Anal sex

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Roman man and youth having anal sex., Cameo perfume bottle, ca. 30 CE; Found in Estepa, Spain.

Anal sex or anal intercourse is a commonly practiced form of human sexual behaviour in some cultures. It involves the anus and possibly the rectum, especially, but not limited to, the insertion of the erect penis into the rectum through the anus.

The use of sex toys and other activities involving the anus and rectum may be considered anal sex as well. Anal sex can be pleasurable for both the insertive partner and the receptive partner, as the anus contains many of the same kinds of nerves as the penis or clitoris.

Anal sex, though commonly practiced throughout the world, remains taboo in some cultures. In the United States, the ancestral taboo has broken down, and anal sex has experienced a recent surge in popularity, as evidenced by increased media attention. Note, an increase in media attention does not necessarily correspond with an increase in popularity, it could only mean that less people now hide that they engage in anal sex.



For women, pleasure also is derived from anal intercourse because the rectum shares a wall with the vagina and therefore shares some of the nerve endings associated with sexual pleasure. The anus itself also contains a number of nerves which can react pleasurably when excited.

For males, the tightness of the anus is often said to be a source of pleasure for the "active" partner in penetrative anal sex, while the presence of the prostate gland near the rectal wall is generally seen as a source of pleasure during receptive anal intercourse. A sexual climax for the recipient (referred to colloquially as an anal orgasm) may or may not occur through anal sex.

Many people view anal sex with disgust because of the unavoidable relationship between the anus and faeces. Sigmund Freud labelled this aversion as irrational, if not neurotic:

Where the anus is concerned it becomes still clearer that it is disgust which stamps that sexual aim as a perversion. I hope, however, I shall not be accused of partisanship when I assert that people who try to account for this disgust by saying that the organ in question serves the function of excretion and comes in contact with excrement--a thing which is disgusting in itself--are not much more to the point than hysterical girls who account for their disgust at the male genital by saying that it serves to void urine.
- Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, 1905 [1]

Moreover, it is not uncommon for the rectum to be relatively vacant most of the time, the faeces entering only just before elimination. Some fecal matter may still remain in the rectum between movements (albeit in minimal quantity); thus some couples will use enemas - either wet or dry, followed by shower or bidet use - for cleansing before engaging in any anal activity.


The term "sodomy" is imprecise, but is often used as a synonym for anal sex, particularly in older works. However, it often also refers to various other sexual activities. For instance, depending upon the jurisdiction, the legal definition of sodomy may include any non-coitus act, including oral sex and zoophilia.

Anal sex has been taboo in many Western countries since the Middle Ages, when heretical movements were sometimes slandered by rumours that their members practiced anal sex among themselves. At that time the mainstream Christian clergy was not celibate, but the highest orders of some heretical sects were, leading to rumours that their celibacy was a sign of their attraction to members of the same sex. The term buggery originated in medieval Europe as an insult used to describe the rumoured same-sex sexual practices of the heretics from the Buggre sect. This sect originated in medieval Bulgaria, where its followers were called bogomils, but when they spread out of the country they were called buggres (from the ethnonym Bulgars).

Some medieval European woodcuts portray persons kissing the anus of a goat-like figure representing the Christian Devil.

As recently as 2003, several jurisdictions in the United States had laws making anal sex and other forms of sodomy a crime. Many of these statutes purported to prohibit anal sex by same-sex partners. In 2003, John Lawrence and Tyron Garner brought a landmark suit that challenged as unconstitutional Texas's anti-sodomy law before the United States Supreme Court. Lawrence and Garner had previously been apprehended in Lawrence's home in the act of anal sex, after a neighbour had made a false noise complaint to the local police. The Supreme Court struck down the Texas law by a 6–3 vote. Five of the justices joined the deciding opinion, which overturned the Court's previous ruling on sodomy in Bowers v. Hardwick. The Court reached the conclusion that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibited the state from regulating private behaviours between adults without furthering a legitimate state interest. The governmental interest behind the law, moral objection to homosexuality, was held to not be a legitimate interest. (See Lawrence v. Texas.)

Although it is also practiced by heterosexuals and bisexuals, anal sex is often associated with homosexual men. However, like persons of other sexual orientations, some gay and bi men enjoy sexual activities of this kind while others do not.

The vagina normally produces its own lubrication during sex; the rectum does not, so a store bought personal lubricant is recommended by most sexologists for an enjoyable anal sex experience. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, unprotected anal sex carries more risk of STI transmission than vaginal or oral sex. To reduce the risk of transmitting STIs such as HIV, proper use of a latex condom is recommended for all sexual contact which could result in transfer of bodily fluids, including anal sex.

