Anal Sex Health

If you and your partner want to explore anal sex, it’s important to take it slowly and safely, and learn how to do it right. You want to make the experience enjoyable for both of you, and make sure you are aware of the risks in order to take the proper safety precautions.

Anal Sex: What Are the Risks?
“Any kind of sex must be safe! You should have protected sex, regardless of whether you engage in oral, vaginal, or anal sex,” says Evelyn Fisboin, MS, a marriage and family counselor at the Mind Spectrum Institute in North Miami Beach, Fla. “Sexually transmitted diseases can be easily passed along through anal sex. Anal sex, however, can be safe so long as you are engaging in safe and protected sex.”

What are the two most important safety tips for anal safe sex? Use a condom to protect you and your partner from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and use plenty of a water-based lubricant. “Also, utilizing a condom will help the experience feel smooth and reduce the risk of an STD, Fisboin says. “Do not use scented or flavored condoms as they might cause [an] allergy.” Specific risks related to anal sex include:

  • Pregnancy. While you cannot get pregnant during anal sex, it is still possible to get pregnant if semen comes into contact with the skin between the anus and the vagina. If some semen leaks into the vagina, pregnancy is a possibility. Approximately 8 percent of people each year who do not use another form of birth control during anal sex become pregnant.
  • AIDS. This is another significant risk consideration for couples who have anal sex. Safe sex with a condom and water-based lubricant can protect you from AIDS and other STDs. The risk of contracting AIDS from having anal sex with an infected partner is very high, so a condom should always be worn for anal sexual health reasons.
  • Infection. There is also a risk of infection if couples do not practice safe sex and follow anal sex with vaginal sex. The penis must be properly cleaned before vaginal intercourse to prevent introducing bacteria into the vagina, which may cause an infection. “Keep in mind that it is not safe to proceed with vaginal intercourse after anal sex because there is a risk of introducing bacteria, Fisboin says. “So remember to always make sure that your partner cleans himself completely and uses a fresh condom before having vaginal intercourse. If you are experimenting with sex toys, also make sure to clean them thoroughly to avoid passing bacteria.

Preventing Pain and Damage to the Anus
There are a number of measures you can take to prevent pain and prevent damage to anal tissues. Specifically, these include:

  • Use water-based lubricants. “It is important to know that the anus has no natural lubrication, which increases the risk of pain or tearing. It is therefore necessary to use a lubricant to provide comfort,” Fisboin notes. “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.”
  • Go slow. 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,” says Fisboin.
  • Pay attention to hygiene. “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.”