Depending on your point of view, fisting might be a sex act that feels extreme, kinky, or limited to the realm of pornography; it might be something that you do on a weekly basis. It might also feel like scissoring: a sex act you’ve heard about, but weren’t confident could be a realistic part of anyone’s day-to-day sex life.
If any of this ambiguity resonates with you, you’re not alone; for some, there’s been confusion over whether fisting in porn is prohibited in porn by obscenity laws, and it’s certainly not something regularly covered in American sexual education. But there’s no doubt that it’s also an extremely common and enjoyable practice for a lot of folks, often rooted in queer culture but enjoyed by people of various genders and sexual orientations. If it’s something you’ve always had questions about, or want to make sure you’re well informed about before trying at home, here’s what I think is most important to know to get started with fisting.

What is fisting?

Put very simply, fisting is the act of inserting your entire hand and sometimes forearm inside somebody, either in the vagina or rectum. Despite the name, it’s easier to imagine this if you remember that the penetrating person’s hand isn’t actually balled up into a fist as if you’re about to punch somebody. Fisting is more of a natural progression of any kind of penetration or playing with hands or fingers that you might be doing already. Many people enjoy having three or four fingers inside them; for people who feel like they want even more based on that sensation, fisting might be a great choice.
For people who enjoy fisting, it offers a really special and intense feeling of fullness, more so than you can get with other kinds of penetration, including with penises or dildos. Fisting can also feel really intimate and emotionally close for a lot of people, as the amount of care and time required for such a specific and intense sex act is often more natural within emotionally close or serious connections than in casual ones. (That doesn’t mean that fisting isn’t something you can enjoy with your friends with benefits or occasional hookup! It just takes a little time and dedication.)

How do you actually do that?

It’s a fair question! Having someone’s hand inside you does sound very intense, and it’s definitely a good fit for people who enjoy intense penetration at least on special occasions. The key to successful fisting is much like the key to a lot of new sex acts, like anal — it’s important to go slowly and use a lot of lube. More specifically to fisting, however, there are some elements of technique that it’s helpful to keep in mind.
If you’re already regularly penetrating people with fingers, you are likely kind of aware of a shape that your hand naturally forms in that context: bringing the tips of your fingers together in a shape that lets your hand hold on itself with your palm concave rather than flat. Fisting somebody is a natural progression of the shape; rather than holding your fist as if you are punching with it, all of the tips of all five fingers move towards each other, creating a shape almost like you’re making shadow puppets talk on the wall. (For some people, it’s easier to think of it as the shape you’d make when trying to reach to the bottom of a canister of Pringles)
Even with this shape, it’s important to remember that it’s an end goal, not a beginning. It’s important to warm up with other types of foreplay and other types of penetration first, both in general this person and during the specific session where you’re hoping to fist someone. When using hands, it should feel good to the person to have three and then four fingers inside them; after that point, if you both want to keep going, you can fold your thumb into your other four fingers into the hollow of your palm and, with a lot of lube, work to slowly bring your knuckles inside of someone. Again, it’s important to go very slow during this process, maybe slower than it feels like you should; even if it doesn’t feel like much is going on for the person penetrating, the sensation likely feels very intense in a good way to the person being penetrated. Don’t be impatient! It’s better to have to wait till another time to finally reach that point than to rush.

What should I keep in mind?

While fisting isn’t an inherently dangerous or unsafe act, much like almost every sex act, it can cause injury under the wrong circumstances. The interior of the vagina and anus are both very delicate, and it’s easy to cause tears or abrasions if something inside moves too fast or roughly; this is part of why it’s important to use as much lube as possible, especially if you’re interested in anal fisting. Reducing friction helps reduce the risk of tears or scratches.