Anal sex

Anal sex is a form of human sexual behavior which encompasses many sexual acts involving the anus, anal cavity, sphincter valve and/or rectum. The term anal sex, however, is often restricted to anal intercourse: the insertion of the erect penis into the rectum.

It is a form of sexual behavior considered to be comparatively high in risk, due to the vulnerability of the tissues and the septic nature of the anus. As the rectal mucosa provides little natural lubrication, a lubricant (such as a personal lubricant, for example) is most often required or preferred when penetrating the anus.

Anal intercourse


In modern times, particularly in Western cultures, anal sex has been popularly associated with gay and bisexual men. Anal sex has also been associated with the spread of HIV, starting in the early years of the discovery of the disease.

Among gay men who have anal sex, some consistently take the top (insertive) or bottom (receptive) role, but this is not always the case: some men who have anal sex act as both top and bottom at different times. This is known as "versatile" or "switch". Common slang terms that identify the consistently insertive and receptive roles are (in the USA) "pitcher" and "catcher," respectively and (in the UK) "active" and "passive".

In men, anal sex can produce a pleasurable sensation due to the stimulation that the partner's erect penis causes when rubbing or massaging the prostate (see below). Penetration can be painful for some men depending on their rectal anatomy or on the amount of lubrication used during penetration. While some men obtain strong sexual pleasure from being penetrated, occasionally becoming so aroused as to even avoid the need for penile stimulation to reach orgasm, others may find it discomforting at first or, at the other end of the spectrum, completely painful or unenjoyable.


In modern Western countries anal sex is reported as being a widely practiced, if still minority, form of intercourse between men and women. In some cultures, receptive anal intercourse by heterosexual partners is widely accepted. One reason is that there is very low risk of unwanted pregnancy via unprotected anal intercourse (though this is not an absolute guarantee, because semen can leak from the anus, cross the perineum, and enter the vagina). Also, anal sex is sometimes seen as preserving female virginity because it leaves the hymen intact. Another reason is that the anus is considered to yield more tactile pleasure for the penis, being tighter than the vagina. The Renaissance poet Pietro Aretino advocated the practice in his Sonetti Lussuriosi (Lust Sonnets).

Alternatively, the male may take the receptive role in heterosexual anal sex, usually aided by sex toys. The practice of pegging, in which a woman wearing a strap-on dildo penetrates her male partner, is gaining acceptance. Moreover, due to the proximity of the prostate gland to the rectum, it has been suggested that males may derive greater satisfaction in this manner than - Male pleasure

Anal sex and female virginity

Though more often applied to first penetration, the concept of "technical virginity" is sometimes conceived as resting solely on vaginal penetration. In Norman Mailer's novel ''Harlot's Ghost'', a character states that in Italy, an unmarried woman had to be "a maiden before and a martyr behind", implying that such women were obliged to submit to anal sex and that anal sex was painful.

In other cases, first anal intercourse is conceived of as ending a separate virginity from first vaginal intercourse,Whoa! He Went For Fifth Base! | Dating, Guys, Sex | DearSugar - Love, Sex, Relationship & Advice with varying degrees of seriousness. In a Rolling Stone interview, comedian Sarah Silverman joked: "I didn't lose my virginity until I was twenty-six. Nineteen vaginally, but twenty-six what my boyfriend calls 'the real way.'"Dirty Rotten Princess : Rolling Stone


Determining the proportion of people that engage in anal sex, and the frequency with which they do so, is rather difficult. Sexual surveys tend to reflect whether those surveyed have ever had anal sex, or whether they have had anal sex in the last year, instead of distinguishing between those who have tried it one or a few times and those who regularly have anal sex. It is also thought that a reason for the difficulty is the difficulty of collecting data on a practice that remains highly stigmatized in many countries. According to a 2004 report, "Some research suggests that one in four heterosexuals in the US has tried anal sex and for one in 12, it is an occasional or episodic practice. Other surveys suggest that seven times as many women as gay men engage in anal intercourse, a figure reflecting the greater overall heterosexual population."

While at the present time it is reported more frequently among same-sex couples, according to Dr. John Dean and Dr. David Delvin, "in absolute numbers, it is hypothesized that more heterosexual couples have anal sex than homosexual couples".


