Psychology Wiki

Assessment | Biopsychology | Comparative | Cognitive | Developmental | Language | Individual differences | Personality | Philosophy | Social |
Methods | Statistics | Clinical | Educational | Industrial | Professional items | World psychology |

Social psychology: Altruism · Attribution · Attitudes · Conformity · Discrimination · Groups · Interpersonal relations · Obedience · Prejudice · Norms · Perception · Index · Outline

This article is in need of attention from a psychologist/academic expert on the subject.
Please help recruit one, or improve this page yourself if you are qualified.
This banner appears on articles that are weak and whose contents should be approached with academic caution.
Édouard-Henri Avril (18)

Representation of Hadrian having anal sex with Antinous in Egypt

Anal sex or anal intercourse is a form of human sexual behavior. While there are many sexual acts involving the anus, anal cavity, sphincter valve and/or rectum, the term "anal sex" is often used to mean the insertion of the penis into the rectum. It is a form of sexual intercourse considered to be particularly risky, for a number of reasons related to the vulnerability of the tissues and the septic nature of the anus.

Such relations have been documented in a wide range of cultures, from earliest times. Where they involved two males, they have also been controversial and sometimes condemned since antiquity. Anal sex is encountered among people of all sexual identities and orientations. While it is reported more frequently among male couples, in absolute numbers more heterosexual couples have anal sex.[1]

Penile-anal sex[]

Female receptive[]

In several cultures female receptive anal intercourse in a heterosexual context is widely accepted, especially as there is very low risk of unwanted pregnancy via unprotected anal intercourse (though this is not an absolute guarantee, since semen can leak from the anus, across the perineum, and enter the vagina). Anal sex is even sometimes seen as preserving female virginity, because it leaves the hymen intact. Another reason is that the anus is considered to be "tighter" than the vagina (especially right after childbirth), therefore yielding more tactile pleasure for the penis. The Renaissance poet Pietro Aretino strongly recommended the practice of anal sex in his Sonetti Lussuriosi (Lust Sonnets).[2] Studies such as that done by Kinsey have suggested that approximately 35-40% of women who have experienced anal sex find it pleasurable, though this figure may vary depending on many factors.

Anal sex and female virginity[]

Though more often applied to first penetration,[3][4][5] the concept of "technical virginity" is sometimes conceived of as resting solely on vaginal penetration.[6]

Heterosexual frequency[]

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, and sex researcher Alfred Kinsey found that number to be closer to 40%. More recently, a researcher from the University of British Columbia   puts the number of heterosexuals who regularly practice anal sex at between 30% and 50%. A French survey of five hundred female respondents concluded that a total of 29% had practiced anal sex, though only one third of these claimed to have enjoyed the experience.[7] Most recently, a 2006 survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control determined that the incidence of anal relations in the heterosexual population is on the increase. The survey showed that 38.2 percent of men between 20 and 39 and 32.6 percent of women ages 18 to 44 engage in heterosexual anal sex. In 1992 a similar survey found that only 25.6 percent of men 18 to 59 and 20.4 percent of women 18 to 59 practiced it.< 

Male receptive[]

Among homosexual male couples who have anal sex, some comprise a true top]] and bottom, but this is not always the case: many men in such couples have anal sex as both top and bottom at different times, also known as "versatile" or "switch."

In certain contexts male-male anal intercourse between males who otherwise identify as heterosexual is seen as a temporary behaviour to which they resort when confined in single-sex environments. Some men have sex with men without categorizing themselves as gay or bisexual.

Homosexual Frequency[]

In modern times in Western cultures, anal sex has been popularly associated with gay or bisexual men. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, many gay men went to bathhouses to meet other men and have sex with them. After the AIDS epidemic was well established, these bathhouses became controversial; in many cities, they were shut down by public-health authorities.

