Arousal and the anus
In order for our bodies to become ready for sex, the body’s natural sexual arousal response needs to be activated. This response leads to changes in the body which make sexual touch and penetration more comfortable, and without it can leave our bodies unprepared to engage in sex (especially penetrative sex) fully. This response leads to a series of physical changes happening (internally and externally), which are coordinated by the brain and executed through signals sent up and down the spinal column.
When we are aroused, our heart rate and blood pressure increase. Changes to our genitals occur also, including erections, and increased skin sensitivity. Muscles around our bodies may become slightly tenser and you might notice that your breathing becomes faster and deeper. For everyone, the rectum expands and the anus becomes more sensitive to touch when we are sexually aroused.
All of these physical changes are designed to make sex more enjoyable and comfortable. It is important to give your body enough time for these changes to occur, to avoid discomfort during sex. If you are not aroused enough, or foreplay has not lasted long enough for these changes to take place, then sex (and particularly bottoming, or receiving penetration) can be uncomfortable or even painful.
I have given my body time, but I still feel pain. Why?
Within the anus, there are two separate sphincters (rings of muscle). The external one is known as a voluntary muscle, and can be flexed when squeezing your pelvic floor muscles. The internal sphincter is an involuntary muscle. This means that it can sometimes clamp shut automatically when you try to insert anything into it, especially if you are worried or nervous or don’t feel ready. When you are considering anal sex, it is important that you take time to relax this sphincter. Like other reflex muscles, there are ways you can train it to become comfortable with penetration and not to close automatically.
Our bodies might not respond in the way we want them to during any form of sex if we are worried or anxious. It is very common to feel some anxiety around sex at times in your life, and there are lots of reasons why you might be anxious in the lead-up to and during sex. These might include:
- Worries about having penetrative anal sex for the first time
- Feeling anxious that it might hurt or will be uncomfortable
- Worries about your appearance of what your partner thinks of you when you are having sex
- Anxiety about your sexual performance or being ‘good enough’ in sex
- Concerns about your relationship more broadly
- Worries about sexually transmitted infections
- Previous unpleasant or unwanted sexual experiences
In fact, any worries, whether about sex or not, can affect the way your body responds to arousal. This can have a direct impact on your ability to relax, feel turned on, and enjoy a sexual experience.
For anyone who might have tried anal penetration before and experienced pain, it is very normal to be expecting pain when a new sexual encounter begins. This is completely understandable, but often leads to feelings of anxiety as a sexual experience progresses (especially towards penetration). This anxiety will then affect the body’s ability to respond to sexually pleasurable stimuli and will mean that sex is more likely to be uncomfortable and painful.
Click here for more information about how anxiety can impact our sexual function.
I enjoy some pain during anal sex, is this a problem?
Not necessarily. Some guys report that feeling a degree of pain during penetration is a turn on, and help sex go better for them. This can be for many reasons, and sometimes includes enjoying sex to be rough generally; taking on a submissive role and enjoying a partner being dominant and taking control; enjoying pushing your body to intense stimulation through fisting or use of sex toys, or enjoying some pain after sex as a reminder of a hot sex session. Pain and sex can work well together, but the key is knowing your own limits and making sure that partners fully understand and respect these. If you are finding some pain during anal sex a turn on, this can lead to great sex. However, make sure you feel comfortable with what is happening at all stages, and be clear with partners that they have to stop if this no longer feels enjoyable or safe.