Anal sex can be pleasurable, but for many, it may hurt or feel uncomfortable. With a gentle approach, open communication, and mutual consent, it is possible for people to have anal sex without pain.

Anal sex is often misunderstood and misrepresented in medical research and social conversation. However, with adequate discussion and preparation, penetrative anal sex can be a safe, enjoyable practice for individuals.

In this article, we discuss how to prepare for anal sex and lessen pain during it. We also provide general tips for safer sex.

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In some instances, anal sex can be a painful experience. This can be true for both the person giving and receiving. The risk of painful anal intercourse typically increases without proper care or preparation. Anal sex may hurt for several reasons, including:

  • inadequate lubrication
  • the sphincter muscles of the anus are tight
  • certain health issues, such as hemorrhoids, making it painful

However, anal sex does not have to hurt, and severe pain may indicate that someone is doing something potentially harmful.

Potential risks

The anus does not naturally lubricate upon arousal, and the skin in and around the anus is thin and easily damaged. This combination of factors means that anal sex without preparation carries a risk of physical injury, including:

With adequate preparation, a person can reduce these risks.

Before having anal sex, it is essential to talk with a partner about consent, why they want to have anal sex, and how to make the experience as pleasurable as possible. Some topics to discuss include:

Some strategies that can make anal sex less painful include:

  • Using plenty of lubricant: The anus does not produce any lubrication, so pause to relubricate if sexual penetration becomes painful. If using a latex condom, use only water-based or silicone lubricants. Other lubricants may damage the condom.
  • Cleaning the anus before anal sex: Doing this helps some people feel more comfortable because they worry about poop or being “unclean.”
  • Starting slowly: A slow and gentle approach reduces the risk of injury and can make anal sex more pleasurable. Try starting with fingers or small sex toys and then gradually work up to penetration with a penis or larger sex toy.
  • Relaxing the anal muscles before penetration: Gently pushing down as though having a bowel movement may make penetration easier and reduce anxiety.
  • Breathing slowly and deeply: Focusing on the breath may help with relaxation.
  • Communicating with a partner during sex: If it hurts, tell them to slow down or stop.
  • Stopping immediately if there is blood or intense pain: These symptoms could indicate an injury or be due to anal sex irritating a hemorrhoid.

Many people worry that anal sex will be messy, but for most people without health issues, there is little or no poop afterward. Having some wipes or towels on hand can help with the cleanup process. It is important to wash any toys that penetrate the anus.

Other hygiene practices include:

  • avoiding penetrating the anus and then the vagina or mouth without washing first, as this can transmit dangerous bacteria, increasing the risk of an infection
  • washing the hands after penetrating the anus with the hands or fingers
  • avoiding reusing anal toys without washing and disinfecting them first

Learn more about cleaning up after sex.

No sex can be fully safe, but a few strategies can reduce the risk of both anal sex injuries and transmitting an infection to partners:

  • wearing a condom during anal sex and replacing it with a clean one before switching to any other form of penetration
  • cleaning anal toys, and, if possible, putting a condom on them
  • stopping if the pain is unbearable or does not get better on changing position or using more lubrication
  • going to the emergency room if a toy becomes stuck in the anus

Learn more about safe sex practices.

It is a myth that anal sex damages the anus or causes the leakage of poop. As long as a person moves slowly and does not do anything that injures them, long-term anal sex is safe. Some common questions about anal sex include:

Will there be poop during anal?

There is usually only poop in the rectum or anus when a person needs to poop. So, unless a person feels the need to have a bowel movement, there should not be significant poop during anal sex. Sometimes, a person will notice trace bits of poop, but not large quantities.

Does anal sex affect pooping?

Gentle, careful anal sex should not affect pooping or damage the muscles of the anus. However, very aggressive anal sex, penetration with large objects, or anal sex that causes significant bleeding may tear the anus or damage the muscles, causing fecal incontinence.

While more research is necessary, a 2016 study suggests that anal sex may be a contributing factor toward fecal incontinence in adults.

Does anal sex cause bleeding?

Anal sex should not cause bleeding. However, people with hemorrhoids may find that anal penetration irritates the hemorrhoids, leading to bleeding.

Similarly, rough anal sex may cause anal fissures, which are tiny tears in the wall of the anus. A few drops of blood are not usually cause for concern, but heavy bleeding may indicate an emergency.

Can anal sex cause serious injuries?

Gentle, careful anal sex should not cause serious injuries. However, penetrating a person with objects that can slip into their rectum, such as dildos without a flared base, may cause those objects to get stuck, making medical care necessary.

Rough anal sex may damage the walls of the anus, injuring the muscles and skin.

The sensation of anal sex may feel unfamiliar or uncomfortable, even to people who eventually grow to enjoy it.

A person should not feel obligated or pressured to have anal sex, and people should only perform anal sex if all parties enthusiastically consent.

With a gentle and cautious approach, plenty of communication, and an understanding of safer sex, many people of all sexes and genders may find anal sex pleasurable.

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