Anal sex can be very pleasurable for people of all sexes and genders, but for many, it is uncomfortable. With a gentle approach, open communication, and mutual consent, it is possible for people to have anal sex without pain.
Does Anal Sex Hurt?
For most people, anal sex can be painful, especially when it is their first time or is with a partner who is not gentle. In a survey of 412 people by the San Francisco Aids Foundation, 96% of participants reported having, or having had, anal sex. Of those participants:
- 86% said that they had experienced pain at least once, while 9% had never experienced pain
- 36% said that they had enjoyed pain during anal sex
- 64% of people who had anally penetrated a partner said that their partner had asked them to stop because of the pain
Anal sex may hurt for several reasons, including:
- the anus not producing lubrication for sex
- the sphincter muscles of the anus being very tight
- certain health issues, such as hemorrhoids, making it painful
However, anal sex does not have to hurt, and severe pain may indicate that a person is doing something potentially harmful.
How to Prepare
Before having anal sex, it is important 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:
- testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- monogamy and other partners, as having anal sex with multiple people can greatly increase the risk of transmitting viruses, such as HIV
- prior experience with anal sex
- strategies for making sex more comfortable
- the use of condoms to reduce the chance of transmitting STIs
- using pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), such as Truvada or Descovy, as these medications may reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to a partner
How to Lessen Pain During Anal Sex
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.
- Using water or a gentle soap to clean 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 a person relax.
- 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.
After Anal Sex
Many people worry that anal sex will be messy, but for most people in good health, 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 penetrated the anus.
Other hygiene practices include:
- avoid penetrating the anus and then the vagina or mouth without washing first, as this can transmit dangerous bacteria, increasing the risk of an infection
- wash the hands after penetrating the anus with the hands or fingers
- do not reuse anal toys without washing and disinfecting them first