Asking for a friend: Is anilingus safe…and, like, sanitary?


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Salad tossing. Rimming. Ass eating. Kissing the (chocolate) starfish. Almond joying. Booty jobbing. Motorbutting. The very fact that there are so many nicknames for anilingus—which, at its most basic, involves some M-to-B action—points to a cultural curiosity around oral anal sex. Carrie Bradshaw declared in an episode of Sex and the City, “The ass is now on the menu.” And since then, other pop-culture faves, like Girls, Broad City, and Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda” video, have made sure that no matter the season, a tossed salad can always be (ahem) ordered.

According to Evan Goldstein, MD, CEO and founder of Bespoke Surgical, a sexual-wellness company specializing in anal-related health, sex acts involving the booty (and anilingus in particular) is becoming increasingly common. “I’m noticing that the younger demographic is much more open to sexual exploration of this part of the body,” he says. As one Reddit user puts it, “eating ass and avocado—it’s the millennial diet.”

While there isn’t super-recent data to back up that observation, one 2008 study of 1,400 heterosexual men found that within 30 days, 24 percent had performed anilingus on their female partners, and 15 percent had received it. And, TBH, these numbers are surprisingly low considering the volume of memes (we see you, Barstool) and pop-culture references surrounding the practice. So while ass eating may be pretty mainstream in certain facets of media, IRL, people seem to be a bit more hesitant. My friends, for instance, have questions about how sanitary the act is. So, I took my friends’ questions and concerns to Dr. Goldstein and Alicia Sinclair, certified sex educator and CEO of b-Vibe, an anal-sex-product company—AKA, the Anal Sex Experts™.

If you don’t feel comfortable having the STI conversation with someone, you probably shouldn’t be tossing salads each other’s salads.

Playing with mouths is a higher-risk play activity than digital play, says Sinclair. Still, she and Dr. Goldstein say that shouldn’t stop you or your partner from, per Nicki Minaj, (safely) tossing the salad like your name’s romaine—if that’s something you both enjoy or want to try. After all, oral-anal sex can be seriously pleasurable. “The concentration of nerve endings in and around the rim of the anus mean that it’s full of pleasure-potential,” says Sinclair. With or without accompanying penetration, using the tongue to stimulate, touch, lick, and kiss the area can result in A+ pleasure, she says. “Anyone who has enjoyed oral sex knows that the tongue can provide a lot of different sensations that elevate the sexual encounter.”

According to Dr. Goldstein, “The primary risks involved in rimming are your standard STIs like hepatitis A, HPV, syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia.” So just as you would before engaging in any other style of sex, before getting started, be sure to have a conversation about STI testing and make sure you’re both aware of the risks involved. If you don’t feel comfortable having the STI conversation with someone, you probably shouldn’t be tossing each other’s salads. (But, regardless of the conversation status, Sinclair says using a dental dam is always a smart practice for helping to protect yourself.)

Once you’ve had the safe-sex conversation, the best way to prevent the accidental taste of, well, poop—and to promote overall hygiene in general—is having the receiving partner thoroughly clean themselves beforehand. Translation: half-assed (literally) wipe jobs just don’t cut it. “If there’s no time to shower, an unscented baby wipe can do wonders,” says Sinclair.

Okay, okay but accidents happen, so what if your tongue does happen upon some remnants of a number two? Is there any reason to freak out? “Your partner could be carrying a viral or bacterial infection like hepatitis A, salmonella, giardia, amoebas, or shigella in their digestive system that they don’t know about and unknowingly pass onto you,” Sinclair says. As long as you’ve been vaccinated for hepatitis A, you should be fine on that front. But of course, if you start to feel ill, talk to your doc and be honest about what transpired so they can test and treat you (and your partner) for the appropriate bacterial and viral infections.

And regarding the other possible not-pleasurable results, if your partner is experiencing a bout of IBS, has food poisoning, or has an upset stomach, just keep the tossed salad off the menu. “You may not want to expose yourself to a stomach bug or whatever else is causing their illness,” says Sinclair. So, it’s worth asking about their BM sitch before getting down to business.

The bottom (wink) line: Dining downtown is safe and sanitary as long as you and your partner practice safe sex and have good hygiene. If that’s the case, go head and dive mouth-first into the underworld.

While we’re talking about the rear, find out whether or not anal sex can stretch things out… And here’s everything you’ve ever wanted to know about pegging.

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