The Rise of Anal Sex

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Gentle readers:

I may shock you today as I delve into a topic that is, to be honest, slightly out of my comfort zone: anal sex between men and women.

But I was reading Slate yesterday — they have a great column called "Human Nature" that I like — and I came across a piece that reported on a new national sex survey that was recently published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.

The precis: We're all having more sex, and more kinds of sex than ever before, and we're getting sexually active at younger ages. But the "big story," as Slate writer William Saletan puts it, is anal sex! In 1992, a similar survey found that 16 percent of women aged 18-24 had tried it. Now the number is more like 40 percent. And in 1992, the highest percentage of women in any age group who admitted to anal sex was 33 percent. Now it's 46.

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Saletan goes on to say: "The last time I looked at the anal sex data, I figured that most women who reported having done it meant they'd tried it just once. I was wrong. … One-third of these women say they've done it in the last month. Among all women surveyed, the number who reported anal sex in their most recent sexual encounter was three percent to four percent. That's a lot of butt sex. And remember, this is what women are reporting. If anything, they're probably understating the truth."

So, he wonders, what's the deal? Why are women so into it?

In the hopes of answering that question, he checks out the orgasm data and finds: "Among women who had vaginal sex in their last encounter, the percentage who said they reached orgasm was 65. Among those who received oral sex, it was 81. But among those who had anal sex, it was 94. Anal sex outscored cunnilingus." [You can read the data for yourself if you don't believe it: Table 5, Pages 357-8.]

"What could explain this?" Saletan asks. "Taboo thrill? Clitoral migration? Some new kind of vegetable oil?"

Giving the data another go, he finds that 86 percent of women who had anal also had vaginal sex, 72 percent also received oral sex, and 31 percent also had partnered masturbation. As he puts it, "The more sex acts a woman engaged in during the encounter, the more likely she was to report orgasm. These other activities are what gave the women their orgasms. The anal sex just came along for the ride. ... Women who were getting what they wanted were more likely to indulge their partners' wishes. It wasn't the anal sex that caused the orgasms. It was the orgasms that caused the anal sex."

If anyone has thoughts about Saletan's conclusion — if anyone wants to argue that anal, in itself, is a sure-fire way for a woman to orgasm, or is immensely more pleasurable than other bedroom activities — please give us the low-down.

I myself have never tried that method, and I have ZERO interest in it. I can't see how it would be anything but very painful, and I'd prefer not to find out just how painful it might be. However, I may be slightly prudish. As I've said a bunch of times now, I don't even like giving blow jobs.

Perhaps it's worth adding that contrary to popular belief, anal sex is not the wildest sexual fantasy of every single man in the world. Plenty of the guys I've dated, who seem to have healthy libidos and to be liberal thinkers about sexuality, were not into it.

Ladies, if any of you want to tell me what I'm missing, or correct me or back me up on any point here, please do!

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