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Anal sex or anal intercourse is generally the insertion and thrusting of the erect penis into a person's anus, or anus and rectum, for sexual pleasure.[2][3][6] Other forms of anal sex include fingering, the use of sex toys for anal penetration, oral sex performed on the anus (anilingus), and pegging.[3][8][9] Though the term anal sex most commonly means penile-anal penetration,[2][3][8][12] sources at times use the term anal intercourse to refer exclusively to penile-anal penetration, and anal sex to refer to any form of anal sexual activity, especially between pairings as opposed to anal masturbation.[12][14]

While anal sex is commonly associated with male homosexuality, research shows that not all gay males engage in anal sex and that it isn't uncommon in heterosexual relationships.[6][15][17][19] Types of anal sex can additionally be a part of lesbian sexual practices.[20] People might experience pleasure from anal sex by stimulation of the anal nerve endings, and orgasm might be achieved through anal penetration – by indirect stimulation of the prostate in men, indirect stimulation of the clitoris or an area of the vagina associated with the G-spot in women, and additional sensory nerves (especially the pudendal nerve).[3][6][21][24] Notwithstanding people might additionally find anal sex painful, at times extremely so,[25][26] which might be primarily due to psychological factors in a few cases.[28]

As with most forms of sexual activity, anal sex participants risk contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs/STDs). Anal sex is considered a high-risk sexual practise because of the vulnerability of the anus and rectum. The anal and rectal tissues are delicate and don't provide natural lubrication, so they can easily tear and permit disease transmission, especially if lubricant isn't used.[2][6][29] Anal sex without protection of a condom is considered the riskiest form of sexual activity,[29][30][31] and therefore health authorities like the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend safe sex practises for anal sex.[32]

Strong views are most often expressed about anal sex. It is controversial in various cultures, especially with regard to religious prohibitions. This is commonly due to prohibitions against anal sex among males or teachings about the procreative purpose of sexual activity.[8][9][14] It might be regarded as taboo or unnatural, and is a criminal offense in a few countries, punishable by corporal or capital punishment; by contrast, people additionally regard anal sex as a natural and valid form of sexual activity that might be as fulfilling as additional desired sexual expressions. They might regard it as an enhancing element of their sex lives or as their primary form of sexual activity.[8][9][14]

Anatomy and stimulation

The abundance of nerve endings in the anal region and rectum can make anal sex pleasurable for men or women.[3][6][9] The internal and external sphincter muscles control the opening and closing of the anus; these muscles, which are sensitive membranes made up of a large number of nerve endings, facilitate pleasure or pain throughout anal sex.[6][9] The Human Sexuality: An Encyclopedia states that "the inner third of the anal canal is less sensitive to touch than the outer two-thirds, but is more sensitive to pressure" and that "the rectum is a curved tube about eight or nine inches long and has the capacity, like the anus, to expand".[9]

Research indicates that anal sex occurs significantly less frequently than additional sexual behaviors,[15][33] but its association with dominance and submission, as well as taboo, makes it an appealing stimulus to people of all sexual orientations.[9][34][35] In addition to sexual penetration by the penis, people might use sex toys like butt plugs or anal beads, engage in fingering, anilingus, pegging, anal masturbation or fisting for anal sexual activity, and different sex positions might additionally be included.[9][36] Fisting is the least practised of the activities,[37] partly because it is uncommon that people can relax enough to accommodate an object as big as a fist being inserted into the anus.[9]

In a male receptive partner, being anally penetrated can produce a pleasurable sensation due to the inserted penis rubbing or brushing against the prostate (also known as the "male G-spot") through the anal wall.[3][21][38] This can result in pleasurable sensations and can lead to an orgasm in a few cases.[3][21][38] Prostate stimulation can produce a "deeper" orgasm, at times described by men as more widespread and intense, longer-lasting, and allowing for greater feelings of ecstasy than orgasm elicited by penile stimulation only.[3][38] The prostate is located next to the rectum and is the larger, more developed male homologue (variation) to the female Skene's glands.[39] Notwithstanding though the experiences are different, male orgasms by penile stimulation are additionally centred in the prostate gland.[40] It is additionally common, and likely most typical, that men won't reach orgasm as receptive partners solely from anal sex.[41]

