Despite the many taboos and myths that surround it, anal play is still exceedingly popular, and seems to get more so every year. The prevalence of anal sex has more than doubled among 16- to 24-year-olds in recent decades, and despite stereotypes about anal play being "a gay thing," studies show that it's a common practice for many people, regardless of sexual orientation. "Anal" and "big ass" both showed up in the list of PornHub's top 10 search terms last year, and the "anal" category ranked #5 on their most-viewed categories list. Clearly, a lot of people have butts on the brain!
However, many people still have fears and questions about anal play, even if it's a sexual interest of theirs. Two of the most commonly cited concerns about butt stuff are the pain and the mess.
Regarding the former: Anal penetration should never be painful if you're doing it right. Pain is a sign from your body that you need to slow down and/or back off, and this is particularly important when it comes to your butthole, an easily damaged body part that you do not want to permanently injure.
When it comes to avoiding pain and maximizing pleasure, the cardinal rules of butt stuff are as follows:
- Use more lube than you think you need to.
- Start with something smaller than you think you need to.
- Go slower than you think you need to.
If you follow these three rules, typically you'll be okay, pain-wise. But there is still the issue of potential mess – i.e. the probable presence of some poop inside the hole that poop comes out of – and this is a terrifying prospect for many people.
That's where enema bulbs come in. Let's talk about them.
What is an enema bulb?
To do an enema is to flush out the lower bowel with water or another liquid. In the realm of sex, usually this is done for the purpose of washing out any errant fecal matter before anal play, to make the ensuing session less messy and more pleasant. However, enemas are also sometimes done for medical reasons, such as for relieving constipation.
There are various tools one can use to do an enema, but a simple enema bulb is probably the most ubiquitous, and the easiest for a beginner to master. It consists of a receptacle which you fill with water, and a spout which can be inserted into your butt.
Enema bulbs are available from many sex shops, both online and offline. If you're in a pinch, you can also buy a laxative enema from a drugstore and just rinse out all the liquid in it (assuming you don't want/need a laxative!) and replace it with plain tap water.
Is it really necessary to do an enema?
If your diet contains sufficient fiber – or if you and your partner(s) simply don't care that much about mess – then you may not need the pre-sex cleaning that an enema can provide.
But many people choose to do an enema, not only for reasons of cleanliness and wanting to be considerate of their partner's comfort level, but for their own peace of mind. The hangups that many people have about butt stuff are more easily set aside when you feel confident about your hygiene – not to mention, the anal sphincter muscles are very reactive to any stress and tension you may be carrying around, and so reducing your anxiety about hygiene (and about anything else) will help anal play feel more comfortable, more pleasurable and more possible for you.
Are enema bulbs safe to use?
If done with plain water – as opposed to any laxative chemicals, the likes of which can be found in some prepackaged enema products – enemas are typically safe to do. However, expert opinions differ on how often is too often. Some say it's safe to do one as often as daily if you want to, while others say they are best done rarely, if at all.
Some of the commonly cited potential complications of enema overuse are:
- Dryness/irritation of the rectum, which can lead to discomfort, microtears, and greater susceptibility to contracting an STI from sex with an infected person
- Disruption of the anal microbiome, which can lead to irritation and digestive problems
- Becoming dependent on enemas to elicit bowel movements (if using them regularly for constipation)
- Weakening/loosening anal muscle function (especially if using too much water, or water expelled at a high volume, such as from a shower hose)
That being said, if done sparingly, and only with plain, clean water and a clean bulb, enemas are generally safe and shouldn't cause any ill effects. You can always ask your doctor about them if you're unsure.
How to use an enema bulb?
First, ensure the bulb you're using is completely clean. If you use soap to clean it out, make sure to choose a mild soap (such as Dr. Bronner's) and to rinse it extremely well, as soap can be drying and irritating if it encounters your sensitive rectal walls. Wash your hands thoroughly as well.
Next, fill the bulb with plain, room-temperature tap water. Water that is too hot or too cold can be incredibly uncomfortable when inserted anally, and can even mess with your overall body temperature, so it's best to stick with water of a moderate temperature.
Apply water-based lubricant to the nozzle of the enema bulb, and to your anal opening.
For this next part, you may want to lie down in a location where any accidental spillage would be acceptable, such as in the bathtub or on the bathroom floor. Some people prefer to do an enema while standing (perhaps in the shower) or while sitting on the toilet; you may want to experiment to find which method(s) work for you. Slowly insert the nozzle into your anus; if this feels uncomfortable or painful, try warming up with a well-lubed finger for a few minutes before trying again.
Once the nozzle has been inserted, slowly and gently squeeze the bulb to release the water inside. While continuing to squeeze the nozzle (so it won't suck bacteria from your butt into the bulb), gradually remove it from your ass. Use your anal muscles to hold the water inside for a few seconds; you may want to wiggle around or jump up and down a little to help the cleaning process along. When you're ready, sit on the toilet and let all the liquid out.
You can repeat this process a few times, as needed, to get fully clean. The water should eventually run clear, which is your sign that you're good to go.
You may want to shower afterward in case of any drippage. It tends to work best if you wait about an hour or two after using an enema before engaging in anal play, because residual water can sometimes drip out if you've done an enema quite recently.
Take the enema bulb apart, empty out any remaining liquid, and let it dry completely before reassembling and storing it.
Now you should be ready for relatively mess-free anal play!