How to choose anal toys & get started with anal play


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Dear Sex Counselor,

My partner and I have beautiful sex together, and we are curious about exploring anal sex. I must say that every time my lover touches my anus, it is quite exciting. Do you have any suggestions?

All of us have sensitive nerve endings around the anus and rectum that can produce as much enjoyable stimulation as other erogenous zones. In fact, stimulation of the anus at the time of orgasm often results in a more intense orgasm. With lubricant and good communication, anal play can be very pleasurable. We recommend two books on the subject of anal eroticism, whether you’re just starting out or want to explore further:

*Anal Pleasure & Health by Jack Morin

*The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women by Tristan Taormino

Both books include comprehensive information about anatomy, safety, and pleasure.

For everyone exploring anal eroticism, please keep in mind a few simple guidelines:


Before beginning, it’s helpful to understand the anatomy of the area to be explored. On the pictures above, locate the anus, sphincter muscles, and rectum. The anus is the opening on the outside of the body; it is comprised of sensitive, puckered skin that may be a different color than the surrounding skin, and is often covered with hair (unless you remove it).

Just inside the anus is the anal canal, an area about 1-2 inches long that leads to the rectum. Surrounding the anal canal are 2 sets of muscles—the sphincter muscles—that protect the opening to the rectum, and can relax and flex when you are aroused. One set of these muscles is under your conscious control, meaning that you can actively relax it, while the other is not under your conscious control, meaning that you can’t make it relax on its own. This is why taking your time to massage the anus to relax these muscles is important (see next section).

Past the anal canal is the rectum, which is about 8-9 inches long, and is curved. The lower part curves towards the front of your body, and about 3 inches in, it curves back towards your spine. The rectum is less sensitive than the anus and anal canal; however, pressing forward on the front wall of the rectum (towards the belly button) can stimulate the prostate in men, and the T-Zone and G-Spot area in women, which are sensitive areas for many people. There is also a sensitive cluster of nerves (the pelvic plexus, in bold on both diagrams) that can be stimulated through the rectum.

For those concerned about cleanliness, keep in mind that fecal matter is stored in the colon, which is above the rectum, and only passes into the rectum when you are ready to have a bowel movement. If you have regular bowel movements and a healthy diet, you will most likely not encounter fecal matter during anal play. However, it is still a good idea to use barriers such as gloves, dams, and condoms to protect yourself from contacting bacteria in the rectum. It is not necessary to have an enema before engaging in anal play.

Take your time, massage, and relax

The sphincter muscles that surround the anal opening can get hurt when you’re tense, so a good way to start anal play is by massaging and relaxing the anal sphincters and other muscles in the anal region. Some people enjoy external anal massage by itself and do not want to be penetrated, and that’s just fine. For others, this massage is a great warm up to penetration with fingers, toys, or a partner’s penis.

Add plenty of lubricant

When considering anal penetration, keep in mind that the anus and rectum do not produce their own lubrication, so add lots of lube to your play. We recommend a thick, cushioning lube such as Sliquid Organics Gel (Purple) or Sliquid Organics Oceanics (Brown) or Slippery Stuff. These lubes will hold on to moisture and maintain slipperiness over time. Don’t use a desensitizing gel or cream—they block painful sensations that tell you if you’re hurting your partner or yourself (for more information, see our Lubricant brochure).

Hands are more responsive and sensitive than toys, so we recommend you start by massaging with your fingers. We recommend covering your hands with latex or polyurethane gloves, and beginning your exploration with one finger. Apply plenty of lubricant to your gloved fingers and to the outside of the anus. Latex/polyurethane and lubricant combine to provide a very slick surface that makes massage and penetration more comfortable. Plus, your hands are protected from contact with bacteria that could enter the bloodstream if you have any cuts.

Communicate, and stop if it hurts

Anal eroticism is for pleasure. Pain could mean that you’re damaging tissue. Massaging the anal muscles will take time, and you will notice that they will sometimes tense and relax, then tense and relax again. This process of gradual relaxation is normal, and there is no need to rush it. Enter the anus only when the sphincter is relaxed and opens up. Let the person being penetrated guide the depth and timing. You should hear (or say) “yes,” “no,” “I like that,” “I don’t like that” often.

Only use toys with flared bases

Toys without flared bases can get lost in the colon, which is a serious medical emergency that requires a trip to the emergency room and possibly surgery. Make sure any toy you use anally has a flared base! Consider your toy’s length and shape. Keep in mind that the rectum curves 3-5 inches in from the opening, so consider a shorter toy or one flexible enough to bend around that curve.

Cleanliness is next to…

If you use a toy for anal play, we recommend toys made of non-porous, easy-to-clean materials like silicone, hard plastic, glass, lucite, or metal. All of these can be adequately cleaned with warm, soapy water. If you choose to share your anal toy, or to use it both vaginally and anally, cover it with a condom (if your toy is silicone, make sure it’s an unlubricated condom). Don’t move toys (or anything else) from the anus to the vagina without thorough cleaning or a new condom, or a vaginal infection could result.

How to Choose an Anal Toy

1. Do you want something to be inserted and left in place for a sense of fullness?

Anal plugs, such as Petunia, Pure Joy and Moon Plug, are designed to be inserted and left inside to produce the sensation of “filling.” They can be worn during sex play, or even during everyday activities to heighten arousal. They can intensify orgasms, since the same muscles that contract during orgasm also extend around the anus and contract around the plug. Many plugs are pear shaped, with a narrow neck before the flared base. The narrow neck helps keep the toy in place because the sphincter naturally closes around it and holds it in.

Plugs are made of different materials, including silicone, glass, and stainless steel. Silicone is flexible and soft, and warms to body temperature quickly. Stainless steel is smooth and has significant weight to it, which creates unique sensations. Glass is smooth and firm but lighter than stainless steel.

Anal beads and “bubbly” toys, like Ripple and Felicity, offer a variety of sensations by being inserted for the filling sensation, then removed just before or during orgasm to intensify the orgasm. They create more sensation than a smooth-shaped plug because the sphincter muscles will expand and contract around each bead or bubble as they are inserted or removed. If you want to see whether or not you enjoy this sensation, consider our one-time-use Disposable Anal Beads.

2. Do you want something to thrust in and out of the anus?

If you enjoy thrusting, consider a smooth-surfaced dildo with a flared base and no taper before the base, so that you don’t damage the sphincter during thrusting. Isadora 1, 2 and 3 and Mistress are good choices. The dildo could be hand-held, or it could be used in a harness worn by a partner or strapped around a chair or pillow. For more information, see our How to Choose a Dildo and How to Choose a Harness brochures.

3. How wide should your toy be?

Anal plugs and dildos are available in a range of sizes, from about one finger’s width to the size of a fist. To choose the right width, figure out how many fingers you’re comfortable being penetrated with when you’re fully aroused, and get a toy that’s about that same width. Keep in mind that something that looks small can feel quite large to your anus.

4. Do you want something that vibrates?

Many people like the extra stimulation of vibration. Some anal plugs vibrate, and some vibrators, like Pierre and Phoebe, have flared bases so they can be used anally. Also, silicone transmits vibrations very well, so another nice way to add vibration to your anal play is to hold a vibrator to the base of a silicone toy.