Why We Really Need To Talk To Teenage Girls About Anal Sex

If adult women are being forced into it, imagine the pressure young girls may be facing.
Liliya Krueger via Getty Images

You may have seen a video doing the rounds on social media this week discussing teenage girls reporting to sexual health clinics with anal tears.

The woman in the video, a mum of daughters and a son, says her friend has worked with sexual health nurses who’ve reported an “alarming increase” in the amount of girls from 14- to 16-years-old with “tears in their nether regions”.

“There’s an expectation at the moment that girls should consent to anus intimacy,“ the mum continues. “I guess it’s because everybody has access to porn these days so they see these practices and think it’s normal.”

But when sex results in unwanted pain, not pleasure, something’s wrong. As she says: “These injuries can be really really nasty and if it’s not done gently it can be really blooming painful anyway.”

The video has been shared thousands of times, and echoes recent research that found doctor’s reluctance to discuss anal sex is letting down young women.

The British Medical Journal article in August reported on the growing number of women in the UK experiencing injuries and other health problems after anal sex.

Authors Tabitha Gana and Lesley Hunt said that young women variously cited pleasure, curiosity, pleasing a male partner, and coercion as factors for having anal sex. Worryingly, up to 25% of women with experience of anal sex report they have been pressured into it at least once.

However, they also noted that “within popular culture it has moved from the world of pornography to mainstream media”, adding that TV shows including Sex and the City and Fleabag may have contributed to making it seem “racy and daring”.

One thing is clear – this isn’t about demonising anal sex in either straight or gay partnerships. But the BMJ study authors and the mum in the video stress that women who have anal sex are at a greater risk of injuries than men.

“Increased rates of faecal incontinence and anal sphincter injury have been reported in women who have anal intercourse,” the BMJ report found. “Women are at a higher risk of incontinence than men because of their different anatomy and the effects of hormones, pregnancy and childbirth on the pelvic floor.”

If adult women are being forced into having anal sex, imagine the pressure young girls may be facing, some as early as their first sexual encounter.

And this isn’t just a concern for girls. Teenage boys may be internalising the belief that sex for women includes pain rather than prioritising their pleasure.

As the mum asks: “Should we have these sorts of conversations with our kids?”

She adds: “I think I need to not only talk to my girls... but I will need to talk to my son (or maybe I’ll get my husband to do it) to talk about what is reasonable and what could be dangerous for the person they’re with.”

How can parents/carers speak about pressured sex?

Dr Helen Dring-Turner, resource development coordinator at the sexual health and education charity, Brook, shares her advice around sex and consent for parents who may want to discuss it with teenagers.

“Noone should ever feel pressured to have any type of sex,” she tells HuffPost UK. “Sex should feel happy, safe and enjoyable and if you don’t want to have sex (or a type of sex) your partner shouldn’t pressure you. Saying no to sex should be a part of healthy communication in a relationship.”

This is important to communicate to all parties. “All young people should be aware that pressuring someone to have sex is not okay. You should be aware of your partner’s non-verbal cues and body language,” Dr Dring-Turner says.

“Someone who is consenting to sex without pressure should be relaxed and happy, mirroring your body language and smiling. If someone seems nervous, tense or doesn’t want to make eye contact or smile, stop and check that they are feeling okay.”

What should a parent do if they find out their child has been pressured to do something sexually?

If a young person tells you that they’ve been pressured into sex, it’s important to listen to them and respond calmly.

“Let the young person know that sexual activity without consent is a crime, and that giving consent freely means not being pressured to do something you don’t want to,” says Dr Dring-Turner.

It’s imperative that your young person knows that it wasn’t their fault and support is available to them if they need it. You may want to help your young person get in touch with agencies such as Rape Crisis or The Survivor’s Trust. Brook has a list of services that offer help and support on our website.”

“If your young person doesn’t want to tell the police, respect that decision and, if they do, support them in doing that,” Dr Dring-Turner says.

“Many who have experienced sexual assault don’t want to involve the police as that can mean re-living the experience, or feeling like they were to blame.”

Help and support:

  • Rape Crisis services for women and girls who have been raped or have experienced sexual violence - 0808 802 9999
  • Survivors UK offers support for men and boys - 0203 598 3898