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The Things You Learn About Anal Sex When You Work at a Sex Store

Lesson #1: You’ll never be asked more about anything else

From getting it, to eating it, to having it, welcome to Ass Week, MEL’s weeklong exploration of the body part du jour.

For the past two years of my life, I’ve worked at the Pleasure Chest, a sex-positive, education-based sex shop in West Hollywood. On paper, I was a retail associate and my mission was clear — ring up dick pills, straighten boxes of dildos and tell couples to stop fucking in the dressing room. On the floor, however, my coworkers and I were tasked with a different role. As the first people many customers felt comfortable asking sex and relationship questions to, we often found ourselves having to split the difference between amateur sex therapist and basic sex educator, walking couples and singles alike through some of their most pressing questions about sexual health and pleasure. Some of these questions involved kinky sex, vibrators, lube and “spicing things up,” but the one thing people wanted to know about most was anal sex.

For many people, anal sex is the great gaping question mark in their sexual repertoire. Though it’s now more common than having a Twitter account, it’s almost never addressed in sex education or parental “birds-and-bees” talks, nor is it represented particularly accurately in porn or on TV. As a result, much of polite society is still pretty confused about how it works.

I, however, know way, way too much. And so, after making a living by helping 10 to 20 people a day figure out how to put things in their asses, I’m ready to offload some of that knowledge on to you in the hopes it’ll clear up any butt-related fear or confusion you might have. Things like…

If you’re going to put something in your ass, it needs to have a base.

Just like David Bowie, your asshole goes both ways. That is, thanks to the peristaltic action of the muscles in the rectum and lower intestine, you can both push things out and suck them up through your butt.

That means that, if you put something in your butt that doesn’t have a flared base or some sort of mechanism to keep it on the outside of your body, it’s wholly possible for your hungry asshole to slurp it up so deep inside your lower intestine that you’ll need to go to the emergency room to have it removed. (This happens roughly 20,000 times a year in the U.S.)

A good rule of thumb: The base should be at least twice as wide as the widest part of the toy (or whatever the hell you’re using). For example, this toy has an exemplary base.

A Barbie doll’s arm, on the other hand, does not.

The anus is extraordinarily sensitive.

It actually has the second highest concentration of pleasurable nerve endings in the human body — after the clit and the head of the penis — which is why anal sex and stimulation can feel so good. The actual opening of the anus itself is where the majority of them are, but there are plenty further into the anal cavity, too.

There are three things you absolutely need to have pleasurable anal sex.

It doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from or who you’re with — every anal interaction you have with a partner should have these three things:

1) Relaxation. When you’re tense, nervous, mistrustful or uneasy, your anal sphincters (there are two) tend to clench as a protective mechanism. While this is a natural reflex, it also makes penetration much more painful. By contrast, a relaxed sphincter is a happy sphincter — like any muscle, the more relaxed you are, the more blood can flow to your hole, and the better penetration will feel.

Whatever typical calming, self-care activities you normally do can help relax the sphincter, too — a long massage or butt massage, a glass of wine, a few marijuanas, a warm bath, a whiff or six of poppers. Go with whatever makes you (or your partner) feel comfortable, safe and calm, and know that it’s probably going to take a little more time than it does with vaginal, oral or manual sex to reach that point.

2) Communication. Because the anus is so sensitive, and because it’s designed for daily functions other than sex, a little extra communication between parties is critical to making sure butt stuff goes smoothly. Some questions to ask before and during are…

  • What feels good?
  • What hurts?
  • Should we slow down?
  • Who handles the lube?
  • Do you want to warm up with any toys or spanking?
  • Is now a good time, or did you just eat a pound of cheddar cheese as you stared, dead-eyed, out the window?

3) Lubrication. Unless you love anal fissures, you’re going to want to use lube every time you do butt stuff. Lube softens and protects the delicate tissues of the anus, sphincters and rectum, which keeps them from getting injured or torn from friction (something that’s particularly important for sexual health as STIs and other infections can be easily spread through micro-tears in anal tissue). In other words, there’s no such thing as “too much lube,” so pretend your ass is a slip-and-slide and apply liberally.

Speaking of lube, this is the best kind…

When it comes to anal lube, endurance and cushioning are king. Because the anus doesn’t self-lubricate like the other “fun” orifices do, you want something that’ll last without having to reapply it. Silicone and oil-based lubes are your best bets in this regard — they’re both long-lasting, thick and quite cushion-y. Some even have relaxing ingredients like clove or jojoba in them that make the sphincter more pliable. Two small caveats, however — both also have some toy and condom incompatibilities you should know about, and both can stain your precious 48,038 thread-count sheets. That said, I recommend Uberlube for silicone and Slam Dunk for oil-based. Coconut oil is also great for assplay.

Oh, and you can also use a lube shooter to get lube further up your butt so it’s as nicely lubricated as the bottom portion (that tends to make things feel a lot better if you’re doing deeper penetration).

The ass will tell you when it wants you to enter it.

You can actually feel a distinct physical difference in the sphincter when its relaxed — it’ll be much looser, softer and more pliable, and you’ll notice that whatever you’re putting in/around it starts to “sink” or “dip” into it as opposed to just butting (oops) up against it. That, along with a verbal “yes” from your partner, is a good sign that you can start penetrating.

Butt plugs can teach your ass to like butt stuff (most of the time).

