So you’re ready to try anal play. That’s amazing! Many of us (as Western philosopher Sir Mix-A-Lot once said) are beggin’ for a piece of that bubble.
If that’s you, or even if you’re just mildly anal curious, there are a few things you should know before you and your partner dive into any sort of anal exploration (spoiler alert: lube). That’s because anal play involves its own set of safety and hygiene procedures, as well as pro tips to make it as pleasurable as possible. And remember: anal play isn’t always about full-blown penetration; it can also be as simple as using a toy, a finger, or even a tongue.
Regardless of where you wanna go on your anal journey, there are a few important anal sex steps we recommend taking as you get started.
1. Start on yourself first.
Even for the sexually adventurous, anal play can seem pretty novel, even intimidating. That’s why it’s a good idea to explore your own body and get an idea of what feels good. To start, let’s talk anatomy:
- Your anus is closed by a muscle called the sphincter and, like all muscles, it requires gentle stretches to open it up. Just like the splits, you don’t want to go all the way, all at once.
- Try starting with a lubed-up finger, and move to two when ready.
- Butt plugs (which we’ll cover more in a moment) can also be your friend here. If you already have a set masturbation routine, try inserting a butt plug, which can help stretch the sphincter AND intensify your orgasms.
The opening of the anus contains a ton of sensitive nerve endings, which can definitely become little portals to pleasure…eventually. If this process feels uncomfortable at first, know that it’s totally normal. Go slow, and remember that your body is learning something new.
2. Buy lube.
Unlike something like the vulva, the anus does not self-lubricate. So to prevent irritation or tearing, look for a quality lube that doesn’t interfere with your pleasure. Water-based lubricants are fantastic, and I’m very into the line from Pjur: their Back Door lube is enriched with jojoba and is super long-lasting.
Silicone-based lubricants can be great for anal play as well. But–and this is a big but–they can also degrade silicone toys. If you’re using a silicone toy (more on that soon) use a different lube!
I’d recommend against oil-based lubes, for the simple fact that they can cause tears in condoms. And under no circumstances do you want a numbing cream, which a) increases the chances of hurting yourself, and b) dulls your pleasure! And that’s not what we want. We want to feel all the things—safely.
3. Try a butt plug.
For booty newbies, butt plugs are typically the first entry-level toy. If you have a prostate, butt plugs can stimulate it; if you have a vulva, a plug can put pleasurable pressure on the back vaginal wall. And it trains you for more “advanced” butt stuff, making it one of the most important anal sex tips. Winning!
These toys are designed to be inserted, then left in place, for a sexy feeling of “fullness.” You’ll see butt plugs in a variety of shapes and sizes, but their defining feature is the flared base, which keeps it from deeper insertion. Most plugs are narrowest at the insertion point and get larger towards the base. They also come in a variety of materials, from glass to silicone (see: lubes), plain Jane to unicorn tails. Typically, beginners start with a small-sized, shorter plug, then work their way up.
Try inserting your butt plug during your regular masturbation routine, to get an idea of what it feels like when you orgasm. Probably really good: when your pelvic muscles contract during orgasm, the plug gives those muscles something to squeeze against. But if it feels painful, take it out, and move to a smaller toy or finger.
Another way to approach butt plugs: you can get an anal training kit from b-Vibe, allowing you to gradually move up in size as your sphincter muscles stretch and acclimate to sensation. Of course, once you “find your fit,” you can start to experiment with different sizes and even vibrations (also available with b-Vibe!). Consider yourself an anal explorer.
4. Talk about what you want.
Now that you’ve engaged in self-exploration, talk to your partner about what you’re interested in trying. Would you like to move toward penetration? How about rimming (oral sex for the booty)? Are you curious about giving, receiving, or both? Express the things that pique your curiosity, and ensure it’s something you both want (rather than one person doing it to please the other).
