Analingus: The Curious Lovers' Guide to Oral-Anal Contact

Not everybody feels comfortable with the thought of anal licking or kissing their lover's anus, or with having it done to them. But the fact is, many lovers are curious about oral-anal contact -- known as analingus and casually called "rimming" -- and often feel surprised by their interest, but when they try it, some become enthusiastic about it. 

Many lovers have an accidental introduction to analingus during cunnilingus, since the bottom of the vaginal entrance is quite close to the anus. Sometimes a little lick meant for the lower vagina slips further south than intended, and the recipient experiences unexpected delight -- and sometimes a surprisingly powerful urge to explore analingus further.

For other lovers, interest in rimming develops from anal play. The most popular anal activities are sphincter massage and fingering, and many people also enjoy anal plugs and penis-anus intercourse. But as people explore other forms of anal eroticism, many warm up to the idea of analingus.

Another Way to Play

There is absolutely nothing wrong with or abnormal about rimming. If you feel tempted to condemn it, remember that, not too long ago, oral sex was considered a disgusting perversion and was outlawed in many states. Now oral sex is so widely accepted that about three-quarters of Americans say they have performed it on a lover and had it performed on them. In fact, many couples don't make love without it.

Rimming may not ever become as popular as oral sex, but in recent years Americans have become somewhat more sexually experimental. In fact, surveys suggest that around fifteen percent of American adults -- more than twenty million people -- have experienced some form of anal sex play. There are no statistics specifically on rimming, but as people become more comfortable with sexual experimentation in general, and anal play in particular, it should come as no surprise that many heterosexuals and homosexuals alike are expressing curiosity about anal licking.

Why Analingus Feels Erotic

The anus and surrounding tissue are richly endowed with nerves that are highly sensitive to gentle, playful, loving touch. The same is true for the lips and tongue, and when you put these areas together, the combination can be powerfully erotic. 

Another reason anal stimulation feels erotic is the pelvic floor muscles, which lie beneath the surface of the anal area. These muscles play an important role in sex and are the ones that contract during orgasm. Using sex toys, a finger or a tongue to massage or insert into the anus stimulates the pelvic floor muscles and heightens overall erotic sensations.

Finally, sex draws a good deal of its emotional power from lovers' wholehearted acceptance of each other. Analingus involves acceptance of an area that's often not accepted -- in fact, one that's usually rejected. Analingus becomes a way for the giver to say: " I love all of you. No part of your wonderful body turns me off." And it's a way for the receiver to say:" I'm totally yours. No part of me is off limits to you." This level of mutual acceptance can be a powerful turn-on.

Raising The Issue

If you're interested in rimming, raise the issue before you dive in. Some couples prefer to discuss sexual experimentation in nonsexual settings. Others like to discuss experimentation while making love. Raise the issue of analingus in whatever way feels the most comfortable to you in your relationship.

If you and your lover have open and frank sexual communication, you might simply announce that you'd like to try analingus. On the other hand, if you feel reluctant to admit your interest -- the case for many -- you might raise the issue indirectly, perhaps by mentioning offhandedly that you read something about it on and asking what your lover thinks of it.

If your honey grimaces, chances are that analingus won't become part of your intimate repertoire. Never pressure a lover to try rimming if he or she doesn't want to. But if your lover shows any interest, even if it's couched in skepticism and concern about hygiene, you may detect enough of an opening to pursue the issue, allay your lover's concerns and perhaps introduce it into your lovemaking.

If you decide to experiment with analingus, you also need to discuss who's interested in which role. Some people are interested in only one side of a rimming interaction; others feel equally comfortable in both roles. Before you begin, be sure you're clear on who does what.

The Big Fear: Fecal Contact

Because the anus is intimately involved in defecation, many people assume that oral-anal contact must involve contact with feces. This is possible. Even with good wiping, traces of fecal material may cling to the anus and the skin around it. 

However, careful personal hygiene minimizes exposure. San Francisco sex therapist Jack Morin, Ph.D., author of the now-classic Anal Pleasure & Health, insists that the anus, anal canal and rectum usually contain surprisingly little stool. Most fecal material is stored above the rectum in the descending colon. When stool moves into the rectum, you feel "the urge," and it then passes out of the body fairly quickly. Most of the time, when you feel no urge to defecate, there are only trace amounts of stool in the rectum, anal canal and anus -- traces that can easily be washed out.

The Infection Connection

Another important consideration is the possibility of analingus exposing the giver to digestive tract bacteria. The digestive tract is home to millions of bacteria that assist in digestion, notably E. coli. These micro-organisms get incorporated into stool and can be found in and around the anus. Although they help with digestion, they might also cause infection. If E. coli come in contact with the vagina or urethra, t he woman might develop a vaginal infection (bacterial vaginosis) or a urinary tract infection (UTI, also known as cystitis or bladder infection). That's why a standard recommendation is that anything that comes into contact with the anus should not then touch the vulva or vagina. 

