As a writer (and reader) of erotic fiction, I'm no stranger to anal sex.
It's a common, reoccurring, theme in both the stories I write, and the tales I read.
One of the reasons for this is due to its potential metaphorical significance, especially when it comes to heterosexual relationships.
Whether it's a woman actively allowing her partner to enter her from behind, or - in a reversal of roles - her entering her partner (either by using her fingers, or some form of sex toy), anal sex offers a myriad of narrative, and thematic, opportunities for a writer.
There's an almost infinite number of stories you could write based on the simple fact that anal sex allows traditional gender (and sexual) roles to be swapped, and for a 'straight' relationship to be flipped on its head.
But, it's not just on a fictional basis; instructions on how to best perform this sexual deed in real-life are just as plentiful. If you doubt that, just take a look at how many articles Cosmopolitan have devoted to it.
Despite all of that, anal sex still carries with it the air of being unseemly, and... well, simply a bit wrong.
It's strange - couples who wouldn't hesitate in tying each other up, or teasing each other with vibrators, balk at 'doing it from behind.' Why?
In a hugely unscientific experiment, I canvassed the thoughts of my friends (and, trust me, I chose who I would ask about this subject very, very carefully). There seemed to be very little ambivalence about anal sex - my friends were very distinctly divided into two camps; those who had no issue with doing it, and those who very much did.
Ultimately, I fully accept that anal sex is - like any other sexual act - a matter of personal choice; no-one - especially no woman - needs to justify her decision whatsoever: If she doesn't want to have anal sex, that's it.
However, I did want to explore their reasons why they felt so strongly about it, either 'for' or 'against.' As a writer, those motivations fascinate me. And, talking to the 'naysayers', the same four issues came up again, and again.
The first harked back to the point I made earlier; anal sex is inherently unseemly. Initially, this is due to long-held societal, and religious, beliefs that anal sex is a sin.
It was interesting to note that my friends who were staunchly anti-anal, did - either vaguely or even more firmly - hold the view that anal sex was 'wrong.' But, they also couldn't quite explain where this idea came from. It was just 'there.' However, of course, this idea originally came from the Bible, which states that sodomy was a sin as it wasted sperm.
I found it fascinating that, despite all of my friends living in relatively secular societies, and none being particularly religious, that this idea still permeated in their sub-conscious. It instantly made me begin to consider other, invisible, ways that our modern ways of thinking are still influenced by philosophies many of us are not active devotees of.
However, that's for another day. In terms of anal sex, my friends were right: This idea was simply just 'there.'
It goes without saying that, for my friends who actively engaged in anal sex, this simply wasn't a factor. At all. There was no moral dimension to their thinking whatsoever; anal sex was neither 'wrong' nor 'right' - just a sexual act that gave them pleasure.
The second issues was anal sex's physical unseemliness because of the connotation with rectal waste. Well, you can't really get away from the fact that - yes - poop does indeed come from the anus. That alone is reason enough for most never to indulge.
Coprophobia, an aversion to feces or defecation, is a more common phobia than is realized, and stems from how a person's parents or care-givers approached their toilet-training in childhood. If that attitude was negative, then you too will adopt the belief that anything related to the rectum is also negative. And, if that's been there since infancy, then that idea has had a long, long, time to take root in your sub-conscious.
Even if you only have that phobia in the subtlest way imaginable, anal sex is never going to be part of your sexual repertoire. Once those mental gate-keepers are in place...
But, for my friends who had no issue with anal sex, again, this simply wasn't a factor.
None of them had any over-powering, emotional, anti-poo gate-keepers at work within them. None of them were necessarily fans of the brown stuff, but it didn't make them instantly queasy; it was just poo.
As a result, they were pretty relaxed at how this obstacle could be countered. For a start, those who did regularly engage in anal sex - either giving or receiving - made the thorough cleaning of each other's bottoms a key, non-negotiable, part of the preparations.
The truth is, given that we do defecate from our anus, there is a genuine need to be as hygienic as possible. As long as they were, my friends who enjoyed anal sex didn't see this as a 'deal-breaker' in any way.
Then comes the third issue, and this is where things do get serious. This issue isn't about a long-held belief that has somehow lodged itself deep in our collective sub-consciousness, or a hangover from childhood; it's about genuine risk.
For, the simple truth is that there is a greater risk of transmitting a sexual disease through the anus than the vagina.
