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Q&A: Does Anal Sex Hurt?

Q&A: Does Anal Sex Hurt? - Sh! Women's Store

Dear Sh!

Both me and my partner are curious to try anal sex and the idea of it really turns me on but also I'm really scared it's going to hurt. It seems like a common acceptance/joke that anal is always painful and yet lots of people also seem to be doing it, so I'm really confused - do they just grit their teeth or is there really pleasure (as in my fantasies) to be had?

Maybe it's a pain/pleasure thing? If so, I'd really like to know before I get any deeper (so to speak!) as pain really isn't my thing! I'd be grateful for any advice you can give. Thanks!"

Hello there,

Thanks for getting in touch!

You’re absolutely right. From jokes and sitcoms to more highbrow knowledge imparting, the accepted ‘truth’ is that anything that goes up the bum will hurt like hell. And yet, from porn films to colonic irrigation, plenty suggests that anal can be pleasurable and completely pain-free.

The difference is relaxation.

Let's move away from sex for a minute and think about colonic irrigation instead (where a practitioner puts a tube up your butt and washes you out from the inside). No one will pay good money to have this done if it’s painful, are they? The practitioner knows you must be relaxed and creates an environment to ensure you are. She explains what will happen, so you are fully informed – no sudden movements or nasty surprises! The practitioner will use lube and patience, and most crucially, you will be in charge.

Tips for pain-free anal sex

Take this info and transfer it to anal sex, and you’ll see there are 3 elements to ensure it is pain-free:

Without these three, anal sex will hurt. Pain is your body’s warning system to stop or slow down.

Most first-timers worry that anal penetration will hurt, which tenses everything up and ensures it does – a vicious cycle! The pain comes from the internal anal sphincter that must be very relaxed for pain-free anal sex

The problem is that the receptive partner doesn’t actually have any conscious control over relaxing this muscle. If it constricts involuntarily, forcing anal sex will hurt. This is why you must try to be really in-tune with what your body is telling you and be able to communicate this to your partner.

black & white sphincter diagram

Lube for anal play

Anal lube is extra thick or super slippery, so toys, fingers or penises stay coated for longer. The key is to ensure everything glides. Gliding is the physical equivalent of relaxing, whilst dragging is the equivalent of tensing (tensing = possible pain) which is why using lube, and lots of it is essential.

Sh! Pure Plus bottle of lube

Setting the pace for anal sex

The receptive partner of anal sex must control the pace. 

In the beginning, it may feel really alien to your body to have something going up your bum. We’d recommend practising with a lubed-up finger, a slim butt plug or an anal vibrator before going all the way with a penis or dildo. 

vibrating anal toy is a great way to explore your derriére desires for the first time. Vibration is excellent for relaxing those extra sensitive anal nerve endings and sending pleasurable thrills throughout the pelvic area.

We also think newbies should explore the sensations solo rather than with a partner. Solo play removes any pressure or impatience to ‘get on with it’ because, when you’re aroused, you may feel ready to involve your partner before you actually are. Experimenting solo lets concentrate wholly on yourself and the sensations you’re experiencing.

A slim butt plug in purple silicone

Communication is key

It can take a long time for your body to become accustomed to and relax into the sensations of anal play. 

Once you feel ready to involve your partner, communication is crucial. Talking about sex can feel awkward, but essential to ensure anal sex is a positive experience for both partners. 

You could start by giving a one-woman performance on your newfound anal confidence with your toys or fingers. This will show your partner the pace and depth you find most arousing. Before inviting them to become involved in a ‘hands on’ (or penis/dildo) capacity, talk and agree that you are in control of action and pace. 

If you need to slow down or stop altogether, it’s much better to do so. Gritting teeth or soldering on is totally counter-productive because it'll likely be the last time you want to try anal sex!

anal butt plug trainer set

Best positions for anal sex

Doggy-style may be the anal position that springs to mind first when talking about anal sex. But actually, this isn’t the best, especially for newbies. Being on top, where you can lower yourself onto your lover or dildo, is a better way to feel in control of pace and depth.

We hope this has helped give you the confidence to go ahead and explore turning your fantasies into pleasurable anal reality!

Best Wishes,

Team Sh! xx

Browse all our fun anal play products here!

If you’d like any tailored advice or recommendations, please feel free to drop us a line at and we’ll answer you privately. We may also share Q&A’s so others may benefit, but if we do it will always be anonymous, with nothing left in to identify you.

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