Let’s talk butts.
Anal sex is, let’s be honest, a subject that doesn’t allow for much sense of “romance”, when you first think of it. It’s very much a staple of erotica more than anything, and outside of M/M romance it still has a sort of taboo to it. It shouldn’t be this way, but at the same time it’s not very hard to understand why.
One of my own amusing struggles when writing anal sex is the language. Right off the bat, it’s hard to find any sort of description that doesn’t sound either crude or ridiculous. Look at the terms for the act itself: “assfucking”, “buttfucking”, and “backdoor lovin’” are the only three I can bear to mention on the blog, and none of them has even a modicum of romantic tone. I have yet to hear a gentle way to describe anal sex (if you know of one, please put it in the comments!). Then there’s the body parts you have to take into consideration, most specifically, the asshole. Asshole, butthole, anus, starfish, cinnamon ring, backdoor...it’s hard to take any of these with just the right amount of serious, or without thinking of an anatomy textbook (that’s what “anus” always makes me think).
Finally, there’s a sense that anal sex is not really a “romantic” endeavor. And that sort of makes sense, too...you could call it a bit of an “eclectic” taste. Not everyone is into it.
On the other hand, there are lots of things not everyone is into, and we include them in romance all the time. Anal sex might not seem like the “prettiest” subject in romantic pursuit...but here me out when I say, it can be all sorts of fun.
(Take that however you like.)
Why Anal Sex?
Though it’s not something we commonly think of as being BDSM, to me anal sex has a very clear Dominant/submissive vibe, and that can just a hint of kinky spice even in a story that isn’t predominantly about kink. It’s also a lot less emotional and mental commitment to kink; plenty of couples and plenty of individuals who are not interested in a full-fledged kink relationship, and may not have any interest in domination or submission as part of their greater sexual identities, can enjoy a little bit of the dynamic in an anal sex scene.
This is just my opinion, mind you. But I think anal sex involves a very primal exchange no matter what the tone is. I’ve read (and hopefully written) some beautifully intimate anal sex scenes between gay men, very soft and sweet and romantic in tone, but I still see the dynamic of a giver and a taker: one partner plays the role of vulnerability, perhaps because social perception of being anally penetrated still carries a certain stigma; the other must take on the role of “lead”—think, as in dancing. I think of it this way because the “dominant” partner may not be dominant in the sense of commanding the other partner, or setting the boundaries of play or even necessarily guiding the submitting partner through instruction, but the nature of anal play involves a lot of openness, exposure and trust. The receiver must be able to trust the giver emotionally and physically...because anal sex is a very different creature than missionary or oral sex, by its nature.
Consider this: anal sex almost always involves at least some element of pain or discomfort. This isn’t a debilitating fact and there are lots of ways to mitigate it, but the fact is our buttholes are not designed for penetration the way vaginas are. That doesn’t mean anal sex can’t be very pleasurable; it just means there’s more to consider in the way of making sure the receiver isn’t in too much, or the wrong kind of, discomfort.
This means the giver must be sensitive to the receiver’s body language and verbal or non-verbal signals, and must respond to them with care. The receiver does, indeed, bear responsibility to communicate their needs to the giver, but they do so while also exposing a very intimate and tender part of themselves (literally), meaning they are extending trust that their partner will be mindful.
In this way, regardless of how rough or gentle an anal sex scene may be, there’s a definite potential to find romance in it as well as deep eroticism. I favor it with some of my more essentially dominant/primal characters, but I also know the right presentation can also make it a scene of very passionate, very intimate, desire.
Key Elements of Writing Anal Sex
Going back to the issue of discomfort: know what your character is or is not able to or interested in tolerating. Also know what kind of discomfort you’ll be talking about.
I’ve heard several descriptions given when it comes to anal penetration. Sometimes it’s described merely as a greater and less yielding pressure than vaginal penetration. Know that the vagina is designed to stretch and is flexible, meaning it can adapt to the organ or toy penetrating it. The bum is not meant to do this, so while there may be some relaxation of the muscles during play, it’s not going to experience significantly less pressure as the act goes on. This may contribute to a heightened awareness of the size, girth, and movement of the penetrating partner.
