HPV & Safer Anal Sex

Most reports of actress Farrah Faucett’s death neglected to mention that she had anal cancer, presumably because news outlets were hesitant to mention the type of cancer. That’s a shame, since anal cancer rates are increasing. ABC News was among the few news outlets to publish a good article on it, which you can read here.

Anal cancer is thought to be associated with the human papilloma virus (HPV), which is sexually transmitted. As HPV rates rise and increasing numbers of people engage in anal sex (or at least talk about it more), it’s important to share information on how to protect against the virus. A US Center for Disease Control determined in 2005, that heterosexual anal intercourse is on the rise with 40% of men and 35% of women reporting they’ve engaged in it, compared to a quarter to a third of gay men, according to a British study.

Many teens engage in anal sex because they think it allows them to retain their virginity while eliminating the risk of pregnancy. The virginity argument can be debated endlessly; what’s clear is that unprotected heterosexual anal intercourse can lead to pregnancy when semen smears or drips or otherwise comes into contact with the vaginal opening.

Anal sex is a particularly easy way to transmit and acquire sexually transmitted infections because the tissues of the anus and rectum have no natural lubrication and are easily torn, thus providing entry points for bacteria and viruses. If you’ve had unprotected anal intercourse, ask your doctor about whether you should get an anal Pap test. It’s a simple swab that can determine the presence of abnormal cells. The jury is still out on who needs the test and if so, how often. Read more here. Of course, the best approach is to protect yourself beforehand, rather than hope for negative test results later.

Safe Anal Sex
Anal penetration with fingers, tongues, toys, dildos or penises should be preceded with a discussion of risk and should only be participated in with each partners’ consent. Condoms (male or female) should be used along with a generous amount of lubricant (Slippery Stuff is recommended). If you don’t have lube available, try olive oil, Crisco, or lots of saliva. The receptive partner (the person being penetrated) should control the pace of entry and movement. Add more lube as needed. If anything hurts, relax, breathe, lube up, and slow down. Or stop. You can always try again some other time.

For more information about anal sex, look for how-to books by Tristan Taormino and Bill Smart.