Minus the City: Peach Play with Erin Voss

The prevalence of anal sex is often underestimated; 36% of women and 44% of men report engaging in anal in their lifetime. Yet, sex ed curricula around the country either fail to provide a comprehensive guide to anal sex or don’t bother to include it as a viable form of sex at all. Not only may this give rise to dangerous sex practices, but it enforces and promotes sex practices that are heteronormative, pushing queer sexuality to the margins. Like Erin Voss said in her March 25 workshop, not everyone can enjoy vaginal sex, but anyone can enjoy anal sex. 

Voss began the  workshop debunking myths surrounding anal sex, beginning with, “if you’re a man, you are gay if you like anal pleasure.” This, Voss said, is inherently homophobic. Not only does this insinuate that only gay men can enjoy anal pleasure, but also that any association with queerness is insulting. Clearly, anal pleasure is not exclusively queer, and enjoying it doesn’t make you queer either. The next myth she listed was that anal sex is inherently painful. In response to this, Voss used the analogy, “if your hair is full of knots, and you begin brushing it from the top down, of course, it’s going to hurt!” You must start from the bottom and work your way to the top in order to prevent any sort of pain or breakage. The same concept applies to anal sex; it is imperative to start slow and small and work your way to a pace and a size that is comfortable to you. The next myth she presented was that anal sex is almost always dirty and messy. This is usually not the case, especially when there are hygienic steps one can take if they anticipate them and their partner will be engaging in anal sex. This can take the form of internal and external cleansing—internal cleansing involving the use of a douche. Voss encouraged those who may douche to not use the solution that comes with the douche but to instead use water. The general steps are “inject, get up, expel, repeat” until you are satisfied, and this should be done at least 45 minutes before the act. But still, “if you’re not mature enough to deal with a fart or a tiny bit of fecal matter,” Voss said, “are you really mature enough to be having sex at all?” 

The fourth myth Voss addressed was that anal sex “loosens up your anus.” Voss explained that this same argument is used to bash sexually active women. But what people fail to understand is that the vagina and the anus contain muscles that allow both to expand and contract. The extent to which both the vagina and the anus are able to expand has nothing to do with how often one has sex; rather, it is dependent on other factors, like how relaxed and aroused one is beforehand. Finally, Voss presented the myth that claims condoms don’t need to be used during anal sex because anal sex does not lead to pregnancy. Of course, any semen that is exposed in and around the vagina has the potential of causing pregnancy. But a condom’s sole purpose is not preventing pregnancy—it is also crucially important when preventing the spread of STIs. To ensure the safety of both parties, STI status should be known, condoms should be used and when engaging in heterosexual anal sex, no “double-dipping” is imperative to prevent any drastic infection. Voss described a time when this had happened to her and she had developed a “raging kidney infection” days prior. 

Voss continued with a lesson on anatomy, pointing out that the main difference between male and female anal anatomy is the existence of a prostate in men. Stimulation of the prostate, Voss said, is the source of most anal pleasure in men. However, tissue in and around the anus and the anal canal contains nerve endings that when stimulated can produce a lot of pleasure for both men and women. 

The general rule of thumb when engaging in anal sex, Voss said, is to get aroused first. Anal sex must always occur after foreplay, and Voss explained the validity of this statement in terms of muscles. When you are about to exercise, you’re always encouraged to stretch first because it loosens up your muscles which reduces the chance of injury. The same theory applies to anal sex: foreplay increases arousal, which relaxes muscles, preparing them for any sort of penetrative intercourse. Using lube is also incredibly important when engaging in anal sex because the walls of the anal canal don’t produce lubrication the same way the vagina does. Anal sex without lube can cause micro-tears that can increase chances for infection. Understanding that anal sex should not be painful is the first step to having a pleasurable experience, as stigma can lead to bad decisions. For example, if you’re convinced that anal sex is naturally painful, then you may feel inclined to just deal with whatever pain you may feel during sex. You should always listen to your body; if you are in pain, chances are there is something wrong, and a certain behavior must change to make you feel more comfortable. 

That being said, Voss provided a plethora of lubricant options, going through better and worse choices for not only anal sex but sex in general. Water-based lubricants are ideal to start with and are the safest bet for vaginas. The downside of this lubricant is that it tends to not last very long, and typically requires re-application throughout sex. To prevent this, silicone lubricants work really well in terms of longevity, and how slippery they are. They do not require frequent reapplication, and can even be used in the shower. Still, because of how slippery they are, and how long they last, it may be harder to come off and require a thorough clean with soap and water afterward. They also do stain sheets and clothing, and cannot be used with silicone-based toys as this can ruin and break down the rubber over time. Oil-based lubricants were a hard no for Voss; they are not safe for condoms and can cause a plethora of infections. 

If anal sex is done correctly, and the correct precautions are taken, it can be an incredibly positive sexual experience for all parties involved. As with any new experience, it should be approached as if it were a marathon and not a race. Voss did an excellent job getting down to the nitty-gritty of “peach play,” teaching us in a very inclusive and pleasure-oriented way that left us a lot more open-minded than we initially were.