Curious about the safety of anal sex as an LGBTQIA+ individual?
Anal sex can be a very pleasureful experience for anyone taking part, although there are a few details and things you will want to keep in mind, and “rules” to follow to ensure the safest encounter possible!
Here are a few of those quick facts:
- Many humans on this planet partake in anal sex. These individuals are straight, gay, bisexual, transgender, and every recognized gender or sexual affiliation in between.
- Having any type of unprotected anal sex puts you at an increased risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections than other sex acts. Using a condom and practicing safe sex procedures can help to lessen this risk.
- Where and when it is available, pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, can and should be taken to prevent HIV infection.
- Anal sex is considered any type of sexual activity that involves the anal area.
- The anus is not self-lubricating, so you will need to use lots of lubricant. Only use those lubricants that are made for sex and intimate play. These often include water-based or medical grade silicone lubrications. Oil-based lubricants should be avoided as they can cause condoms to break and become ineffective against STIs.
- If you move on to oral or vaginal sex immediately after anal sex, USE A NEW CONDOM to avoid cross infection or contamination. This is very important.
The Skinny on Anal
Many people believe that “anal sex” happens only when a penis enters into the anus, but in fact also includes the insertion of fingers, tongues, or sexual devices or aids being inserted into the anus. (Oral anal sex has its own set of rules, which we will cover in a different article.) Anyone can have, and enjoy, anal sex regardless of their sexual orientation or gender, and whether or not they are giving or receiving it. While many gay males do enjoy this act, many do not and choose to not partake in penetrative anal sex play. It is up to each individual and their partner(s) to decide which acts are for them, and which are not.
The How-To’s of Anal
When you first begin, it can feel foreign and strange. The best place to start before engaging in anal sex is to communicate with your partner about fears, worries, and how it will go between you. If after you have tried it and it does not feel comfortable, have another discussion with your partner about possible alternatives, or new ways to try it.
If you decide that anal penetrative sex is definitely for you, start with slow touching and caressing to get used to the idea, and help to prime your body to relax into an intimate place. This is especially important to prepare mentally, more so if it is your first time. The sphincter muscle will need to be relaxed to allow to penetration to be comfortable. If you are on the giving end, be sure to use plenty of lubrication and only begin by penetrating a little bit (think “just the tip”) and pulling back out completely. This may need to be repeated until your partner relaxes or gives you the “all clear.” When, and only when, your partner states that they are ready, begin to enter fully. Make sure you listen to and watch your partner’s cues on how hard, how fast, or how deep you should continue to penetrate. Be prepared to immediately stop at any time they become uncomfortable, or things begin to hurt.
Anal sex can be stimulating and pleasureful for both participants, but it can take a few attempts to really get used to the feeling. If it does not happen perfectly the first or second time, just try again when both partners agree.
For males, anal sex can stimulate the prostate gland, which causes extreme pleasure sensations. There are many nerve endings in and around the prostate as well as the anus. The prostate gland itself is between the bladder and the penis and can be stimulated by a penis, a finger, or a sexual device. It should also be said that the tissues and blood vessels around the area are very sensitive and can become bruised or damaged easily. This is why it is always best to be gentle, move slowly, and use lots of lubrication.
Pain with Anal Sex
For many, this pleasurable act is not painful, but sometimes uncomfortable. Pain often increases with rushed actions, failure to use proper lubrication, and if you are new to the act in general. There are a few things you can do to help reduce the pain and discomfort. These include:
- Making sure you are relaxed.
- Making sure you are mentally prepared.
- Making sure you and your partner use lots of lubrication.
- By working your way up to full penetrative anal intercourse. This means starting slow and inserting only small devices or fingers to begin stimulation.
- Make sure to practice safe sex and use a condom.
- By communicating through the entire process and speaking up the moment things feel off.
Anal Sex with HIV or Sexually Transmitted Infections
Having any type of anal sex or anal play increases your risk for HIV and all other sexually transmitted infections including genital herpes, chlamydia, genital warts, gonorrhea, and syphilis. The lining of the anus is thin and tears easily, which makes it more vulnerable to infection. If you are the receptive partner, or the “bottom,” you have a higher risk for these infections whether you are a man, woman, bisexual, gay, or anything else. Try these tips to help reduce your risk:
Use protection – You can use either an external (male) condom (which goes on the penis) or an internal condom (also called a female condom) which is inserted into the anus before sex, just as it would be used in the vagina. Some people feel safer using extra-thick condoms for anal sex. You should also put condoms on any sex toys you are using, making sure you change them between partners. Dental dams are a good form of protection for rimming.
- Taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is another way to prevent HIV infection, but it may not be available everywhere.
- Infections or bacteria can be passed from the anus to the vagina, or the mouth, so be careful when switching between different types of sex. Always wash your fingers, penis, or sex devices or aids when you move from one area to another and make sure you use a new condom.
Use lube – Unlike the vagina, the anus doesn’t produce its own lubrication, so it’s important to use a good lube to make sex more comfortable and to prevent damage to the anus.
- Do not use your partner’s semen (cum) or saliva as a lubricant. Always use a water-based or medical grade silicone lubrication which is specially designed for sex. Oil-based lubricants (such as baby oil and Vaseline) can weaken condoms and make them more likely to break.
- Clean gently – Some people clean their anus before anal sex because they want to be sure there is no feces (poop). If you decide to do this, only use water or a mild soap and be very gentle, otherwise you might damage, tear, or scratch the anus putting you at greater risk of STIs. Also be sure to clean your sexual devices or aids with an appropriate cleaner.
- Consider PrEP – Taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is one way to prevent HIV infection. If you think you are at high risk of HIV it may be a good option for you to consider but remember it only protects against HIV, not other STIs.
- Seek help – If you have had unprotected anal sex and are worried about possible HIV infection, go and see a healthcare professional straight away. You may be able to take post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) to prevent HIV infection, but it must be taken within 72 hours for it to work. Remember PEP is not a replacement for condoms and is not available everywhere.
- Get tested – You can protect yourselves and others best if you know your status. Have regular tests for HIV and other STIs so that you can get the treatment you need and take precautions to protect others. Remember that if you are living with HIV and on anti-HIV medication then the level of HIV in your blood can become undetectable making it impossible for you to pass on the virus.
- Stay in control – Avoid excessive alcohol or drug consumption as they can stop you from feeling pain, or make you take risks you would not normally take.
- Pregnancy –Technically, it is not possible to get pregnant from anal sex as there is no way for semen to get from inside the anus to the vagina, but there is a small chance of semen leaking out and dripping into the vagina after anal sex. Using condoms is the best way to make sure you are always protected properly against STIs and pregnancy.
Should you Try Anal Sex?
As with any type of sex or new sexual adventure, it is important that all parties involved agree on what is happening or planned to occur. No one should ever feel pressured into any type of sex act or be forced to do anything they do not want to do. Talk to your partner(s) about protection and safety before you begin. Deciding whether or not to have anal sex is a personal thing that should not be compromised by pressure or demands. The main things to remember is your own personal desires, whether it feels right with the partner you are engaging, and all aspects of safety.