Getting Behind All Your Anal Sex Questions (Dr. Zhana Q&A)

Hi everyone, this is Dr. Zhana and I am so excited about our Q&A today on the topic of anal play. And apparently so are you, because I received more questions on this topic than any other topic I’ve ever done! So let’s go!

anal play Q&A dr. zhana

Q: Can it be pleasurable for women?

Let’s start with a basic question: “Can it be pleasurable?” and the answer is absolutely yes! Obviously, penetrative anal sex for people with penises can be quite pleasurable, but receptive anal sex can also be incredibly pleasurable for women, men, and anybody with an anus. We all have nerve endings in that area that, when stimulated the right way, feel amazing, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. And for people without penises, like myself, pegging (penetrative anal sex with toys) can also be super fun!

Q: Is it possible to orgasm from receptive anal play?

Absolutely! I orgasm every time I have anal sex. Now, I would say that most people who come during receptive anal do so through a mix of anal stimulation and genital stimulation, like touching their clit or penis, or using a vibrator at the same time they are being penetrated anally. It’s also possible to come from anal stimulation alone and there are a number of people who report this.

Q: Never tried it… am I missing out… is it for everyone?

While we all have the basic anatomy to enjoy anal sex, no sexual act is for everyone. You might be one of those people who tries it and doesn’t like it. But if you’ve never done it and you’re curious, I highly encourage you to give it a shot and do it in the right way.

Q: What is the right way? Where/how does one start? I’m intimidated on so many levels!

There are three main rules of anal sex. You 1) start small, 2) go slow, and 3) use lots of lube. 

  1. So you start small, with a finger, then two, maybe a little butt plug… You don’t start by trying to fit a massive 10-inch dildo like you see in porn, or even a regular-sized cock. The internal and external sphincters serve a very important function of keeping things inside most of the time, you need to open them up little by little.
  2. Then, take your time. Get your receptive partner really aroused, do a lot of foreplay, do some rimming (tongue-on-anus action). And then slowly build up to bigger and bigger things inside, giving the receptive partner enough time to adjust, for their sphincters to open up and relax. Otherwise, it’s going to hurt and anal sex is not supposed to hurt. You might be a little uncomfortable, but it’s not supposed to hurt if you do it right, if you take it slow. Some people will need a few minutes before they open up, others might need a few sessions to be able to fully relax. Be patient, and let the receptive partner set the pace.
  3.  And finally, don’t be stingy with the lube. When it comes to anal sex, too much lube is almost enough. The anus does not produce its own lubrication, and saliva is usually not enough, especially for beginners. So lube. If the receptive partner asks for more lube, give them more lube. 

Q: Best lube to use for anal play is…

When not using silicone toys, I like to use silicone lube for anal because it lasts longer. But if you are using silicone toys, like any of the LELO toys, then you want to use a water-based lube. I personally quite like LELO’s own lube, but any water-based lube that you like will do. 

Q: New to prostate play. How do you begin?

If you have a prostate, then receptive anal sex is supposed to feel even better, because you have an entire separate organ that can feel amazing when stimulated. And the best way to do that is to get from the inside, through the anus. Start with using two fingers in a come-hither motion. You can also use specific prostate stimulating toys (both vibrating and non-vibrating) which are usually curved in just the right way to hit the prostate.

Q: What are the best sex toys for men?

LELO actually has a number of toys, vibrators that are designed specifically for prostate stimulation. But they can be used anally by anyone regardless of if you have a prostate or not. I’ve used them on all sorts of bodies. 

If you’re a beginner, I highly recommend starting with the Billy. It’s my favorite beginner toy because it’s the absolute perfect size. And it’s also great to use it at the beginning of a session before you move on to something bigger if you’re going to do that. And then if you’re ready for something a little bigger, there is the Loki and the Hugo. The Loki is great for self-stimulation because it has this nice handle, or for partner play where you’re using your hand. And the Hugo is amazing for hands-free partner play because it goes in and sort of stays there so you can do other things, like vaginal penetration or you can take it into a restaurant and play with the remote control. I’ve gotten so much mileage out of those two…

Q: Can the anus get damaged from too much prostate massager use?

No, just like clitoral vibrators don’t damage the clitoris, anal vibrators don’t damage the anus. The vibration itself doesn’t hurt these areas. Some people are just worried about the physical in and out and to that I say “Listen, something this size comes out of your anus on a daily basis and that doesn’t cause any damage, why should something going in cause damage?” Now if you’re stretching the anus with objects that are far beyond what’s normal size, then prolonged use of that could cause some damage.

Q: Is it normal to bleed?

Anal sex can, and often does, cause some microtears to the anal lining, especially if people didn’t go very slow, if they were particularly rough, or didn’t use enough lube. Sometimes these microtears can lead to bleeding. If it’s just a little blood, it shouldn’t be a cause for concern. If it’s a substantial amount of blood, then please go see your doctor – you might have an anal fissure that requires treatment. 

Q: Is it ok to do big and fast strokes in anal or can it hurt the partner?

