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Anal sex

Anal sex is any type of sexual activity involving the anus. There are important things to consider if you’re interested in anal sex. 

Like with all sexual activity, some people enjoy anal sex and some don’t. There can sometimes be pressure to enjoy or be willing to try anal sex but it’s important to remember that sex isn’t about ticking off things you’ve done or trying to impress other people. If you’ve seen anal sex in porn and want to try it make sure you read this page to understand the reality of anal sex. More about porn and anal sex

What is anal sex?

Anal sex is any type of sexual activity involving the anus. This might be:

  •  Licking around the anus (sometimes known as ‘rimming’, ‘rim job’, ‘analingus’) 
  • Penetration including inserting a sex toy, penis or fingers into the anus 

Anal sex can be enjoyable as the anus and the rectum (which the anus leads to) have sensitive nerve endings. Men and people with penises also have the prostate gland which can be pleasurable when stimulated.  

It’s perfectly normal to try anal sex and decide you don’t like it, or to just know it’s not something you want to try. Everyone’s sexual experiences and turn-ons are unique and are not defined by their sexuality.  

Many (including 60% of gay and bi men and men who have sex with men) don’t have anal sex and prefer other types of sex. Anal sex may just be one part of your sexual expression, it does not have to define it.  

You should never pressure anyone or feel pressured into doing anything you or they don’t want to do.  

Anal sex, like all types of sex, should be discussed and agreed beforehand – even if someone has consented to another type of sex. Consent is a verb: it’s a continuous action rather than a one-time thing. That’s why trying a new type of sex without talking about it first is wrong as there is no consent involved. 

If you’re going to try anal sex, it’s really important that it’s with someone you can trust and can communicate well with.

Safe anal sex requires preparation, patience and communication, especially as the muscles around the anus can take some time to relax. You need to feel comfortable and trust the person you’re with – if you feel anxious these muscles will be harder to relax and you are more likely to have an uncomfortable or painful experience.  

Note – Sex shouldn’t be painful, so if you’re relaxed and comfortable but experience pain, you should visit a sexual health clinic or your GP.  More about painful sex

It’s a great idea to talk beforehand about any worries, expectations and to discuss things such as speed and depth if you are considering trying penetration.

But communication shouldn’t stop there – during sex you should regularly check-in with your partner including before and after you try anything new, for example changing speed, depth, size, position. This will help you to work out what you both like, dislike, would like to try, and want to do differently. You might also find it useful to have a more in-depth conversation after sex.  

Consent can also be withdrawn at any point and if either of you want to stop at any point that’s okay- you should stop immediately and check in with each other. 

More about consent

So you’ve established that you are both 100% up for anal sex, whether this was decided beforehand or ‘in the moment’ what do you do next?  

Step 2: STIs and viruses


For all types of anal 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 Shigella, Hepatitis A, Salmonella or E. coli.   

If you want to have vaginal sex as well, make sure you wash your hands if you have touched the anus, and use a new condom. This is to prevent transferring bacteria from the anus to the vagina, which could cause a urinary infection. You could use gloves to touch the anus as a precaution.  


When you have anal sex involving a penis or sex toy, it’s really important you use a condom.  

The lining of the anus and rectum is delicate and can be damaged easily, making it easier than other types of sex for STIs to be transmitted. This thin lining is designed to absorb fluids and nutrients from your food and, in a similar way, it can absorb bodily fluids including pre-cum, sperm and any potential STIs along with these.  

Condoms stop this transfer of bodily fluids and are also great to use if you’re worried about hygiene or any potential mess.  

Find out where to get free condoms

lube, lube and more lube

Unlike the vagina, the anus isn’t self-lubricating, so to make it more comfortable for both partners and prevent tearing which can increase the risk of STIs, it’s important to use lots of lube. 

Most condoms can only be used with water-based or silicone-based lube – avoid oil-based products as they can damage condoms and leave you unprotected. 


Aside from using condoms, you can also protect against STIs during anal sex by:  

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

Step 3: Hygiene

If you’re engaging in anal sex there is going to be some poo involved – accidents happen and that’s totally normal! If you’re not ready to deal with poo, you might not be ready for anal sex or it simply might not be for you.  

But there are some things you can do to avoid potential mess:

Have a poo

Thankfully, our bodies are very good at keeping poo up high out of the way until we need a bowel movement. So the easiest way to minimise the risk of any accidents is to have a poo before anal sex. 

