Anal sex is still taboo, but it’s time to get over it. Even after myriad articles, research (the Kinsey Institute revealed that 40 percent of women have had anal sex with a same sex partner) books, Teen Vogue’s viral guide for adolescents, The Mindy Project’s groundbreaking portrayal on broadcast television in 2014 and Harvard’s infamous workshop on butt play, people are still squeamish about the sex act, confusing it as a gay-only act or calling it unsanitary. While there is no denying we’ve come a long way in becoming a more sexually open society, anilingus (colloquially known as “rimming”) and backdoor play are still controversial, despite their growing popularity.

Earlier this year, in another piece I wrote on anal’s trendiness, Alicia Sinclair, the founder of sex-toy company b-Vibe, said that “anal is the new oral.” Sex-toy manufacturer LELO deemed the year of “the proliferation of anal sex and pleasure” based on the company’s 2015 earnings, which documented a 200 percent increase in sales of male anal pleasure objects. Macho action-thriller Kingsman: The Secret Service included a joke about its hero, Eggsy, partaking in anal sex in 2014, and soon after, Allison Williams got her ass eaten out on HBO’s Girls.

Make no mistake: embracing the backside is growing more popular among straight couples. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 34 percent of men had anal sex with a female partner in 2002 From 2011 to 2015, 38 percent did. One can only assume this figure is increasing.

We at Playboy believe that everyone, male or female, deserves safe, consensual, pain-free, shame-free pleasure in life, and anal sex qualifies. Let’s start with this misnomer: It doesn’t have to hurt. Actually, any pain at all can be completely avoided if the act is done correctly, consensually and comfortably. Let’s get started.


THE ANATOMY OF ANAL PLEASURE
The anus and rectum contain several nerve endings, most of which are located at the entrance of the anus. The stimulation of these nerve endings is what can make penetration enjoyable. Stimulation of that region can even trigger an orgasm on its own. Of course, as with vaginal intercourse, the level of pleasure will differ from person to person. Some may find the act immediately enjoyable while others may be number. You won’t know where you fit on the spectrum until you give it a shot.

BUT WON’T IT HURT?
Plain and simple, there is no singular barrier of pain you must get through before anal starts to feel great. To repeat, bottoming shouldn’t hurt. If it does, your body is telling you to stop. Halt and then try a different position or try again later. If you think anal is meant to hurt, your brain will convince you every step of the way that it does. That’s not to say some practitioners don’t enjoy the pain as its own sexual kink, but in terms of safety, when done correctly, anal sex should not hurt. Pain doesn’t always precede pleasure, especially when it comes to your body.

HOLD MY LUBE
An anus doesn’t supply its own lube like a vagina. Therefore, extra help in that department isn’t just recommended, it’s necessary. Lots of lube and some practice with your fingers is the best way to train for first-time anal sex. You don’t want to jump right into the act; this takes time.

As for the type, water-based lube is the safest but is more quickly absorbed by the body. Oil-based lubes are old news; few sexperts will recommend using them, in part because they can break down condoms. That leaves silicone-based lubricant. It’ll keep your behind wetter, longer. And yes, you should always use a condom. It’ll lessen the awkwardness should an accident occur, but also because it’s 2017 and—duh.

YOU GOTTA PLAN IT
Anal sex is by no means as spontaneous as vaginal intercourse. Throwing someone down on the bed and knocking on their backdoor requires planning and preparation, for obvious reasons. Before partaking, the receiver should enjoy a cup of coffee and let nature do it’s thing. Preparing with a douche, followed by a shower, is also standard protocol.

Start by inserting one finger into your partner. Stimulating your female partner’s clitoris or your male partner’s genitals simultaneously is a good way to alleviate stress and help the body relax. Drinks also help. If a male is being stimulated, the partner should start by massaging the prostate, otherwise known as the G-Spot or P-Spot. The prostate is a solid, walnut-sized gland located toward the belly button and near the bladder that produces prostatic fluid, an ingredient in semen. Stimulation to this area can result in its own prostate-induced orgasm. Gentlemen, ever had one of those? You’ll thank me.

CLEAR YOUR HEAD
There’s a strong chance first-timers will tense up, clenching their internal muscles, which then causes the sphincter to clench in return. This clenching creates an obvious barrier between you and whatever object wants inside. Communicating to your partner is a key component throughout anal sex. This isn’t a quickie. Ass play is going to be weird at first. Both partners need to be mentally prepared for the experience, to thrust slowly or to halt at any moment. By the way, there’s no harm in laughing here and there, too.

USE YOUR TONGUE
Anal stimulation isn’t limited to penetration. Anilingus, or teasing the anus with the tongue and mouth, is another sexual act surging in popularity. In 2008, a study of 1,400 straight American men found that anilingus was common among couples who’ve had anal sex. In fact, 24 percent of men had performed analingus on their partners and 15 percent received it. The same study found that almost one in four straight-identifying men had been anally stimulated by a partner’s finger. More recently, Esquire polled 500 men and found that more than 10 percent of men wished they were getting more anilingus.

Normalization is on the horizon, and breaking down the myths is the way to break through the stigma and deleted misinformation from public knowledge. We should all be open to practicing safe, consensual anal sex whenever the hell we want. Let’s worship the booty, people.