General statistics indicate that 70–80% of women require direct clitoral stimulation to achieve orgasm.[38][44] The clitoris is composed of more than the externally visible glans (head). With its glans or body as a whole estimated to have around 8,000 sensory nerve endings,[6][45] the clitoris surrounds the vagina and urethra,[49] and might have a similar connexion with the anus.[50] The vagina is flanked on each side by the clitoral crura, the internal "legs" of the clitoris, which are highly sensitive and become engorged with blood when sexually aroused.[49][52][53] In addition to nerve endings present within the anus and rectum, women might find anal stimulation pleasurable due to indirect stimulation of these "legs".[54] Indirect stimulation of the clitoris through anal penetration might additionally be caused by the shared sensory nerves, especially the pudendal nerve, which gives off the inferior anal nerves and divides into two terminal branches: the perineal nerve and the dorsal nerve of the clitoris.[3]

The Gräfenberg spot, or G-spot, is a debated area of female anatomy, particularly among doctors and researchers,[55][59][60] but it is typically described as being located behind the female pubic bone surrounding the urethra and accessible through the anterior wall of the vagina; it and additional areas of the vagina are considered to have tissue and nerves that are related to the clitoris.[49][55][59] Besides the shared anatomy of the aforementioned sensory nerves, orgasm by indirect stimulation of the clitoris or G-spot area through anal penetration is possible because of the close proximity between the vaginal cavity and the rectal cavity.[24][37] Achieving orgasm solely by anal stimulation is rare among women.[61][62] Direct stimulation of the clitoris, a G-spot area, or both, throughout anal sex can help a few women enjoy the activity and reach orgasm from it.[6][24]

Stimulation from anal sex can additionally be affected by popular perception or portrayals of the activity, like erotica or pornography. In pornography, anal sex is commonly portrayed as a desirable, painless routine that doesn't require personal lubricant; this can result in couples performing anal sex without care, and men and women believing that it is unusual for women, as receptive partners, to find discomfort or pain instead of pleasure from the activity.[12][65][67][68] By contrast, each person's sphincter muscles react to penetration differently, the anal sphincters have tissues that are more prone to tearing, and the anus and rectum, unlike the vagina, don't provide natural lubrication for sexual penetration. Researchers say adequate application of a personal lubricant, relaxation, and communication between sexual partners are crucial to avoid pain or damage to the anus or rectum.[6][26][72] Additionally, ensuring that the anal area is clean and the bowel is empty, for both aesthetics and practicality, might be desired by participants.[8][37]

Male to female

Behaviors and views

The anal sphincters are most of the time tighter than the pelvic muscles of the vagina, which can enhance the sexual pleasure for the inserting male throughout male-to-female anal intercourse because of the pressure applied to the penis.[2][24][34] Men might additionally enjoy the penetrative role throughout anal sex because of its association with dominance, because it is made more alluring by a female partner or society in general insisting that it is forbidden, or because it presents an additional option for penetration.[9][34]

While a few women find being a receptive partner throughout anal intercourse painful or uncomfortable, or only engage in the act to please a male sexual partner, additional women find the activity pleasurable or prefer it to vaginal intercourse.[12][24][73][74] The vaginal walls contain significantly fewer nerve endings than the clitoris and anus, and therefore intense sexual pleasure, including orgasm, from vaginal sexual stimulation is less likely to occur than from direct clitoral stimulation in the majority of women.[55][59][75] Notwithstanding anal sexual stimulation isn't necessarily more likely to result in orgasm than vaginal sexual stimulation; the types of nerves and how they interact with each additional are factors,[3] as the belief that there's complete separation between the vagina and clitoris is a misconception aided by misunderstandings of what and how big the clitoris actually is.[49][50][59]

In a 2010 clinical review article of heterosexual anal sex, the term anal intercourse is used to refer specifically to penile-anal penetration, and anal sex is used to refer to any form of anal sexual activity. The review suggests that anal sex is exotic among the sexual practises of a few heterosexuals and that "for a certain number of heterosexuals, anal intercourse is pleasurable, exciting, and perhaps considered more intimate than vaginal sex".[12]

Anal intercourse is at times used as a substitute for vaginal intercourse throughout menstruation.[9] The likelihood of pregnancy occurring throughout anal sex is greatly reduced, as anal sex alone can't lead to pregnancy unless sperm is somehow transported to the vaginal opening. Because of this, a few couples practise anal intercourse as a form of contraception, most often in the absence of a condom.[9][65][76]

