Common Anal Douche Myths and the Truth About Them
When you flip on the TV, you might not expect to hear the ins and outs of how to anal douche. But the second season of the beloved Netflix series Sex Education is here, as are the show’s refreshing story lines about modern sex and relationships topics like masturbation, orgasms, LGBTQ dating, STIs, and, as featured heavily in Episode 6: anal douching.
ICYMI, in Episode 6 of Season 2, many of our favorite Sex Education characters find themselves dealing with a variety of dramas (none that we’ll spoil here). For Anwar and his boyfriend Nick, the dilemma is entirely derriere — Nick brings up having penetrative anal sex with Anwar for their first time as a couple. Anwar excitedly gets into position, ready to go and Nick responds by asking if Anwar has anally douched in preparation for the big day. Spoiler Alert: Anwar has not douched, doesn’t know how to douche, nor did he realize this is presumably a prereq to penetrative anal sex.
Though the idea of going “all the way” with Nick is an enthusiastic “Yes!” for Anwar, the fear of possibly having poop present is not. Rather than talk to his partner about his fears on-the-spot, Anwar phones a friend for a fake emergency call and bails, avoiding Nick until he can consult Moordale’s resident “sex therapist” Otis for more information about anal douching.
Like any responsible real-world, professional sex therapist, Otis recognizes that his own knowledge about anal douching is limited and consults Season 2’s newest heartthrob Rahim to give him and Eric an anal douching 101 lesson. Rahim pretty much nails but, more on the how-to of anal douching in a minute.
The main...er...thrust of Anwar’s storyline is that he’s entirely terrified to “shit his pants” during his new anal experience with Nick and is therefore frantically searching for douching details. Though episode 6 ultimately ends well for Nick, Anwar, and his butt, this episode does beg the booty-loving question: what is the deal with anal douching and, is it necessary?
We’ve busted the mega myths about anal douching so you don’t have to scramble like Anwar for the answers (and besides, no one is buying that fake emergency call anyway).
First thing’s first: What is anal douching, anyway?
It’s the process of inserting a special anal-cleanser, water, or saline into the rectum with a bulb or hose-like apparatus (called an ‘enema’) in order to flush it of poop and other “impurities,” typically in preparation for penetrative anal sex.
Now, let’s bust some myths:
FALSE: If you don’t douche, you’re gonna poop.
Shit happens in life, but when it comes to anal sex, it doesn’t happen that often. Our bodies are designed to hold poop mainly in the sigmoid colon until we feel the urge to go. The sigmoid colon is located well above the rectum meaning, further up inside our bodies than a penis, dildo, or fingers can reach during penetrative anal sex.
The rectum is the lower portion of our digestive tract. While some poop might make it to our rectum before we feel that familiar pressure or urgency that signals to us “Hey! It’s time to find a bathroom," a lot of poop there will trigger the need to go. If you feel the urge to poop, you should probably go poop instead of having anal sex in that exact moment. It should also be said that anal penetration can stimulate you to have a bowel movement. Again — poop happens.
If you have a regular, fiber-balanced diet, healthy bowel movements (a probiotic supplement can help), and consistent basic hygiene practices, poop will likely be minimally present, if present at all during your anal explorations.
One way to bolster your poop-free anal confidence without the douche is to warm up with a lubed-up finger or small anal plug, which you can check for residual caca upon removal. This can also give your rectum a light wipe-down pre-anal action (plus, it’s a great way to get acquainted with this part of your body before a partner does).
At the end of the day, anal douches aren’t magical poop-killing bombs. Even if you douche your tush a million times in a day (not at all recommended), it’s not guaranteed that poop won’t make an appearance. Bodies are wonderfully unpredictable, so the best way to avoid “shitting your pants,” as Anwar so gracefully puts it, is to listen to your gut (literally) and check in with your urge to go if you feel it.
FALSE: Douching is the only way to have “clean” anal sex and should be done every time before you have it.
Episode 1 of this season does a great job reframing the STI chlamydia as common and curable rather than “dirty” or shameful, so it comes as a bit of a surprise when episode 6 seemingly takes the stance that douching is a necessary part of anal sex in order for it to be considered “clean.” But, is this good advice?
Many store-bought anal douches come in the form of a squeeze-bulb that contains a chemical solution of rectum-cleaning liquid. This cleaning solution can be harsh on your tushy’s internal tissues, which are sensitive and delicate, and can become dried out and irritated by douching liquid (especially when used regularly). Irritated tissues have a higher risk of tearing (ouch! Anal sex is supposed to be pleasurable, after all!) which, also increases your risk of STI/STD transmission. Since STIs are on the rise, and douching can increase your risk of contracting them, you'll want to practice safe sex. Regardless of whether or not you douche, you should always use barriers to protect yourself from STIs, and, as usual, lube is your best friend.
Though it’s true that you don’t want to mix fecal bacteria with your other genitalia for health reasons, taking basic hygienic and safer sex precautions like using condoms and dental dams, changing condoms and barriers between anal and vaginal sex acts, and showering before sex are all ways to keep your risks lowered without douching all of your rectum’s healthy bacteria away.
FALSE: Anal douching is a necessary, expected, or considerate part of penetrative anal sex.
Though this episode’s character Nick assumes that Anwar has, wants to, and maybe even should anally douche before they have penetrative anal sex, it’s not true that anyone has to douche before being on the receiving end of anal penetration.
As with all sex acts, each partner in any sexual interaction is entitled to have their own boundaries and ways of caring for their sexual bodies. We all have preferences about our body hair, our lube choices, and the type of intimacy we want to engage in — having your own preferences about whether or not you want to douche isn’t any different.
As the well-informed hero of this episode Rahim advises, being comfortable talking to your partner about the sex you plan on having with them is a great indicator of your readiness to experience that kind of sex. Anal douching may be a topic of conversation, sure, but it should never be mandatory and should always remain a personal choice.
FALSE: The best way to douche is with a store-bought enema.
If you do decide to anally douche, you’ve got choices in the enema department. To reduce your risk of irritating your rectal tissues, dump out whatever harsh solution might be packaged inside a store-bought enema and fill it with warm tap water or a basic saline solution instead. Doctors told Vice that, if you plan to douche, using plain old water and just a LITTLE pressure is your safest bet — but they cautioned against doing this too often, and noted that you don’t really need to do it at all.
FALSE: You should NEVER anally douche!!
Finally, using an occasional anal enema likely isn’t downright dangerous. Feeling confident, sexy, and relaxed can all be important parts of your anal sex experience and it might be that an occasional use of the douche will provide you with that. Still research has called for more information on the overall safety of different kinds of anal douching. And, doctors have noted that douching too often could lead to long term negative impacts. As with all of your sexual choices, whether or not to use an anal enema should be an informed decision you get to make based on accurate and non-judgmental options and honest, consent-forward conversations with your partner. We hope this is a good start.
Yana Tallon-Hicks (she/her) is a relationships therapist, sex advice columnist, and a sexuality educator living in Western Massachusetts. She’s been teaching college students, teens, and adults about sex, relationships, sex toys, and consent for over a decade (yanatallonhicks.com).