On the communication note: consent will be a critical tool. Before you jump in, come to an agreement about what you both want, and prepare to communicate often during the act itself. Anal play can be amazing, but sensations may be new or at times uncomfortable–so get in the habit of consent-based check-ins, early and often.
5. Have the poop talk (with yourself).
Hygiene is the elephant in the room when it comes to anal, so to normalize the whole process, it’s helpful to know what’s happening with your insides. This will also be useful knowledge when it comes time for partnered play.
Waste is actually not stored in your anus–it’s stored in your upper bowels–so the chances of a toy, finger, or penis interacting with it in a major way are quite low. Still, fecal matter can be present in the lower bowels, so it’s good to go to the bathroom 30 to 60 minutes before anal play, and wash your entire booty (anus opening, crack, cheeks) afterward.
6. Be hygienic.
Speaking of poop, you can get into a three-step “clean routine” with yourself, before engaging with partners, to minimize the chances of things becoming messy or painful. Try:
- Using a towel. Lay one down on your play surface, to collect any body fluids or fecal matter. If something unexpected shows up, no worries: you’ve got a towel! Simply fold it up and put it in the laundry.
- Gloving up. Well-fitting latex gloves are perfect for anal play. Some people are sensitive to latex though, so if that’s the case, look for nitrile gloves. You’ve probably seen them in salons before, particularly because they come in black…which has the added bonus of looking badass. You can totally find them on Amazon.
- Washing hands, trimming nails. You can also prevent the spread of germs by washing hands before and after anal play. When using fingers, keep nails trimmed (no one wants a scratched-up anal canal).
At this stage, you’re ready to graduate from self-play to partnered play. Congratulations! But please know, you’re not required now (or ever) to expand anal to a partner if you’re not ready. If you are, keep all the above tips in mind, and apply these next ones as well.
7. Prioritize foreplay.
It’s showtime! But before taking a trip to booty town with a partner, it’s wise to warm up.
Relaxation helps the ultra-responsive muscles of the sphincter release and open up. And, conveniently, arousal helps the relaxation process. So familiar sex acts are very much welcome here, as is anal massage. For this technique, try:
- Stroking the anus gently, drawing small circles around it
- Rubbing the anus opening with one finger (and slowly, two or three)
- Gently progress from anal massage to fingering, starting with inserting one finger, and eventually, two or more
Remember your communication on this step. When it comes to anal play, it’s normal to take two steps forward, one step back. So whether you’re giving or receiving, don’t be afraid to have some verbal check-ins during anal massage…and if things are going particularly well, you might even try weaving in some dirty talk.
8. Get into position.
If you’re ready to advance to penetration with a partner, via toy or penis, know that there are lots of anal sex-friendly positions to experiment with. Here are three to try that are great for beginners:
- Face Down: In this position, the receiver lies face down, with legs slightly apart. They can also bend one leg at the knee, resting it on a pillow, which is super comfy…and kinda sexy. From this position, the giver has lots of access, and can easily brace their body weight on either side with their hands.
- Deep Spoon: Try snuggling on your sides, with “big spoon” being the giving partner. The receiving partner (“little spoon”) gets to keep their anal muscles relaxed, which is key to the process.
- Missionary 2.0: The above examples are “entry from behind” positions – which can be fun for experimenting with a little power play – but if you’re looking for face-to-face entry, you’ll love this one. Assume the standard missionary position, then have the receiving partner rest their legs on the giving partner’s shoulders. This will allow for more access on the giver’s side, and lots of eye contact for both of you, so you’ve got immediate facial feedback.
Anal play is increasingly popular, for all bodies, all genders. When you’re starting out, remember to take it slow, and if you encounter something unexpected: that’s OK! It’s playtime, and you’re bound to make a lot of discoveries about yourself. With the right preparation, you can have a very sexy, very orgasm-filled time.
Tolly Moseley is a writer and content contributor for Sex With Emily. She is a storyteller and board member for Bedpost Confessions, has written for The Atlantic and Salon, and loves listening to all the sex podcasts. When she’s not writing, she’s doing aerial.