Anal sex: proceed with caution

Call it my last sexual taboo. Of all the sexual things I’ve done in the name of research, novelty, or just plain ants-in-my-pants, I’ve never had anal sex. That’s a big qualifier as I proceed because I make it a point not to write about things I can’t claim some measure of experience with. Being not only a columnist but a curious chica-about-town as well, I’ve got to admit that it is endlessly intriguing to me. My mother and best friend have told me disgustedly never to try it, but I can say with 97 percent confidence that they’ve never done it, either. My boyfriend’s crazy about the idea … but I told him, in the name of equitable dealings, any rear-play we got into would first involve a strap-on and him playing receiver (which killed the subject for us, but may have a totally different reaction for others).

Girlish resistance aside, the thought is still compelling me, most likely because it’s kinky. I have anal-initiated friends, both gay and straight, who think it’s fantastic. On the other hand, a friend of mine once confided in me that it hurt like hell. Then again, so did my first time doing it vaginally, so I tend to take that with a grain of salt. The “ick-factor” came into my mind, but I’m not the squeamish type, so I think I could get over that. But what other things should we consider before doin’ the (really) nasty?

I would be negligent not to mention the risks associated with anal sex because I honestly believe people tend to either over or underestimate them on a large scale. The societal association of anal sex with homosexuality has been directly proportionate to its link with STDs, and especially AIDS. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention and most doctors consider anal sex one of the most risky sex acts because the additional physical resistance of inserting a penis (or anything else) into the rectum can lead to tears in its lining, which makes the transmission of diseased fluids that much easier. This doesn’t mean that folks aren’t doing it, however. The Guide to Getting it On estimates that 30 to 40 percent of straight and about 50 percent of gay Americans have given or taken it up the bum at least once. Done safely, anal intercourse doesn’t have to be any more dangerous than vaginal, which is certainly subjective but much more common. Other than being freaky, biology and the indispensable Guide cite a reason we might like this particular variation: both men and women have several nerve receptors in the rectal membrane, and guys have the additional pleasure of having their prostates stimulated, which reportedly can lead to a powerful duality of sensation.

The consensus seems to be if you’re going to be buggered, you need time and patience. Condoms are an absolute, no-questions-about-it must, even if, for whatever reason, you tend not to use them otherwise. Ultimate Sex, a big, glossy coffee-table book with luscious photos, and just about anyone you whisper with about anal sex recommend lots of water-based lube (all the better to grease up that latex) and using some finger-play first to relax the rectal sphincter. If you want to play with some plugs or beads, this might be the time to try them out.

The perineum, or the skin between the vagina and anus in women and the scrotum and anus in men is very sensitive, and teasing this area is probably a good warm-up. Once both partners have decided to try anal intercourse, going slow is vital either when entering or withdrawing because both can cause pain and damage to the bottom. A word of advice: Don’t expect it to feel like vaginal sex, and keep in mind that you can always stop. Or switch places.

It’s crucial to keep in mind that this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. At the end of the day, it’s your body, and if you think there’s an “exit only” sign on your tush, it’s your prerogative and your partner’s job to respect it. I may be a well-read little nympho, but I’m not your primary care physician, who can definitely give you the technical dirt on the butt boogie much more effectively than I can. Trying new things is part of life, so be safe, be cautious — the two aren’t always the same — and have a good time, no matter what you’re putting where.