Like my last articles about facials, anal sex is one of those acts that people have a hard time believing the receptive partner actually enjoys. It’s also loaded down with tons of cultural baggage about cleanliness and morality that make it seem “just wrong.”
I talk a lot about cultural messages and societal shaming, which is tricky sometimes because they are influences which are often hard capture in distinct moments. Usually stigma and shaming have more of a vague feeling to them than a distinct, explicit statement that you can quote and reference. However, I have one very distinct memory from middle school that I can use to illustrate how our society talks about anal sex.
I remember I was sitting through a media analysis lecture in 8th grade. It was part of a get-ready-for-high-school event where parents and community members came and talked to us about all the pressures we were suddenly going to experience in high school, as if they hadn’t already happened to us… Anyway, the woman in charge of the lecture was showing a slide show to get us to understand how the media distorts images of women to make our idea of beauty totally unrealistic. At one point, she shows a picture of Britney Spears soaping up a classic car with her butt towards the camera. The woman leading the lecture told us very clearly that Britney was referencing a very perverted kind of sex.
At first, I think I was confused. What exactly qualified as perverted sex, and what made this random mother from suburbia the arbiter of that distinction? Why were we even talking about this, when the previous slide had been about how a picture of Angelina Jolie had the body parts of 3 different women thrown together to create the illusion of perfection? When I realized she was talking about anal sex, I was pretty pissed off—one because that was not what this woman was supposed to be talking about, and two, because of the totally biased and unnecessary rendering of anal sex as bad.
I was light-years away from trying anal sex that day in my 8th grade classroom. Like facials, I thought anal sex was kind of gross, and I didn’t really want to deal with it, so I tried to ignore those messages of sexual inequality, and you know, focus on stuff that was relevant to an 8th grader.
But now, especially, I feel that baggage as a woman in a relationship that is interested in exploring anal. For so long, anal sex has been a joke for me; I would tell friends how it made me dizzy the first time I tried it, and it was terrible even though I “did everything right.” Of course, I was 17, and doing everything right mostly meant using lots of lube and going slow. That’s pretty much all the advice I’d ever gotten about the subject. Even so, the only reason I tried anal in the first place was because my boyfriend at the time had been very excited about the idea, and I wanted to be open-minded and adventurous. I only felt comfortable with anal in the context of another’s desire, not my own.
And now that I have to take ownership of my own interest in anal sex, it’s awkward. Because I took all that cultural baggage and stigma about
anal into my own relationship. I brought the bad jokes, the discomfort masked by laughter, and the coded silences that kept me from even admitting my interest in anal to myself for quite a while.
So that’s something that I’m trying to work on, personally. Just getting comfortable talking about anal sex is a big first step. The next, of course, is educating myself on how to do it properly. Like I said before, when I was 17, the only thing anyone ever told me about anal was “go slow and use lots of lube.” Yet there’s so much more to it, and for those of you who are interested in educating yourselves, or even just for the morbidly curious…
For your edification, I present a Craigslist classic: “The Ass Fuck Conspiracy.”
It’s not even possible to pull out a good quote from this piece; you’ll just have to read it in its entirety, but sometimes good advice can come from an unlikely a source as Craigslist.
There’s a lot of work still to be done in getting anal sex out from its super-stigmatized corner, but here’s hoping that a little personal work on all our parts will help it along the way.
Stay cool, queer kids.