Anal Sex – are there long term health issues with it?

by Chrystal Bougon on July 8, 2010

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I was asked this question at a Bliss Pleasure Party recently. I hear this question every once in awhile at our home sex toy parties, so I thought I would ask one of the REAL experts about this topic and she generously answered this question in a super thorough and comprehensive way. She is The Ms. Violet Blue : author / smarty pants / pro porn / guest on Oprah / tech savvy / columnist / podcaster / blogger superstar and let’s just say this woman knows her shiznet.  Want to know more about her? Check out her website or follow her on Twitter:

——————————————————————– Copied here with permission from Violet Blue —————-

Open Source Sex Advice! BlissConnection’s Chrystal Bougon asks this week’s question:Is it possible for back-door pleasure to wear out its welcome?

Chrystal Bougon: This came up at a Bliss Party last night when I was teaching my hostesses friends what I know about anal sex. (I have a blog; I wrote about 9 steps to pain free anal sex.) Can you comment on how safe anal sex is long term? It seems there are so many conflicting studies out there. Some people say it is perfectly natural and healthy and others say that it can lead to long term health issues. And, I understand all of the STD issues, but I mean more about the long term health of the anus, etc. (…) I just wonder what your feelings are on the subject.

Violet: This is a great question, because it tackles several concerns — and myths — about anal sex all at once. Anal sex is still a very taboo subject, even though we’re in a fairly enlightened era for frank sexual discussions. To my own surprise and shock, I’ve even witnessed Dr. Drew talking about anal sex and perpetuating myths about the sex act — I think, because it is still socially unacceptable to engage in anal sex as a regular part of one’s sexual repertoire, and to enjoy it. We’re supposed to get punished for liking things too much, right?

Well, that seems to certainly be the attitude toward what is actually a fairly innocent sex act. Chrystal, you wrote a blog post outlining guidelines for pain free anal play, so you know that anal pleasure and health go hand in hand. For those new to understanding anal penetration, a little physiology lesson goes a long way.

The anus is packed with nerve endings, which is one of the main reasons it can feel oh-so-good when sexually stimulated; it is also ringed with highly sensitive muscles (think: the opening of a drawstring bag). These muscles have a mind of their own and are not under voluntary control — that’s why we have to go slow for anal sex, and why anything that goes inside should have a flared base so it can’t get pulled inside. Unlike the vagina, the anus does not self-lubricate, which is why we have to add lubricant for penetration. The skin inside is very thin (thus sensitive), and can tear easily: again why we need LOTS of lubricant, and should always only play with toys that are absolutely smooth.

So if you enjoy anal sex and want to do it more than once in your life, maybe even regularly, what’s there to worry about? Well, some people — even ‘experts’ — might say that because [they think that] the anus is not meant for penetration or pleasure, there could be a price to pay for all that fun. Namely, that over time, anal sex will lead to lack of muscle control, lack of bowel control, or a “looser” anus. This would be the ‘long term health’ issues people are likely referring to.

Once we’ve “warmed up” for anal sex by relaxing, it feels like penetration is easier — and it is. Penetration gets you used to relaxing the sphincter muscles, but it’s important to know that these muscles (smooth muscles) and the skin around the anus are shockingly resilient. The more experience you have with anal sex makes it easier to control the pain and accommodate penetration — not because you’re “stretched out” or “looser” but because you’re more experienced with your body, and in tune with its reactions.

If you’re doing everything properly (lots of lube, going slow, not scratching yourself with nails or plastic toys), you’re taking good care of your bootie and there will be no damage or long term effects. Unless you’re purposely going out of your way to try and stretch yourself out with superhuman-sized objects repeatedly over time and regularly, playing unsafely, or working to actively tear the sphincter muscles, you can’t actually permanently change the size of the anal opening. Nor can you “break” the muscles so they don’t work anymore.

There have been cases where certain anal ailments have developed after years of anal play (anal fissures, to be precise), but conventional wisdom points to the ailments being caused by unsafe anal sex practices such as not using lube, using drugs during anal sex, or inserting large objects into the rectum without proper warm-up and preparation. The notion of losing bowel control due to frequent anal penetration is a hurtful myth, perpetuated by our culture’s shame about anal sex. It is usually directed at gay men, though since anal sex has become popular with heterosexual couples, that myth has followed into mainstream culture, no thinks to pundits who confuse opinion for fact, such as Dr. Drew.

In fact, playing with anal penetration for pleasure actually tones the muscles, stimulates healthy blood flow to the area, and is a great form of exercise for the sphincter muscles. The more you use the muscles, the better shape they will be in — though because they are smooth muscles, not like the muscles in your biceps, they can’t be “bulked up” so you don’t have to worry about them becoming bigger from “too many” orgasms! Oh, if only there was such a thing as too many orgasms… I digress.

But as long as you don’t rush, you stop when you feel pain, and don’t do anything to damage the tissue, you may find that you have even better bootie control than before. Pick up a copy of my friendTristan Taormino’s wonderful book, The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women — it’s fabulous, and is certainly the most complete book on the subject. (Tristan was recently onChrystal Bougon’s Bliss Radio talking about her new sex toy book.)

Now, go shake your tailfeather responsibly, and know you won’t have to “pay for it” later.


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