The anus is narrow, delicate, tight, and fragile. It doesn’t self-lubricate, making the skin more susceptible to tearing than the vagina. And it is the perfect haven for the transmission of STDs into the bloodstream. Contrary to popular belief, there are rising numbers of heterosexual couples that are engaging in anal sex. But unfortunately, many of them are not as educated about the risks of unprotected anal sex, compared to their gay and bisexual male counterparts. As anal sex remains a popular stereotype as a gay or bisexual male activity, many heterosexual couples are fearful of having open conversations about engaging in the practice, as a result of social stigma and homophobia. But this silence is detrimental and dangerous for heterosexual couples, as anal sex is the riskiest sexual activity for the transmission of STDs, regardless of an individual’s sexual orientation.
While many heterosexual couples shun the idea of anal sex in public, it’s not all that different from vaginal sex apart from the physical design of the anus. Penetration is penetration, and pleasure comes in many ways. It’s just important that pleasure remains as safe as possible for all parties involved, and isn’t met with stereotypes and stigmas that are counterproductive for spreading sex education. Anal sex doesn’t have a sexual orientation, and it isn’t tied to certain gender roles. Thus, it’s important that any conversations surrounding anal sex education occur with these stereotypes at bay, and allow for various couples and individuals to receive this necessary information without feeling judged.
To start, the physical construct of the anus creates a perfect home for bacterial infections, including Gonorrhea and Chlamydia. Both thrive in moist, warm environments and amongst the cells that line the anus. The receiving partner is more likely to contract an STD through unprotected anal sex than the inserting partner, including the risk of HIV entering the bloodstream through a tear in the anus. However, both partners are susceptible to picking up Herpes, Syphilis, and HPV even if they use a condom, as both sores and warts can reside both inside and outside of the anus. Regardless, wearing a condom is the best way to reduce the risk of STD transmission during anal sex. And using plenty of lubricant helps prevent the tearing of the condom and lining of the anus.
It’s unfortunate that this vital information often doesn’t reach heterosexual couples, as they’re less likely to ask for this knowledge and sex educators are less likely to focus on it with this particular demographic. It’s argued that male homosexual couples participate in anal sex and thus, need anal sex education more. But truthfully, it’s less likely for heterosexual couples to admit to enjoying the same activity for a variety of social reasons, including religious dogma and the homophobic stigma of anal sex being a “gay” sexual activity.
Until anal sex loses its stereotypes and stigmas, it will continue to affect the lives of numerous sexually active people who haven’t been properly educated on how to enjoy it safely. While heterosexual couples should be proactive in seeking more information on how to participate in safe, pleasurable anal sex, sex educators should also be avid about distributing this information to all people, regardless of sexual orientation, in order to save lives.