There's a reason the song says "Let's talk about sex."
People have been having anal sex since the beginning of time (or at least since ancient Rome), but 2014 is the year we finally started talking about it — and it's really important that we did.
We may say it's enough to just let everyone do whatever they want in their own bedrooms. But silence can breed ignorance, and ignorance makes it much easier for completely normal sexual preferences or desires to become stigmatized. In turn, the people who engage in them become marginalized. Open discourse has the power to change that.
Despite 2008 data that found that 36% of women and 44% of men ages 25–44 had tried anal with an opposite sex partner (not to mention those with same sex partners), the taboo seems to have only started thawing this year. The first sign of this trend was in the media, with the emergence of such pieces as the Daily Dot's "The 5 Most Ridiculous Myths About Anal Sex" and New York Magazine's evocatively titled piece, "Warning: A Column on Butt Play."
Several months later, with no warning whatsoever, The Mindy Project presented us with one of the first anal sex scenes on broadcast TV. Anal sex between men also made it to network TV on How to Get Away With Murder, while Scandal introduced much of America to the phrase "Eiffel Towering" and Broad City brought us the memorable dinner scene with the quote, "Hey, it's 2014. Anal's on the menu."
Off-screen, as part of its annual educational Sex Week, Harvard University held a panel called "What What in the Butt: Anal Sex 101." On the other side of the spectrum, a Chilean radio host received a rim job live on air. Meanwhile, anyone who didn't already know what a "rim job" was could turn to Playboy's informative essay "Tongue In Cheek: The Men Who Want This Sex Act Aren't Kidding."
In short, we officially started talking about anal sex in a honest way. So why does that matter so much?
The more we talk about it, the more we normalize it. For years, anal sex acts were characterized by stereotypes. Perhaps the strongest misconception was anal sex is mainly for gay men. While anal is how some gay men prefer to connect sexually, according to the Centers for Disease Control, only 55% to 80% of them actually engage in it. And at least 12% of straight men admitted to wanting more rim jobs from their partners in a 2012 Esquire magazine survey.
But more importantly, it's not just men — women can legitimately enjoy anal, and not just "slutty women." A 2010 national survey found the 20% of women in their 20s and 30s had tried anal sex, and one-third of those women had done it in the past month. Yes, women can derive pleasure from something typically seen as a man's act — just as women can derive sexual pleasure in all sorts of ways.
What's most crucial, though, is the fact that not all men or women enjoy butt play. That's where consent factors in, and it's arguably the most important part of the conversation. In the "Mindy Project" episode, for example, Danny decides to experiment with anal without actually telling Mindy first. The resulting plot highlighted how crucial it is that communication and experimentation go hand in hand — especially when you're sticking something in a place you've never stuck it before.
The more we talk about it, the better we get at it. Another pervasive myth about anal is that it's painful. But it doesn't need to be.
"The level of vulnerability is particularly high for [for a woman], and if she isn't relaxed, it can hurt," Dr. Marianne Brandon, clinical psychologist and sex therapist, told Mic. "People who like anal enjoy the physical sensation, the vulnerability, and/or the taboo of it. Women tend to respond more positively to anal when their partner does lots of foreplay time, with her bottom in particular, and uses lots of lube."
Relaxation (you don't want your sphincter muscles going into total lockdown), foreplay, lube and communication are essential to a positive anal sex experience — tips you're more likely to read now more than ever in articles like Cosmopolitan.com's May 2014 post, "A Complete Beginner's Guide to Anal Sex."
Giving honest, constructive tips on butt play also helps banish some of the reasons people may be hesitate to try anal sex — namely, the poop myth. Which is, as everyone will be glad to know, mostly a myth.
The more we talk about it, the more we can validate other sexual choices. Just this month, a group of British protesters gathered around Parliament to advocate for sex acts that are presently banned from online porn. One of those acts? Face-sitting, which is a term that many might not have known until people were simulating it in the streets of London and writing it up on news sites.
Face-sitting is presumably less mainstream than anal, but that's the point: We've finally, hopefully, tipped the scales to destigmatize anal sex, and more sex acts could follow. If two consenting adults want to try their hand at something, then they should feel empowered to go for it without embarrassment or shame — no matter what body part of they decide to use.