Take the right precautions for anal sex


Q: My boyfriend and I have been experimenting with anal sex lately and we both enjoy it. I was wondering what kind of health risks might be involved with anal sex?

— Curious, but Cautious

Dear Curious, but Cautious,

First of all, kudos to you for being responsible. The good news is that there is nothing dangerous about having anal sex as long as you follow some basic guidelines.

To start with you should use a condom. If you have both been tested for sexually transmitted infections (STI) and don’t have any or have already been treated, are in an exclusively monogamous relationship, and are using a reliable form of birth control you don’t have to use a condom, but they do make for easy cleanup and are usually lubricated which can certainly help during anal intercourse. STI’s, if present, can be more easily spread through anal sex because the anal/rectal tissue is extra sensitive and often gets little microscopic cuts during anal play that can put you at a much higher risk for getting an STI such as herpes or HIV.

If you plan on doing any anal-oral stimulation, you should use a dental dam. A dental dam is simply a sheet of latex that you place over the anus before putting your mouth on the area. Dental dams can be hard to find, so to easily make one just take a regular condom and cut off the tip and make a slit up the side until you have just a square piece of latex. In a pinch, you can use Saran Wrap as long as it’s not the microwavable kind, which is porous.

The next ‘rule of anal’ is to use lots of water-based lubricant. Don’t use petroleum jelly (like Vaseline) or lotion because these are oil-based and can break down a condom and make it more likely to tear. Some good water-based lubricants are KY-Jelly, Astroglide, and even saliva which you always have available for that spur-of-the-moment anal sex.

It is also crucial to not engage in vaginal intercourse directly after anal intercourse because you could get all sorts of nasty infections that way from introducing fecal bacteria into your vagina. Just make sure you or your partner removes the condom and puts on a fresh one before moving on to vaginal penetration.

If you are in a STI-free, monogamous relationship, and are using another method of birth control and are not using a condom (though it doesn’t hurt to use one anyway) make sure your partner thoroughly washes his genitals with soap and water before having vaginal intercourse.

Last but not least, take it easy, keep it safe, and enjoy yourselves.

Editors Note: Lyndsay Mercier is a senior Psychology major. She is also the president of Vox: Voices for Planned Parenthood, a trained sexual education peer educator and a teaching assistant for Psychology of Sex Behaviors. Lyndsay is not a medical doctor and her advice should never replace the advice of a doctor. Email her your sexual health related questions at: [email protected].