Toss a salad for your health

Hey,

I was reading the sex column in the Badger Herald this week (sorry) and...it said that ""analingus"" is safe ""if you and your partner are potty trained and wipe."" Is that true? I feel like that could be really unhealthy and I was wondering if you had any further information.

Sincerely,

Extra Counseling On Licking Invited

Dear E COLI,

First, best sign-off ever. Second, no need to apologize for getting your sexual health information from more than one source; it's great when people use the multitude of sexual health resources available to them, and it's extra great when people go out of their way to verify something that doesn't sit quite right with them.

Third, to start in on your question, we're going to do a quick anatomy lesson. The anus is the opening in our bodies that we poop out of. I hope this is not earth-shattering for anyone. Analingus (aka rimming, tossing the salad, shining the spokes) is the act of performing oral sex on the anus. However, just because we poop from our anuses does not mean they are covered in poop 24/7, or that there's always a big load of feces just waiting for oral sex play to commence. According to Tristan Taormino in The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women, ""Feces is stored in the colon, and only moves into the rectum just before a bowel movement."" This is how we know we have to go—we recognize the feeling of feces descending into the rectum.

When we have this feeling, it may not be the best time to engage in anal sex play. But at other times of the day, the anus and rectum are generally free of fecal matter if you and your partner are following normal hygiene practices like using toilet paper and showering every now and again. However, Tristan notes if our poop ""isn't perfect—due to poor diet, stress, constipation, diarrhea, or other gastrointestinal problems—there may be more fecal matter present in the rectum."" So, as in most sexual situations, it's important to be aware of what our bodies are doing and how they're feeling as we engage in new activities.

Although poop is therefore not a great concern when it comes to anal sex play, I think E COLI is alluding to another concern with that (butt) cheeky little sign-off. Even in the most sparkling clean anus, there may be bacteria that we cannot see. Thus, it is possible for analingus to transmit certain infections, such as E. coli or salmonella, which are typically considered ""food-borne"" illnesses. Additionally, many common STIs can be spread through a good salad-tossing, including herpes, chlamydia and gonorrhea (both of these are bacterial and can grow in your throat or anal canal) and hepatitis. If you are feeling squeamish or unsure of you or your partner's STI status, a sex dam can be used to eliminate direct contact. A sex dam is a thin sheet of latex or polyurethane which can be placed between one person's mouth and another person's butt (or vulva) to minimize the risk of STI transmission.

One other thing—I know I probably freaked some of you out when I talked about E. coli and salmonella back there. I'm going to take an unusually harsh stance here and recommend that you get over it. Oral-fecal contact happens all. The. Time. People don't wash their hands after they use the bathroom, and then they touch the same doorknobs and elevator buttons that you do. People oversleep and don't bother to shower/change their underwear before they come to class, and then their quick nobody's-looking ass scratch equals poop particles on the chair you'll be sitting in next. You snuggle up with your cat at night, and her sweet little paws just got done burying a big giant cat turd. This might be gross—but it's a fact of life. We have immune systems for a reason.

Once we recognize anal sex play is no germier than just about any other activity we engage in, sexual or otherwise, we can begin to appreciate just how awesome it can be. The anus is heavily innervated. It has to be—it's essentially lined with muscle, and if there were no nerves back there, when the urge came upon you in lecture, you'd have no choice but to just shit all over. When they're stimulated, whether with a tongue, finger, toy, penis or toe, all those nerve endings can add up to serious pleasure. Remember to take it slow at first—all that aforementioned muscle needs to be worked slowly, so listen to what your body is telling you, especially if your anal play includes penetration. Another necessity for anal penetration is lube—the ass does not lubricate itself, so copious amounts of lube will make anal penetration safer and more pleasurable for both partners. And speaking of safety, all the rules about safer sex still apply, so unless you and your partner are monogamous, fluid-bonded and/or aware of your current STI status, barrier methods like dams, gloves, or condoms are important.

So in a nutsack, E COLI, the answer to your question is yes—while there are some risks associated with analingus, the act itself is no riskier than any other kind of oral sex play. Further, whatever the activity we're engaging in, we can always minimize the risks associated with that activity by using barriers, getting tested, etc. Thanks again for your question, and thanks to everyone who's been emailing; it's been wonderful to hear your feedback. No ifs, ands or butts about it.

Have a burning desire you need satisfied next Friday? E-mail sex@dailycardinal.com

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