Anal sex. Like pretty much all sexual activities (especially ones that don’t make babies or ones happen outside of marriage), it has faced a historical maelstrom of strong reactions, and even controversy. But the reactions continue today, even as many of us scoff at baby-making or walking down the aisle.

So…is anal virginity the new virginity?

Maybe. Everything in life must be taken case-by-case. Because no one is the same, and no two sets of circumstances are either. Inefficient, you say? Inconvenient? Tell that to your asshole.

Case-by-case means it just depends 

Depending on a wide variety of factors, one’s experience of anal sex can be anywhere from straight up traumatizing, to revolutionarily incredible.

“What factors?” you may ask.

You know: your physical and emotional wellbeing, your chemistry with your partner, how much you trust said partner, and proper foreplay (read: mouth, tongue, toys, fingers, lube) to name a few. Personally, I have always found that having an orgasm before attempting anal penetration really helps by loosening up all the muscles implicated in the deed.

Fact is, anal sex has been around much longer than arguments of its ungodliness and unnaturalness. But among straight women, do our perceptions deceive us, or is this a way (like, wayyy) more common pastime than it once was? Does this mean we like it more than we once did? Is this, like our changing pubic hair grooming habits, the result of porn culture’s impact on real, lived sexuality?

Here's what the stats say.

Quantity 

According to a study conducted in 2015, at least one in three straight women in the US has tried anal at some point. But while 36.3% reported having tried anal, only 13.2% said they'd done it in the past 12 months. These numbers are still a lot higher than many people would guess, since many still perceive anal as some sort of fringe activity. A 2010 study, cited by Cosmopolitan, points to a sharp rise in anal sex among straight women of various ages since the 90s: 40% from 20 to 24 have tried it, up from 16% in 1992. And women aged 20 to 39 who’ve had anal in the past year doubled from 10 to 20%. Meanwhile, 20% of women in relationships have had anal sex in the last three months.

Allison Williams getting her ass eaten on Girls HBO

Allison Williams getting her ass eaten on Girls HBO :)

Quality 

But what do these numbers say about pleasure, enjoyment, consent, safety?

A 2014 qualitative study of British teens revealed a “culture of coercion” surrounding anal sex between boys and girls. Heterosexual anal sex appeared to be “painful, risky and coercive, particularly for women.” Young men spoke of being expected to persuade or coerce reluctant partners. The study further discovered coercive, painful and unsafe anal sex had become normalized among both boys and girls, pointing to a need for sex education that addresses anal sex (it doesn’t, generally). 

There appeared to be competition between boys to have anal sex with girls, while another main reason cited for engaging in the act was that boys “wanted to copy what they saw in pornography and that ‘it’s tighter.’” The idea that girls would generally not want to have anal sex (and so would need to be persuaded or coerced), seemed to be taken for granted by many participants. Researchers indicated that girls’ pleasure was often “absent in narratives of anal heterosex…”

My own special case  

I’m 35, and I had my first mutually pleasurable anal sex experience about 2 years ago. I had half-heartedly attempted anal with a handful of men and given up rather quickly because it just didn’t feel right. No biggie. I continued to enjoy anal play. I’d thoroughly enjoyed a finger partway up my butt on many occasions. I’d had men thoroughly enjoy licking my asshole without even broaching the topic of penetration. I’d particularly enjoyed having my ass toyed with during vaginal/clitoral fingering or intercourse. The more pleasure centres the better. And make no mistake: although anal sex, like everything else, is an acquired taste, when done correctly, your asshole is indeed a pleasure centre. 

Then, I met someone who simply did it right: he inspired my trust; he knew what he was doing; he cared about how I felt, and he took his damn time. The entire act at times felt more intimate to me than vaginal sex, simply because of the gentleness and care that was required to make it happen. We could spend hours just warming me up. Maybe I’d have an orgasm first. No rush, no pressure. I think that was a big part of my own personal unclenching. And once he was in, clitoral stimulation also became part of the equation.

Best part? For comfort’s sake, I’ve discovered that I always need to start off with my partner behind me, in a spooning position. Best of both worlds: great anal and cuddling at the same time!