The Ass Man Cometh: Anal Sex Has Never Been More Popular

A new study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine provides some intriguing figures when it comes to anal sex. Not only are more women than ever on the receiving end of it, so are guys. Straight guys.

A breakdown of the data shows that 20 percent of 18- and 19 year-old women have tried anal sex at least once, and 40 percent of women ages 20 to 24 have been successfully persuaded by their boyfriend to give it a whirl at some point in their lives. Photo: Flickr

Anal-sex talk still makes people blush. But it’s also increasingly popular in the hetero world. Every couple of years, another once-scandalous sex taboo starts making its way toward the commonplace. A decade ago, blow jobs were what people whispered about; then three-ways became the naughty bedroom act. Now, it’s anal sex.

A new study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine provides some intriguing figures when it comes to anal sex. Not only are more women than ever on the receiving end of it, so are guys. Straight guys.

It’s like everyone’s porn fantasies are coming true. A breakdown of the data shows that 20 percent of 18- and 19 year-old women have tried anal sex at least once, and 40 percent of women ages 20 to 24 have been successfully persuaded by their boyfriend to give it a whirl at some point in their lives.

However, not only are ladies trying it, but they’re sticking with it, it seems. In 1992, only 10 percent of ladies had gotten it in the backdoor in the past year. Now 20 percent of women report they’ve done it in the past 12 months.

“More and more, people are devoting themselves to learning about anal pleasure,” says Carolyn Riccardi, education coordinator for Babeland’s New York retail stores. “Male-to-female anal sex has been happening since the dawn of time,” she says. “What’s different now is that women are actively learning how to enjoy it and have fun with it.”

“I first did it with my husband,” says Lisa, a recently divorced thirtysomething from across the Hudson. “It was a regular part of our married sex life, and I enjoyed it. I think it can feel good for anyone—except if you’re too uptight about it, meaning, you’re literally tight-assed.”

Here’s some figures:

1. What teens are doing. By ages 14-15, 10 percent of boys say they’ve had vaginal sex. By ages 16-17, the number is up to 30 percent. By ages 18-19, it’s above 60 percent. For girls, the trajectory is almost identical. Oral sex follows a similar trend.

At ages 14-15, 9 percent of boys say they’ve performed cunnilingus. By ages 16-17, 20 percent say they’ve done it, and by ages 18-19, 61 percent say they’ve done it. Among girls aged 14-15, the number who say they’ve given a boy oral sex is 13 percent. By ages 16-17, it’s 29 percent. By ages 18-19, it’s 61 percent. If you’re turning 20 and you haven’t gone down on somebody, you’re in the minority.

2. Oral ubiquity. It’s funny to look back at the previous national survey, taken in 1992. In that report, the authors marveled at the mainstreaming of oral sex. Now the whole question of its normality seems silly. By ages 25-29, eight of every nine women have performed fellatio, and half have done it in the past month. For men and cunnilingus, the numbers are only slightly lower. More people think the president is a Muslim than adhere to oral chastity.

3. Reciprocity. Women are getting as good as they’re giving. By ages 25-29, 88 percent say they’ve received oral sex from a man, and 72 percent say they’ve received it in the last year. (Men confirm this: 86 percent say they’ve given it, 74 percent in the last year.) That’s pretty close to the 91 percent of men aged 25-29 who say they’ve received oral sex from a woman and the 77 percent who say they’ve received it in the past year.

4. Homosexuality. Apparently, a lot of people try gay sex, but only about half stick with it. By ages 18-19, 10 percent of men say they’ve performed fellatio. That number drops among men in their 20s and 30s. But among men in their 40s and 50s, 13 percent say they’ve done it, and 14 percent to 15 percent say they’ve received it from another man.

Meanwhile, 11 percent of men aged 20-24 say they’ve received anal sex. For unknown reasons, that number declines in the next higher age bracket but then steadily rises in succeeding brackets, leveling off at 9 percent among men in their 40s and 50s.

Remember, these are “have you ever” questions. When men aged 20-59 are asked whether they’ve performed fellatio in the past year, the number is more like 6 percent. And only 4 percent say they’ve received anal sex in that time. But that’s a big jump from 1992, when only 2 percent of men admitted to sex with a man in the preceding year.

For women, the gap between trying gay sex and sticking with it is greater. From ages 20 to 49, the number who say they’ve performed cunnilingus ranges from 10 percent to 14 percent, but the number who say they’ve done it in the last year is more like a quarter of that.

5. Anal sex. Here’s the big story. In 1992, 16 percent of women aged 18-24 said they’d tried anal sex. Now 20 percent of women aged 18-19 say they’ve done it, and by ages 20-24, the number is 40 percent. In 1992, the highest percentage of women in any age group who admitted to anal sex was 33. In 2002, it was 35. Now it’s 46.

The last time I looked at the anal sex data, I figured that most women who reported having done it meant they’d tried it just once. I was wrong. If you push these women beyond the “have you ever” question, the numbers stay surprisingly high, and they’re getting higher.

In 1992, the percentage of women in their 20s and 30s who said they’d had anal sex in the past year was around 10 percent. Now that number has doubled to more than 20 percent, and one-third of these women say they’ve done it in the last month. Among all women surveyed, the number who reported anal sex in their most recent sexual encounter was 3 percent to 4 percent.

That’s a lot of butt sex. And remember, this is what women are reporting. If anything, they’re probably understating the truth. So what’s with all the buggery? Is it brutality? Coercion? A porn-inspired male fantasy at women’s expense?

Apparently not. Check out the orgasm data. Among women who had vaginal sex in their last encounter, the percentage who said they reached orgasm was 65. Among those who received oral sex, it was 81. But among those who had anal sex, it was 94. Anal sex outscored cunnilingus.

What could explain this? Here’s my guess. Look carefully at Table 4, Pages 355-6. Only 6 percent of women who had anal sex in their last encounter did so in isolation. Eighty-six percent also had vaginal sex. Seventy-two percent also received oral sex. Thirty-one percent also had partnered masturbation. And the more sex acts a woman engaged in during the encounter, the more likely she was to report orgasm. These other activities are what gave the women their orgasms. The anal sex just came along for the ride.

So why did the inclusion of anal sex bump the orgasm figure up to 94 percent? It didn’t. The causality runs the other way. Women who were getting what they wanted were more likely to indulge their partners’ wishes. It wasn’t the anal sex that caused the orgasms. It was the orgasms that caused the anal sex. [Journal of Sexual Medicine via Gawker and Slate]

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