When it comes to the negative side effects of anal sex, it's hard to get a straight answer. Because the act of anal sex is still relatively taboo, knowledge of the effects it has on the body aren't always as consistent as one would hope. For people who like it (and who use lots of lube), there are some benefits of anal sex, like the possibility of anal orgasms and feeling closer to your partner. But there are also dangers of anal sex that doctors want you to know about before getting into it.
Whether the thought of anal makes you swoon or cringe, the fact is that anal sex has been on the rise. Research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, published in 2016, found that 42% of men and 36% of women have tried anal sex at least once in their lives. These stats, according to the CDC, are up quite a bit from the 1990s, when only 25% of men and 20% of women had tried it (or, revealed that they'd tried it).
But, as with everything in life, there are definitely some negatives to having anal sex. I guess that throws a wee bit of a wrench into or, at the very least, gives you things to consider before having it. For those who love anal sex, are apprehensive about it, or are just plain curious, here are five possible negative side effects to having anal sex.
1. Anal Is The Riskiest Type Of Sex
According to the Center for Disease Control, anal sex is the riskiest type of sex that people can have. One of the major dangers of anal sex is how easily it can be to contract and transmit HIV when having it. Because the anus doesn't naturally produce lubrication and the skin in this area is very thin, anus tears are basically welcome mats for HIV, HPV, and other STIs.
"It's important to remember that STDs can be transmitted through anal sex as well as vaginal sex," Dr. Jennifer Caudle, a family physician and assistant professor at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine, tells Bustle.
Because of this, condom use is a must in helping to prevent transmission and contraction of all STIs, especially HIV.
2. Anal Tearing Is Always A Possibility
The reason anal sex aficionados are so adamant about using lube isn’t just because it makes things feel better, but because it also helps limit some of that anal tearing. Emphasis on the word some, as nothing is a 100% guarantee.
It's those tears and anal fissures that make anal sex so risky in regards to HIV and other STIs. While anal tearing may not seem like that big of a deal (although uncomfortable), and all STIs are treatable, a torn anus is a hot bed for all sorts of bacteria that can easily make their way into the bloodstream. So, yes, load up on the lube, but remember you still need a condom too.
3. Anal Sex Could Possibly Result In Anal Cancer
Because the anus has such a thin membrane, it's more susceptible to tearing and STIs. One of these STIs is human papilloma virus (HPV), which is linked with oral, cervical, and anal cancers.
The Center for Disease Control reports, "HPV infections are so common that nearly all men and women will get at least one type of HPV as some point in their lives." While not all kinds of HPV are linked to cancer, nor are they even symptomatic, the possibility of HPV and cancer risk is a danger of anal sex that needs to be discussed.
"Even though [HPV] usually goes away on its on, in some cases it does cause cancer," Dr. Jill McDevitt, CalExotics resident sexologist and sexuality educator, tells Bustle. "HPV is considered the main cause of anal cancers."
While Dr. McDevitt points out that pap smears, cervical screening for the presence of possible pre-cancerous and cancerous cells aren't just well-known but routine, the case is not the same for anal pap smears.
"Anal paps also exist," Dr. McDevitt says. "But there are currently no national guidelines for routine screenings, to my knowledge."
You can still request an anal pap from your health care provider if you're concerned about contracting a cancer-linked strain of HPV. Sometimes we have to be our own advocate when it comes to our health.
4. Infections Are More Prevalent With Anal Sex
Let’s not beat around the bush: The anus is a direct path to the bowels. Bowels are, of course, home to poop. Poop is a waste product that's bursting at the seams with bacteria and other not so fun stuff — but still stuff that needs to exist, as it serves a purpose.
Once we subtract the STI part of the equation, it's time to think of the infections the come with E. coli — the bacteria that live in the bowels and should not, under any circumstances, make its way to anyone's mouth.
"A condom is the safest thing in terms of not sharing good old fashioned bacterial infections [during anal]," Dr. Laura Deitsch, a licensed clinical counselor and sexologist, told Bustle in a previous article. "If rimming is going to be part of your play (mouth to anus) be sure to clean really well around the area ahead of time."
This also means that if you go from anal sex to vaginal sex, without properly washing in between, the partner with the vagina could end up getting a UTI, as well as other possible unpleasant infections.
5. There's The Potential For A Shitty Situation
Puns aside, this sh*tty situation extends far past the possibility of anal sex with a side of poop. For people who have any sort of gastrointestinal (GI) problems, then the dangers of anal sex become even more complicated.
"Something else to note as far as the negative side of anal sex is for folks who have GI issues, like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or Crohn's Disease," Dr. McDevitt says. "It can already be a painful area of the body, and anecdotally, many people who have GI problems struggle with anal sex."
In addition to those who already have GI issues, because it can be rather disruptive to put a penis or dildo in one's anus, a 2016 study found that anal sex may lead to fecal incontinence. While the research found that both men and women can suffer from fecal incontinence because of anal sex, it’s men who suffer from it more. Another anal sex negative to take into consideration.
While anal sex may have some negative side effects, some that may even be considered dangerous, it's definitely not the only thing out there that's free from no-so great side effects.
"There is a 'down side' to most things, including sex," Dr. McDevitt says. "It's about being informed and weighing risks, and ultimately doing what's best for you."
So when it comes to anal sex, it's your call. Weigh the pros and cons, keep yourself informed, as Dr. McDevitt says, then do what makes sense (and feels good) for you.
Dr. Jill McDevitt, PhD, CalExotics resident sexologist and sexuality educator
Dr. Jennifer Caudle, MD, family physician and assistant professor
Dr. Laura Deitsch, DHS, MS, NCC, licensed clinical counselor and sexologist
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