The occurrence of the practice, however, has varied widely; furthermore, the numbers in sexual surveys tend to reflect whether those surveyed have ever had anal sex or have had anal sex in the last year, instead of distinguishing between men who have simply tried it and men who regularly engage in it. In the 1950s in the United Kingdom, it was thought that only about fifteen percent of male homosexuals practiced the method, a number believed to be lower than that among heterosexuals.[8] The Gay Urban Men's Study (P.I. Stall, UCSF) and the Young Men's Study (YMS, PI Osmond/Catania, UCSF), indicate that 50% of men surveyed engage in anal sex. The Laumann study claims that 80% of gay men practice it, while the remaining 20% never engage in it at all.

Anatomical homologies[]

Though women can enjoy receptive anal intercourse, or even insertive anal intercourse (through use of a strap-on dildo or other object), only men have a fully developed prostate gland, also known as "male G-spots",[9] "P-spots", or "A-spots" which can be stimulated during anal intercourse.[10] Rectal stimulation of the prostate gland, either by a penis, or sex toy can result in very pleasurable sensations. Stimulation of the prostate gland can lead to a distinct type of orgasm in some cases. The prostate is located next to the rectum and is the larger, more developed[11] male homologue to the Skene's glands, also known as the "G-spot"[12] or "female prostate"[13], which are located around the urethra and can be felt through the wall of the vagina, but can not be stimulated as well, anally, as the male prostate. Tristan Taormino has written that the g-spot/Skene's gland can be stimulated via anal sex. More study needs to be done in order to provide more information into the role of the "G-Spot" in heterosexual anal sex, and arousal in women.

Other types of anal sexuality[]

Anal sex can be achieved through penetration via penile insertion, but this does not have to be the case. When the active partner is a female or a male who does not wish to use his penis, he or she might utilize other appendages, including but not limited to fingering and fisting. Rimming (the manipulation of the anus by the mouth and tongue) is also common, either by itself or in tandem with other acts intended to produce physical arousal and climax.

Such individuals might also choose to employ an artificial apparatus, primarily phallic reproductions (strap-on dildos), of which a diverse selection of style and manufacturer exists. Other accoutrements of a similar design are also often employed: these are generally engineered specifically for anal penetration (butt plugs). When the female is the penetrator and the receiver is a male, it is referred to as pegging.[14]


The rectum can contain a disruptive amount of fecal matter when anal sex is performed, but it isn't necessarily so. Nina Hartley, in Nina Hartley's Guide to Anal Sex, points out that anal sex is not necessarily messy because the rectum is usually empty: it only contains a significant amount of feces at the point when it needs to be emptied. Once the rectum is emptied normally, it contains only trace amounts of feces. Enemas can also be used to empty the rectum.

Risks and protective measures[]

Anal sex exposes the participants to hazards of two kinds: infections, due to the high number of infectious microorganisms not found elsewhere on the body, and physical damage to the anus and the rectum due to their vulnerability. An insufficient amount of lubricant can make it especially painful or injurious.[15]

Infectious diseases[]

Among the diseases with which anal sex is associated are HIV,[16] anal cancer,[17] typhoid fever[18] and various diseases associated with the infectious nature of fecal matter or sexual intercourse in general. Among these are: Amoebiasis; Chlamydia; Cryptosporidiosis; Giardiasis; Gonorrhea; Hepatitis A; Hepatitis B; Hepatitis C; Herpes simplex; Human papillomavirus; Lymphogranuloma venereum; Pubic lice; Salmonellosis; Shigella; Syphilis; Tuberculosis.[19][20][21]


The high concentration of white blood cells around the rectum, together with the risk of cuts to the rectum and that one of the functions of the rectum is to absorb fluid, increases the risk of HIV transmission because the HIV retrovirus reproduces within the immune system's T-cells/CD4 cells. Use of condoms and other precautions are a medically recommended way to lessen risk of infections. Unprotected receptive anal sex is the most risky sexual behavior in terms of HIV transmission.[22][23][24]

Physical damage[]

Physical damage to the rectum and anus can manifest as generalized ano-rectal trauma, hemorrhoids, anal fissures,[19] anal fistula and rectal prolapse. Damage is more likely if anal sex is done without consent, if alcohol or other drugs have dulled sensitivity, if communication is poor, or if technique is clumsy.


