Hi Yana!

I have a general question about a couple or a person beginning to add anal play into their repertoire. Do you have any advice on how one keeps toys and/or fingers clean/separate so the toys for buttplay are kept far away from the vagina or vice versa?  

Thanks so much,

Squeaky Clean Cheeks


Dear Squeaky Clean,

Embarking on an anal adventure is exciting and can also be daunting if it’s something you’ve never done before. Anal sex is becoming less taboo in the mainstream sexual conversation for sure, but it’s also still ripe with misinformation, rumors, and hesitations.

In regards to your question about cleanliness, the general rule is that you can go front-to-back (so, vaginal penetration to anal penetration) but you can’t go back-to-front (anal to vaginal penetration) without cleaning your utilized toy/body part and/or changing the condom/glove/dam/etc. that you were using for protection.

This is because though the booty can adapt to vaginal bacteria, the vagina cannot adapt to the certain bacteria unique to the butt. Anal bacteria in the vagina can spark yeast infections, UTIs, and other ailments that occur when the vagina’s pH balance is thrown off. Similarly, you want to keep toys and body parts that have been playing in and around your bum out of your mouth and eyes (I mean, maybe don’t put a dildo in your eye at all, but I suppose that’s a different column entirely).

Cleanliness can be maintained in several different ways. The first is to use toys that are made of a non-porous material such as medical grade silicone, stainless steel, glass, or TPR plastic. These materials are easily cleaned between orifices with soap-and-water. You can also buy a toy cleaner from a sex toy shop that comes in a spray bottle for easy bedside cleaning (spray, let sit, and wipe down with a clean cloth). Easier still, use condoms or gloves on your toys/body parts and switch them out for clean ones before switching activities or moving to vaginal play.

Sex toy materials that are made out of porous materials like jelly rubber or cyberskin are getting more rare now that the sex toy industry is becoming more mainstream, however they do still exist. These porous materials act like a sponge in the sense that they absorb dirt and bacteria that the material holds onto indefinitely. This means that even if you wash porous toys, you can still be transporting harmful bacteria where it shouldn’t be. Use condoms on porous toys or don’t use them at all!

My other suggestion is to have discard towels available bedside if possible. This way, if you use an anal plug, for example, and then you’re done with it and want to move onto something else, you can remove it and put it down on a surface designated for “dirties” that isn’t problematically rolling around on your sheets or pillowcases or on a bedside table next to where your post-sex midnight snack might sit.

Otherwise, my advice for beginners anal sex of all kinds is to start small, start slow, use a lot of lube (I recommend Sliquid Sassy), and exercise patience and care for yourself and your partners. One of the key differences between the vagina and the butt is that the anus and the rectum do not self-lubricate like the vagina does. Also, while the tissue of the vagina tend to be elastic and accommodating, rectal tissues are quite fragile. The two layers of sphincter muscles that line the butthole itself are strong, sensitive muscles that require more time and intentional relaxation than folks used to vaginal penetration may be accustomed to.

All of this requires great communication, consent practices, and mental relaxation as a sense of relational safety is key when it comes to anal sex — afterall, when you’re scared or nervous what does the asshole do? That lil guy tightens right up and no one’s gettin’ in there!

More extensive beginner’s anal sex tips and advice can be found on my website yanatallonhicks.com.

Yana Tallon-Hicks is a relationship therapist, sex educator, and writer living in the Pioneer Valley. You can find her work and her professional contact information on her website, yanatallonhicks.com.