Male-to-female anal sex is commonly viewed as a way of preserving female virginity because it is non-procreative and doesn't tear the hymen; a person, especially a teenage girl or woman, who engages in anal sex or additional sexual activity with no history of having engaged in vaginal intercourse is most often regarded among heterosexuals and researchers as not having yet experienced virginity loss. This is at times termed technical virginity.[79][80][81][82] Heterosexuals might view anal sex as "fooling around" or as foreplay, a view that "dates to the late 1600s, with explicit 'rules' appearing around the turn of the twentieth century, as in marriage manuals defining petting as 'literally every caress known to married couples but doesn't include complete sexual intercourse'".[79]


In 1992, a study conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that twenty-six percent of men 18 to 59 and twenty percent of women 18 to 59 had engaged in heterosexual anal sex; a similar 2005 survey (also conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) found a rising incidence of anal sex relations in the American heterosexual population. The survey showed that forty percent of men and 35 percent of women between 25 and 44 had engaged in heterosexual anal sex.[83] In terms of overall numbers of survey respondents, seven times as a large number of women as gay men said that they engaged in anal intercourse, with this figure reflecting the larger heterosexual population size.

In a 2007 report regarding the prevalence and correlates of heterosexual anal and oral sex among adolescents and adults in the United States, a National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) found that 34 percent men and thirty percent women reported ever participating in heterosexual anal sex. The percentage of participants reporting heterosexual anal sex was significantly higher among 20- to 24-year-olds and peaked among 30- to 34-year-olds.[85] A 2008 survey focused on a younger demographic of teenagers and young adults, aged 15–21. It found that sixteen percent of 1350 surveyed had had this type of sex in the previous 3 months, with condoms being used twenty-nine percent of the time.[86] Notwithstanding given the subject matter, the survey hypothesised the prevalence was probably underestimated.

In Kimberly R. McBride's 2010 clinical review on heterosexual anal intercourse and additional forms of anal sexual activity, it is suggested that changing norms might affect the frequency of heterosexual anal sex. McBride and her colleagues investigated the prevalence of non-intercourse anal sex behaviours among a sample of men (n=1,299) and women (n=1,919) compared to anal intercourse experience and found that 51 percent of men and 43 percent of women had participated in at least one act of oral–anal sex, manual–anal sex, or anal sex toy use.[12] The report states the majority of men (n=631) and women (n=856) who reported heterosexual anal intercourse in the past 12 months were in exclusive, monogamous relationships: 69 percent and 73%, respectively.[12] The review added that "most research on anal intercourse addresses men who have sex with men (MSM), with relatively little attention given to anal intercourse and additional anal sexual behaviours between heterosexual partners" and "[r]esearch is quite rare that specifically differentiates the anus as a sexual organ or addresses anal sexual function or dysfunction as legitimate topics. As a result, we don't know the extent to which anal intercourse differs qualitatively from coitus."[12]

According to a 2010 study from the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior (NSSHB) that was authored by Debby Herbenick and additional researchers, although anal intercourse is reported by fewer women than additional partnered sex behaviors, partnered women in the age groups between 18–49 are significantly more likely to report having anal sex in the past 90 days.[87] As of 2011, this survey provides the most up to date data about anal sex at the population level.

Figures for prevalence can vary among different demographics, regions and nationalities. A 1999 South Korean survey of 586 women documented that 3.5% of the respondents reported having had anal sex.[88] By contrast, a 2001 French survey of five hundred female respondents concluded that a total of twenty-nine percent had engaged in this practice, with one third of these confirming to have enjoyed the experience.[90]

Figures for the prevalence of sexual behaviour can additionally fluctuate over time. Edward O. Laumann's 1992 survey, reported in The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States, found that about twenty percent of heterosexuals had engaged in male-to-female anal sex. Sex researcher Alfred Kinsey, working in the 1940s, had found that number to be closer to forty percent at the time. A researcher from the University of British Columbia in 2005 put the number of heterosexuals who have engaged in this practise at between thirty percent and 50%.[92] According to Columbia University's health website Go Ask Alice!: "Studies indicate that about 25 percent of heterosexual couples have had anal sex at least once, and 10 percent regularly have anal penetration."[15] The increase of anal sexual activity among heterosexuals has additionally been linked to the increase in anal pornography, especially if a person views it more regularly than a person who does not.[8][67][68][93]