Incontinence has also been reported; the result of the anal sphincter losing its tonus.[25] A 1993 study published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine found that out of a sample of forty individuals receiving anal intercourse, fourteen experienced episodes of frequent anal incontinence, although they included flatulence in their incontinence definition. [26] Tristan Taormino argues in her book The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women that proper technique, clear communication, and mutual consent can reduce the risk of incontinence.

Protective measures[]

As the rectum has no natural lubrication, artificial lubrication is most often required or preferred when penetrating the anus, either with natural appendages or artificial devices.

Because the vaginal opening is located so closely to the anus, without proper precautions it is not uncommon for sexual partners to spread bacteria from the anus into the vagina, as well as the urethra, the repercussions of which can include urinary tract infection (UTI), which can lead to infection of the kidneys. Latex gloves or condoms are used to reduce the risk. It is also possible to take acceptable measures separate from such protection, which include (but are not limited to) hand washing and being conscious and wary of where one's hands and devices are placed.

Condoms are alleged to be less effective and more prone to burst or slip during anal sex than vaginal sex. While one study estimates that condoms fail anywhere from 10% - 32% of the time during anal sex,[27] SIECUS indicates a much lower failure rate of 0.5 to 12%.[28]

The Center for Disease Control says "Most of the time, condoms work well. However, condoms are more likely to break during anal sex than during vaginal sex. Thus, even with a condom, anal sex can be very risky. A person should use generous amounts of water-based lubricant in addition to the condom to reduce the chances of the condom breaking."[29]

Some manufacturers offer "extra strong" condoms designed specifically for anal intercourse. These condoms, while stronger, are usually not coated with spermicide and so offer less protection against pregnancy should semen enter a woman's vagina, but will lessen the chance of irritation to the sensitive anus area.

In a 1998 joint conference of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality and the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists, Jack Morin recommended Kegel exercises for people interested in anal sex to eliminate the possibility of loss of muscle tone, though he claimed he'd never observed muscle loosening himself and the comment was primarily concerned with insertion of fists and large objects.[30]

The danger of cancer may be partially alleviated through the use of a new vaccine. According to Dr Anne Szarewski, "Men who have sex with men are at a much higher risk than average of anal cancer and genital warts, particularly if they are HIV-positive," and this population may also benefit from the human papillomavirus vaccine, presently licensed for use in children.[31]

Legal issues[]

Main article: Sodomy law

The legal status of anal sex varies greatly between jurisdictions. From being completely open and legal, to being illegal for male to male participation, to only being legal in marriage or even totally outlawed. In some areas where anal sex may otherwise be legal and the participants are above the general age of consent there exists a higher age of consent for anal sex.

United States[]

Until 2003, the status of whether anal sex was a crime varied from state to state. In some states, the practice was illegal. New York,[32] Montana,[33] Kentucky,[34] Pennsylvania,[35] and Georgia[36] had their anti-sodomy laws challenged and struck down by state supreme court decisions, but other states, including Texas,[37] upheld their state's laws criminalizing such conduct.

The United States Supreme Court, in 1986, decided the case of Bowers v. Hardwick, It decided there was no constitutional right to privacy with respect to acts of anal sex performed in the privacy of one's home. A Georgia law criminalizing consensual sodomy in the privacy of one's home was therefore found not to be unconstitutional. The Supreme Court of Georgia in the case of Powell v. Georgia (1998), however, later found that statute inconsistent with the Georgia state constitution.

