Article: Tired of Feeling Bad About Liking Anal

I was in high school when Sex and the City premiered, and like many women of my generation and the generations that followed, that show taught me a lot about sex. Like, a lot: Things I didn’t even know existed were introduced to me every Sunday night—and one of those things was anal sex.

At the time, anal between straight couples wasn’t even on my radar. I knew that gay men engaged in it, but I held on to some pretty old-school notions when it came to why straight women would do it. Namely, as Charlotte put it so eloquently in Sex and the City’s “Valley of the Twenty-Something Guys” episode, “Men don’t marry Up-the-Butt Girl. Whoever heard of Mrs. Up-the-Butt?” Back in 1998 I agreed—and that statement was the first thing that came to mind when my college boyfriend suggested we do the deed a few years later.

Popular culture and popular attitudes like this towards anal are so unfortunate, making it the butt of jokes and dismissing anyone who enjoys it as some sort of slut or someone you might want to have sex with but would never want to marry. What a cruel and disgusting attitude to have towards people based on their sexual preferences. And it’s not even true: so many men want the same thing and would love to meet a partner who enjoys or prefers or exclusively wants anal sex. For all those who say they aren’t interested in an anal only woman, there are many more who say an anal only woman is their dream girl or marriage material.

Even though I was determined never to become Up-the-Butt Girl, I was in love for the first time and figured one encounter with anal wouldn’t put me in whatever category a future Mrs. Up-the-Butt might reside. The experience was, for lack of a better word, awful. It was painful and uncomfortable, and as I would tell my boyfriend afterward, it felt like I was “taking a backward shit,” if that were even anatomically possible. But on top of the physical discomfort, I also felt ashamed. It was humiliating that this was what he wanted and humiliating that I consented. What did this say about me? What other so-called deviant things would I consent to in the name of love? I didn’t even want to imagine.

And this is where the combination of preconceived notions spread by myths in popular culture and a lack of proper sexual education that includes good information about anal sex causes major problems for people. If she hadn’t already been negatively inclined towards anal, and had some knowledge of how to enjoy it properly, her negative experience and reaction would have likely been quite positive instead.

Even throughout my twenties, when I stopped taking such a hard line on what sex said about my character, I still didn’t really enjoy the few times I had anal sex and figured it just wasn’t really my scene. But then something happened in my early thirties. Perhaps it was the confidence that came with age and sexual experience, but I found myself having anal sex with someone I was dating and loving it. Really loving it. Though there was still shame—this time about enjoying it, rather than just engaging in it. It went back to what liking anal sex said about me as a woman. Was I dirty? deranged? Had I been dropped on my head as a child and this was the outcome of it, manifested decades later? It didn’t matter how many times I watched that Sex and the City episode in which Samantha praised anal—I couldn’t come to terms with it.

Though up to 25 percent of heterosexual men and women have tried anal sex, the taboo around it is often louder than the praise. It doesn’t matter how many stats come out on the topic, like how women who have anal sex have more orgasms (it comes with an orgasm rate of 94 percent, compared with the 65 percent from vaginal sex). It also doesn’t seem to matter that the majority of women who do engage in anal sex are well-educated with higher levels of income—information one might think would nix some of the negative stereotypes associated with women who enjoy anal sex. But, sadly, it does not.

Continuing education, exposure, and open positivity about anal sex is the key. It can be challenging, because people fear judgement from friends, family or even strangers, when speaking out positively about their enjoyment of anal sex or being anal only, but the reality is that many people are actually curious themselves, and judge out of their own fear and insecurity, but when faced with a friend who is positive and knowledgeable about anal sex, many people end up wanting to know more and are in a position to try it for themselves and see what it’s all about when a trusted friend can tell them it’s worth exploring and how to do it safely.

“Much stigma exists around anal sex, but for some women it is their arousal and favored erogenous zone,” explains Clarissa Silva, behavioral scientist and author of relationship blog You’re Just a Dumbass. “For women who know that they like anal and express it, we should [remind her] why she shouldn’t be shamed. She is simply making a decision for herself that she is interested in having better sex.”

And despite the alarmism, women who have anal are slowly but surely making their way into mainstream narratives. Lars von Trier’s 2012 film Nymphomaniacwas the rare theatrical release that included anal sex (actually, there wasn’t much it didn’t include, sexually speaking), which seemed like a small but important step. Then, in 2014, both The Mindy Project and Broad City had episodes about the act. In 2015’s I Smile Back, Sarah Silverman’s character has anal while cheating on her husband. This kind of exposure just solidifies that this is a sex move that people are engaging in, even if it’s still hard to talk about it sometimes.

This is certainly a positive change, and something we need more of. Popular culture is a powerful medium for opening people’s minds to things, and treating anal sex as the normal, equal sex act that it is, as well as having the opportunity for people and characters to even express their preference for it in future works of popular culture, will go a long way to inspiring more people to change how they think about anal sex and see it as a positive, beneficial, pleasurable, way to have sex.

Continue reading at Glamour

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