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How to have anal sex

Many people – whether they are straight, gay or bisexual – enjoy anal sex, some are curious about it and others dislike it.  

If you are thinking of trying anal sex for the first time or wondering how to have safe and enjoyable anal sex, this page can help answer some common questions. 

Keep in mind that having unprotected anal sex puts you at higher risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) than other types of sex. Using a condom correctly will protect you and your partner.  

Using lubricant (lube) along with a condom will help sex feel more enjoyable! 

What is anal sex?

Anal sex is sex where a penis, a sex toy or fingers enter the anus. Oral-anal sex is where a person stimulates the anus with their mouth - this is also known as ‘rimming’. Read more about this on our ‘How to have oral sex’ page. 

Anyone of any sexuality can enjoy anal sex, whether they are giving or receiving it.  

How do you have anal sex?

When you first explore the anal area it can feel strange, so start slowly.  

If you decide to try penetrating (entering) the anus, touching and caressing it can help you relax. This is important because the sphincter (a muscle in the anus) needs to relax so that penetration is comfortable. 

Use lots of water-based lubricant and start by penetrating a little. Then, pull out completely. When your partner is ready, penetrate further and then pull out again. Continue this until you are in. Listen to your partner and be ready to stop at any point if they are uncomfortable or in pain. 

Anal sex can feel good for both the person giving and receiving it, but it can also take a while to get to that stage. Your experience might not be perfect the first time, so be patient. 

Is anal sex painful?

Anal sex might be uncomfortable or even painful if you rush into it, especially if it’s your first time. 

There are things you can do to reduce pain. These include: 

  • making sure you and your partner feel relaxed 
  • starting off slowly 
  • using lots of water-based lubrication  
  • starting with objects such as fingers or sex toys 
  • talking with your partner so you know what works for you both. 

If you feel it is too uncomfortable or painful, you should stop immediately.  Just because you have started something doesn’t mean you need to continue. 

Can I get pregnant from anal sex?

It's not possible to get pregnant from anal sex because semen cannot get from inside the anus to the vagina, but there is a chance of semen leaking out of the anus and into the vagina after anal sex, which could lead to pregnancy. Use condoms to protect yourself against STIs and pregnancy. 

Should I have anal sex?

Before you try anal sex, make sure you and your partner are comfortable with the idea. If one of you is not interested or ready, it is important to respect this. Read ‘Am I ready for sex?’  to help you think about it. Remember: it is okay if you want to try it and then change your mind! 

How do I stimulate a man's prostate gland?

Many men have nerve endings in their prostate which is between the bladder and the penis. They might enjoy having it stimulated during anal sex. You can stimulate it with a finger or sex toy in the anus. However, there are lots of blood vessels in and around the prostate and it can bruise if handled roughly, so be gentle and use lots of lube. 

Can I get STIs and HIV from anal sex?

Unprotected anal sex carries a higher risk of getting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) than other kinds of sex. This is particularly the case if you are receiving anal sex. This is because the lining of the anus is thin and tears easily, making you more vulnerable to infection.  

There are simple steps you can take to protect yourself and your partner. 

Use condoms  

Condoms protect you and your partner during anal sex. You can use an external condom (also called a male condom) or an internal condom (also called a female condom) which is inserted into the anus before sex. Some people feel safer using extra-thick condoms for anal sex. You should also put condoms on any sex toys you use and change condoms between partners. Dental dams can protect you during oral-anal sex. 

Take pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)  

PrEP is another way to prevent HIV infection, but remember: it does not protect you or your partner from other STIs. Also, PrEP may not be available everywhere.  

Lube up 

A good water-based lube helps to make sex comfortable and to prevent damage to the anus. Oil-based lube (like baby oil or Vaseline) can weaken condoms and make them more likely to break. 

Clean up 

Always wash your fingers, penis or sex toys when switching from anal to other types of sex. If you are using an external condom, make sure you use a new one if you move from anal sex to vaginal or oral sex. This is important so that you don't introduce bacteria from the anus to the vagina or the mouth when you move from one area to another.   

Clean gently 

Some people clean their anus before anal sex because they want to be sure there is no faeces (poo). If you do this, only use water or a mild soap and be very gentle. Otherwise, you might tear or scratch the anus, which can put you at higher risk of STIs. 

Seek help 

See a healthcare professional straight away if you’ve had unprotected anal sex and are worried about STIs. You may be able to take post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) to prevent HIV infection, but you must take it within 72 hours for it to work. Remember: PEP is not a replacement for condoms and is not available everywhere.  

Get tested 

Knowing your HIV and STI status helps protect you and your partner. Have regular tests for HIV and other STIs so that you can get any treatment you might need. If you have HIV and are taking treatment, the level of HIV in your blood can become undetectable. This makes it impossible for you to pass on the virus.  


Stay in control 

Taking drugs or getting drunk can lead to taking risks that you might not take normally, including risks involving sex. 

Let's talk about having anal sex!

Here are a few questions to help kick-off discussions on the issues you need to talk about! You can share them on social, on WhatsApp or just get talking.

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How do I talk about safer anal sex with my partner?

Responsibility for preventing STIs should be shared between you and your partner, so it’s a good idea to talk to each other about protection before you are in the heat of the moment.  

If you’re nervous about talking with your partner, check out our tips for getting started. 

Lead with the positives 

Sex is a delicate topic so be sensitive to your partner’s feelings and start by telling them what you enjoy, and then ease into what you’d like to try or change. 

This could sound like: “I really like it when we…, and wondered how you feel about trying…?” 


While you might have things on your mind, don’t forget that your partner might do too – so listen and give them a chance to tell you what they’re thinking about sex.  

Keep talking 

If you’re having sex, it’s worth remembering that talking about sex is important and helps strengthen your relationship – your partner can’t read your mind, so speak up. 

If you find the idea of talking about safer sex with your partner is too difficult or embarrassing, it could be a sign that you aren’t ready to start having sex just yet.  

This is fine – remember that there are lots of ways to enjoy being together and to explore your sexual feelings. 

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  • Last updated: 14 September 2023
  • Last full review: 01 March 2022
  • Next full review: 01 March 2025
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