Butt plugs are sex toys that train your butt to be okay with having things in it. They’re intended to be inserted and left in for anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours (you can wear them for as long as you want if they’re made of a non-porous material like silicone or steel). Wearing them and using them as sex toys can feel amazing, but you can also just use them for training purposes or to loosen up the anus so you can get something bigger inside of it later, too. Plus, since you can use them without a partner, you can practice without feeling pressured or rushed.

If you’re into a more thrilling option, there are some butt plugs that vibrate, and others, like the WeVibe Ditto, that can be controlled from anywhere in the world there’s WiFi. You could be in Canada and I could be in Malaysia, and I could be buzzing your butt from my phone. Ahh, modern love.

Enemas can help you avoid messy situations.

The number one thing people want to know about butt stuff is whether or not they’ll get poop on them. The short answer is “shrug emoji” — poop does come out of there, so yeah, it’s a definite possibility. That said, if there’s poop — and there’s often not — it’s often just a tiny, inoffensive amount.

That said, if you want to reduce the risk of that happening, you can always use an at-home enema to rinse your butt out with. These are little squeeze-bulbs with insertable arms that shoot water into your rectum to clean it out. Some even attach to your showerhead if you want to get semi-professional about it.

I’ll be honest with you — it’s a little awkward to squeeze water into your own asshole then shit it out, but boy, does it work. Plus, millions of people do it every day to avoid the scepter of poop, so you can too. Here’s a good video about it.

Knowing when and what to eat the day you have anal sex is also a great poop-avoidance strategy.

Generally speaking, light, bland, fibrous food is are the best things to eat on butt-sex day. We’re talking vegetables, leafy greens, broth and whole grains — stuff that makes you poop solid and clean. By contrast, meat, beans, corn, processed foods, coffee, peppers and chiles and octagonal Taco Bell creations are more dangerous — anything that’s oily, spicy, hard to digest or acts as a diuretic tends to make your poops more wily and unpredictable.

There’s no hard and fast rule for how long you should wait to do butt stuff after eating — it’s entirely dependent on your metabolism, poop schedule and what you ate. So instead of me throwing arbitrary numbers at you, pay attention to your body. It’ll tell you if it wants something in it tonight.

Or, you know, just take a pill.

Just like everything else in life, there’s a pill for that. It’s called “Pure,” and it’s made of chia, flaxseed, psyllium and aloe. Basically, it desiccates the shit out of your shit, drawing all the water out so you can poop solid. A solid poop, as you know, leaves less residue behind.

Poop solid, poop strong, my boys.

There are no such thing as “male” or “female” butt toys.

At work, people always wanted to know where the “toys for women” or the “butt plugs for men” were. My answer would be sweet, but direct: “There’s no such thing. Everyone has a butt, so we just have one section for anal.” Butts are universal, and stimulating them is a nearly identical process for any gender. The one exception is that some people’s butts have prostates in them, but prostate toys can easily be used on people who don’t have them as well.

In fact, if you’re packing a vagina, a prostate toy might help you have an anal G-spot orgasm.

…Anal what? Are you telling me vaginas can cum from anal?

I am. The genitals, anus and perineum share innervation from the pudendal nerve and many of its branches, meaning that stimulating one of these things can indirectly stimulate another. In the case of vaginas, anal stimulation can cause the erectile tissue of the G-spot and lower vagina to fill with blood, which makes orgasm more likely. It doesn’t happen to everyone and it doesn’t happen every time, but it’s possible.

You don’t even need to put something inside of your butt to get that effect — sometimes, things like spanking and impact play on the buttocks can awaken the nerves in the clit, vagina, penis or rectum, making them more sensitive and receptive to pleasurable stimulation.

If it hurts, slow down, stop and breathe.

People tend to hold a huge amount of energetic and emotional tension in the pelvic floor, the anal sphincters and the anus itself. That tension can make stimulation painful.

And anal sex should never be painful — especially if you’re relaxed and well-lubed. However, if the toy, finger or dick that’s in your ass is hurting you, slow down, stop entirely (with the thing still inside you) and breathe deeply, allowing your anus to relax around it. Sometimes, a few seconds of stillness and some deep, grounding breaths are all your ass needs to succeed. While you’re at it, it never hurts to add a little extra lube, or massage the area around the anus to get some blood moving.

If it’s still painful after that, slowly remove your ass object and call it a night. You can always get back on that horse another day.

Anal sex isn’t for everyone.

Just like some people are cat people and others are dog people, some people are built for anal sex and others aren’t. And while the old adage “practice makes perfect” definitely rings true for butt stuff in some cases, everyone has a different body and level of interest. If you or your partner genuinely doesn’t like it, that’s totally valid.

The storage capacity of the human anus is seemingly as limitless as time and space.

With the right lube and a healthy amount of practice, people can fit some very, very large things in their butts. We used to sell a plug that was 8 to 9 inches in diameter at its widest point, and a 17-inch long dildo that weighed as much a couple of cats. I sold both things to a select handful of size aficionados, none of whom were particularly large people, and you know what? They lived to tell the tale. In fact, most of them came back to buy more stuff, so it appears that not only do people survive their own dogged aspirations to stretch their assholes further than the universe, they thrive afterwards, too. It’s almost as if their anal goals are a last vestige of the American dream and of the belief that if you work hard enough, you can be anyone you want to be. Believe, and you can achieve.

That’s anal for you.