A beginner's guide to anal play

A beginner's guide to anal play

Despite it being home to the location of several erogenous zones, anal sex, butt plugs and general “butt stuff” have been criminalised by several jurisdictions since the 17th century. The word sodomy and other sinister representations of gayness, continue to lose their footholds as we liberate ourselves from hegemonic norms towards embodied pleasure. Before we delve into the legitimacy of anal play, it’s important to acknowledge that we stand in solidarity with all those who are fighting for sexual freedom against persecution. Pleasure is a tool of liberation as we look towards a non-violent world. 



Part of what makes people feel worried about enjoying anal sex comes down to social and cultural norms that value vaginal penetration or penis-in-vagina sex as “real sex” and excludes anything that falls outside of this. There are many sex-negative media and moral messages that teach people that anal sex and anal play is dirty and not really sex at all. Being aware of the messages that you may have been taught, reinforced and internalised throughout your life and challenging them is a big part of giving yourself permission to enjoy anal activities.

 Fearing anal sex or butt play because it’s gay is called homophobia or internalised homophobia (if the person experiencing it is queer). These are products of the patriarchy.

 Anal experiences can be deeply stimulating and pleasurable. Anal play doesn’t really discriminate against who it’s for. Maybe you don’t have a partner but you’re curious as to what an anal toy would feel like? Maybe you’re feeling like your sex with your partner is too vanilla? Maybe your partner enjoys being anally penetrated? Maybe you’ve never tried it before? Maybe you’re just a person with an asshole wondering how people experience pleasure from it? Curiosity is a cornerstone of pleasure, so allow it to come forward for exploration. 



Chantelle Otten speaks about the fact that a lot of us have the wrong idea about anal play: “Many people assume anal sex is painful. However, it shouldn’t be the case. It’s just a bit more intense than other types of sexual play because of the nerve endings in that area.”

 That means when done right, anal play can be a highly pleasurable and satisfying experience. It makes complete sense as to why anal play might feel so pleasurable, given that there are so many nerve endings around the entrance to the anus and within the rectum and no direct nerve endings within the vaginal canal. When you combine anal stimulation with clitoral stimulation (another erogenous zone with a high concentration of nerve endings), the potential for intense, fuller orgasms become possible.

 At the same time, there’s a lot of stigma around anal play which may explain why you feel nervous, or afraid of freaking your partner out. The best way to expel this and begin generating excitement is to do some conscious research, on your own or together. Choosing your tools for exploration is the best way to get prepared and to ensure there are clear boundaries around the activity. Remember: deep intimacy requires a strong sense of safety. 



 It’s ok to be nervous about anal, so it’s a good idea to take it slow, build up to it and work out what you enjoy before you jump in the deep end. Because of all the nerve endings we mentioned surrounding your anus and rectum, it’s really important to warm up, always use heaps of lube and take it slow to prevent pain or injury. Slowness is not something porn will show or advocate for, but by taking a slower pace, we invite fuller pleasure into our reality. 

 Sexologist Chantelle Otten says it’s important to take time to prepare: 

 The most important thing to remember is to relax. Anal sex and being tense is not going to work. Spend some quality self-care time unwinding and getting yourself in the mood. Try having a hot bath or shower, meditating and relaxing every muscle in your body whilst putting on a sexy playlist to set the mood.

 If you feel like your anal muscles are too tight, try a reverse kegel for the backdoor. Reverse kegels are the opposite of standard kegel exercises and focus on releasing and relaxing the pelvic floor muscles. Try pulling the butt muscles up towards your belly button, then release them.

 Once you’re ready to go, make sure you take your time. Start with some external anal play before anything lubricated goes inside the actual hole. Go slow and gentle and find out what works for you by trying different speeds and motions either manually or with a toy. Avoid using high vibrating settings until you’re ready. Always work up with size and pace so you don’t tear the delicate area of skin you are connecting with. 