In 2003, the Supreme Court revisited Bowers in the case of Lawrence v. Texas], and found the Texas law against consensual sodomy to be unconstitutional. This invalidated all statutes in the United States that would make consensual sodomy illegal. The principle has also been held applicable in other cases; the Supreme Court of Virginia decided in [Martin v. Ziherl, that the generally unenforced law against fornication was unconstitutional based on Lawrence.

Cultural issues[]

Historically, a number of cultures have recorded the practice of male-male anal intercourse. The males who participated in such homosexual relationships often did not do so exclusively, as participation in these male-male relationships did not preclude sex with women. Such relations have also been documented as taking place in houses of prostitution, which provided youths or young men.

Western cultures[]

In many Western countries, anal sex has generally been thought taboo since the Middle Ages when heretical movements were sometimes slandered by rumours that their members practiced anal sex among themselves. At that time the mainstream Christian clergy was not celibate, but the highest orders of some heretical sects were, leading to rumours that their celibacy was a sign of their attraction to members of the same sex. The term buggery originated in medieval Europe as an insult used to describe the rumoured same-sex sexual practices of the heretics from the Buggre sect. This sect originated in medieval Bulgaria, where its followers were called bogomils, but when they spread out of the country they were called buggres (from the ethnonym Bulgars). Another term for the practice, more archaic, is "pedicate" from the Latin pedicare, with the same meaning.[38]

While men who engaged in homosexual relationships were generally suspected of sodomy, many such individuals did not engage in the practice. Among these, in recent times, have been André Gide, who for that reason was said to have been the pope of a religion to which he did not belong; Oscar Wilde, who despite being accused of being a "somdomite" (sic) by the Marquess of Queensbeery actually did not engage in anal sex; and Noel Coward, who had a horror of disease, and asserted when young that "I'd never do anything - well the disgusting thing they do - because I know I could get something wrong with me."[39]

In Judaism, Christianity, and Islam[]

Sodoma - Elluin

François Elluin, Sodomites provoking divine wrath, from Le pot-pourri (1781)

This prohibition of the Abrahamic religions against anal sex has been promulgated under the rubric of "sodomy," which includes various other transgressions of a sexual nature, whether with men, women or animals, or, according to some, as "not supporting the poor and the needy." This idea is vividly brought to life in the popular interpretation of the story of Sodom, where the people were prone to sexual immorality, and as a result were destroyed. There are conflicting views as to why Sodom was destroyed.


Orthodox Judaism teaches that sodomy is homosexual anal sex, and so, a sin and toevah, based on the Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. The Hebrew Bible injunction "Do not lie with a man the lyings of a woman; it is abhorrent." has led rabbinical scholars to conclude "these verses to prohibit anal sex between men without any exception."[40] However Judaism permits heterosexual anal sex, and the Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist branches of Judaism are accepting of homosexuality, but less so of sodomy.[41]


In Christian countries it has often been referred to euphemistically as the peccatum contra naturam (the sin against nature, after Thomas Aquinas) or Sodomitica luxuria (sodomitical lusts, in one of Charlemagne's ordinances), or peccatum illud horribile, inter christianos non nominandum (that horrible sin that among Christians is not to be named).

Although some Christian denominations disapprove of anal sex, some believe it to be an acceptable part of human sexuality. A number of Christian churches confirm the importance of accepting and welcoming homosexuals into their communities, and protecting their civil rights.


liwat, or the sin of Lot's people, is officially prohibited by most Islamic sects. There are parts of the Qu'ran which talk about smiting on Sodom and Gomorrah, and this is thought to be a reference to unnatural sex, and so there are hadith and Islamic laws which prohibit it. Practitioners of anal relations are called luti and are seen as criminals in the same way that a thief is a criminal, meaning that they are giving in to a universal temptation. Liwat with a woman is known as lesser liwat and with a man as greater liwat. Punishment for transgression can be severe, involving whiplashing and even death.[42]