In the 1950s in the United Kingdom, it was thought that about fifteen percent of male homosexuals practiced the method. The Gay Urban Men's Study (P.I. Stall, UCSF) and the Young Men's Study (YMS, PI Osmond/Catania, UCSF), indicate that 50% of men surveyed engage in anal sex. The Laumann study claims that 80% of gay men practice it, while the remaining 20% never engage in it at all.

A survey conducted from 1994 to 1997 in San Francisco by the Stop AIDS Project indicated that over the course of the study, among men who have sex with men, the proportion engaging in anal sex increased from 57.6% to 61.2%.


Edward O. Laumann's 1992 survey, reported in The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States found that about 20% of heterosexuals have engaged in anal sex. Sex researcher Alfred Kinsey, working in the 1940s, had found that number to be closer to 40% at the time. More recently, a researcher from the University of British Columbia in 2005 put the number of heterosexuals who have practiced anal sex at between 30% and 50%.

A French survey of five hundred female respondents concluded that a total of 29% had practiced anal sex, though only one third of these claimed to have enjoyed the experience. In contrast, in a 1999 South Korean survey of 586 women, only 3.5% of respondents reported having had anal sex.

In 2005, a survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control determined that the incidence of anal relations in the heterosexual population is on the increase. The survey showed that 38.2 percent of men between 20 and 39 and 32.6 percent of women aged 18 to 44 had engaged in heterosexual anal sex; in 1992 a similar survey found that only 25.6 percent of men 18 to 59 and 20.4 percent of women 18 to 59 had.

According to Columbia University's health website, Go Ask Alice!: "Studies indicate that about 25 percent of heterosexual couples have had anal sex at least once, and 10 percent regularly have anal penetration."

Other anal sexual behavior

Anal sex need not involve penile insertion. The active partner (male or female) may use appendages other than a penis, such as the fingers and a fist. The use of the mouth and tongue on the anus, called rimming or anilingus is also common, often in conjunction with other sexual acts. He or she might also use an artificial device, often a phallic reproduction (dildo) or one that is generally engineered specifically for anal penetration (butt plug). A female using a strap-on dildo to anally penetrate a male is often referred to as pegging. Due to the proximity of the prostate gland to the rectum, it has been suggested that males may achieve greater satisfaction in this manner than females.

Prostate stimulation

The prostate gland, also known as a "male G-spot", "P-spot", or "A-spot" can be stimulated during anal intercourse.

Stimulation of the prostate gland can result in pleasurable sensations and can lead to a distinct type of orgasm in some cases. The prostate is located next to the rectum and is the larger, more developed male homologue to the Skene's glands, also known as the "G-spot" or "female prostate", which are located around the urethra and can be felt through the wall of the vagina.


Anal sex exposes participants to two principal dangers: infections, due to the high number of infectious microorganisms not found elsewhere on the body, and physical damage to the anus and the rectum due to their vulnerability.

Recent reports have documented that risky behavior is on the rise among men who have sex with men. Among gay men, anal sex without the use of a condom is referred to as barebacking.

Infectious diseases

Among the diseases with which anal sex is associated are HIV, anal cancer, typhoid fever and various diseases associated with the infectious nature of fecal matter or sexual intercourse in general. Among these are: Amoebiasis; Chlamydia; Cryptosporidiosis; E. coli infections; Giardiasis; Gonorrhea; Hepatitis A; Hepatitis B; Hepatitis C; Herpes simplex; Human papillomavirus; Lymphogranuloma venereum; Pubic lice; Salmonellosis; Shigella; Syphilis; Tuberculosis.


The high concentration of white blood cells around the rectum, together with the risk of cuts to the rectum and that one of the functions of the rectum is to absorb fluid, increases the risk of HIV transmission because the HIV retrovirus reproduces within the immune system's T-cells/CD4 cells. Use of condoms and other precautions are a medically recommended way to lessen risk of infections. Unprotected receptive anal sex is the most risky sexual behavior in terms of HIV transmission.

