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Does Anal Sex Always Hurt?

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Updated February 09, 2009

Question: Does Anal Sex Always Hurt?
Answer:

The idea that anal sex always hurts a little or a lot, at least the first few times, is a common myth (not unlike the idea that vaginal sex has to, or always, hurts the first time). The truth is that if you’re doing it right, no sex should ever hurt, unless you want it to. By doing it “right,” I don’t just mean the right technique. Doing it right also means paying attention to your body and knowing how to respond when you notice a change in how sexual stimulation is feeling. If you’re feeling unwanted pain or discomfort, it’s a good sign that you need to slow down, stop or switch up what you’re doing.

As for anal sex, it’s true that a lot of people do experience some pain or discomfort the first time they have it or the first time they have it with a new partner. That’s mostly due, however, to a lack of communication, cooperation and often not enough lubrication. It isn't because there is something inherent to anal sex that means it has to hurt. When you’re having anal sex, or more specifically anal penetration, your sphincter muscles are being stretched. They are muscles, though, and as long as they are properly stretched, there is no harm in exercising them. Safe and pleasurable anal sex requires you to be able to relax these muscles, not simply learn to tolerate the pain of them being stretched. If your technique is to grin and bear it, you aren't having safe or pleasurable anal sex.

Another aspect of anal sex that may cause discomfort is the feeling of fullness or pressure in the anal canal and rectum. Barring any physical conditions, this discomfort isn’t necessarily your body saying “no” as much as it is your body saying “what’s this? I haven’t felt this before." You may find that you don’t like that feeling, and if that’s the case, anal penetration probably isn’t for you. Some people, though, find that once they get comfortable with the sensation, there is pleasure behind the novelty.

It is possible to have anal sex without ever experiencing pain, but it does take some extra work. Here are the key steps to having anal sex that never hurts:

If you’ve done all of that and still find anal sex to be painful or uncomfortable, there are at least two other possibilities: One, there may be a physical situation or condition that is resulting in pain during anal sex -- you may want to talk with your doctor about this. Two, you may just not like anal penetration. Lots of people don’t, and some people like anal play without penetration.

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