Rimming: The Curious Couple's Guide to Oral-Anal Play

Heterosexuals typically stumble upon analingus during cunnilingus.

Posted Apr 27, 2010

When I launched my website, I expected people to find it by searching "sex after 40," "sex and menopause," "erectile dysfunction," "penis size," and "desire differences." Indeed, those are my top search terms. But a surprising number have found the site by using two search terms I never expected: "rimming" and "analingus." These both refer to oral-anal contact.

If you're repulsed by this, then by all means, don't play that way. But recent surveys suggest that 15 percent of American adults have experienced some form of anal sex— that's some 20 million people. I've found no statistics on the prevalence of rimming, however. If you know of any, please comment. Still, as web searches show, many lovers are curious about it, and often feel surprised by their interest. Among those who do try it, many enjoy it.

Heterosexuals typically stumble upon analingus during cunnilingus. The man's tongue slips further south than he intended, and both lovers realize they've crossed a line.

Analingus is a minority pleasure, but there's nothing abnormal about it. If you reflexively condemn it, remember that not too long ago, oral sex was considered a perversion and outlawed in many states.

Analingus feels erotic for the same reason that anal play in general might feel that way. The anus and surrounding tissue are richly endowed with nerves that are highly sensitive to erotic touch.

In addition, lovemaking draws much of its emotional power from intimacy, lovers' deep acceptance of each other. Analingus is a way for the rimmer to say: "I love all of you. No part of you turns me off." It's also a way for the rimmee to say: "I'm totally yours. No part of me is off limits to you." Such mutual acceptance can be a powerful turn-on.

Of course, rimming also involves a big fear, which is fecal contact. Not to worry, says sex therapist Jack Morin, Ph.D., author of Anal Pleasure and Health. Soap and water remove any traces of stool, so it's a good idea to shower together before trying analingus. For extra safety, the rimmee might also use an enema or two before washing.

For non-monogamous lovers, rimming carries another risk—infections. The digestive tract terminates at the anus. Digestive bacteria pass through it, notably E. coli, which may remain around the opening. If E. coli come in contact with a woman's genitals, she might develop a vaginal infection (vaginosis), or a urinary tract infection (UTI, cystitis, or bladder infection). Rimming might also transmit Shigella and Salmonella, which cause food poisoning, Giardia lamblia and amoebas, which cause diarrhea, and HIV, the cause of AIDS. Assess your risk, and don't rim anyone who has these infections. But Morin says that among healthy, monogamous lovers who practice good anal hygiene, the infection risk of analingus is "extremely low."

Some couples who accidentally discover analingus "accidentally" keep doing it without discussion. That's fine, but I recommend discussing it. If your honey objects, then that's that. No one should ever feel pressured into anything sexual. But if your lover shows any interest—even if it's couched in skepticism—you might discuss this post, and perhaps try rimming.

Even if the two of you decide not to try analingus, or you try it and then stop, your discussions should deepen your intimacy. You learn more about one another, and ultimately, I hope, feel closer.