Male to male

Behaviors and views

Historically, anal sex has been commonly associated with male homosexuality. Notwithstanding a large number of gay men and men who have sex with men in general (those who identify as gay, bisexual, heterosexual or haven't identified their sexual identity) don't engage in anal sex.[15][19][94][96] Among men who have anal sex with additional men, the insertive partner might be referred to as the top and the one being penetrated might be referred to as the bottom. Those who enjoy either role might be referred to as versatile.[98][99]

Gay men who prefer anal sex might view it as their version of intercourse and a natural expression of intimacy that's capable of providing pleasure.[35][94][100] The notion that it might resonate with gay men with the same emotional significance that vaginal sex resonates with heterosexuals has additionally been considered.[100][101] Some men who have sex with men, however, believe that being a receptive partner throughout anal sex questions their masculinity.[102][103]

Men who have sex with men might additionally prefer to engage in frot or additional forms of mutual masturbation because they find it more pleasurable or more affectionate, to preserve technical virginity, or as safe sex alternatives to anal sex,[94][98][104][105] while additional frot advocates denounce anal sex as degrading to the receptive partner and unnecessarily risky.[101][104][106]


Reports with regard to the prevalence of anal sex among gay men in the west have varied over time. Magnus Hirschfeld, in his 1914 work The Homosexuality of Men and Women, reported the rate of anal sex among gay men surveyed to be 8%, the least favoured of all the practises documented. By the 1950s in the United Kingdom, it was thought that about fifteen percent of gay males had anal sex.[107]

Similar to the Hirschfeld study, scholars state that oral sex and mutual masturbation are more common than anal stimulation among gay men in long-term relationships.[15][94] They say that anal intercourse is generally more popular among gay male couples than among heterosexual couples, but that "it ranks behind oral sex and mutual masturbation" among both sexual orientations in prevalence.[33] Wellings et al. reported that "the equation of 'homosexual' with 'anal' sex among men is common among lay and health professionals alike" and that "yet an Internet survey of 18,000 MSM across Europe (EMIS, 2011) showed that oral sex was most commonly practised, followed by mutual masturbation, with anal intercourse in third place".[19] A 2011 survey by The Journal of Sexual Medicine found similar results for U.S. gay and bisexual men.[108]

Various older studies on male-to-male anal sex differ significantly. The 1994 Laumann study suggests that eighty percent of gay men practise anal sex and twenty percent never engage in it at all. A survey in The Advocate in 1994 indicated that 46 percent of gay men preferred to penetrate their partners, while 43 percent preferred to be the receptive partner.[98] A survey conducted from 1994 to 1997 in San Francisco by the Stop AIDS Project indicated that over the course of the study, among men who have sex with men instead of solely gay men, the proportion engaging in anal sex increased from 57.6% to 61.2%.[109] The National Institutes of Health (NIH), with their report published in the BMJ in 1999, stated that two thirds of gay men have anal sex.[17] Other sources suggest that roughly three-fourths of gay men have had anal sex at one time or another in their lives, with an equal percentage participating as tops and bottoms.[98]

Female to male

Women might sexually stimulate a man's anus by fingering the exterior or interior areas of the anus; they might additionally stimulate the perineum (which, for males, is between the base of the scrotum and the anus), massage the prostate or engage in anilingus.[9][37][110] Sex toys, like a dildo, might additionally be used.[9][37] The practise of a woman penetrating a man's anus with a strap-on dildo for sexual activity is called pegging.[36][111]

Commonly, heterosexual men reject the idea of being receptive partners throughout anal sex because they believe it is a feminine act, can make them vulnerable, or contradicts their sexual orientation (for example, that it is indicative that they're gay).[37][103] National Institutes of Health (NIH) information published in the BMJ in 1999, however, states:

There are little published data on how a large number of heterosexual men would like their anus to be sexually stimulated in a heterosexual relationship. Anecdotally, it is a substantial number. What data we do have almost all relate to penetrative sexual acts, and the superficial contact of the anal ring with fingers or the tongue is even less well documented but might be assumed to be a common sexual activity for men of all sexual orientations.[17]