 When you’re ready for penetration, start with a well-lubed finger circling the outside of the anus before (with permission) slipping that finger in. The responsive quality of a finger is always  better to use before moving on to something larger like a toy. When you are prepared to take the next step, anal beads are a great place to start or a small butt plug with a base (always use a base so it doesn’t go missing).

 Finally, don’t put pressure on yourself. Anal play isn’t for everyone and if it’s not something you enjoy, that is totally fine. Moving away from goal-oriented pleasure is another way of increasing your pleasure capacity. Enjoy the experience and have fun!

 You can even try pairing anal pleasure with stimulation of other erogenous zones like the nipples or use a clitoral vibrator. Once you’re finished, always make sure you clean your hands with antibacterial soap and toys with a good sex toy cleaner.”

 Before you go anywhere further, you might also like to ask your partner if they’re willing to give you a massage where they focus on massaging your glutes and lower back. You can talk about those nerve endings at the entrance to your anus and how you’d like to try some external stimulation (if that’s where you want to start). Ask them what they think and if they’re open to it. Maybe involve some quality massage oil or lube.

 The key to success? Put the power in the hands of the receiver. If you need to go slow, go slow. Do not rush it.

 Chantelle reminds us the importance of taking the time to listen to your body:

 “Remember that there are a lot of new and unusual feelings down there, so it’s possible to mistake these new sensations as pain. Try asking yourself, is this painful? Or is it just a weird feeling? If it’s weird, keep going, add more lube and try different techniques to work out what you enjoy.”



Douching and enemas are things that some people prefer to do before having anal sex because the thought of being ‘cleaned out’ makes it feel hygienically safer or easier to relax. Douches are for cleaning the rectum, whereas an enema reaches a little deeper into the large intestine.

There are various types of enemas and douches you can use. If you are having regular anal sex, hanging bag enemas or shower attachments are a good investment. But you can also buy single-use enemas. Disposable enemas from the chemist can come pre-lubed or sometimes need to be set up following the instructions they come with. It’s usually a pretty straight forward process, inserting the enema or douche into your anal canal over the toilet bowl and using the water flow to flush yourself internally until the water runs clean. 

Sexologist Kassandra Mourikis says:
It’s not always necessary or possible to douche and can also be time-consuming. Instead, having a bowel movement in the hours before sex with a shower and a good wash with PH friendly soap is enough. It’s also a good idea to try anal play on days when your poo consistency is more solid. On the days you have runs or loose stool, it is also a good idea to focus on anal play that only ventures as far as the rim, or other forms of sex.



 The reality is that in playing with your body, particularly a space that we excrete from naturally, there is a chance there will be some sort of mess. Putting down a towel for solo or partnered anal play will ensure that your sheets stay free of fecal matter, body fluids and lube. When accidents happen though, and they probably will, all you can do is laugh about it, jump in the shower, and make sure you wash your hands before and after doing anything.

Toy cleaner

After each time you’ve finished having anal sex, make sure that you thoroughly clean your hole, the toy and any body part used to penetrate you. If you don’t plan on being near a shower, it’s always a good idea to keep some baby-wipes handy (you can use Jonny’s disposable condom bags for storing rubbish until it’s time for disposal). 



You can try heating up or cooling down glass butt plugs in hot water or in your freezer. When you’ve built up to it you can also try a vibrating plug or test out different types of silicone butt plugs that can be smooth or ridged. Never put a toy or finger that you’ve had in your butt and put it into anyones vagina or mouth without washing it well first. 

There are a variety of different toys specifically made for butt-play. These include phallic toys (toys shaped like a penis), vibrating toys and butt-plugs. All serve a different purpose and are made of different materials for different sensations.

Anal beads

Anal beads are graduated spheres joined together by flexible material. Ideal for beginners, anal beads can be used alone for unique anal stimulation or during masturbation or intercourse. The first few beads usually start off small but slowly graduate in size, allowing you to enjoy more and more length and girth. The idea is to pull these out just before orgasm.

Prostate massager

For penis-owners, the prostate is a hidden gem located around two inches inside the male anus. By using a prostate massager, you can easily stimulate this zone and generate full body, spinal-erupting orgasms.

