Anal Play 101

Essential Tips for Exploring Anal Play

Tony Hutchings/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

It may still be a taboo subject in public, but survey research suggests that more of us are exploring anal play in one form or another, and anecdotal evidence from education focused sex shops tells us that anal sex is booming business.

Let's start with terminology. Anal sex is usually used to refer to penetration or anal intercourse, whereas anal play is used to describe any kind of sex play that involves the bum, anus, or rectum. The difference matters. Most people hear anal sex and think of penetration. But the growing interest in anal eroticism doesn't always include penetration. And it doesn't have to.

Anal play may be more popular now, but that doesn't mean it's an essential part of a healthy or fun sex life. Like any sexual activity, anal play should be a choice, not a pressure or goal you feel you must reach.

If you're curious about anal play and don't know where to start, check out these answers to common anal sex questions. If you're ready to explore, here are five important steps to exploring anal play pleasurably and safely.

Step 1: Learn about the anus.

These are some of the pleasure points: The opening of the anus contains the highest concentration of nerve endings. Thereafter, the anus responds mostly to feelings of fullness or pressure. Putting pressure on the ventral wall of the anus a couple of inches in will stimulate the prostate gland. The tip of the (internal) clitoral body can also be stimulated through the anus.

Step 2: Relax and take your time. 

For most of us, and especially for people new to anal play, this is not a kind of sex that should be done quickly. Time and patience are key. Slowly explore your anal opening (sphincter muscles), anal canal, prostate gland. Be conscious of what feels good, what does not. Stop if you are overwhelmed by difficult or negative emotions. Breathe, relax, continue if you choose. If it hurts, do not force it. Pain is an indication that something is not quite right.

Step 3: Open your mind. 

Anal play isn't only about penetration with a penis or dildo. It includes touching with fingers or other body parts or objects, licking or oral-anal contact (known as analingus or rimming), pulling open the buttocks thereby stretching the anal opening, and penetration with fingers, toys, penis. Do not forget fantasy and dirty talking to augment anal play -- or during another type of play entirely!

Step 4: Play safely.

Because the lining of the anus is very sensitive to damage, take care. Anything near or in the anus should be smooth or free of jagged edges; cut fingernails short and round the edges with an emery board. Dildos with a flared base are advised - anything that slips out of your grasp may not be easily retrievable! Lubricant is essential for anal penetration as the anus does not produce its own lubrication. Use condoms on dildos and penises to reduce the risk of infections.

Step 5: Keep clean even if you like getting dirty. 

For some people it's the taboo aspect of anal play that is a turn on. There's no reason to lose that. It's okay for sex to be "dirty" and that doesn't make it shameful. But when it comes to anal play there are a few things to watch out for. 

Do not move anything from the anus to vagina -- bacteria that live quite happily in the anus with cause havoc in the vagina. Use a fresh condom on penis or toys and a fresh latex glove on hands, or wash very thoroughly. Use a dental dam or slice open a condom to use as a barrier for oral-anal contact.