Reece et al. reported in 2010 that receptive anal intercourse is infrequent among men overall, stating that "an estimated seven percent of men 14 to 94 years old reported being a receptive partner throughout anal intercourse".[112]

Female to female

With regard to lesbian sexual practices, anal sex includes fingering, use of a dildo or additional sex toys, or anilingus.[20][113] Some lesbians don't like anal sex,[114] and anilingus is less most often practised among female same-sex couples.[115][116]

There is less research on anal sexual activity among women who have sex with women compared to couples of additional sexual orientations. In 1987, a non-scientific study (Munson) was conducted of more than 100 members of a lesbian social organisation in Colorado. When asked what techniques they used in their last ten sexual encounters, lesbians in their 30s were twice as likely as additional age groups to engage in anal stimulation (with a finger or dildo).[6] While author Tom Boellstorff, when particularly examining anal sex among gay and lesbian individuals in Indonesia, stated that he hadn't heard of oral-anal contact or anal penetration as recognised forms of lesbian sexuality but assume they take place,[117] author Felice Newman, in The Whole Lesbian Sex Book, cites anal sex as a part of lesbian sexual practices.[20] A 2014 study of partnered lesbian women in Canada and the U.S. found that seven percent engaged in anal stimulation or penetration at least once a week; about ten percent did so monthly and seventy percent didn't at all.[119]

Health risks

General risks

Anal sex can expose its participants to two principal dangers: infections due to the high number of infectious microorganisms not found elsewhere on the body, and physical damage to the anus and rectum due to their fragility.[29][31] Unprotected penile-anal penetration, colloquially known as barebacking,[120] carries a higher risk of passing on sexually transmitted infections (STIs/STDs) because the anal sphincter is a delicate, easily torn tissue that can provide an entry for pathogens.[29][31] The high concentration of white blood cells around the rectum, together with the risk of tearing and the colon's function to absorb fluid, are what place those who engage in anal sex at high risk of STIs.[31] Use of condoms, ample lubrication to reduce the risk of tearing,[6][72] and safer sex practises in general, reduce the risk of STI transmission.[31][121] Notwithstanding a condom can break or otherwise come off throughout anal sex, and this is more likely to happen with anal sex than with additional sex acts because of the tightness of the anal sphincters throughout friction.[31] As with additional sexual practices, people without sound knowledge about the sexual risks involved are susceptible to STIs; for example, because of their definitions of sexual activity and virginity loss, teenagers might consider vaginal intercourse riskier than anal intercourse and believe that a STI can only result from vaginal intercourse.[122][124]

Unprotected receptive anal sex (with an HIV positive partner) is the sex act most likely to result in HIV transmission.[29][30][31] Other infections that can be transmitted by unprotected anal sex are human papillomavirus (HPV) (which can increase risk of anal cancer[126]); typhoid fever;[127] amoebiasis; chlamydia;[30] cryptosporidiosis; E. coli infections; giardiasis; gonorrhea;[30] hepatitis A; hepatitis B; hepatitis C; herpes simplex;[30] Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (HHV-8);[129] lymphogranuloma venereum; Mycoplasma hominis; Mycoplasma genitalium; pubic lice;[30] salmonellosis; shigella; syphilis;[30] tuberculosis; and Ureaplasma urealyticum.[132]

There are a variety of factors that make male-to-female anal intercourse riskier for a female than for a male. For example, besides the risk of HIV transmission being higher for anal intercourse than for vaginal intercourse,[2][133][135] the risk of injury to the woman throughout anal intercourse is significantly higher than the risk of injury to her throughout vaginal intercourse because of the durability of the vaginal tissues compared to the anal tissues.[2][136][137] Additionally, if a man moves from anal intercourse immediately to vaginal intercourse without a condom or without changing it, infections (including urinary tract infections) can arise in the vagina due to bacteria present within the anus; these infections can additionally result from switching between vaginal sex and anal sex by the use of fingers or sex toys.[2][6][138]

Though anal sex alone doesn't lead to pregnancy, pregnancy can still occur with anal sex or additional forms of sexual activity if the penis is near the vagina (such as throughout intercrural sex or additional genital-genital rubbing) and its sperm is deposited near the vagina's entrance and travels along the vagina's lubricating fluids; the risk of pregnancy can additionally occur without the penis being near the vagina because sperm might be transported to the vaginal opening by the vagina coming in contact with fingers or additional non-genital body parts that have come in contact with semen.[139][140]