I am so glad someone asked this question because most people’s idea of what anal sex looks like comes from porn. And in porn, you do see those very big, hard, fast strokes. This is one area where it’s really really important to remember that porn sex is not what everyday, real sex looks like. Porn stars are the “Olympians of sex,” they are specifically trained to do some of the things they do, it’s their job. For most regular folks, the answer to the question is “usually not”. Most regular folks will prefer a slower, gentler pace of anal sex, especially in the beginning of their anal journey and in the beginning of each session. Some regular folks can certainly get to that porn star level, but that is an advanced level. You don’t start there, you often don’t ever get there, and please don’t ever push it on a partner who’s not ready. 

Q: Is it possible to get hemorrhoids due to anal play? How to cure it & avoid it?

There’s unfortunately not a lot of research on this. Most doctors say that it’s possible for anal sex to cause hemorrhoids, but it’s not super likely. What is more likely is for anal sex to aggravate any existing hemorrhoids.

Q: Please describe the best way to avoid any “mess”!

Probably the most common concern people have about anal sex, and it is the most common question that I got today, is “the mess.” How to avoid it, how to deal with it, what about poop. So let’s talk about poop.

Q: Is there a risk for your partner to get poop on their genitals?

The reality is there’s usually not a lot of poop in the anus itself. Poop tends to sit higher up in the rectum. So, unless you’re using some really big objects or having really rough anal, you’re only likely to encounter some residue from the last time you pooped. 

That said, yes, there is a risk for poop. I mean, you’re having anal sex, shit sometimes happens, pun intended. But honestly, it’s not that big of a deal, it happens. Go wash up and keep playing, even if you decide that the anal portion of the night is over. If you’re the receptive partner, don’t fret too much about it. And if you’re the penetrating partner, don’t be a jerk, don’t ever make your partner feel bad about it.

Q: How do you keep good hygiene when enjoying anal playing? How to prep for anal?

1) Wash up well the anal area, which you can do in the shower with your fingers. 2) Make sure you’re not feeling like you need to poop soon, that you’ve already gone to the bathroom that day. 3) Make sure you don’t have some loose stool, diarrhea issues. And 4) avoid spicy food the night before. 

Q: Is it really necessary to “douche” beforehand?

If you’re doing all of the above things, most of the time you don’t have to douche, especially if you and your partner are okay with the risk of poop making a little bit of an appearance. I rarely douche myself, and most of the time things are ok. But you certainly can do an enema using lukewarm water and no soap. 

Q: How much cleaning out is too much? I know it’s not good to do regularly, but what’s the limit?

If you’re going to douche, please try not to overdo it because it can irritate or damage the lining of the anus. There’s no magic number, but not more than a couple of times a week. 

Q: Does my husband need to wear a condom for anal? (Wife here)

Of all the “standard” sex acts, anal sex (penis-in-anus) carries the highest risk of sexually transmitted infections. So, if you are having anal sex with someone who is not a monogamous, long-term partner, please consider using a condom. Otherwise there’s no need to use a condom. Unless the receptive partner is particularly weirded out about possibly getting some poop on them, but as I said, this is something I hope you’ll get over with if you’re having anal sex.

Q: Can someone get a UTI from unprotected anal sex?

Yes, vagina owners can get UTIs (urinary tract infections) from anal because anal sex dislodges some of the bacteria that live in the intestinal tract and gets it in contact with the front of the body and a condom won’t prevent that. 

Penis owners have much longer urethras, so they rarely get UTIs. But it’s possible from unprotected anal sex to come in contact with the same bacteria that will at times cause a UTI in them. 

Q: How to go from anal play to vaginal play without risking infection?

You can’t really. No matter how much you clean or douche the risk of infection is always there. That is why it’s so important not to go directly from ass to vagina without washing in between or changing condoms, or both. There’s no other way to prevent it. I know you see this in porn a lot, but I really advise against it. Doesn’t mean it will happen every time, but chances are high.

Taking antibiotics for UTIs ahead of time can possibly prevent an infection, but I don’t advise this either, because antibiotic-resistant UTIs are on the rise and taking antibiotics unsupervised can lead to this very serious issue.

Q: Is there something along the lines of peeing after sex to do for the anus for less STD risk?

Important distinction – peeing after vaginal sex does not prevent any STIs, it only prevents UTIs. And it’s the same with anal sex – wash up and pee after anal to prevent UTIs. Use a condom to prevent STIs.

Q: How can I groom safely there?

Some people try to get in there and shave, which I guess you could do. I personally am very much against shaving any body parts (except beards) and I’m a huge proponent of laser hair removal and waxing instead.

Okay folks, that is it for this round of Q&A. Take care!

Written by: Dr. Zhana Vrangalova

Zhana Vrangalova, PhD, is a NYC-based sex researcher who studies casual sex, nonmonogamy, and sexual orientation. She holds a PhD in Developmental Psychology from Cornell University, teaches Human Sexuality at New York University, shares new sex research on social media, and runs the Casual Sex Project, a place for people to share their true hookup stories. She provides daily sex education using the live video streaming app Periscope, and is currently writing a book about the science of healthy hookups.

One comment

  1. Insightful reading, raising a few new points, and reinforcing things you already new, or suspected.
    Totally relate to laser, and or waxing for hair removal, with laser being my preference.

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