There are many differences between us, but if there’s anything we all have in common, it’s an anus. Why, then, are we so confused about how to have fun with them? In our new weekly column, Getting Anal About Anal, a rotating cast of sex workers, physicians and self-proclaimed “bottom supremes” will share advice and musings on the body’s most mysterious pleasure-hole. This week: Hemorrhoids.
It’s a sunny afternoon in the Big Apple, and charismatic anal surgeon Evan Goldstein is sitting in his office drawing anal beads on a piece of paper. It’s a bit unorthodox for a Zoom interview, but there’s a larger purpose at play — throughout his decades of practice, Goldstein has seen countless patients with torn buttholes because they weren’t using sex toys properly.
Anal beads tend to be frequent culprits. Often framed as a mainstay of “anal training” — the practice of gradually stretching your butthole with the aim of taking as much dick, dildo or fist as possible — they’re prized for their speed-bump-like texture and ability to alternate moments of stretching with brief stints of relaxation. Anal beads vary in length, color and size, but they’re generally long, thin toys with round, spaced-out balls, which sometimes increase in size as they go along, hence the “training.”
Goldstein is reluctant to recommend them for that purpose, though. “When it comes to training, I’d recommend butt plugs instead,” he tells me, pointing to the gaps between the beads on his drawing (butt plugs, meanwhile, are continuous). “These gaps make the butthole tighten and then relax, which can feel really good when you have experience and can already take beads of that size. But sometimes, going in and out like that can create anal tears — your butthole can contract around those spaces between the beads, and all of a sudden you can’t get them out!”
That said, they can feel really good when used safely, and with a lot of lube. A top tip is to hold your butthole open with one hand as you’re pushing the beads in and out with the other, but since that’s a bit acrobatic, here are a few other tips you should know before taking the anal-beads plunge.
To Douche or Not to Douche?
You don’t have to douche or use an enema before reaching for the anal beads, and you can always employ a condom if you’re concerned about poop, but this type of toy can be messy. “They do rub around a lot, and they bring out ‘mess’ very easily,” says Topher Taylor, host of the T Spot podcast and resident sex educator at gay sex store chain CloneZone.
Goldstein reiterates that douching isn’t necessary, but if you do so, only “clean where the toy is going, not higher.” Additionally, think about how intense you want your anal experience to be — if you’re trying to get off quickly, either alone or with a partner, skipping this step occasionally won’t kill you, as long as you wash thoroughly afterwards. It’s really more for your own peace of mind than anything else — for some people, knowing they’re totally clean downstairs makes it easier to get into a sexy headspace.
Lube Up Liberally
It sounds obvious, but your butthole does not self-lubricate, so the more lube you apply, the better the overall experience will be. Not only will there be less friction (and therefore less chance of pain), the beads will be easier to thrust. Better yet, you’re way less likely to end up with tissue damage or a more serious injury.
“Make sure you slather lube all around the curves of the beads, and inside your anus,” continues Taylor, who advises lube shooters for beginners. If your toy of choice is made of silicone, opt for an oil or water-based lube, as silicone-based lube can ruin the material. It’s totally about your preference, though — everything from coconut oil to FLIP Lube (Goldstein’s favorite, as it’s formulated specifically for anal) will do the trick.
Ease Yourself In
Remember, it’s not a competition — thrusting deep into your butthole when you’re not ready will do more harm than good. “People tend to insert them too deep — often, they don’t take the length or girth of the toy into account,” says Taylor, who advises a slow and steady approach to anal beads.
Another tip is to insert the beads at around a 45-degree angle to avoid pushing the lube out; once the beads are in, slide them in and out gently, and avoid being too vigorous.
If you’re using beads with a partner, Goldstein’s best advice is to make sure your face is visible so your partner can gauge your reactions and you communicate clearly to avoid any painful mishaps. “I do think anal beads should first be used by yourself, because a lot of the time people will just jam them in and pull that shit out,” says Goldstein, grimacing in vicarious pain as he speaks. “You need to learn what feels good for you before you start getting into it with other partners.”
Verbal communication is especially important. Dirty talk can amp up the horniness, but for bottoms, communication can be as simple as groaning with pleasure and begging for more when it feels good, and of course saying “stop” when it doesn’t. For tops, prioritize your partner’s comfort at all costs — get creative when it comes to sexy ways of asking “How does that feel?”, and be sure to groan along as you slide the beads in and out of your partner.
Pull Them Out as You’re About to Cum
Jerking yourself and playing with your nipples can amp up the pleasure of anal beads, but remember to add more lube as needed — nice and slippery is the ideal state. When you do feel yourself about to climax, Taylor has one final tip: “When you’re about to cum, pull them out. It feels fucking amazing — but lube, lube, lube!” This works whether you have a prostate or not — orgasms cause your genitals to contract sharply with pleasure, so pulling out the beads slowly as you cum will mean your butthole grips the beads, adding an extra layer of sensation.
Think of it as a little cherry on top of all those beads.