Physical damage

Physical damage to the rectum and anus can manifest as generalized ano-rectal trauma, hemorrhoids, anal fissures, and rectal prolapse. An insufficient amount of lubricant can make it especially painful or injurious. Damage is more likely if intercourse is forcible or aggressive, if alcohol or other drugs have dulled sensitivity, if communication is poor, or if technique is clumsy.


Incontinence has also been reported; the result of the anal sphincter losing its tonus. However a 1997 study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology found no difference in levels of incontinence between homosexual men who engaged in anal sex and heterosexual men who did not, and severely criticised an earlier 1993 study published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine which had found that fourteen out of a sample of forty men receiving anal intercourse experienced episodes of frequent anal incontinence for its inclusion of flatus in its definition of incontinence.

Dr. Jack Morin recommended kegel exercises to prevent loss of muscle tone from anal fisting or insertion of large objects in a presentation of clinical aspects of anal sexuality, delivered at the 1998 joint conference of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality and the American Association of Sex Educators. He added, however, that he had never personally observed "loosening" in any of his patientsJack Morin Transcript.


Most cases of anal cancer are related to infection with the human papilloma virus. The incidence of the disease has jumped 160% in men and 78% in women in the last thirty years, according to a 2004 American study. The increase is attributed to changing trends in sexual behavior and tobacco use. Current use of tobacco increased the incidence of anal cancer four-fold, while a history of multiple sex partners (fifteen or more) or receptive anal sex increased the incidence seven-fold.

Legal issues

The legal status of anal sex varies greatly between jurisdictions, from being completely open and legal, to being illegal for male to male participation, to only being legal in marriage or even totally outlawed. In some areas where anal sex may otherwise be legal and the participants are above the general age of consent there exists a higher age of consent for anal sex.

United States

Until 2003, the legality of anal sex varied from state to state. In some states, the practice was illegal. New York, Montana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Georgia had their anti-sodomy laws challenged and struck down by state supreme court decisions, but other states, including Texas, upheld their state's laws criminalizing such conduct.

In 1986, in its decision in Bowers v. Hardwick, 478 U.S. 186, the United States Supreme Court held that there was no constitutional right to privacy with respect to acts of anal sex performed in the privacy of one's home. A Georgia law criminalizing consensual sodomy in the privacy of one's home was therefore found to be constitutional. (The Supreme Court of Georgia, in the case Powell v. Georgia 270 Ga. 327, 510 S.E. 2d 18 (1998), later found that statute inconsistent with the Georgia state constitution.)

In 2003, the Supreme Court revisited Bowers in the case of Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558, and held the Texas law against consensual sodomy to be unconstitutional. This ruling invalidated all statutes in the United States that made consensual sodomy illegal. The principle has been held applicable to laws governing similar behavior: for example, the Supreme Court of Virginia held in Martin v. Ziherl, 607 S.E.2d 367 (Va. 2005), that the generally unenforced law against fornication was unconstitutional; the court's reasoning relied on Lawrence.

Cultural issues

Historically, a number of cultures have recorded the practice of male-male anal intercourse. The males who participated in such relationships often did not do so exclusively, as participation in these male-male relationships did not preclude sex with women. Such relations have also been documented as taking place in houses of prostitution, which provided youths or young men.

Ancient and non-Western cultures

The term "Greek love" has long been used to refer to the practice, and in modern times, "doing it the Greek way" is sometimes used as slang for anal sex. However, homosexual anal sex was far from a universally accepted practice in Ancient Greece. It was the target of jokes in surviving comedies; Aristophanes mockingly alludes to the practice, claiming that "Most citizens are europroktoi (wide-arsed) now." While pedagogic pederasty was an important part of society, these relationships were not necessarily sexual. There are very few works of pottery and other art that display anal sex between older men and boys, or even adult men. There are many more such works depicting intercrural sex, which was not condemned for feminizing the boys. Other sources make it clear that the practice was criticized as shameful.

Anal sex was described, and praised, in Greek poetry, usually with youths who had attained the proper age, but had not yet become adults. Seducing children into the practice was considered very shameful for the adult, and having such relations with a male who was no longer adolescent was considered more shameful for the young male than for the one mounting him. Greek courtesans, or hetaerae, are said to have frequently practiced heterosexual anal intercourse as a means of preventing pregnancy, a matter in dispute. How acceptable anal sex was may also have varied with the time-period and the location, as Ancient Greece spanned a long time and stretched over three continents and two major seas.