Anal sex among heterosexuals

File:Bend over boyfriend cover 01.jpg
A cover of a self help video showing a woman pegging a man with a strap-on dildo

Edward O. Laumann's The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States found that about 20% of heterosexuals have engaged in anal sex, and sex researcher Alfred Kinsey found that number to be closer to 40%. More recently, a researcher from the University of British Columbia (quoted in the May 5 2005 issue of The Georgia Straight) puts the number of heterosexuals who regularly practice anal sex at between 30% and 50%.

In several cultures (such as the Mediterranean area, Middle East and Latin America) female receptive anal intercourse in a heterosexual context is widely accepted, especially as there is less risk of unwanted pregnancy via unprotected anal than unprotected vaginal intercourse. Anal sex is sometimes seen as preserving female virginity (or at least preserving an intact hymen until marriage) Template:Fact.

One appeal of heterosexual anal sex may be the fact that the anus is generally tighter than the vagina. Some consider penetrating the tighter orifice to be a more pleasurable experience.

In many cultures, even those where female receptive anal intercourse is considered normative, male receptive anal intercourse, even in a heterosexual context, is seen as taboo, or as less common. In some cultures anal sex is so commonly linked with homosexuality that any male who engages in receptive anal intercourse is considered homosexual, even if he is penetrated by a female partner with a strap-on dildo (pegging) or with her hand, fingers or fist. In some cultures, only males who are penetrated by other males are considered homosexual, while males who penetrate other males are not.

In certain contexts male-male anal intercourse among males who otherwise identify as heterosexual is seen as a temporary behaviour to which they resort when confined in single-sex environments, such as prisons or soldiers separated from partners. (See: Situational sexual behavior and Prison sex) Some men have sex with men without categorising themselves as homosexual or bisexual. These men who have sex with men (MSM) may still identify as heterosexual while engaging in same sex activity from time to time. (See Down-low.)

Anal sex among gay/bisexual men and lesbians

Historically, several cultures, such as medieval Japan and others are known to have been normative practitioners of male-male anal intercourse, often in the context of a mentor-student relationship between an adolescent male and an adult man (see pederasty). Many argue that the males who participated in such relationships cannot properly be called homosexual, arguing that in classical cultures such distinctions did not exist, and since participation in these male-male relationships did not preclude sex with women.

The practice is thought to have been so common in Ancient Greece that the term "Greek love" was used to refer to the practice, and in modern times, "Greek" is sometimes used as gay slang for anal sex.

The view that homosexual anal sex was widely accepted in Ancient Greece is widely disputed. Some literature has argued that the important social transgression was lowering oneself socially, that is, a high status person was not supposed to be penetrated by a lower status person, and thus passive anal intercourse by men was frowned upon in Ancient Greece and considered a serious moral transgression. Certainly, male passive anal intercourse was (officially) frowned-upon in Rome. Others have argued that in Greece, rather than anal sex, male-male couples actually engaged in non-penetrative interfemoral intercourse. However, this view has been disputed. The historian K.J. Dover discusses these matters thoroughly in his classic work Greek Homosexuality.

It has been argued that the alleged ancient aversion to male passive anal intercourse has fueled the long-standing moral disapproval of homosexuality.

In other cultures, notably Japan, records (including detailed woodblock prints) leave no question that male-male couples did engage in penetrative anal intercourse.

The 19th century anthropologist Richard Francis Burton has theorized that there is a geographical Sotadic zone wherein male/male penetrative intercourse is particularly prevalent and accepted; moreover he was one of the first writers to advance the premise that such an orientation is biologically determined [2].

In modern times, anal sex is popularly associated with gay men, and studies (Lauman, for example) claim that about 80% of gay men in the United States have engaged in anal sex.

Not all gay/bi men regularly engage in anal sex or find it pleasurable, however. It may be that some gay/bi men try anal sex once or a few times and then rarely if ever engage in the practice, and others may never try it at all. Some may reserve it only for committed relationships. Since data on gay (or bi) sexual behavior tends to arouse such controversy, it is difficult to make solid claims in this area.

While some gay/bi male couples comprise an "active" partner and a "receptive" partner (a top and a bottom) this is not true of all gay/bi couples who practice anal sex: many gay/bi men who have anal sex both "top" and "bottom" at different times, also known as "versatile" or "switch." Gay culture generally does not make a distinction between the penetrative and the receptive partner in defining who counts as "gay": both tops and bottoms who have sex exclusively with men are considered gay.

Several gay slang terms are generally reserved for anal sex between two males, such as "barebacking" which refers to unprotected anal intercourse. Some gay/bi (and straight) couples engage in "felching," where the top sucks out the semen he has deposited in the anus of the bottom as a result of "bareback" anal intercourse. Like rimming, this practice carries with it considerable health risks.

