Anus and Rectum

The anus leads to the sphincter (bum-hole) – the tight circle of muscle that contracts and loosens to allow the passage of faeces (poo) out of the body. The rectum is that part of the alimentary tract that leads to the anus. Both the anus and rectum can become involved in penetrative sexual activity.

For many people the anus and surrounding area are very sensitive and are sexually arousing. For this reason sexual activity centring on this part of the anatomy is quite common and it is even possible to experience orgasm following anal penetration. Otherwise, it has been used to enhance orgasm brought on from genital stimulation. Anal sex is surprisingly common among men and women, and is not confined simply to stereotypicalgay” sex. One recent survey revealed that anal sex is part of 15% of heterosexual couples sex lives. It is used routinely for the pleasure to be derived from the stimulation, as part of sexual experimentation, or where vaginal penetrative sex is unsatisfactory to either partner. It has even been used as an alternative to vaginal sex to prevent conception.

The anus may be stimulated or penetrated by fingers, penis, tongue, sex toy or other means. However, since the anus was not constructed for penetration, but for excretion, this has to be helped by lubrication or damage to the wall or lining may occur. If you are being penetrated, it helps to relax the sphincter, to prevent pain or damage occurring through resistance.

Any unprotected oral or penetrative anal sex makes the person vulnerable to the numerous infections which are outlined in detail elsewhere on this site under the headings of HIV-AIDS- Hepatitis and Infections. It is useful to make yourself aware of the dangers involved upon becoming infected, and take the precautions outlined in the Safer Sex section of the site. It is safer to use a condom for penetrative anal sex, one that is designed to be strong enough for this activity like Durex Ultra Strong, Mates Super Strong or HT Specials. These work better with a water-based lubricant like K-Y Jelly, Liquid Silk or Aquagel. Oil based lubricants seriously damage most condoms and can only be used with PVC condoms like Durex Avanti or with Femidoms.

Although oral genital sex is considered to be a low risk activity, the anus is likely to harbour a wider range of infection given its primary purpose of excretion. Using a condom or non-microwaveable cling film as a barrier for oral anal sex (rimming) helps to prevent aquiring an infection.

Anal fissure
This can occur naturally from the passage of large or hard stools which can cut and tear the anus. The symptoms are pain and bleeding. This should go away after several hours, but may recur at the next bowel movement. Stool softeners may be used as a temporary measure to allow normal healing.

If the condition is persistent then your doctor may consider surgery to loosen the anal sphincter. This condition can also result from forceful or energetic penetration during anal sex.

Penetration by objects
If you are inserting objects into the anus for sexual enjoyment, avoid objects with sharp edge or jagged points as anal fissures can be caused by these. There are a range of sex toys commercially available for the specific purpose of anal insertion.

These are designed to prevent the object escaping deeper into the anus and rectum, preventing their easy removal. If this does happen, then you must seek medical attention. Objects used in penetration should not be excessively large or they can cause serious damage. The anal sphincter may be ruptured, with bleeding and faecal incontinence resulting. Ruptures in deeper parts of the rectum can result in major abdominal infections and even death.

Remember too that any object used in penetration can become infected and should not put into contact with e.g. the vagina or mouth afterwards, or cross-infection can occur.

Proctitis
Proctitis is an inflammation of the rectum which can result in pain and bleeding. It can have several causes, which includes gonorrhoea acquired through unprotected anal sex.

There are a number of other conditions which affect the anus and rectum but which are not directly related to sexual activity, but which would render sexual activity inappropriate for their duration. This is another area of illness which people find very difficult to talk about even with their doctor, and this may be more pronounced where sexual activity has been involved.

Again, remember that your doctor has a very wide range of experience and is unlikely to find the things which you find embarrassing or even shameful to be particularly unusual. Do not compromise your health and well-being unnecessarily.

Infection
Men and women experience all manner of infections throughout their lives which have an impact on their sexual health. Some of these are sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and some are not. Some of the more common STIs are chlamydia, genital herpes, genital warts, gonorrhoea, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and syphilis. Non-sexually transmitted genital infections include cystitis, thrush and bacterial vaginosis.

Some infections are specific to men and some to women, many others affect both equally. They do not distinguish between the 13 year old and the 30 year old – the same risks apply in undertaking similar sexual activities across the entire age range. This web site includes a guide to many of these infections and they are detailed in the sections headed Infections and HIV, AIDS & Hepatitis.

When undertaking any sexual activity, consider if it is a situation where safer sex practices should be used. Safer Sex is described in more detail at the What is Sexual Health section of the site.

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