Does Anal Sex Hurt? Why It Does + What You Can Do About It

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Does Anal Sex Hurt? Why It Does + What You Can Do About It

It’s not uncommon for sex, anal or otherwise, to hurt on occasion. Whether it’s your first time, your partner isn’t as gentle as you’re used to, or your partner is bigger than you’ve had before, sex can be uncomfortable or painful.

But regular pain during sex is not something you should just accept as normal.

If you find that anal sex hurts you more often than not, then you’ve come to the right article. In this post, we’ll explore why anal sex can hurt. We’ll then cover the things you can do to prepare so anal sex is enjoyable and pleasurable for you or your partner.

Does Anal Sex Hurt?

Have you tried anal sex before but it hurt too much to continue? Or maybe you continued with it, but it’s not something you’re looking forward to repeating.

According to a survey done by the San Francisco Aids Foundation, you’re not alone. Of the 412 respondents, 86% say they experienced pain at one point or another while bottoming. Only 9% said they had never experienced pain during anal sex.

Why Does Anal Sex Hurt?

When talking about anal sex, it’s helpful to compare the experience to vaginal sex. While this isn’t relatable for everyone who participates in anal sex, it’s helpful to understand why anal sex may be painful for many people.

There are two key differences between the vagina and the anus. First, the anus is a sphincter muscle that is not meant to stretch for the purpose of taking anything in. Second, the anus doesn’t self-lubricate.

The anus is also packed full of nerve endings.

Also, consider that the skin in and around the anus is thin. It’s no wonder that anal sex cannot be painful if you’re not properly prepared.

How to Prepare for Anal Sex

Here are some tips on preparing for anal sex, especially if you’ve dealt with anal sex pain in the past.

Get Tested

The potential pain of anal sex is nothing compared to the pain and anguish of a Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD).

If you’re regularly having sex, even if using protection like condoms, it’s best practice to be tested for STDs every 3 to 6 months. If you’re in a monogamous relationship, then frequent testing isn’t necessary, though you should get tested at least every 12 months.

Go to the Bathroom

This seems like a no-brainer, but for both mental and physical preparation, it’s good to go to the bathroom prior to an anal session.

Use the restroom and then clean up with some soap and water.

And no, you don’t have to use a douche before anal sex. This is a personal preference. Just remember that with anal, poop can happen. As long as you and your partner are aware of that you shouldn’t have to go through the hassle of douching each time.

Choose the Right Lube

Lubrication is a big part of pain-free anal sex. Remember, the anus doesn’t self-lubricate. You must apply lube liberally and frequently to avoid friction and prevent pain and tearing.

The best lube for you will depend on many factors, including preference. If you’re not sure what type of lube to get, here’s a breakdown of the various options:

  • Water-based lubricant: The most common type of lube, water-based lubes are safe for use with latex condoms and all sex toys. Water-based lubricants do require frequent reapplication, but it’s a non-sticky, non-staining option that can be used for all types of sexual encounters.
  • Silicone-based lubricant: These types of lubricants should not be used with latex or silicone. It’s safe to use with glass, hard plastic, or steel sex toys. Silicone lube is longer-lasting when compared to water-based lubricants which is ideal for activities like anal.
  • Oil-based lubricant: The longest lasting of the bunch, oil-based lubes are incompatible with most condoms and sex toys. If you want to use it for anal sex, then use polyurethane condoms.
  • Hybrid lubricant: These lubes can be any combination of water-based, silicone-based, and oil-based lubricants. The pros and cons will vary based on its contents.

You can’t go wrong with a silicone-based lubricant as it’s long-lasting and versatile. But as long as you know the limitations of each type, you can make any of the above types of lubricants work.

Explore By Yourself

Before you explore anal with a partner, it’s not a bad idea to explore by yourself. You should start with anal fingering and anal training before you move on to toys.

An anal training plan will slowly accustom your anus to penetration. This reduces the risk of injury while also increasing your pleasure.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the steps to follow:

Step 1

Insert your lubricated fingertip into the opening of your anus. Press down and hold for five seconds. Then push upwards and hold for five seconds. Repeat four or five times.