Sometimes there is pain involved in anal penetration, mostly (again) because the butthole isn’t meant to stretch and adapt like the vagina is. It might be described as a “sharp”, “piercing” or sometimes “pinching” pain. How intense this pain is depends on the effect you want to achieve with your scene. Some characters and readers may be interested in a more prevalent pain, while others might want just the briefest mention or no mention at all. Pain is, of course, lessened by generous amounts of lube, but to some minds—my own included—sometimes just that hint of pain is pretty sexy. Ideally—and remember as a writer you get to determine this—that pain fades as the act continues.
In some cases the discomfort of anal sex can be mitigated and even turned into pleasure by the use of toys or masturbatory stimulation. For example, a vibrator used on a woman’s clitoris may help her muscles relax around the penetration, and may contribute to a heightened sense of pleasure. For men, simultaneous penetration and masturbation is always a sexy bet.
I touched on the idea of lube, and this is an important element in writing anal sex. Anal sex without lube is not at all advisable (whether in fiction or in reality). Again, the butthole wasn’t necessarily built for intense penetration and unlike other parts of our bodies, it doesn’t naturally become lubricated. So find some way to include lube in your scene!
I’ve heard it said that saliva doesn’t make good lube for anal sex, and from a real-world standpoint I can see where that would be true. I consider it a forgivable sin in writing fiction, however, especially in scenes where modern day lubrication may not be a readily available sundry.
What About Pleasure in Anal Sex?
Yes, there is pleasure in the act of anal sex, for both men and women.
First of all, if you didn’t already know this, men have a pleasure point similar to the G-spot in women. It’s called—creatively—the P-spot. The prostate gland, actually, contains a plethora of nerve endings and generates lots of pleasure when gently stimulated. This pleasure can trigger an orgasm, sometimes without any additional stimulation of the penis, and these orgasms have been described as a more “more expansive and more full-bodied” than the traditional orgasm. I’ve come to sense that the P-spot stimulation and climax have a bit more intensity/sensitivity—a little like a very strong hit of clitoral stimulation in women—but that’s judging from what I’ve been told by men in my circles. I suggest, if you’re looking to describe this feeling and you don’t know it from your own experience, talk to some men who are willing to try and describe it to you. Anal play in men is most effective when aimed at arousing this particular pleasure point.
As for women, we may not have a prostate gland but there’s still pleasure to be had in anal penetration. At least for some women...I don’t venture to say all women do or should feel pleasure from anal play and I hope nobody takes that to be my meaning. We’re talking about fiction and romance writing here, so remember that as well. But in any case, anal stimulation in women can definitely generate pleasure. Some women can achieve orgasm through anal play alone; others may find a combination of penetration and clitoral stimulation (as mentioned above) not only more relaxing, but very effective when it comes to orgasm.
In my opinion, there’s a mental aspect to pleasure in anal sex, as well. Regardless whether the scene is soft or rough, intimate or just purely erotic, we go back to the openness and vulnerability of the act, and even, perhaps, a perception of taboo. I think the sensation of “tightness” and “resistance” keeps the mind very much present in the action, as well as the physical sensation of muscles which want to contract being unable to (that’d be your sphincter).
In the End (Har de har har)
I find anal sex to be greatly misunderstood, as a potential romantic and/or erotic subject. There’s lots to be found in it, and I’d even wager to say there’s more pleasure in exploring its mental engagements as much as its physical ones. I think M/M romance shows us that it’s perfectly possible to write intimate and sweet anal sex scenes, as well as hot and spicy ones. And, ultimately, I think anal play of any sort intrinsically involves a level of vulnerability and trust, that any couple in any romantic or erotic involvement can highlight and make beautiful.
(This blog post features - to the best of my determination - NON-Photoshopped images of butts. With the exception of Nathan Fillion's butt and a 1984 Playgirl spread, which I can't confirm are not somehow touched up. It's really difficult to specify non-Photoshopped pictures of manbutt in an Internet search.)