By Anna Davies
Anal sex may seem taboo, but behind closed doors, plenty of women have tried it: According to a survey published in a 2015 issue of the Journal of Sexual Medicine, more than 1 in 3 women ages 19 to 44 has tried it at least once.
That said, it's probably not a regular Saturday night thing. But one thing's clear: Whether you're curious or a connoisseur, anal sex has become mainstream enough that it's worth taking time to discuss what to know, what to avoid, and the how-to's needed to make the experience amazing.
Here, sex experts share what you need to know if you're interested in trying it out.
1. It shouldn’t hurt.
"It may feel like an odd sensation, but done correctly, anal sex should not be painful," says Alyssa Dweck, MD, an assistant clinical professor at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
Skip experimenting if you have hemorrhoids or are having digestive issues, and use plenty of lube. Unlike the vagina, the anus doesn't create its own lubrication during arousal. Try silicone-based lube; it's thicker and won't dry out the way water-based lubes can, suggests Charley Ferrer, a clinical sexologist based in New York City and author of Sex Unlimited.
2. It won't "stretch you out."
"Some people worry that anal sex will lead to incontinence, which isn't the case," says Dweck. The anus will stretch to accommodate a penis or toy that enters (much like it will stretch to allow a bowel movement to exit) and then will return to normal.
3. It may cause an orgasm.
For some women, the act can feel incredibly sensual. The anus has a rich nerve supply, which can make things feel very intense and, for some women, result in an orgasm, says Dweck.
4. Start slowly.
Curious? Try it out after you've already climaxed, when your body is relaxed, suggests Ferrer.
Or take a shower together, and allow your partner to gently massage the area with a soapy finger. Experimenting in the tub or shower can also make you feel "clean," although if you've had a recent bowel movement, you shouldn't worry about your partner hitting any fecal matter. (Waste is held much higher up, in your lower intestine, and won't make contact with a finger or toy. Any trace remains will be removed through washing.)
5. It's all about communication.
Before your clothes are off, talk it out with your partner, suggests Ferrer. And consider having a safe word—a code word that has nothing to do with sex (like "hockey") that brings everything to a halt, fast. This can be a smart strategy in any new sexual situation.
Your partner may not be able to tell if you're making moans of pleasure or pain, so having a code word in place can make you both confident you're on the same page during the act.
6. Skip an enema.
A recent bowel movement and soap and water is all you need. An enema can be unnecessarily complicated and may irritate your anus and intestinal lining, say experts.
7. Use condoms.
Even if you're in a monogamous relationship, condoms are a good idea when it comes to anal sex. Why? For one, they reduce friction to provide a smoother entry. Second, since anal tissue is fragile and susceptible to microscopic tears, having anal sex without a condom could cause the bacteria already in your anal canal to enter your bloodstream—not good, says Dweck.
And use a separate condom for each sex act (i.e., if you're going from vaginal sex to anal sex). Just be sure not to use an oil-based lube with a condom, since the oil could degrade the latex and cause the condom to break.
8. Try a toy.
"Toys can be a great way to explore anal play," says Ferrer. Make sure you find a toy suited for anal sex that has a base that flares out. (Unlike the vaginal canal, which is closed, the anal canal is open and a toy could get stuck in your body. Not something you want to explain to your MD!) Trying a small anal plug can get your body used to the sensation of fullness and let you determine whether or not it's pleasurable for you.
And also consider taking a class: More and more sex shops around the country are offering workshops where trained sexperts talk positions, toys, and how-to's. Hey, at the very least, it's something different than dinner and a movie.
9. Aren't into it? Don't do it.
Sexologists agree: Although plenty of women find it pleasurable, it's not an essential to cross off your sex bucket list. Sex is supposed to be fun, and if the idea doesn't turn you on, it's totally fine to stick to your repertoire of what works.
This article was originally published at Prevention. Reprinted with permission from the author.