April 4, 2007

Q&A: Anal Sex Play: How Safe Is Analingus (Oral Anal Sex)?

A male reader asks about the risks associated with oral anal sex (also known as analingus)

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Question: My girlfriend and I have been together monogamously for a long time, and have gotten more experimental with our sex lives. We recently tried analingus for the first time. We took a shower together beforehand, and tried to make her anus and the surrounding skin as clean as possible, in order to protect as best from germs. We cleaned up afterwords, with me washing my mouth before moving on to any other sexual acts. It was very fun, and we both enjoyed it very much. My question is this – how safe is analingus when performed in this manner, and what are some risks still associated with the act?

Many couples of various ages, religions and sexual orientations enjoy exploring their sexuality together. This may be particularly true for two people who have been together for a long time, are monogamous (and therefore fairly confident that they are not putting each other at risk for unknown infections by having sex with others), and feel comfortable with each other.

Comfort and trust are often critical factors since sexual exploration can pose potential emotional and physical risks as well as benefits.

Many Way To Explore Anal Sex Play

There are many ways to explore anal sex play. Some people use their fingers to touch the outside of the anal openings; others insert their fingers. Similarly, some people enjoy oral-anal contact (often called “rimming” or “analingus”) either by licking the opening of the anus or inserting one’s tongue.

Anal intercourse, which some people may more commonly think of “anal sex”, typically refers to inserting a penis or sex toy into a partner’s anus.

Like other sex acts, some (but not all) people enjoy anal sex play. It is important for couples to talk to each other about what feels good, comfortable and what you do want to do (or stop doing).

Reducing Infection Risk

It sounds like you two are already communicating about your exploration and that you are taking some good measures to reduce your risk of infection.

After all, although the anus is a pleasurable part of the body for many individuals, the fact that it excretes feces means that it carries the risk of a variety of infectious agents (e.g., bacteria, viruses, parasites).

To reduce your risk of infection, consider using a latex dam or a condom cut in half and placing this in between your mouth and your partner’s anal opening during analingus. By adding personal lubricant on her side of the latex dam or condom, analingus may feel slippery and pleasurable to her while being safer for you both.

Sexually transmissible infections (STI) such as herpes and HIV may be transmitted through analingus. The risk of transmitting HIV through analingus is likely low, but still possible, particularly if you have cuts or sores in your mouth or she has cuts or sores around her anal opening.

You both should consider being tested for STI and HIV/AIDS if you have not already done so. Analingus may also pose a risk for hepatitis so you both may want to ask your healthcare provider for information about vaccines for hepatitis A and B.

Many people get these vaccines, particularly when traveling abroad, so asking about the hepatitis A and B vaccines will not necessarily clue your healthcare provider into your sexual activities.

That said, we would still encourage you to talk to your healthcare provider about your sexual activities, and ask any questions of interest, so that he or she can advise you on reducing youinr or your partner’s risk of infections, or help diagnose you just in case you (as the ‘giver’ of analingus) contract bacteria or a virus from your partner’s fecal matter and develop symptoms.

Recommended Reading

To learn more, consider reading Anal Pleasure & Health by Dr. Jack Morin or check out http://www.cdc.gov for information about infections.

If at any time you feel sick (e.g., nausea, diarrhea, or other symptoms that worry you), please check in with your healthcare provider.

Like other types of sex, anal sex play can absolutely be a fun, pleasurable and healthy activity and we applaud you both for seeking out information that will help you maximize your pleasure and minimize your risk.

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