other words, if you’re going to do it, do it for you first, and your partner second.

Carrie Weisman is a writer focusing on sex, relationships and culture. 

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