Step 2

Insert your lubricated fingertip up to the first knuckle. You’ll feel a muscle constricting around your finger – that’s your external sphincter. With your finger still inserted, bear down as if you’re using the restroom. You’ll feel the external sphincter release.

Step 3

Now slowly insert more of your finger inside your anal canal.

You’ll feel a constriction on the finger. That’s the internal sphincter. You can’t force your internal sphincter to relax, but there is a special breathing technique that can help.

Inhale deeply through your mouth for two seconds, taking in as much air as possible. Then, slowly exhale through your nose, counting to five seconds as you do.

Repeat this five to ten times.

Step 4

You can follow steps one, two, and three again but this time with both your index and middle fingers together. Once you reach stage three and are able to slide both fingers inside your anal canal, you can curl your fingertips and move your fingers back and forth to help the internal sphincter muscles relax and stretch.

Reminder: If you feel pain or notice bleeding, stop immediately. It can take days or even weeks for you to progress through the steps above, and that’s okay. Take it at your own pace.

Once your anus has become accustomed to your fingers, you can move on to an anal dildo. Just remember that anything inserted anally should have a flared base. It’s best to use only sex toys labeled for anal use, like anal dildos.

Practice Your Breathing

As mentioned in the previous step, breathing can help your internal sphincter to relax. This is helpful, especially if you frequently feel pain or discomfort during penetration.

When you’re nervous or anticipating pain, your muscles tend to tense up. This only makes the pain and discomfort worse. One way to prevent this involuntary tensing is with intentional, measured breathing.

You can follow the breathing technique we mentioned earlier if you’re looking for something simple. To reiterate:

Inhale deeply through your mouth for two seconds. Then, slowly exhale through your nose for a count of five.

You can also incorporate other breathing techniques or patterns. It’s all about finding something that’s comfortable for you. So don’t be afraid to try variations of the pattern above.

Start Slowly

Even if you have had anal sex before or practiced anal training, you should start slow each and every time.

What does this look like?

Begin with lots of foreplay. This will get you into the mental and physical mindset needed for physical intimacy.

You should also start with anal play as opposed to full-on insertion. This means using your fingers, your partner’s fingers, or sex toys to prepare your anus for the main event.

If you feel discomfort or pain at any point, pull back to the previous step. You can then try again with more lube, but if the discomfort continues then consider that further anal training is needed.

Communicate Openly

An act like anal sex requires trust and constant communication. You must be comfortable communicating when you’re in pain, and you should encourage your partner to do the same.

The communication doesn’t need to be extensive. Things as simple as…

  • This doesn’t feel right.
  • Can you add more lube?
  • We need to slow down.
  • Let’s try [this] right now instead.

… should work.

If you don’t feel comfortable communicating with your partner, or if you don’t trust your partner to stop when you ask, then do not have anal sex with them. You should reevaluate the entire relationship at that point, too, but that’s another topic altogether.

Know Your Limits

If you don’t know your limits, you can’t expect your partner to know what you can take.

If you aren’t sure what your limits are, you can use the anal training steps outlined above. Follow the steps as initially outlined, but continue to increase the length and the girth of the toys you use. Just remember to only use toys with a flared base.

Once you’ve hit a point where insertion is uncomfortable, it’s best to stop. You don’t want to get to a point where pain is occurring, so discomfort is the precursor.

That’s not to say that that will always be your limit. With practice and continued anal training, you can take on bigger and girthier toys and penises.


There are a lot of misconceptions about anal sex. One common misconception is that anal sex is painful the majority of the time.

The good news is that anal sex doesn’t need to be painful. There are many things you can do to prepare yourself and your partner ahead of time. These include:

  • Getting tested for STDs regularly.
  • Going to the bathroom prior to sex.
  • Choosing the right lubricant.
  • Exploring anal play by yourself.
  • Practice your breathing.
  • Start slowly.
  • Communicate openly.
  • Know your limits.

The above will ensure that you and your partner have a fun, pleasurable time. Every time. Leave us a comment if you got anything to add to the discussion or if you’ve got a question in mind.

Laura Rose Halliday

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