Anal sex may still be shocking to your grandma, but heterosexual couples in the UK are increasingly incorporating the sexual practice into their love lives.
A new analysis by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and UCL found more young people are taking part in oral and anal sex compared to 20 years ago.
Vaginal intercourse and oral sex are still the most popular, however the number of sexually active 16-24 year-olds who’ve had vaginal, oral and anal sex has risen: from approximately one in 10 women and men in 1990-91, to one in four men and one in five women in 2010-12.
A study showed that 94% of straight women are able to achieve orgasm during anal sex (impressive), so it’s perhaps unsurprising that more people are giving it a go.
If you’re considering taking a different route in the bedroom, here are seven things you should know first.
1. You are not the only people having anal sex.
Just because people talk the talk, doesn’t mean anyone is actually doing the deed. Or does it? You may well be surprised by how common anal sex is in the UK’s heterosexual community. While one 2015 study suggested 1 in 3 straight women have had anal sex, a second study - from later in 2015 - found that number had risen to 40% (and that’s probably still a conservative estimate).
2. You are more likely to have anal if you are married, than if you are single.
The Tinder-generation get a bad rap for their sexual promiscuity and attitudes to the bedroom, but turns out anal sex is more common between spouses than strangers. The study reported that while anal sex was equally common among women of all racial and ethnic backgrounds, it was more common among those who were married to or cohabiting (20% of respondents had had anal sex in the last month), than single women. Put a ring on it guys.
3. You are going to see a lot more anal in porn than real life.
Despite the numbers of people having anal IRL rising, they’ve still got nothing on the number of people in porn who are having it. In a 2010 study, researchers watched the 50 most popular porn movies and found 356 depictions of anal, in 55% of the scenes between heterosexual couples. And according to Pornhub, searches for anal increased 120% between 2009 and 2015.
4. You need to relax (and use lube) to have successful anal.
When Gwyneth Paltrow interviewed sex expert Paul Joannides about the ins and outs of anal sex for her lifestyle website Goop, he emphasised the importance of training your sphincter muscles to relax in order to achieve successful penetration. This is because the muscles: “Have an automatic reflex if you push against them from the outside”. Not only that but don’t be shy with the lubricant, as the anus does not naturally lubricate like the vagina. The NHS recommends using a water-based lubricant, which is available from pharmacies.
5. You might want it for totally different reasons to your partner.
A study published in the medical journal BMJ Open, attempted to work out why straight men and women engage in anal sex, and they found the reasoning was pretty different. While men in the study tended to correlate anal sex with pleasure and macho sexual achievement, women brought up a fear of physical pain and a damaged reputation, and were only doing it to please their partner. How disappointing.
6. You run a greater risk of contracting STIs during anal sex.
According to the NHS, penetrative anal sex has a higher risk of spreading STIs than many other types of sexual activity. This is because the lining of the anus is thin and can easily be damaged, which makes it more vulnerable to infection. Although you cannot get pregnant through anal sex, be sure to use condoms to help protect yourself and your partner.
7. You can study anal at Harvard University.
Harvard University is renowned for its Ivy league education, so expect nothing less than a world-class lesson in anal, at the annual student-run sex week. The class, aptly named ‘What What in the Butt: Anal Sex 101’ covers a wide variety of topics including anal anatomy, how to talk about it with a partner, basic prep and hygiene. Where do we sign up?