  1. Dean, John, David Delvin Anal Sex. URL accessed on 2007-04-29. "There is a common misconception that anal sex is practised almost exclusively by gay men..."
  2. Daileader, Celia R. (Summer 2002). Back Door Sex: Renaissance Gynosodomy, Aretino, and the Exotic. English Literary History 69 (2): 303-334.
  3. includeonly>Jayson, Sharon. "'Technical virginity' becomes part of teens' equation", USA Today, Gannett Co. Inc., 2005-10-19. Retrieved on 2007-04-29.
  4. includeonly>Friedman, Mindy. "Sex on Tuesday: Virginity: A Fluid Issue", The Daily Californian, 2005-09-20. Retrieved on 2007-04-29.
  5. The 700 Club Hayley DiMarco: The New Promiscuous. CBN. URL accessed on 2007-04-29.
  6. Uecker, Jeremy E. et al. "Going Most of the Way: "Technical Virginity" among Young Americans". Retrieved on 2007-04-30.
  7. Les pratiques sexuelles des Françaises. TNS/Sofres. URL accessed on 2007-04-30.Survey carried out by TNS/Sofres in a representative sample of 500 women from 18 to 65 years of age, in April and May, 2002.
  8. H. Montgomery Hyde, The Love That Dared not Speak its Name; pp.6-7
  9. The Male G-spot Vanessa Burton,, retrieved 2007-04-29
  10. The A-Spot, Talk Sex with Sue Johansen, 2005, retrieved 2007-04-29
  11. The G Spot: And Other Discoveries About Human Sexuality by Alice Kahn Ladas, Beverly Whipple, and John D. Perry, pg 57.
  12. Bigger is better when it comes to the G spot, Nicola Jones,, July 2002, retreived 2007-04-29
  13. Zaviacic M, Jakubovská V, Belosovic M, Breza J (2000). Ultrastructure of the normal adult human female prostate gland (Skene's gland).. Anat Embryol (Berl) 201 (1): 51-61. PMID 10603093.
  14. Savage Love Female-to-Male strap-on sex naming contest, origin of the word Pegging, retrieved May 42007
  15. Importance of Foreplay dudeman41465, The Sexuality Guide November 3, 2005, retrieved 2007-04-29
  16. What are the Dangers of Anal Sex?, SexInfo, University of California at Santa Barbara, retrieved 2007-04-29
  17. Anal Cancer in Gay & Bisexual Men, LGBTHealthChannel, retrieved 2007-04-29
  18. Sexual Transmission of Typhoid Fever: A Multistate Outbreak among Men Who Have Sex with Men, Reller, Megan E. et al, Clinical Infectious Diseases, volume 37 (2003), pages 141–144, retrieved 2007-04-29
  19. 19.0 19.1 Anal Health, Sexual Health Channel, retrieved 2007-04-29
  20. Diseases From Anal Sex Harold Oster, MD, iVillage, retrieved 2007-04-29
  21. Tuberculosis, The Mayo Clinic, retrieved 2007-04-29
  22. High-Risk Sexual Behavior by HIV-Positive Men Who Have Sex with Men --- 16 Sites, United States, 2000--2002, MMWR Weekly, October 1, 2004 / 53(38);891-894, retrieved 2007-04-29
  23. "Am I at Risk for HIV Infection?" Mark Cichocki, About:HIV/AIDS, retrieved 2007-04-29
  24. The truth about barebacking Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, PlanetOut, retrieved 2007-04-29
  25. Net Doctor - Sex and Relationships Does anal sex cause incontinence?,, 2006-06-19, retrieved 2007-04-29
  26. Effect of anoreceptive intercourse on anorectal function AJ Miles, TG Allen-Mersh and C Wastell, Department of Surgery, Westminster Hospital, London; in Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine Vol 86, Issue 3 144-147; 1993, retrieved 2007-04-29
  27. Silverman, B G, et al (January 1997). Use and Effectiveness of Condoms During Anal Intercourse. Sexually Transmitted Diseases 24 (1): 14.
  28. The Truth about Condoms SIECUS
