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Anal sex

Anal sex is any type of sexual activity involving the anus. This could include inserting your penis or sex toy into someone’s anus (known as penetration) as well as touching, licking or inserting fingers into it.

What is anal sex?

Anal sex is any type of sexual activity involving the anus. Many people, regardless of sexual orientation, enjoy anal sex.  

Both the anus and the rectum (which the anus leads to) have sensitive nerve endings. People with penises also have the prostate gland which can be pleasurable when stimulated, as well as the penis itself if it is being inserted.  

Find out more about the prostate.

The anus isn’t self-lubricating, so to make it more comfortable for both partners it’s also important to use lots of water-based lubrication. 

Sex and consent

It’s important that you and your partner feel comfortable and don’t feel pressured into doing anything you don’t want to do. If you feel uncomfortable at any point beforehand, or during sex, you can change your mind and stop. 

For more information about this or if you feel worried, you can read our pages on consent.  

Safe anal sex

When you have anal sex involving a penis or sex toy, it’s really important to use a condom, which is a type of ‘barrier method’. Because the lining of the anus is very delicate it can be damaged easily, making it easier for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) to be transmitted.  

There are many different types and sizes of condoms, and you can get extra strong condoms which are recommended for anal sex. Condoms are available FREE from: 

You can also buy your condoms, even if you’re under 16, from: 

  • Pharmacies 
  • Petrol stations 
  • Machines in public toilets, bars and clubs 
  • Most supermarkets 
  • Mail order or online 

You should only use a water-based or silicone-based lubricant with condoms, because oil-based formulas such as lotions and moisturisers can damage condoms and mean they won’t work properly. 

If you are including kissing or licking your partner’s anus as part of sex, it is a good idea to gently wash the area first with water and gentle soap. Some infections caused by bacteria and viruses can be passed on through oral to anal sex, for example Hepatitis A, Salmonella or E. coli.  

You might want to use a dam, another type of ‘barrier method’, when kissing or licking your partner’s anus. Dams are squares of latex or polyurethane (a sort of soft plastic) measuring 15cm by 15cm, which you use to cover the anus or female genitals. Dams may be useful in preventing sexually transmitted infections (STIs) but there is currently no research into how effective they are. Find out more about dams here. 

Other than using barrier methods, the main things you can do to protect against STIs being transmitted through anal sex are: 

  • Avoid sharing sex toys, and if you do, clean them thoroughly in between being used by different people.  
  • Get tested for STIs regularly and each time you have sex with a new partner. Find out more about STI testing here.  
  • Never engage in oral sex if there are open sores or lesions on the mouth, anus or genitals.  
  • Communicate honestly and openly with your partner(s) about potential risk of STIs. 

If you also want to have vaginal sex, wash your hands if you have touched the anus, and don’t use the same condom that was used for anal sex – stop and use a new one. This is to prevent transferring bacteria from the anus to the vagina, which could potentially cause a urinary infection. You could use gloves to touch the anus as a precaution.  

Anal sex and pleasure

As with any type of sex, to enjoy anal sex both partners need to be turned on. As you become more aroused your body will relax and you may feel more sensitive to touch. 

Remember: everyone enjoys different things and has different ‘turn ons’. Understanding what you enjoy when it comes to sex and communicating this to your partner will help you to have great sex that is fun and pleasurable for both of you. 

Explore on your own

If you’re unsure of what to expect from oral sex, or want to work out what to ask for, you could start by figuring out what feels good to you. Masturbation is one of the best ways of getting to know your body and what you want from sex and exploring your own body and learning what feels good is a great stepping stone to having good sex with someone else, because you can tell them what you like or don’t like. 

Find out more about masturbation.

Erogenous zones

An erogenous zone is an area of your body which is very sensitive, and can produce a sexual response when it is touched. An important part of discovering your sexuality is learning which parts of your body feel good to be touched.  
Common examples of erogenous zones for people with penises include the penis, scrotum, anus, prostate and nipples. Common examples of erogenous zones for people with vulvas include the vulva, vagina, anus and nipples. They can also include, but are not limited to, other areas of your body such as your neck, ears, back, hips and thighs. 

During anal sex you might find that you need more lubricant than for other types of sex. This is because, unlike the vagina, the anus isn’t self-lubricating.  

If you are having anal sex where your anus is being stimulated or penetrated, it is important that you feel comfortable and in control of how deep the penetration goes.  

  • If you are penetrating someone’s anus with a part of your body or a sex toy, make sure to go slowly and gently.  
  • If either or you feel pain at any point it’s important to stop. It is very easy to tear the delicate skin on the anus and these tears (called anal fissures) can take a while to heal. Also, sex shouldn’t be painful and pain is not something you should feel like you have to put up with. 
  • You might notice some bleeding or discomfort after anal sex (though this isn’t the case for everyone all of the time). If the blood is bright red and disappears after a few minutes, this suggests there might be a bit of minor trauma but your body is working on healing it and everything will be fine. However, if the bleeding doesn’t stop, is a very dark colour, you are in a lot of pain or discomfort, or you are worried then you should seek medical advice. This could be from a Brook service, other sexual health service, GP or hospital. 

Find out more about painful sex.

Let go of the script

Expectations of sex often centre around a certain order of activities, and often around penetrative sex. However, there are so many different ways to have sex, and you will only find out what things you enjoy by trying them!   

Another part of the ‘script’ of sex can be the expectation to have an orgasm. Orgasms are fun, but if that is your only aim it can take the fun out of sex. Also, putting pressure on yourself or your partner to have an orgasm can actually make it harder to do, and can encourage performance anxiety rather than enjoyment.   

Read more about orgasms. 

Our advice is to let go of any ‘scripts’ about how sex should be and go with the flow! Taking the pressure off certain activities and being flexible with your expectations can help you relax and enjoy being intimate with someone.   

Read more about having great sex.


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