A new study reveals major gender differences in how we view it and why we do it.
Published: August 13, 2014 | By Kristen Sollee
Whether you love it, hate it, have tried it or have thought about it, anal sex seems to be less taboo these days. But a new British study found that young women aren’t always doing it for the right reasons. The research, published in the medical journal BMJ Open, attempted to collect information about when anal sex occurs and the reasons why men and women engage in it.
Using a sample of 130 heterosexual men and women between the ages of 16 and 18 from the cities and suburbs of England, scientists conducted group interviews and individual interviews to find out about the participants’ sexual practices. The results revealed major gender differences in the ways men and women talk about anal sex and their motivations to have it.
While men in the study tended to correlate anal sex with pleasure and macho sexual achievement, women brought up a fear of physical pain and a damaged reputation. Male subjects often expressed that they wanted to have anal sex to mimic pornography and because it was more pleasurable than vaginal penetration, while women mainly said they did it to please their partners. There was a shared understanding between interviewees that women were supposed to be begged or forced into participating and should expect it to hurt, and if they turned down anal sex, they were uptight. The idea of “if you try it, you’ll like it” was frequently referred to as a tactic men used to convince women to try it. And unfortunately, many subjects were unaware that STIs can easily be transmitted through anal sex.
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Obviously this study only looked at a small subsection of young adults in the U.K., so these attitudes are not representative of all men and women—especially older adults in committed relationships. Still, it’s shocking to see the damaging stereotypes and unfortunate gender norms surrounding anal sex.
However, these views aren’t necessarily uncommon among American adults as well, says licensed sex therapist Christine Milrod, Ph.D. She attributes this growing interest in anal sex—and the stereotypes surrounding the act—to pornography. But it’s important to remember that porn is not sex education, and the themes you may see in it are often seriously unrealistic. The fact is that some women aren’t enthused about backdoor action, while others really enjoy it; some find it painful, while others find it pleasurable; and most importantly, it should never be something you’re forced into doing.
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When it comes to experimenting with this sex act, Milrod’s first piece of advice is to never succumb to pressure from your partner if you’re not ready or interested in trying it. “Some women don’t enjoy it and they shouldn’t have to do it,” Milrod says.
But if you are interested in trying it out with your partner and you’re both on the same page, she suggests you use lots of lube, go slow, and definitely have him wear a condom to protect both of you from bacterial infections and STDs. And don’t forget to relax, enjoy yourself, and communicate freely with your partner. This should be pleasurable for both of you, and you shouldn’t hesitate to speak up if it’s not. “Far too often women just go along with whatever a guy says just because they want to please him,” Milrod adds. “When are women going to decide what they want to do sexually?”