  29. Centers for Disease Control "Can I get HIV from anal sex?". URL accessed on 2007-04-28.
  30. Clinical Aspects of Anal Sexuality Jack Morin, 1998 joint conference of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality and the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (held in Los Angeles, from November 11-15). Retrieved 2007-04-29
  31. Gay men seek 'female cancer' jab Michelle Roberts, BBC News, 23 February 2007, retrieved 2007-04-29
  32. New York: People v. Onofre, 415 N.E.2d 936 (N.Y. 1980)
  33. Montana: Gryczan v. Montana, 942 P.2d 112 (1997)
  34. Kentucky: Commonwealth v. Wasson, 842 S.W.2d 487 (1992)
  35. Pennsylvania: Commonwealth v. Bonadio, 490 Pa. 91, 415 A.2d 47 (Pa. 1980)
  36. Georgia: Powell v. Georgia, 270 Ga. 327, 510 S.E. 2d 18 (1998)
  37. Texas' appeals court upholds its anti-sodomy statute: Baker v. Wade, 553 F. Supp. 1121 (N.D.Tex. 1982)
  38. "I have derived the word pedicate from the Latin paedicare or pedicare, meaning "to penetrate anally." in "The Warren Cup: homoerotic love and symposial rhetoric in silver," Note 6;The Art Bulletin, March, 1999 by John Pollini [1]
  39. Philip Hoare, Noel Coward: A Biography p.18
  40. HOMOSEXUALITY, HUMAN DIGNITY & HALAKHAH a combined responsum for The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards by RABBIS ELLIOT N. DORFF, DANIEL S. NEVINS & AVRAM I. REISNER This responsum was approved by the CJLS on 15 Kislev 5767 / December 6, 2006 by a vote of thirteen in favor and twelve opposed. Retrieved 2007-04-29
  41. Silver, Ian Homosexuality And Judaism. ReligionFacts. URL accessed on 2006-09-09.
  42. Anwar, Ghazala. 2001. "Islam, Homosexuality and Migration". Foundation Conference on Islam in the West and Homosexuality. "Some scholars refer back to the Shari’ah rules ... argue that anal sex between men, as considered equivalent to heterosexual intercourse, is punishable by one hundred whiplashes for an unmarried man and death by stoning for a married man. Other traditional scholars have ruled that “sodomy” between men is always punishable by death for both partners, whether married or not, based on a hadith. The punishment of toppling a wall on two men who practised “sodomy,” which is sometimes reported, particularly in Afghanistan, is based on another hadith."

External links and references[]

Further reading[]

  • Bentley, Toni The Surrender: An Erotic Memoir, Regan Books, 2004.
  • Brent, Bill Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Men, Cleis Press, 2002.
  • Hite, Shere The Hite Report on Male Sexuality
  • Houser, Ward Anal Sex. Encyclopedia of Homosexuality. Dynes, Wayne R. (ed.), Garland Publishing, 1990. pp. 48-50.
  • Manning, Lee The Illustrated Book Of Anal Sex, Erotic Print Society, 2003.
  • Morin, Jack Anal Pleasure & Health: A Guide for Men and Women, Down There Press, 1998.
  • Sanderson, Terry The Gay Man's Kama Sutra, Thomas Dunne Books, 2004.
  • Strong, Bill with Lori E. Gammon Anal Sex for Couples: A Guaranteed Guide for Painless Pleasure Triad Press, Inc.; First edition, 2006.
  • Taormino, Tristan Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women, Cleis Press, 1997, 2006.
  • Underwood, Steven G. Gay Men and Anal Eroticism: Tops, Bottoms, and Versatiles, Harrington Park Press, 2003
  • Webb, Charlotte Masterclass: Anal Sex, Erotic Print Society, 2007.

See also[]

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).