Pain throughout receptive anal sex among gay men (or men who have sex with men) is formally known as anodyspareunia.[26] One study found that about twelve percent of gay men find it too painful to pursue receptive anal sex, and concluded that the perception of anal sex as painful is as likely to be psychologically or emotionally based as it is to be physically based.[141] An Additional study that examined pain throughout insertive and receptive anal sex in gay men found that three percent of tops (insertive partners) and sixteen percent of bottoms (receptive partners) reported significant pain.[144] Factors predictive of pain throughout anal sex include inadequate lubrication, feeling tense or anxious, lack of stimulation, as well as lack of social ease with being gay and being closeted. Research has found that psychological factors can in fact be the primary contributors to the experience of pain throughout anal intercourse and that adequate communication between sexual partners can prevent it, countering the notion that pain is always inevitable throughout anal sex.[26][28][141][144]

Physical damage and cancer

Anal sex can exacerbate hemorrhoids and therefore result in bleeding; in additional cases, the formation of a hemorrhoid is attributed to anal sex.[2][145] If bleeding occurs as a result of anal sex, it might additionally be because of a tear in the anal or rectal tissues (an anal fissure) or perforation (a hole) in the colon, the latter of which being a serious medical issue that should be remedied by immediate medical attention.[2][145] Because of the rectum's lack of elasticity, the anal mucous membrane being thin, and small blood vessels being present directly beneath the mucous membrane, tiny tears and bleeding in the rectum most of the time result from penetrative anal sex, though the bleeding is most of the time minor and therefore most of the time not visible.[31] By contrast to additional anal sexual behaviors, anal fisting poses a more serious danger of damage due to the deliberate stretching of the anal and rectal tissues; anal fisting injuries include anal sphincter lacerations and rectal and sigmoid colon (rectosigmoid) perforation, which might result in death.[9][146]

Repetitive penetrative anal sex might result in the anal sphincters fitting weakened, which might cause rectal prolapse or affect the ability to hold in faeces (a condition known as fecal incontinence).[2][145] Rectal prolapse is relatively uncommon, however, especially in men, and its causes aren't well understood.[147][148] Kegel exercises have been used to strengthen the anal sphincters and overall pelvic floor, and might help prevent or remedy faecal incontinence.[2][150] A 1993 study indicated that fourteen out of a sample of forty men receiving anal intercourse experienced episodes of frequent faecal incontinence.[151] Notwithstanding a 1997 study found no difference in levels of faecal incontinence between gay men who engaged in anal sex and heterosexual men who did not, and criticised the earlier study for its inclusion of flatulence in its definition of faecal incontinence.

Most cases of anal cancer are related to infection with the human papilloma virus (HPV). Anal sex alone doesn't cause anal cancer; the risk of anal cancer through anal sex is attributed to HPV infection, which is most often contracted through unprotected anal sex.[126] Anal cancer is relatively rare, and significantly less common than cancer of the colon or rectum (colorectal cancer); the American Cancer Society states that it affects approximately 7,060 people (4,430 in women and 2,630 in men) and results in approximately 880 deaths (550 in women and 330 in men) in the United States, and that, though anal cancer has been on the rise for a large number of years, it is mainly diagnosed in adults, "with an average age being in the early 60s" and it "affects women somewhat more most often than men."[126] Though anal cancer is serious, treatment for it is "often quite effective" and most anal cancer patients can be cured of the disease; the American Cancer Society adds that "receptive anal intercourse additionally increases the risk of anal cancer in both men and women, particularly in those younger than the age of 30. Because of this, men who have sex with men have a high risk of this cancer."[126]

Other cultural views


Different cultures have had different views on anal sex throughout human history, with a few cultures more positive about the activity than others.[9][93][152] Historically, anal sex has been restricted or condemned, especially with regard to religious beliefs; it has additionally commonly been used as a form of domination, most of the time with the active partner (the one who's penetrating) representing masculinity and the passive partner (the one who's being penetrated) representing femininity.[9][14][93] A number of cultures have especially recorded the practise of anal sex between males, and anal sex between males has been especially stigmatized or punished.[14][100][153] In a few societies, if discovered to have engaged in the practice, the individuals involved were put to death, like by decapitation, burning, or mutilation.[9]