Shallower penetration

Deeper penetration carries a greater risk of mess.


Some people may want to wash the inside of their anus and rectum with water for extra peace of mind, this is called douching. A douche is a device that you use to squirt water up your anus to clean it out. Douching can be damaging as: 

  • It washes away the healthy bacteria and protective mucus in the anus – harmful bacteria can grow in its place which can lead to sickness.  
  • If done incorrectly it can damage the delicate lining of the anus and leave you more susceptible to infections, including STIs. 

If you still want to douche, there are certain things you can do to minimise its harm and risk of infection: 

  • Avoid using douches with chemicals in which can irritate the rectal lining 
  • Use infrequently (no more than 2 or 3 times a week)  
  • Only use water (water in itself will wash away bacteria – the good and the bad) 
  • Make sure the water is at body temperature – if you’re using a showerhead make sure it is not too hot or too cold to avoid causing any damage  
  • If using a shower douche, use one that allows you to adjust the pressure or else it could be too strong  
  • Thoroughly clean the douche before and after use  
  • Use a lubed finger to relax your anus before using the douche  
  • Use lube on the tip of the douche if using a bulb before inserting 
  • Don’t share douches – you can pass on STIs and bacteria leading to infections such as Shigella  

Step 4: Pleasure

Penetrative anal sex, particularly for the first time, requires time to arouse and stimulate each other and it often doesn’t involve a lengthy amount of penetration time or even ejaculation.  

Sex of any kind does not need to end in an orgasm. Ironically, if you’re putting pressure on yourself or your partner to climax, you/they are less likely to.  

It may seem obvious, but larger the object, the higher the risk of damaging your muscles and anus lining. That’s why it’s important to gradually introduce objects starting off with a small size, for example a lubed finger and gradually working your way up to bigger objects or penises if that’s what you want. You need to communicate with each other about when you are ready. 

And of course, make sure you use lube!


If you’re unsure of what to expect from anal sex, or want to work out what to ask for, you could start by figuring out what feels good to you. Masturbation and self-exploration is one of the best ways of getting to know your body and what you want from sex. 


Whatever type of sex you’re having, there shouldn’t be any pain. If either of you feel pain at any point you should stop and check in with the other person. It is very easy to tear the delicate skin on the anus and these tears (called fissures) can take a while to heal.  

If you are experiencing pain it may be that you need: 

  • To take things a little slower – go back to inserting smaller objects/fingers, or go less deep 
  • More arousal or relaxation 
  • More lube 

Equally, you may decide you want to stop there and go no further. It’s important that you listen to your body and your partner.  

Along with all new sexual behaviours, anal sex can take some trial and error, practice and communication for it to become more comfortable. But you shouldn’t put up with pain or discomfort for the sake of your partner’s pleasure. There are plenty more ways to have sex that are pleasurable for the both of you.   

As the anus lining is delicate, you may notice some bleeding or discomfort after anal sex (although this is not experienced by everyone and not every time). If the blood is bright red and disappears after a few minutes, it suggests there might be a minor trauma but your body is working on healing it and it should be fine.  

When to see a doctor

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, another sexual health service, GP or hospital.   

Anal sex and porn

There are several things that porn doesn’t always include with anal sex which are really important if this was something you would like to try.

  • Consent should be given each time you try something new. Porn doesn’t always show each person agreeing to anal sex beforehand so it might seem that they’ve not had a conversation about it – which isn’t true!  Porn may also sometimes show people being “persuaded” into anal sex but in real life, you should never pressure someone into anal sex as this isn’t consent.  More about consent
  • Lube (and lots of it!) is essential if you’re going to try anal sex 
  • Condoms are a necessity to protect against STIs if you’ve having penetrative anal sex
  • Mess is impossible to avoid with anal sex, these scenes can easily be cut out of porn but not real life – anal sex always carries a risk of potential mess no matter how much you prepare for it  
  • Orgasms can be difficult to achieve with anal sex, particularly for those with vulvas and vaginas without any clitoral stimulation at the same time
  • Duration of anal sex is often exaggerated in porn  
  • Arousal is often downplayed in porn itself but building up to anal sex can take a lot longer and this in itself should be enjoyable
  • And lastly, despite what porn may show, not everyone wants to try anal sex and that is perfectly normal. It might be that they try anal sex and decide it’s not for them or they simply know that it’s not something they want to try.
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    Consent myths and facts


    How to give and get consent


    Important things to know about porn


    12 common mistakes when using condoms

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