Butt plugs 

Unlike dildos or vibrators, butt plugs are meant to stay in place after insertion, with the purpose of stimulating the rectal area. These can be used whilst receiving penetration in other parts of the body to widen the pleasure experience, or also to train the rectum to receive the sensation of penetration. Like all forms of penetration in this sensitive area, starting small and increasing the size is important to prevent tearing or damage. 

When it comes to using toys, as we mentioned earlier Kass recommends progressing from smaller to larger toys to give your muscles an opportunity to stretch and relax. Make sure all the toys you use have a base to prevent yourself from ending up in emergency.  Don’t let a small vibrator or similar end up loose inside yourself.



Hygiene for anal play is super important whether it’s a solo session or partnered anal sex.


Gloves are something that often go forgotten when it comes to anal play. If you’re into costume play, it can be really arousing watching someone, or yourself, put on a glove and anticipating the play that’s to follow. Latex gloves are a common option but it’s important to note that some people are hypersensitive to latex, and it doesn’t tend to react well with some types of lubricants. Well-fitting gloves are nice to have as folds in the glove can cause irritation inside your asshole. If white gloves remind you too much of the dentist to be sexy, plan ahead and organise some thinner black tattoo artist’s gloves. Remember to discard or change gloves before you touch another person’s or your own butthole, vulva, penis or mouth.

Dental dams 

Dental dams are great to use if you’re planning on using your mouth as part of anal play, both to reduce bacteria exchange, as well as protect against some types of STI’s. If you haven’t heard of a dental dam before that’s because they’re not usually sold in the supermarket or the pharmacy alongside regular barriers like condoms. Typically they are most easily sourced at an adult store, and they adhere to the body using static or moisture to cover the entire anal or vaginal area. Sometimes it may need a little extra help to stay where it needs to with hands or some extra lube. Like gloves, if these rip or have been used on one side, they need to be discarded straight away.


Using condoms over toys or over a partner’s penis shaft is an important measure in keeping everything clean and easy to clean-up afterwards. Because condoms aren’t typically made for anal sex, it’s important to be aware of the differing pressure they are subject to being used for anal-play compared to vaginal. Condoms can sometimes rip and need monitoring, and on some occasions they can even come off inside the anal cavity. We are obviously our own favourite condoms. 

Sexologist Kassandra Mourikis says:
If you’ve lost a condom in your anus this will require a bit of monitoring. If it doesn’t come out, getting checked out is important. Your rectum (the area past your anus) is actually more of a tube or a tunnel. The difference is that it is much larger and longer and is not just an empty space but connects to other organs. While a lost condom in your butt likely won’t go far, if it hasn’t come out after 24hours, getting a scan is probably the best idea.



 Remember that spit is not an effective alternative to lube and spit is not safe for anal penetration in any form. When exploring lubes, there are a few different types to consider. We always recommend testing lube on your skin first to make sure it’s non-reactive and where you can find a cruelty-free, vegan option!

Water-based lube, aloe-based lube and silicone lube tend to be the most popular, but if you’re using toys or barrier methods like condoms, it’s important to make sure that the lubricant is compatible with them, and won’t reduce their efficacy. That information is often contained in the care booklet of your toy or on the box of the barrier you’re using, and is important to adhere by. As a rule of thumb though, condoms are only compatible with water or silicone based lubes. 



After-care is an essential part of any vulnerable sexual experience. Regardless of your romantic attachment with the person you’ve had sex with, on a fundamental human need, we all deserve to feel safe and valued for the exchange. After-care can look like sharing physical closeness (post-sex snuggling) or it can look like re-hydrating, showering or even just talking about the experience. 

Intimacy and vulnerability are not always related to romantic attachment. They are really just the hallmark of safety. 

 Anal sex can sometimes result in things that need physical attention such as friction burn, fissures or general soreness. After cleaning the affected area you can try a soothing balm like the one from Happie Holl that is packed with antibacterials and calming ingredients. 


This is an edited version of the Anal Play Zine, originally written for CH-VOID. Republished by Jonny.