But whatever the number is, one thing’s for sure: Once-taboo anal sex is edging into the mainstream among heterosexual couples. Unlike penis-in-vagina sex, anal sex inspires lots of fear-mongering and myths. Hey, we’re not here to judge. But we do want to clear up the confusion if you’re thinking of giving it a try. Here are five things to consider.
It might hurt, so go slow
While the vagina is elastic and accommodating, the anus and rectum have thinner skin and don’t share that same flexibility. If you’re interested in trying anal play, a good way to get acclimated and avoid pain is by first inserting a finger or using a butt plug, advises Nebraska-based certified sex therapist Kristen Lilla . When you feel comfortable enough to move on to your partner’s penis, start off slowly, and make sure you communicate how you feel and if he needs to put on the brakes.
Staying calm is key; the more relaxed your body is, the less clenched your muscles will be. “Women (and men) may experience discomfort the first time they have anal sex, but this is often related to not being relaxed,” says Lilla “Breathe so you can relax your pelvic floor and any tension you might be feeling.”
Use lots (and lots) of lube
Experts can’t stress enough the importance of using plenty of lubricant. “The rectum doesn’t have its own self-lubricating ability,” explains Sherry A. Ross, MD, author of She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health. Period . Since water-based lubes tend to break down quicker and there’s no natural moisture in the rectum, it’s crucial to use a thicker, silicone-based lube so tearing doesn’t occur. Even tiny tears in the anal area can allow bacteria and viruses into your system, potentially leading to infection.
STDs are a real threat
Speaking of infection, anal sex can spread the same STDs you can pick up from vaginal sex. Except this time the infection is in your rectum, where your gyno won’t know to test you. “People think you can’t get HPV, herpes, syphilis, and even hepatitis A and B,” says Dr. Ross. “You can still get all those STDs from anal sex, which is why it’s important to stay protected.”
That means using lots of lubricant to prevent tearing, and always using a condom unless you know for sure (like really for sure) that your partner is STD-free. And it bears repeating: Anal sex is the riskiest type of sex when it comes to transmitting HIV, according to the CDC .
Your bowels could be affected
“This question gets asked the most: w ill I poop everywhere?” says Dr. Ross, adding that it’s hard to give an answer, since it depends on so many factors, including when you last went number two. But in general, anal sex could put added stress on the anal sphincter muscle, and that could ” prevent you from having a bowel movement on your own terms or a normal consistency to your bowel movements,” she adds. To reduce the likelihood of this happening, go slow, hit the bathroom first, and ask your partner not to go too deep.
It’s not weird to actually enjoy it
One of the most toxic myths about anal sex is that it makes you a “dirty” person, says Dr. Ross. “We’re moving into another phase of expression that this can just be part of the normal sexual experience; it doesn’t have to have this horrible taboo attached to it,” she says. If you find that you like it, don’t get caught up in the outdated stigma or what other people think. The rules about how women are expressing themselves in the bedroom have and will keep evolving.
This content was originally published here.