Many of us grew up in a sexual culture that imagined anal sex as something icky and taboo, or that maybe only existed in porn. The truth is, as many of us now know, that there’s no kind of safe, consensual sex that’s inherently “bad” or “gross,” and anal sex is something lots of people of all genders and sexualities enjoy regularly. That said, there’s still significantly less information and knowledge out there about anal sex compared to vaginal penetration — so here are the three things I think are most important to know if you’re interested in trying it out.

1. Safe Anal Sex Is Hot Anal Sex

If you’re mostly used to having vaginal penetrative sex (or other kinds of sex), there are a few important things to keep in mind with anal sex that you may not be used to. Making sure you put safety first will make everyone’s experience smooth and fun without injury, discomfort, or unexpected issues.
Lube

Vaginal canals have a cervix at the end of them, forming a natural barrier that prevents anything inserted from traveling too far inside your body. Rectums don’t have this, so we need to be a little more careful with what we choose to play with. Make sure any toy or object that you want to try playing with — a plug, a dildo, or anything else — has a base that’s at least two inches wide. That means that anything that’s the same width all the way down, or has a small base relative to its size, isn’t safe for anal use; it could slip inside the body with no safe way to remove it. If there’s something small you’re really itching to use, it’s possible to buy a base you can attach to all your favorite toys!
Hygiene

It can feel really hot that anal sex is “dirty” and “taboo.” Even though there’s no specific moral value to any sex act, of course, it is important to remember to practice safety around cross-contamination — the anal area does carry bacteria that can make you or your partner sick. Nothing that’s touched the anal area — hands, mouth, or toys — can touch your partner’s vagina afterward unless it’s thoroughly cleaned or covered with a condom. Using a barrier method for sex makes this easy! You can use a condom or gloves for any anal play you want to try (condoms can be used over toys, too), and then take it off and switch to a new one for any other play elsewhere.
2. Take It Slow

It can be really hot to try something new spontaneously, in the heat of the moment — but this isn’t the best approach for anal.
If you or a partner are interested in anal sex in general, it’s a good idea to prepare even before being in the bedroom together. (Communicatingabout what you want and planning for it is key!) You can experiment solo with sizes, shapes, and sensations that you like before trying with a partner; some people also find that practicing having something inserted makes it easier to do so with a partner.
Once you are playing together, you can take it even slower — if you’re interested in inserting something anally, definitely make sure you have as much lube as possible, but even with that, take your time with penetration. Taking each beginning step of penetration much, much slower than you would with vaginal penetration is really helpful, and lets the body relax into this new sensation instead of tightening up. If you’re a penetrative partner, follow your partner’s cues; if they wince or tell you they need a break, it’s a good idea to have other activities on hand to try as well.
Once you and your partner do feel like you’re in a good place with penetration and play, you can find the pace that feels best for you!
3. Lose Your Expectations and Lean Into Exploration

Just like other kinds of sex, we may come to anal play with specific preconceived notions or ideas based on media, porn, previous partners, or more. We may expect anal sex to look or feel a certain way, or to feel “kinky” or “spice things up;” we may assume it will hurt, or have a specific power dynamic inherent to it.
As with many things in life, you’ll likely be best set up for success by letting go of these rigid expectations and instead approaching this with a spirit of curiosity and play. What feels appealing to each partner about anal sex? How does it fit into the rest of your sex life? How does it feel different to use your hands, mouth, or toys? If you or your partner have a prostate, are there ways you want p-spot stimulation involved? How might anal sex fit into other parts of your sex life, like roleplay or kink? There are no fixed answers to any of these questions – the fun is in finding out!