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Learning platform


Estimated reading: 10 minutes
  • Anal sex is a type of sexual activity, just like oral or vaginal sex.
  • Often stigmatised, it can be practised by people of all sexualities, if and when they find it pleasurable.
  • When talking about anal sex safety, consent, boundaries, and protection are subjects that could be discussed.
  • Best practices when teaching about anal sex include: avoiding shaming and spreading myths, offering access to quality educational resources and encouraging testing for STDs and STIs as part of health check-ups (for sexually active teens).


Anal sex, often stigmatised, is one way of engaging in sexual activity. There is no right or wrong when it comes to enjoying different types of sex and even though anal sex is not for everyone, there are people who enjoy it. The same applies for oral and vaginal sex. It is not for everyone, but everyone has the right to experiment and see for themselves.

Anal sex refers to the sexual activity involving the anus. It does not necessarily involve penetration and it can be practiced by people of any gender and sexual orientation.


A study carried out in by Hirst et al. (2022) argued that deconstructing the understanding of anal sex, that is often based on misinformation and judgements, can encourage and advocate for policies and practices in sexual health and education. The same study mentioned how anal sex is often neglected when it comes to sexual health provision for women and girls in the UK (where the sample was taken). Safety

When talking about sexual safety, both mental/emotional and physical health can be considered. Thus, the concept of safe anal sex includes (but is not limited to):

  • Consent

Asking for consent should be non-negotiable. Openly communicating with your partner about the level of comfort you are feeling and how far you might be willing to go is a good first step when opening the subject of anal sex. There are multiple ways of asking for consent, some of them being really direct (do you want to have anal sex?) while others can be more open (would you like to explore other types of sex?). Making sure that everyone involved is on the same page and that consent is being asked for and given whenever the practice changes or has the potential to go further, is what will keep the experience pleasurable and comfortable.

When teaching children/teens about safety and consent in general, learning about the situations they feel comfortable in and the ones they would avoid, is helping them navigate their sexual life too, including through anal sex. By using age-appropriate language and expressing the need of giving and getting consent before any sexual practice is supporting them in creating a healthy sex life in the future.

You can read more about consent on the topic 5.6.

  • Boundaries

Establishing boundaries (after consent) is a valuable part of safe and enjoyable sexual practices. When it comes to anal sex, because of the stigma that it has attached, boundaries can be useful during the exploration part (and after).

Talking openly about the contexts you are okay with and the situations where you would feel uncomfortable, can help your partner(s) navigate your needs while you navigate theirs too.

Teaching children/teens to discuss and consider each other’s needs in their daily life, would most probably bring that practice into their sex life too. Knowing that every person has their own limits and comfort zones, and that some are more willing to explore new experiences than others, can guide them into building sexual health habits.

Boundaries can look like this:

  • “I would be comfortable with anal sex if we both get tested for STDs and STIs
  • “I want to try anal sex after talking about protection”
  • “I don’t feel comfortable in trying anal sex right now, but I would like to reopen the topic in a few weeks”

Boundaries are different and personal, and it is okay if they change. Making sure people are aware of your personal boundaries (and you of theirs) would make the experience more comfortable for everyone involved. Keep in mind that you can change your mind and stop at any point if you start feeling uncomfortable.

  • Protection

Protection is a valuable part of any type of sex, regardless of the sexual orientation or type of sex (oral, vaginal, anal). Considering that the anus does not self-lubricate like the vagina and the sensitivity of the area, protection includes lubricant and condoms. Exploration and pleasure

Acknowledging that anal sex is a sexual practice like vaginal and oral sex, and that it is also practiced outside of the LGBTQ+ community is a starting point for destigmatising it. Exploration and pleasure-seeking look different for everyone and, as long as the practice is consented and the person feels comfortable, there is not a way that is better than another. Some people find exploration of anal practices enjoyable when they are on the receiving end, while others prefer to be on the giving end or both.

While some people can be okay with any type of consented exploration, others might have preferences related to:

  • Grooming/preparing
  • Body hair
  • Exploration ways
  • Sex toys and games
  • Conversations around it

This is why asking about boundaries and asking for consent are practices that should be part of the process. Deconstructing misconceptions and stereotypes

Anal sex is risky and dirty

Anal sex does involve risks, just as vaginal and oral sex. Due to the sensitivity of the anus, there might be a higher risk for contracting an STD. However, this risk is significantly reduced if protection and lubricant are being used correctly. When it comes to anal sex being labelled as dirty, whether this refers to STDs and STIs or to the practice itself and what it can involve, misinformation spreads incredibly fast.

