What is the obsession with anal sex? Photo: blog.schipul.com
What is with the male fascination with heterosexual anal sex
, anyway? Men seem to fantasize
obsessively about anal sex, hundreds of porn
movies are made every year that fetishize anal sex, and women everywhere debate
whether they should or shouldn't have anal sex with their boyfriend or husband, while men discuss
how to convince their female partners to give it a try. When women do have anal sex, the overwhelming majority, do so at the request of their male partner.So, why? What does anal sex mean?
Heterosexual anal sex has been around for millennia. Paintings and etchings from Japan, China and Europe all depict men performing anal sex on women, as do ancient erotic drawings, sculpture and pottery from the Mediterranean and South America. In some Polynesian cultures, anal sex was practiced explicitly as a means of birth control. Today, some adolescents regard anal sex as a means to prevent conception, regardless of increased risks for transmission of sexually transmitted diseases. Over the past decades, heterosexual anal sex rates have climbed. In the Fifties, anal sex was reported by fewer than fifteen percent of the population. Modern overall rates suggest that around a third of men have performed anal sex on a woman, and slightly fewer women have received anal sex. The rates are still higher in sexually active adult in their twenties.
But, for married and committed couples, where disease and pregnancy aren't a significant concern, how can we explain the prevalence of the male fascination with anal sex? Men are sexually interested by variety, but aside from this, there is no relevant evolutionary argument, as anal sex of course produces no heirs.
Anal sex, and a desire for anal sex, serves different purposes for men. The strongest, and most common argument that men voice, is that a woman who will engage in anal sex is inherently arousing to a man. Such a woman, in embracing anal sex, is embracing it with no intent or possible result of pregnancy - it is sex, at its rawest. For a man, anal sex with a woman is her allowing him to play Star Trek, and venture into uncharted territory. Even if it is not where no man has gone before, it is still something novel, uncommon, and special in its rarity. A woman engaging in anal sex shows her desire and willingness to have sex in a purely physical way, with no thought of pregnancy. She is embracing, to some degree, a willingness to make her body a sexual object. Some research suggests that women who engage in anal sex report having more orgasms, not necessarily during anal sex alone, but in their overall levels of sexual activity. The overall conclusions are that the women who are willing to engage in anal sex tend to be more adventurous, more sensual, more relaxed in bed, and thus, more orgasmic.
A woman willing to engage in anal sex is giving her mate something special, rare and uncommon. Photo: made-in-england.org
The degree of pain in anal sex is a mixed issue. In some relationships where bondage and discipline factors play a role, the pain a woman might experience in anal sex is part of the allure. For others, men and women often work carefully to decrease any pain, using lubricants and preparation, to increase comfort, and pleasure for both parties. This preparation and work, the special attention to preparation, serves as an intense form of foreplay, heightening excitement, extending the sexuality and sensuousness of the encounter, and, not incidentally, increasing the chances that the woman will have an orgasm, through the extended foreplay and stimulation.
For many men and women, anal sex is seen as a form of "gift" from the woman, given out of love and regard, and wanting to give him something special and rare. When a woman is willing to engage in anal sex with her lover, it is usually coming from a place of significant trust and love of her male partner.
Some people see a man having anal sex with a woman as a form of dominance, where the man is "having every part of her body." The "flavor" of dominance, and misogyny, plays out in the current (disturbing) porn phenomena of "Ass to Mouth," where a man puts his penis in the mouth of a woman, after performing anal sex on her. However, in most porn, the women are portrayed as the fantasy women who are always ready, always hot, always excited, and always willing. Another way of viewing this is that the actresses are expressing and displaying their willingness to violate any and all taboos, no matter how "distasteful," because of how aroused they have become, rather than an expression of female degradation.
Surprisingly large numbers of people don't regard anal sex as actual sex. Some studies suggest that as many as 19% of college students view anal sex as less intimate, less committed, and less important, than vaginal sex.
Men overwhelmingly report positive experiences following performing anal sex on a female partner. But, more than half of women who have had receptive anal sex describe it as an unpleasant experience they probably wouldn't repeat.
In the past, oral sex was taboo, as unrelated to procreation, and today, it has become ubiquitous, engaged in by most people, though where it is still rare, it remains an intense fantasy. Anal sex is just another taboo being broken. Where couples have oral sex, and anal sex, is there another taboo on the horizon? And another after that? And another? Is there a slippery slope of taboo, that once started on, you glide down on a slick, unstoppable grease of bedroom lubricant? Not necessarily. There is no evidence that says that once a couple fulfills one fantasy or desire, that a burning desire starts for another. In fact, substantial evidence suggests that most people with one kink or another, fix on that one, and rarely expand. And, for those couples who have had anal sex, it usually remains a rarity for them as well, not an everyday occurrence, thus retaining its "specialness."
You can follow David Ley on Twitter, @DrDavidLey