In an article titled "How To Ask For Anal Sex," you might expect advice like, "bring it up over a candelit dinner," "moan about how much it would turn you on during foreplay," or even "pop the question with skywriting." But you probably wouldn't expect a doozy of an opening line like, "Women like to be surprised."
As a woman, I can confirm that we like to be surprised—maybe with flowers, a "you won't believe what happens next" clickbait video, or a Game of Thrones death—but not with anal.
Writer Sarah Jane Banahan continued, in what's now being criticized as "rape culture":
I read somewhere recently that now it is more respectful to "initiate" to your partner beforehand about wanting to try anal sex via text message, or phone call. Oh please! How about a slight whisper in the ear while you penetrate your women, isn’t that just a little more erotic?
First, "penetrate your women?" How many women are you penetrating at any given time? Also, isn't it up to each person to decide their hierarchy of eroticism?
Bianca Laureano, award-winning sexologist and Latina activist told Complex, "Articles like this are dangerous because they give men (it was a heterosexist article) the impression they may do something sexual with a partner without their consent." In Banahan's defense, she did add a (parenthesized) "No means no, gentlemen." Laureano called it a "weak attempt" and "a great example of miscommunication and how so many people are unclear about what sexual assault is."
Even if you've been with someone for years, and even if you've engaged in anal before, it's necessary to have a mutual understanding of what is and isn't on the table.
She added that it "perpetuates rape culture."
In response, Banahan told Complex, "The media has gone bonkers because they don't understand and call it 'rape' it's absurd! This article was implied for partners not strangers and not friends." But even if you've been with someone for years, and even if you've engaged in anal before, it's necessary to have a mutual understanding of what is and isn't on the table.
Banahan agreed as much, saying, "What works is when you are both prepared. What doesn't is when you are in a new relationship and the topic of anal was never mentioned—getting to know one another is a learning process and I never said do anal without lube with a complete stranger (as it feels the media quite ridiculously are portraying). Some women despise it and that's their prerogative. I am experienced and I enjoy it (my article was sharing MY experience)."
She may not have explicitly suggested trying anal without lube, but she did write:
In the early stages you may not be able to go as deep as you like without lubrication, but once she's acclimatised she'll arch her back and let you go into her a little more.
And in her article, Banahan opted to use language like "you" and "your women" and blanket statements like "women like to be surprised" or "that's the point of good ol' dirty sex," instead of contextualizing her advice as personal experience, or reminding readers that their partners might feel the total opposite.
Banahan isn't the only person into "surprise buttsex"—it's a trope we even see in mainstream media. One of the most popular examples happens in the pilot episode of Girls, when Lena Dunham's character Hannah and her eventual-boyfriend Adam first hook up onscreen. Adam tells Hannah to lie face down on the couch and take her pants off, and tries to surprise her with anal. After she apologizes for not wanting to do it, he tells her, "Let's play the quiet game" and thrusts.
The cringeworthy and now-infamous sex scene goes down as one of the worst in TV history.
These days, anal doesn't feel as taboo as it once did. A 2008 survey found that 18 percent of heterosexual men have given anal sex, 15 percent have received analingus, and 24 percent have received anal fingering. In addition, 24 percent have performed analingus and 53 percent have anally fingered a woman. A 2016 study from the CDC found that 35.9 percent of women and 42.3 percent of men have tried anal.
In fact, we are #blessed to be living in the Age of the Ass, with lyrics like Jhene Aiko's "eat the booty like groceries" and Nicki Minaj's "he toss my salad like his name romaine" playing on the radio.
When asked why surprise anal might be appealing to so many, Laureano answered, "I believe that surprises are seen as forms of affection, however we don't always consider how the person reviewing the surprise may respond and that is imperative! I believe folks are prioritizing their own pleasure over other people's self-determination and that is a violation of people's human rights."
So how can you engage in anal sex safely and consensually?
Laureano suggested three key points:
- Get consent and communicate about process, safety, pleasure, and safewords to use in case you want to stop
- Make sure you have plenty of lube and condoms (the anus doesn't stretch as easily as the vagina and needs to be lubricated)
- Massage the anus to help the receiving partner relax, and the giving partner understand their partner's body and responses
Dr. Vanessa Cullins, Planned Parenthood's vice-president of external medical affairs, told Complex that you should use lube, go slowly, and stop if anal play starts to hurt. If you're just starting out, she suggested fingers and toys rather than inserting a penis right away.
But the most important thing to remember when it comes to "how to ask for anal sex?"
Just fucking ask.