I first wondered about how to prepare for anal sex when I was in college. At the time I was with my first real boyfriend, who was also my first real love—a man I thought I’d be with forever. I was 21, an age when everything is sort of do-or-die, especially regarding love.
Although I had a couple of friends who had tried anal sex, I actually judged them ruthlessly for it. I couldn’t believe that any woman would be willing to let her male partner put anything up her ass—especially a penis. I just couldn’t wrap my brain around it and wondered what the hell was wrong with these friends of mine. Anal sex was something I would just never, ever do.
Then my boyfriend, my darling, my love, the man I planned to be with until I died,suggested we try anal too. According to him, it would feel “really good,” or at least that’s what his male friends had told him based on their girlfriends’ responses to anal sex. My female friends, however, did not agree with this assessment.
So, flat on my stomach one night in my apartment, with my roommate just on the other side of the bedroom door watching Sex and the City reruns, I did it.
While anal sex is more mainstream than ever (a 2010 study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine reported that 46 percent of women had tried it), the taboo around this particular sex act still very much persists. Because of that, many women aren’t getting the appropriate information they need to prepare for anal sex and even have a good time doing it—which is very possible!
So, because I don’t want any woman to be blindsided like I was, here are the five things I wish I’d known the night before my first anal experience:
1. You absolutely, positively need to use lube.
At the time my knowledge of lube and how to use it was so limited as to be nonexistent. I’d seen commercials for it, but in my short-lived sex life there had never been a need for it, so I didn’t pay attention. However, if there’s ever occasion to try out lube for the first time, it’s when you try anal—and then it should be used every time you have anal. Unlike the vagina, your back end does not self-lubricate, no matter how excited you might be about this new adventure. This is something you need to keep in mind.
There are two major reasons for using lube during anal sex: For starters, it lessens the friction and makes the experience more pleasurable (in other words, it will hurt less). Second, without lube, that friction is basically guaranteeing tears within the anus, even if they’re so small you don’t know that they’re there.
What this means is that your risk for STIs is increased with anal sex, because there’s not just the aspect of seminal fluid, but those small cuts are a gateway for certain viruses and bacteria to head straight into the bloodstream. Research has found that this is most commonly the case with HIV and hepatitis. While both are manageable viruses that people live with, and HIV is no longer the certain death sentence it was just a couple of decades ago, avoiding STIs in general is obviously preferable and should be a goal every time you have sex.
2. You should probably start with a finger or two.
I don’t know about you, but before I lost my virginity, I let my boyfriend get to “third base” (or “fingering,” as the kids call it). Although being fingered vaginally is definitely not quite the same as being penetrated by a penis, it at least gives you an idea of the sensation that you’re going to experience and stretches things out a bit. Just a bit.
You don’t have to take a mirror and look at your backside to know that your sphincter muscle is tight. That means you definitely want to experiment with anal play first, whether that’s a finger or a little butt plug. And when I say “little,” I mean smaller in length and width than a penis. Also, you want lube for this too. Think of it as a warm-up session.
3. Using condoms is a really, really great idea.
Even if you’re in a committed, monogamous relationship, anal sex calls for condom use. Not only is there the aforementioned likelihood of anal tearing—sometimes even if you use lube—which increases your chances of contracting an STI, but it’s also good for cleanup. As one partner told me long after that first night I tried it, “You have to expect some poop when it comes to anal.” I regret to inform you that he was right. You may not full-on defecate, but with your partner’s penis that far up your ass, along with the in-out movement that comes with intercourse in general, stuff is going to get moved around and, well, shit happens. It’s better to have it on a condom than on your partner’s junk unless that’s something they’re into, in which case, by all means.
4. You should be extremely aroused. Getting back to that sphincter muscle, in order to make anal sex feel as good as possible, you need to relax. Yes, breathing helps and learning to unclench those muscles is even better, but what will really make a difference is just how aroused you are.
According to research, it takes at least 20 minutes for a woman to become sufficiently aroused. (Of course, this varies from woman to woman.) With arousal comes not just relaxation but also a higher tolerance for things that might disgust you otherwise. Because of this, concerns over the fact that your partner is about to stick it in your poop-shoot, or your nervousness about any possible pain, is subsided. You’re more capable of being in the moment and enjoying that moment, as opposed to getting yourself in a tizzy where you stress out and turn what could be fun into a daunting experience.
5. It will mess up your, um, pooping. What I really wish I’d known was just how much anal sex, especially the first time, messes with your intestines. Not to get too graphic, but the way you pooped before the first time you have anal is a far cry from the way you’ll poop in the days following your first experience with anal—and every experience with it that follows. For one, you’ll be constipated. And gassy, thanks to the extra air bubbles that come with the act of someone having intercourse with your ass. It’s totally normal, as I now know, but it’s also something I wish I had known in the beginning. So now you do.