The anus is narrow, does not self-lubricate, and, as the skin is more fragile, and more likely to tear, it's easier for STDs to enter the bloodstream. It's risky, and for some, the pleasure does not even begin to outweigh the dangers. Vaginal intercourse is, without a doubt, safer.
And, if you're a child of the 1980's, as me and my friends are, safe sex is the Holy Grail.
Growing up in the decade of Reagan and Thatcher, looming over our sexual awakenings, and educations, was the hideous shadow of HIV. The danger of STDs was never more pronounced. And, anything that introduces an element of risk, such as anal sex, is instantly unpalatable for many. When any of my friends cited this a factor as a reason against anal sex, I have to be honest and say I didn't automatically dissent.
And, in the defense of my pro-anal friends, neither did they.
It was something they all - all - took very seriously. However, once more, they adopted a more prosaic, measured approach. In addition to placing a huge importance on the need for cleanliness, they also advocated wearing a condom; very few of them were unwilling to have unprotected anal sex unless they both knew their partners were unequivocally free from any STDs. A condom was almost universally worn.
And to combat the risk of tearing, lube - a lot of lube - was also employed. As stated before; the skin of the anus is thin, and not self-lubricating - lubrication is a prerequisite, as much as wearing a condom is. Those who had used a plentiful amount of lube, had never faced an issue.
Neatly, this leads on to the fourth, and final, issue against anal sex: One of the biggest reasons why my anti-anal friends didn't want to endure it was because, despite their deep-seated moral and physical doubts, despite the latent risks, they had tried it before.
And it had been unpleasant.
They didn't want to do it again because they'd not liked it the first time round.
Again, this is very much a personal choice: Everyone's sexual predilections are uniquely individual, and no-one - no-one - likes everything on offer. Nor do they have to.
However, given what some of my friends told me about their earlier attempts, I wasn't surprised they'd hated anal sex.
Anal sex is not dissimilar to bondage; before you can embark on a pleasurable exploration of it, there's got to be both a discussion, and preparation. If you simply leap into it without either, the experience will not just be underwhelming, but also physically - and emotionally - painful.
I've already discussed many of the things that are needed in order to make anal sex enjoyable and safe. My anti-anal friends - without fail - did none of them.
To begin with, none of them even had a proper conversation about their misgivings. None of them.
Whether it was feeling pressurized by their partner, or by their own sense of being too prissy, they agreed to do something they simply were not, emotionally, ready to do.
There's a whole, other, debate here about consent, and how any meaningful sexual relationship has to be built on the foundation of having open, and compassionate, channels of communication.
It's a huge issue, and I don't want to dismiss it in any way. But, in terms of anal sex, given that we're all already carrying a range of preconceived opinions about it, having those open, and compassion, channels of communication could never be more important. Anal sex has - has - to be talked about, a lot, beforehand.
And those conversations, doubly, need to be had because, although there is a high concentration of nerve endings around, and just inside, the anus, which means that, in theory, your bottom has the potential to be a potent erogenous zone, practically there's a million things you can still get wrong when you try anal sex.
To start with, (and I'm not trying to labor the point), the anus (unlike the vagina), does not self-lubricate: Not one of my anti-anal friends had used any form of lubrication.
But there's also the fact that anal sex does not require deep penetration. To access the army of nerve endings in your bottom, external stimulation and light, shallow penetration is enough. Instead, most of my friends had been dry bum-fucked, deeply. And painfully. I am in no way surprised they never wanted to try it again.
Honestly, if that was your experience, who would?
Talking to my friends, I was reminded of the potent narrative, and thematic power of anal sex. As a writer, it's a vehicle to explore the shifting sexual dynamics of a relationship, and craft stories that - metaphorically - reflect the ever-changing statuses, power-shifts, and emotional roller-coaster a man and a woman step onto when they embark on a truly meaningful sexual union.
However, I was also - just as clearly - shown that, despite our seeming interest in this particular sexual activity, there's still so much that isn't understood, let alone discussed.
I'm not quite sure how I'll balance all of that moving forward. To be honest, I was given far more to think about than I ever imagined I would.
But the challenge of doing that has invigorated me.
Trying to marry the fantasy with the reality is the aim of any writer of erotic fiction.
And, when it comes to anal sex, I've discovered there's a lot - a lot - to marry.
My future stories will hopefully show I can.
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