For a male citizen to take the passive (or receptive) role in anal intercourse was (traditionally) frowned upon in Rome, while playing the active role with a young slave was more likely to be ignored. In fact the Romans thought of anal sex as something specifically "Greek," although Roman men often availed themselves of their own slaves or others in this way.

In Japan, records (including detailed shunga) leave no question that at least some male-male couples did engage in penetrative anal intercourse.

Evidence suggestive of widespread heterosexual anal intercourse in a pre-modern culture can be found in the erotic vases, or stirrup-spout pots, made by the Moche people of Peru; in a survey of a collection of these pots, it was found that 31 percent of them depicted heterosexual anal intercourse, more by far than any other sex act. Moche pottery of this type belonged to the world of the dead, which was believed to be a reversal of life. Thus the reverse of common practices was often portrayed. The Larco Museum houses an Erotic Gallery in which this pottery is showcased.

The 19th century anthropologist Richard Francis Burton has theorized that there is a geographical Sotadic zone wherein male/male penetrative intercourse is particularly prevalent and accepted; moreover he was one of the first writers to advance the premise that such an orientation is biologically determined.

Western cultures

In many Western countries, anal sex has generally been taboo since the Middle Ages when heretical movements were sometimes attacked by accusations that their members practised anal sex among themselves. At that time the mainstream Christian clergy was not celibate, but the highest orders of some heretical sects were, leading to rumours that their celibacy was a sign of their attraction to members of the same sex. The term buggery originated in medieval Europe as an insult used to describe the rumoured same-sex sexual practices of the heretics from a sect originating in Bulgaria, where its followers were called bogomils; when they spread out of the country they were called buggres (from the ethnonym Bulgars). Another term for the practice, more archaic, is "pedicate" from the Latin pedicare, with the same meaning.

While men who engaged in homosexual relationships were generally suspected of engaging in anal sex, many such individuals did not. Among these, in recent times, have been André Gide, who for that reason was said to have been the pope of a religion to which he did not belong; Oscar Wilde, who despite being accused of being a "somdomite" (sic) by the Marquess of Queensberry actually did not engage in anal sex ; and Noel Coward, who had a horror of disease, and asserted when young that "I'd never do anything - well the disgusting thing they do - because I know I could get something wrong with me."

In Judaism, Christianity, and Islam

This prohibition of the Abrahamic religions against anal sex has been promulgated under the rubric of "sodomy," which includes various other transgressions of a sexual nature, whether with men, women or animals, or, according to some, as "not supporting the poor and the needy." This idea is vividly brought to life in the popular interpretation of the story of Sodom, where the people were prone to sexual immorality, and as a result were destroyed. There are conflicting views as to why Sodom was destroyed.


Orthodox Judaism teaches that sodomy is homosexual anal sex, and is a sin and toevah (abomination), based on the Bible passages Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13; the injunction "Do not lie with a man the lyings of a woman; it is abhorrent." has led rabbinical scholars to conclude "these verses to prohibit anal sex between men without any exception." This interpretation is contrary to many scholars' belief that the passage is intended to refer only to temple prostitutes. The Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist branches of Judaism are accepting of homosexuality, but less so of sodomy.

However, Judaism permits heterosexual anal sex.


In Christian countries it has often been referred to euphemistically as the peccatum contra naturam (the sin against nature, after Thomas Aquinas) or Sodomitica luxuria (sodomitical lusts, in one of Charlemagne's ordinances), or peccatum illud horribile, inter christianos non nominandum (that horrible sin that among Christians is not to be named).

Although some Christian denominations disapprove of anal sex, some believe it to be acceptable.


Liwat, or the sin of Lot's people, is officially prohibited by most Islamic sects. There are parts of the Qur'an which talk about smiting on Sodom and Gomorrah, and this is thought to be a reference to unnatural sex, and so there are hadith and Islamic laws which prohibit it. Practitioners of anal relations are called luti and are seen as criminals in the same way that a thief is a criminal, meaning that they are giving in to a universal temptation. Liwat with a woman is known as lesser liwat and with a man as greater liwat.

See also

Further reading

External links

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