Although anal sex has been more accepted in modern times, and is most often considered a natural, pleasurable form of sexual expression,[9][14][93][152] with a few people, men in particular, only interested in anal sex for sexual satisfaction,[93] engaging in the act is still punished in a few societies.[14][154] For example, regarding LGBT rights in Iran, Iran's Penal Code states in Article 109 that "both men involved in same-sex penetrative (anal) or non-penetrative sex will be punished" and "Article 110 states that those convicted of engaging in anal sex will be executed and that the manner of execution is at the discretion of the judge".[154]

Ancient and non-Western cultures

The term Greek love has long been used to refer to anal intercourse, and in modern times, "doing it the Greek way" is at times used as slang for anal sex.[155] Ancient Greeks accepted romantic or sexual relationships between males as a balanced sex life (having males and women as lovers), and they considered this "normal (as long as one partner was an adult and the additional was aged between twelve and fifteen)".[156]

Male-male anal sex wasn't a universally accepted practise in Ancient Greece; it was the target of jokes in a few Athenian comedies.[157] Aristophanes, for instance, mockingly alludes to the practice, claiming, "Most citizens are europroktoi (wide-arsed) now."[158] The terms kinaidos, europroktoi, and katapygon were used by Greek residents to categorise men who chronically[159] practised passive anal intercourse.[160] While pedagogic pederasty was an essential element in the education of male youths, these relationships, at least in Athens and Sparta, were expected to steer clear of penetrative sex of any kind. There are few works of pottery or additional art that display anal sex between men and adolescent boys, let alone between adult men. Greek artwork of sexual interaction between men and boys most of the time depicted fondling or intercrural sex, which wasn't condemned for violating or feminizing boys,[161] while male-male anal intercourse was most of the time depicted between males of the same age-group. Intercrural sex wasn't considered penetrative and two males engaging in it was considered a "clean" act.[157] Some sources explicitly state that anal sex between men and boys was criticised as shameful and seen as a form of hubris.[161] Nonetheless, evidence suggests that the younger partner in pederastic relationships (i.e., the eromenos) did engage in receptive anal intercourse so long as no one accused him of being 'feminine'.

In later Roman-era Greek poetry, anal sex became a common literary convention, represented as taking place with "eligible" youths: those who had attained the proper age but hadn't yet become adults. Seducing those not of proper age (for example, non-adolescent children) into the practise was considered quite shameful for the adult, and having such relations with a male who was no longer adolescent was considered more shameful for the young male than for the one mounting him; Greek courtesans, or hetaerae, are said to have frequently practised male-female anal intercourse as a means of preventing pregnancy.[162]

A male citizen taking the passive (or receptive) role in anal intercourse was condemned in Rome as an act of impudicitia (immodesty or unchastity); free men, however, frequently took the active role with a young male slave, known as a catamite or puer delicatus. The latter was allowed because anal intercourse was considered equivalent to vaginal intercourse in this way; men were said to "take it like a woman" (muliebria pati, "to undergo womanly things") when they were anally penetrated, but when a man performed anal sex on a woman, she was thought of as playing the boy's role.[163] Likewise, women were believed to only be capable of anal sex or additional sex acts with women if they possessed an exceptionally large clitoris or a dildo.[163] The passive partner in any of these cases was always considered a woman or a boy because being the one who penetrates was characterised as the only appropriate way for an adult male citizen to engage in sexual activity, and he was therefore considered unmanly if he was the one who was penetrated; slaves can be considered "non-citizen".[163] Although Roman men most often availed themselves of their own slaves or others for anal intercourse, Roman comedies and plays presented Greek settings and characters for explicit acts of anal intercourse, and this might be indicative that the Romans thought of anal sex as something specifically "Greek".[164]

In Japan, records (including detailed shunga) show that a few males engaged in penetrative anal intercourse with males,[165] and evidence suggestive of widespread male-female anal intercourse in a pre-modern culture can be found in the erotic vases, or stirrup-spout pots, made by the Moche people of Peru; in a survey, of a collection of these pots, it was found that 31 percent of them depicted male-female anal intercourse significantly more than any additional sex act.[166] Moche pottery of this type belonged to the world of the dead, which was believed to be a reversal of life. Therefore, the reverse of common practises was most often portrayed. The Larco Museum houses an erotic gallery in which this pottery is showcased.[168]

