This week, we’re talking about the anus, and all its wondrous glory. We’ve talked a lot about the anus in previous articles, so this week’s will be reviewing some previous information as well as giving you some new bits and pieces to maximize pleasure for you and your partner.

Anal sphincters, and all other sphincters, are a group of muscles which play a vital role in humans; they are important because they control many of our bodily functions. Besides the anal sphincter, others include the pyloric (in the stomach), the pupillary (in the eye), and the urethral (controlling when we urinate). It’s important to note that there are voluntary and involuntary sphincters, ones we can control and ones that we can’t. The anal sphincter is a voluntary one, which means that we control it. Having control over the anal sphincter comes in handy when we talk about anal play and anal penetration.

As we’ve said in previous columns, the anal sphincter has many nerve endings. During sexual arousal, the sexual organs swell and engorge with blood; when this happens, the sensitive tissues become more responsive to touch and pressure. Because the anus is located in the pelvic region with the sexual organs, the anus engorges with blood, making it much more sensitive when a person becomes sexually aroused.

If you have experimented with anal play before, then you know that intense pleasure can be achieved from this type of stimulation. But what makes anal play feel good? Well we know that the anal muscle has nerves that respond to stimulation. Is there anything else? In fact, there is.

The prostate in men is located next to the inside of the rectum – about two inches up on the anterior (belly button side) of the rectal wall. Stimulation of this organ causes great pleasure. The purpose of the prostate is to produce protective fluid for sperm and is the last stop for sperm before ejaculation. Different positions are better for prostate stimulation. From the perspective of the receptive partner (bottom), here are some tips to maximize prostate pleasure. If your partner has a downward curve to his penis, doggy style may help to increase pressure on your prostate. If your partner’s penis points upwards, laying on your back will allow his penis to massage your prostate. However, also take into account what is comfortable – you might want to start off squatting down on the penis, as this position opens up the abdomen more than other positions, making penetration easier. You can also try new positions or variations of your regular positions. (Watching porn can also give you some ideas – but more on that in a bit.)

Prostate orgasms can feel a bit different as well. While most men are used to having a ‘penile’ orgasm, a prostate orgasm can feel deeper and be concentrated deep in the abdomen. Further, the process of ejaculation can be different from a ‘normal’ or ‘regular’ ejaculate. For instance, if you tend to have more powerful ejaculations, stimulation of the prostate may result in semen dribbling out; and vice-versa. Or there may not be any difference, or some men may ejaculate more powerfully and farther as a result. Just be aware that there may be a difference in ejaculation as a result of prostate and anal stimulation.

We often hear in the media the link between gay men and anal sex; however, there is much more to being gay than engaging in anal sex. While it is common for gay men to have penetrative anal sex, some men rarely engage in anal sex. In fact, anal sex fell behind sexual behaviors such as kissing, oral sex, mutual masturbation, and intimately holding a partner in terms of most common and most recent sexual activity (Rosenberger, J., et. al., 2011). If you’re new to bottoming or would like to try it for the first time, click here to read up on how to prepare yourself.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: when it comes to penetrative anal sex, use plenty of lubricant. The anal sphincter is a muscle, and as such, inserting something into the anus causes tiny micro-fissures. Micro-fissures can lead to infections such as HIV or other STIs, so be sure to wear a properly fitting condom and use plenty of lubricant. Another problem that could arise during anal play is the presence of hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids are inflamed cardiovascular tissues in the rectal area that can cause itching, pain, discomfort and bleeding (either during a bowel movement or during anal sex). While still possible to have anal sex with hemorrhoids, it’s best practice to wait until they have healed as open wounds can increase your chances of HIV or other STIs.

Now, a note about porn. While porn is great for visual stimulation, learning new positions, and exposing us to different sexual behaviors, it is not necessarily the best at depicting “real world” sex. Porn happens under ideal conditions: perfect lighting, a director telling everyone what to do, condoms just magically appear, and no one gets messy until the cum shot. Oh, and everyone instantly feels pleasure. Porn sex is not the sex most people hare having. Most anal sex takes time for both partners and usually takes time for both people (especially the receiver) to adjust to the new sensations.

So what are some take home messages? Anal sex feels good and can feel great, but it’s not as easy and painless as porn may make it seem. At the same time, porn can be very useful if you are learning or want to learn new positions for anal sex or if you are looking to do something with a partner that isn’t penetrative anal sex. As always, try different things out, experiment with different positions and different sexual behaviors, both alone and with a partner. Most importantly, have fun and keep communicating your wants and desires. Communicating with your partner jump starts the sexual excitement and can lead to an even better sexual experience.