Why anal sex ‘taboos’ endanger ‘generation of women’: Doctors

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Anal sex is no longer the taboo sex act it used to be – especially among heterosexual women.

Indeed, the most recent statistics provided by the Centers for Disease Control and the National Center for Health Statistics showed that more than a third – 35% – of women aged 15 to 49 have tried anal sex with a partner. male.

These numbers, taken from a survey of more than 5,500 women between 2015 and 2019, are growing — possibly a lot, depending on who you ask. A similar survey of 880 “sexually active adults”, conducted by doctor-led butt health brand Future Method, showed that 70% of women have tried anal sex at least once.

In the spirit of a new era of sexual exploration and health awareness, a duo of surgical researchers published an op-ed in the BMJ this week, urging more clinicians to talk to women about the potential risks of indulging. to anal sex – especially for those who feel pressured by their partners to do so.

“Clinicians can avoid these discussions, influenced by societal taboos,” wrote Tabitha Gana and Lesley Hunt, respectively colorectal surgeons and consultants to the UK’s National Health System. “By avoiding these discussions, we risk betraying a generation of young women, who are unaware of the risks.”

Physicians and health care workers, especially those in primary care and family medicine, “have a duty to recognize the changes in society around anal sex among young women, and to respond to these changes through conversations open, neutral and non-judgmental to ensure that all women have the information they need to make informed choices about sex,” the colleagues wrote.

Silence on the subject, while sensitive, they continued, “exposes women to missed diagnoses, futile treatments and other harms resulting from a lack of medical advice.”

Gana and Hunt referenced a nationwide survey of British women that described the main reasons they tried anal sex, including curiosity and personal pleasure. Unfortunately, for around a quarter of women, pressure from their male partner played a significant role. The United States should reflect similar trends.

“Pain and bleeding women report after anal sex are indicative of trauma, and risks may be increased if anal sex is forced,” they wrote.

Anal sex can be safe and enjoyable for many, but the authors cautioned that there are anatomical features in women that have a different set of risks, such as incontinence, due to their “less robust” sphincter and anal canal muscles weaker than men. This is one of the reasons why women who engage in the act show increased rates of fecal incontinence and anal injury.

The surgeons point out that a majority of the medical literature for patients regarding anal sex focuses on sexually transmitted diseases, such as HIV, herpes and HPV – which can lead to certain cancers – but misses the aforementioned physiological risks, as well as the emotional toll. of coercion.

In the absence of clinical advice, women turn to a ‘plethora of non-medical or pseudo-medical websites to fill the health information void’, some of which ‘may increase social pressure to try anal sex’. , rather than helping women “make informed decisions”. decisions,” the authors said.

“Hit TV shows such as ‘Sex and the City’ and ‘Fleabag’ can unwittingly add to the pressure because they seem to normalize anal sex in heterosexual relationships or make it seem racy and daring,” they added. .

Beyond shame or stigma, doctors urge clinicians to overcome the fear of being cast as “judges” or even “homophobes” by raising these concerns with patients – insisting that it there are resources for them to learn how to approach the subject conscientiously.

“With better information, women who want anal sex would be able to more effectively protect themselves from possible harm, and those who accept anal sex reluctantly to meet societal expectations or please their partners. , may feel more empowered to say no,” Gana and Hunt conclude.

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