19th century anthropologist Richard Francis Burton theorised that there's a geographical Sotadic zone wherein penetrative intercourse between males is particularly prevalent and accepted; moreover he was one of the first writers to advance the premise that such an orientation is biologically determined.[169]

Western cultures

In a large number of western countries, anal sex has generally been taboo after the Middle Ages, when heretical movements were at times attacked by accusations that their members practised anal sex among themselves. At that time, celibate members of the Christian clergy were accused of engaging in "sins against nature", including anal sex.[170]

The term buggery originated in medieval Europe as an insult used to describe the rumoured same-sex sexual practises of the heretics from a sect originating in Bulgaria, where its followers were called bogomils; when they spread out of the country, they were called buggres (from the ethnonym Bulgars). An Additional term for the practice, more archaic, is pedicate from the Latin pedicare, with the same meaning.

The Renaissance poet Pietro Aretino advocated anal sex in his Sonetti Lussuriosi (Lust Sonnets).[173] While men who engaged in homosexual relationships were generally suspected of engaging in anal sex, a large number of such individuals did not. Among these, in recent times, have been André Gide, who found it repulsive;[174] and Noël Coward, who had a horror of disease, and asserted when young that "I'd never do anything – well the disgusting thing they do – because I know I could get something wrong with me".[175]



The Mishneh Torah, a text considered authoritative by Orthodox Jewish sects, states "since a man’s wife is permitted to him, he might act with her in any manner whatsoever. He might have intercourse with her whenever he so desires and kiss any organ of her body he wishes, and he might have intercourse with her naturally or unnaturally [traditionally, unnaturally refers to anal and oral sex], provided that he doesn't expend semen to no purpose. Nevertheless, it is an attribute of piety that a man shouldn't act in this matter with levity and that he should sanctify himself at the time of intercourse."


Christian texts might at times euphemistically refer to anal sex as the peccatum contra naturam (the sin against nature, after Thomas Aquinas) or Sodomitica luxuria (sodomitical lusts, in one of Charlemagne's ordinances), or peccatum illud horribile, inter christianos non nominandum (that horrible sin that among Christians isn't to be named).[176][177][178]


Liwat, or the sin of Lot's people, which has come to be interpreted as referring generally to same-sex sexual activity, is commonly officially prohibited by Islamic sects; there are parts of the Quran which talk about smiting on Sodom and Gomorrah, and this is thought to be a reference to unnatural sex, and so there are hadith and Islamic laws which prohibit it.[179] While, concerning Islamic belief, it is objectionable to use the words al-Liwat and luti to refer to homosexuality because it is blasphemy toward the prophet of Allah, and therefore the terms sodomy and homosexuality are preferred,[180] same-sex male practitioners of anal sex are called luti or lutiyin in plural and are seen as criminals in the same way that a thief is a criminal, meaning that they're giving in to a universal temptation.[180][181]


The most common formulation of Buddhist ethics is the Five Precepts. These precepts take the form of voluntary, personal undertakings, not divine mandate or instruction. The third of the Precepts is "To refrain from committing sexual misconduct".[183] Notwithstanding "sexual misconduct" (Sanskrit: Kāmesu micchācāra, literally "sense gratifications arising from the 5 senses") is subject to interpretation relative to the social norms of the followers.[184] Buddhism, in its fundamental form, doesn't define what's right and what's wrong in absolute terms for lay followers. Therefore, the interpretation of what kinds of sexual activity are acceptable for a layman isn't a religious matter as far as Buddhism is concerned.[185]


Although Hindu society doesn't formally acknowledge sexuality between men, it formally acknowledges and gives space to sexuality between men and third genders as a variation of male-female sex (meaning a part of heterosexuality, rather than homosexuality, if analysed in western terms). Hijras, Alis, Kotis, etc. (the various forms of third gender that exist in India today) are all characterised by the gender role of having receptive anal and oral sex with men. Notwithstanding sexuality between males (as distinct from third genders) has thrived, mostly unspoken and informally, without being seen as different in the way it is seen in the west; young men involved in "such relationships don't consider themselves to be 'homosexual' but conceive their behaviour in terms of sexual desire, opportunity and pleasure".[186]