Anal sex or anal intercourse is human sexual behavior involving the anus and rectum, especially but not limited to the insertion of the erect penis into the anus - the use of sex toys and other activities involving the anus and rectum can be considered anal sex as well.


The terms sodomy and buggery are imprecise: while they are sometimes used as synonyms for anal sex, they often refer to various sexual activities. For instance, depending upon the jurisdiction, the legal definition of sodomy may include any non-coitus act, including oral sex and bestiality.

Anal sex has been the subject of a strong taboo in many Western countries since the Middle Ages, when heretical movements were sometimes slandered through rumors that their members practiced anal sex among themselves. At that time the mainstream christian clergy was not celibate, and some heretical sects highest orders were, which at the time led to rumors that their celibacy was a sign of their attraction to members of the same sex. The term buggery originated in medieval Europe and was an insult used to describe the rumoured same sex sexual practices of the heretical residue around the Bulgar region (in what is today known as Bulgaria). The Bulgars were one of the last European tribes to hold "heretical" forms of Christianity and so because of the rumoured link between celibacy and anal sex they were labelled in this way.

Some medieval woodcuts portray persons kissing the anus of a goat-like figure representing the Devil. To a lesser extent, anal sex remains somewhat taboo in many Western cultures and is still illegal in some jurisdictions (see Sodomy law).

Although practiced by heterosexual couples, it has often been associated with homosexual men. Like persons of other sexual orientations, some gay men enjoy sexual activities of this kind while many others do not.

Straight couples

Edward O. Laumann's The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States found that about 20% of heterosexuals have engaged in anal sex. In several cultures (such as the Mediterranean area and Latin America) and countries (such as Brazil, where almost 50% of the population practices anal sex [1]), anal intercourse is widely accepted amongst heterosexuals. One reason why it is practised (other than personal preference) is not only as a contraception method, but also as a way to perform sexual activities while preserving female virginity (in the sense of having an intact hymen) until marriage, this quality being sometimes the main virtue of a wife (and its loss before a formal marriage would likely be viewed as a terrible moral crime). As a method of birth control anal intercourse should probably be considered a fairly reliable but not foolproof method, as it is still possible for semen to contact the vagina and result in pregnancy.

Gay and lesbian couples

Gay men have long been associated with anal sex. Edward O. Laumann's 1994 The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States found that about 80% of American gay and bisexual men have engaged in anal sex.

Several cultures, such as Ancient Greece, earned a reputation as normal practitioners of homosexual anal sex ("Greek love" was a term used to refer to it.). It was custom for an older Greek man to take a young boy under his wing. He would affectionately tutor the boy, and engage in sex with him until a few years after puberty, at which point the young man chose his own pedant. Some argue that this was actually interfemoral intercourse not anal intercouse.

However, not all gay men participate in anal sex or find it enjoyable, especially after the advent of AIDS. Other gay men reserve anal sex for committed relationships.

It is not true that all gay relationships involving anal sex contain a "receiver" (taking the place of the woman) who consistently submits to anal sex, and a "giver" (taking the place of the man) who always performs it. Some relationships are structured this way (the preferred terms are top and bottom - most bottoms in this culture would be very offended by the implication that their manhood was in doubt); however, many gay men who have anal sex both top and bottom at different times. (see switch.) In some contexts anal sex between men is associated with dominance or disregard for the receptive partner; see for example prison sexuality.

In some cultures, a man who tops other men is not considered homosexual, whereas a man who bottoms is. Anglo-American Homosexual culture does not make this distinction; both tops and bottoms who sleep exclusively with men are considered gay.

Lesbians, as do people of all other orientations, occasionally practice anal sex, as a matter of personal preference.


Anal sex can be very pleasurable both for the top (insertive partner) and the bottom (receptive partner). The anus contains many of the same kinds of nerves as the penis or clitoris, and stimulating the anus produces sexual pleasure.

Furthermore, the presence of the prostate gland near the rectal wall is an additional source of pleasure for a man who receives anal sex. Although male receptive anal sex has often been thought of as the exclusive province of gay men, in recent years many straight men have discovered receptive anal sex as a source of intense sexual pleasure. A woman may penetrate her male partner using her fingers or an object such as a dildo or butt plug; harnesses can be used so that a woman can wear a dildo (this is sometimes referred to as a "strap-on"). This practice often forms part of BDSM as practiced by dominatrices. Some lesbians also practice this form of anal sex, though the association of sex toys with lesbians in general is largely stereotypical.

For women, pleasure may also be derived from anal intercourse because the rectum shares a wall with the vagina, and the sexual nerves are actually closer on that side, making the sensation different and sometimes actually stronger.

Lubricantss, great care, and communication are all very important to avoid pain during the act.

Health risks

Anal sex is an effective means of transmitting most sexually transmitted diseases. In particular, it is the sexual activity which most effectively transmits the HIV (AIDS) virus. Health care professionals suggest that condoms should always be used for anal intercourse, but they should by no means be considered an absolute safeguard. The best suggestion is to avoid anal sex with anyone known to have a sexually transmissible disease, and indeed with anyone whose disease-negative status has not been determined, though this advice to some extent applies to all sexual activity.

Anal sex does carry some risks to health and comfort even in the absence of a risk of sexually transmitted disease. The vagina is well adapted to sex, being strengthened for this activity and secreting its own lubrication, whereas the anus and rectum are not. Thus, artificial lubrication is generally used in anal sex (oil-based lubricants like Vaseline destroy latex condoms, and the two should not be used together). The anorectal muscles are largely under involuntary control, making slow, gentle, and responsive insertion necessary to avoid pain. Additionally, nothing which has been placed in or at the anus should ever contact the vulva, vagina, or mouth without being thoroughly washed with soap or a similar disinfectant, to avoid infection caused by the transmission of inappropriate bacteria to this area. This includes fingers.

It is also very important to be careful when inserting objects into the anus. Objects with edges or points can cause severe injury. Moreover, objects could get lodged in the rectum, resulting in a trip to the emergency room. (Most dildos nowadays are made with flared bases.) Additionally, nothing longer than eight inches (20 cm) -- be it a penis, a vibrator, or anything else -- should be inserted into the rectum. Objects exceeding eight inches risk colliding with the sigmoid colon. The sigmoid colon's lining isn't much stronger than a wet paper towel, and trauma can result in internal bleeding, with potentially fatal hemorrhage. It would be wise to wash carefully after every use. It is dangerous to share sex toys; if a dildo is used on more than one person, it should be covered with a condom which is changed after each use. (See masturbation for more information on the use of sex toys.)

In all forms of anal sex, it is very important for the person being penetrated to know their limits and insist that the penetrator slow down, stop, and/or withdraw if they are in pain. Like any form of sex, anal sex is rendered much more dangerous under the influence of alcohol or drugs, which reduce responses, judgment, and ability to pay attention to one's own needs.

See also: rimming, fisting, lithotomy position, Buggery Act (UK), list of slang terms for anal sex, eunuchs fiddle

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