The digestive tract might also contain other harmful micro-organisms that can be spread during oral-anal contact. Among them:

  • Other bacteria. Two significant germs are Shigella and Salmonella, which cause food poisoning. These germs can cause acute and often vicious diarrhea, and it's possible for someone with mild symptoms to transmit the infection to someone else who develops severe symptoms.
  • Intestinal parasites, notably Giardia lamblia, and amoebas, both of which cause diarrhea.
  • Viruses, notably HIV (the AIDS virus) and the one that causes hepatitis A. HIV typically spreads through blood-to-blood contact. Anal tissue bleeds easily, particularly in the estimated one-third of American adults who have hemorrhoids. (These varicose veins of the anal canal sometimes cause pain, but frequently do not, so affected individuals may not know they have them.) If HIV-contaminated blood enters the mouth of a someone who has a minor injury -- bleeding gums, for example -- the infection might be transmitted.

Fun Without Fear

Because infections such as HIV can be transmitted during analingus, it's crucial that lovers who play this way take prudent precautions:

  • Wash thoroughly. Before any sexual encounter involving oral-anal play, the area around and inside the anus should be carefully washed with soap and water.
  • Consider showering together. Washing is good, but showering together is even better. Not only is it sensual foreplay, but you can both make sure everything is clean and ready to go.
  • Consider an enema. For an extra margin of hygiene safety, the recipient might want to try an enema before washing. Enemas rinse the rectum and anal canal, removing most traces of fecal material. They're easy to use, especially the disposable enemas available over the counter from pharmacies. Simply insert the flexible nozzle into the anus while on your hands and knees and gently squeeze the bottle, pushing the fluid into the rectum. After a few minutes, sit on the toilet and allow the fluid to drain out. The bottle can be refilled with warm water and reused.
  • Dam it. Dental dams are thick sheets of latex rubber that work like a condom, acting as a physical barrier between the anus and the mouth. They may feel awkward to use at first, but, like condoms, they can be incorporated into analingus easily with a little practice and a sense of humor. Dental dams are available at most pharmacies, or you can simply buy unlubricated condoms or latex gloves and cut them into flat sheets. In a pinch, you can also use plastic food wrap. To heighten pleasure, massage a little sexual lubricant into your lover's anus before applying the dam.
  • Rinse after. After analingus without a dam, be sure to rinse your mouth with an antiseptic mouthwash or, at the very least, water.

In truly monogamous couples, where both people are confident that neither has hepatitis, HIV or intestinal parasites, the only real risk of analingus is contact with digestive bacteria -- and enemas and careful washing virtually eliminates this. According to Dr. Morin, for healthy, monogamous couples who practice careful anal hygiene, the risk of analingus causing infection or illness is "extremely low." Consider your situation carefully. Discuss it. Then decide for yourselves the appropriate level of precautions you want to take.

Analingus Techniques and Tips

Certain positions allow oral-anal contact with a minimum of contortions:

  • Knees and elbows. The person receiving pleasure assumes the position typically used for rear-entry (doggie style) intercourse, while his or her lover kneels or squats behind. Either partner may gently spread the cheeks to expose the anus.
  • Standing bent over. The person on the receiving end stands and bends at the waist, and his or her partner kneels, sits or squats behind.
  • Lying supine. The person being licked lies on his or her back, legs bent, knees drawn up to the chest or apart, while the other lover squats or lies on his or her stomach. It often helps in this position to place a pillow under the recipient's hips, which raises the anus and allows for easier access.
  • Sixty-nine. Compared with mutual oral-genital contact, mutual analingus requires somewhat more physical flexibility, but many people enjoy this position.
Once you're both in position for analingus, here are some tips on technique:
  • Take it slow. Some recipients enjoy having their partner plunge into analingus. But unless they specifically request it, you should approach this highly sensitive area slowly. Massage, kiss, and lick the person's lower back, thighs, hips, and buttocks as you slowly work your way towards his or her anus. A slow approach builds anticipation for what's about to happen and often heightens the eroticism of analingus.
  • Use your lips. Kiss your lover's anus and the area around it.
  • Use the flat of your tongue. Press it against your partner's anus.
  • Use the tip of your tongue. Wiggle it around the anus, slip it inside and move it in and out or wiggle it around in circles.

From Rimming to Other Forms of Anal Play

As mentioned earlier, some lovers discover analingus while involved in other forms of anal play. For others, analingus might be their introduction to anal eroticism. If analingus makes you curious about other aspects of anal sex, see MyPleasure's article, Introducing Anal Sex, as well as the Introducing Anal Sex Anal Collection of sex toys specifically designed to enhance backdoor fun.

Whatever you and your lover ultimately decide about analingus, discussing it can deepen the intimacy you share. You will learn more about yourself and each other. You will become clearer about what you're willing and unwilling to try. In the end, as it were, these discussions will help you feel closer to one another and better able to experience whatever sexual pleasure you both enjoy.