Anal sex is only for the gay community

Anal sex can be enjoyable both for people with a prostate and for people who do not have a prostate. It is a choice, and it is a practice well spread through the heterosexual community as well. A survey that was carried out by AMP Agency on behalf of LifeStyles and SKYN Condoms in 2017 showed that nearly 50% of the people participating (35% women, 15% men) were engaging in anal sex (Skyn, 2017).

Anal sex weakens your muscles and can permanently damage your body

There is no evidence that anal sex weakens or permanently damages the body. While forcing something onto your body that does not feel comfortable or not paying attention can possibly make you hurt yourself, safe, lubricated anal sex practice is not harmful and does not provoke permanent physical damage when practiced carefully (Gilmour, 2017).

It is also valuable for children/teens who learn about sexual health to know basic information about anal sex, as it may be an option they want to explore. Not knowing about it can push them into vulnerable situations where they might not have the necessary information about prevention and protection, and might be too scared to ask for advice.


B. is a 14-year-old that realized they wanted to be more informed on sexual practices before starting their sex life. While they were able to find some information on heterosexual sex practices, they kept looking for comprehensive resources on other types of sex, including anal sex. Not being able to figure out which sources were trustable and which not, B. tried to express their wish about wanting to learn more about anal sex. Out of the fear of being judged, they wrote an anonymous note and placed it on the teacher´s desk asking for information about protection and practices related to anal intercourse. The teacher read the note aloud and stated that this is not their job to teach about that and the person who wrote it should ask their parents.

A more suitable approach would have been to try to answer the questions or to redirect B. (and the class) towards some resources that were age appropriate and explain the things that would be necessary to know when it comes to safety, prevention, protection, and pleasure. By leaving it out to them to find it on their own, the teacher enforced the stigma around anal sex and possibly placed B. (and other interested students) in a vulnerable position of searching on their own without knowing which sources are suitable for their age, what information they can trust and to whom they could talk to about it.

6.5.4. BEST PRACTICES Avoid shaming and spreading misconception/myths

Avoiding the spread of myths is an important part of deconstructing misconceptions and teaching about safety and sexual diversity. If you do not know much about the subject, instead of assuming, try reading some materials on it (check your resources carefully) and come back to the conversation when you are informed. In this way you can avoid supporting myths or perpetuating stereotypes (such as anal sex is only for gay men), and you can encourage teens to be careful when it comes to prevention and protection. Offer access to resources

Whether you are an educator or a parent, unless you are a sex educator, chances are that children/teens might feel too embarrassed to ask questions about anal sex. An effective way to make sure that they reach the information they might need is to make sure that there are quality resources available for them. You could either put a list together of different sources they could check (blogs, social media, books, articles, etc.) or offer to discuss possible options with them. Some of these options could be talking to an expert, finding a website that answers questions anonymously (from an educational point of view) or any other type of education that would fit to the needs of the child/teen. Encourage STDs and STIs testing as part of health check ups

For sexually active teens, encouraging testing for STDs and STIs can help destigmatise some practices (such as anal sex) and can contribute to them having a healthy sexual life. Considering that being diagnosed with an STD or and STI can have an impact on the mental health too, normalising testing and the fact that having an STD can be part of having an active sex life, could contribute to a positive perception on sex and sexual health.


Gilmour, P. (2017). 5 anal sex myths that are totally wrong. Cosmopolitan. Retrieved from https://www.cosmopolitan.com/uk/love-sex/sex/a12118612/anal-sex-myths/.

Hirst, J., Pickles, J., Kenny, M., Beresford, R., & Froggatt, C. (2022). A qualitative exploration of perceptions of anal sex: implications for sex education and sexual health services in England. Culture, Health & Sexuality, 1–15. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1080/13691058.2022.2037020.

Skyn (2017). LifeStyles, S. C. SKYN® Condoms Millennial Sex Survey Reveals Nearly 50% Of Respondents Sext At Least Once A Week. Www.prnewswire.com. Retrieved from https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/2017-skyn-condoms-millennial-sex-survey-reveals-nearly-50-of-respondents-sext-at-least-once-a-week-300401985.html.EFER/

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