Some lesbians also practice anal sex, using fingers or sex toys.

Health issues

Unprotected sex, including anal sex, is an effective means of transmitting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). According to health-care professionals, condoms should always be used for anal intercourse, but they should not be considered an absolute safeguard. In principle, anal sex with anyone known to have a sexually transmissible disease, and indeed with anyone whose disease status has not been determined, should be avoided. HIV testing, however, can be unreliable; it is possible for someone who is tested to receive a "false negative". This advice applies to all sexual activity that effectively transmits STDs.

Anal penetration carries some risks which vaginal sex or "outercourse" do not. These are mostly due to two factors:

  • The rectum and large intestine, unlike the vagina, do not contain their own lubricating mechanism, which means friction or insertion damage can happen more easily. Also, the tissues in these areas are particularly delicate and susceptible to tearing, and the intestine as a whole twists and is much less strongly muscled and padded, which means physical injury is somewhat easier too. This is especially the case when using sex toys, because forceful insertion of large or sharp objects can damage or even rupture it much more easily.
  • Part of the rectum's function is to absorb fluid into the blood stream, so it has strong blood circulation and is an easy barrier to cross if there is even a small tear in the intestinal lining; therefore infections can be transmitted easily.

These risks can be mitigated by the use of personal lubricant and condoms, and taking care while using sex toys. Like all forms of penetrative sex with a non-exclusive partner, condoms should always be used for anal intercourse, but they should not be considered an absolute safeguard. Oil-based lubricants like Vaseline, however, destroy latex condoms, and the two should not be used together. Basic blood tests can be used to determine HIV status but may result in "false positives" or "false negatives", and it is recommended that a person retest every six months months to show a reliable reaction.

Since the rectal tissues are so easily damaged, and since the anorectal muscles are largely under involuntary control, slow, gentle, and responsive insertion is necessary to avoid pain and tearing.

It is also very important to be careful when inserting objects into the anus. Objects with edges or points can cause severe injury. Moreover, objects could get lodged in the rectum, requiring medical intervention; hospital records confirm how inventive human beings can be in discovering objects to insert into their rectums. For this reason, most modern dildos are made with flared bases. Additionally, nothing longer than eight inches (20 cm) should be inserted into the rectum without care and preparation. Objects forced more than seven or eight inches (17-20 cm) into the body risk colliding with the sigmoid colon, a bend in the intestine, and in cases of rough handling, trauma can result in internal bleeding with potentially fatal results.

Nothing that has been placed in or at the anus, including fingers, should ever contact the vagina, either externally or internally, without being thoroughly washed with anti-bacterial soap or a similar disinfectant, to avoid infection caused by the transmission of bacteria or by feces becoming lodged internally. Condoms can be placed over sex toys and latex or nitrile gloves can be worn to protect the hands and fingers. These should be used once and then discarded. Objects inserted in the anus should be washed carefully after every use. Shared sex toys can also transmit disease or infection, and should be thoroughly cleaned between use or be covered with a condom that is discarded between users. Silicone, metal acrylic, and glass dildos may be sterilized via cleaning and boiling instead. (See masturbation for more information on the use of sex toys.)

Like any form of sex, anal sex is rendered much more dangerous under the influence of alcohol or drugs, which reduce responses, judgment, and ability to pay attention to one's own needs.

Condoms & Anal Sex

Condoms are known to be less effective and more prone to burst or slip during anal sex than vaginal sex. It has been estimated that condoms fail anywhere from 10% - 32% of the time by different studies [3], due to this Durex has added a warning to boxes of their condoms saying "for vaginal sex only".



  2. ^  Sir Richard Francis Burton: "Terminal Essay", from his translation of The Arabian Nights, 1885 - Section D: Pederasty
  3. ^  Silverman B G et al, "Use and Effectiveness of Condoms During Anal Intercourse" in Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Vol. 24, No. 1, January 1997, page 14

Legal issues

See Sodomy law.

Religious views

See Religion and sexual orientation.

Further reading

  • Taormino, Tristan Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women, Cleis Press, 1997, 2006.
  • Morin, Jack Anal Pleasure & Health: A Guide for Men and Women, Down There Press, 1998.
  • Bentley, Toni The Surrender: An Erotic Memoir, Regan Books, 2004.

See also

cs:Anální sex da:Analsex de:Analverkehr es:Sexo anal fr:Sodomie it:Sesso anale lt:Analinis seksas nl:Anale seks ja:アナルセックス pl:Stosunek analny pt:Sexo anal simple:Anal sex fi:Anaaliseksi sv:Analsex zh:肛交

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