Dr. Robert Cook - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Robert Cook

Is Anal Sex Bad For You?

Also Known As: anal intercourse



Short answer

Anal sex is safe, provided that you do it right.



Long answer

It's important to always use protection. Wear a condom when you try anal. This will help to prevent transmission of STIs - if you don't wear a condom and you or your partner aren't sure if you're clean, you run the chance of catching or transmitting a disease like HIV. Wearing a condom also protects you from getting infected by the bacteria that can be found in the rectum.

It takes time to prepare the muscles in the rectum to relax so that anal can be enjoyed safely. Don't jump straight to penile penetration on your first day. Start with fingers or rimming and experiment with toys so that you can train the muscles of the rectum to relax. This will reduce the possibility of pain or injury.

Always use lube. Be generous: don't be afraid to use too little. The inside and outside of the rectum should be lubricated in preparation using your fingers. Lubricate the condom as well. Remember to use a water-based lubricant, as oil-based lubricants increase the risk of condom failure.

Penetration with anal sex should be done slowly and carefully. Push in slowly; don’t pump in and out with the speed or the force that you might with vaginal sex. Work your way up gently and prudently to a rhythm that’s comfortable for both parties.

Never go straight from anal to vaginal or oral sex without washing up first. Doing so can transfer the bacteria from the rectum to the mouth or the vagina, where they can cause infections or sickness.

Normally, feces are stored in the colon, which is separate from the rectum. Immediately before a bowel movement, however, feces move from the colon to the rectum. Don't have anal sex right before a bowel movement; the best move is to have a bowel movement before anal sex. Some people will want to wash their rectum with a douche between a bowel movement and anal sex. This isn't strictly necessary and should be done prudently; overenthusiastic douching over a period of time may disrupt the healthy bacteria that live in the colon.

Always get enthusiastic, positive consent before engaging in anal sex. It's never okay to have sex without positive consent; ask and be sure that anal is what your partner wants. If you don't have enthusiastic consent, don't have sex. It's important to remember that once your partner gives consent, they can withdraw it at any time: it's vital that you respect that as well.

Possible short-term side effects

  • tearing of anal tissue
  • hemorrhoids
  • anal abscesses

Possible long-term side effects

  • weakened anal sphincter
  • sexually transmitted infections


  • pleasurable for some
  • adds a new dimension to one's sex life

Healthier alternatives

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Written by Sean McNulty | 10-12-2016

Written by Sean McNulty
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