Ask Dr. H: Week 1, Fall 2016

Dr. Jill Hoxmeir, Public Health Professor

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Dear Dr. H,  

I’ve been with my girlfriend for over a year, and we’ve been having sex for most of that time. The sex is great – no complaints – but, there are other things I want to try. Basically, how do I ask her if she’s willing to try anal sex? Sometimes it comes up in a joke and she’ll call it “gross” or whatever, but I don’t know if that’s how she really feels. How do I go about asking her? 

Response:

You can play it safe and ask: “What do you think about anal sex?” But, be prepared for an equally vague response: “I don’t know… I haven’t really thought about it… what do YOU think about anal sex?”

Of course, that could lead you into what you really want to know, which is, “I’m interested in anal sex, and I was wondering how you feel about that?” Feel free to include other, prefacing statements like how much you like your partner and enjoy the sex that the two of you are having, and that you are completely ok if they are simply not interested in trying anal sex. Its important your partner doesn’t feel pressured or, if this is something they have never done before, feel condescended to for being somehow behind-the-times sexually.

Anal sex is getting much attention as of late. However, it doesn’t mean, necessarily, that more people are engaging in it than before. Due to the stigma attached to it (especially for straight women), people just didn’t talk about like they do today. Many people – both men and women – find anal sex enjoyable, and, this being a sexual health column, I’d like to take the opportunity to provide some helpful and healthful info:

The anus doesn’t naturally lubricate (like a mouth or vagina), so a water-based lube is pretty much mandatory to make it more comfortable… but also, safer. Because the anus doesn’t naturally lubricate, the delicate lining is susceptible to micro-tears. This can be uncomfortable, yes, but it also increases risk for the spread of STIs, including HIV. Because there is no risk of pregnancy for anal sex, people sometimes neglect condoms. However, unprotected receptive anal sex is considered a high-risk behavior for STI transmission.

In that same vein, it is also very important not to switch from anal sex to vaginal sex without changing the condom or cleaning the penis (or sex toy or finger or whatever). Doing so can introduce bacteria that can disrupt the vagina’s natural ecosystem and cause vaginal and/or urinary tract infections.

So, if you get the go-ahead from your partner, start slowly. Some people report a horrendous experience with anal sex because their partner didn’t ease them into it. Just as vaginas need a warm-up, so too do anuses. Start with lube and your fingers. You can ask, “Is this ok? How does this feel?” Relaxation is key, so if your partner is having a hard time relaxing with the use of your fingers, I would say that inserting your penis and/or sex toy is off the table – at least for a while until they feel comfortable to try again.

Whenever trying something new with a partner, let them set the pace. If they aren’t enjoying it – and you’ve taken all of the care to help them relax, be in control, and ease into it – then they just aren’t into it. Good luck!

 

Dr. Jill Hoxmeir is a public health professor at CWU.

Send anonymous public health and sex related questions to [email protected] and have them answered here.

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Ask Dr. H: Week 1, Fall 2016