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Anal sex: why do people like it?

People are into anal sex all over the world – men, women, gay, straight, and everything in between. There are some very good reasons. At the 2015 world sexology congress, sexpert Dr Richard Hillman gave the low-down on all things anal.

It can be pretty difficult to get accurate information on anal sex. It’s often a massive taboo. There’s not a whole lot of research out there, and bringing up the topic with a doctor is not always easy.

Major erogenous zone

First things first: the anus is really only the bottom three centimetres of the gastrointestinal tract, so anal sex doesn’t actually involve much penetration, Dr Hillman explained at the WAS sexual health congress.

Though that’s not a whole lot of room to work with, the anus is a major erogenous zone. There are tons of nerve endings in the skin in and around the anus, which makes it super sensitive to different sensations like touch, vibration, pressure, and pain. In fact, the only parts of the body with more nerve endings are the head of the penis in men and the clitoris in women, says Dr Hillman.

Anal thrills for straight guys too

But that’s not the only reason anal sex can be pleasurable. In women, the anus shares a wall with the vagina. And in men, it’s right next to the prostate gland, which has many nerve endings of its own.

People often associate anal sex mainly with gay sex. But there’s a lot more to gay sex than just anal, and straight guys are into anal pleasure too. As Dr Hillman puts it, “Anal sex is well recognized in the gay community, but many heterosexual men have discovered the joys and thrills of receptive anal sex.”


The anus is also a tighter fit for a man’s penis than the vagina. “The lining of the anus has a lot of irregularities on the surface, which can closely hug the penis,” Dr Hillman explains. The anus’ sphincter muscles also tighten around the penis.

Other reasons to go anal

For many people, pleasure is reason enough to experiment with anal play. But there are other reasons heterosexual couples choose to have anal intercourse. Sometimes people do it because they want to preserve the woman’s vaginal virginity. Though before you go down that road, we recommend checking out our virginity FAQs. Other people opt for anal instead of vaginal sex to avoid pregnancy. Though if that’s your only reason to have anal sex, it would be more sense to check out other birth control options.

Also, whether you’re doing it with a man or woman, if there’s a penis involved, it’s important to use a condom, since sexually transmitted infections can be passed on through anal sex.

Anal sex should be consensual, gentle to start with, and well lubricated.

Anal sex doesn’t just include penetration of the penis: people use fingers, tongues, dildos, and vibrators, among other things, to get off.  If you’re interested in experimenting but are worried about what could happen, you can rest assured. People very rarely suffer an injury, says Dr Hillman.

Anal sex tips

If you’d like to give anal sex a try, the doctor has three top tips:

  1. Keep it consensual – make sure both partners are into it.
  2. Start off gently (at least until you know what you’re doing and agree to step up the action).
  3. Use plenty of lubricant.

For more tips, check out the Love Matters guide to first time anal sex.

Source: presentation at the 2015 Congress of the World Association for Sexual Health by Dr Richard Hillman, Conjoint Associate Professor at the University of Sydney and the Western Sydney Sexual Health Centre; interview with Dr Hillman.

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