Wellness

The Pleasure Potential of Butt Plugs for Women

Written by: Kelly Martin

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Published on: December 4, 2023

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Sheri Winston, holistic sexuality teacher and author of Women’s Anatomy of Arousal, wants people to understand the pleasure potential of their anus. “One of the ways we can measure the pleasure potential of our body parts is by how many nerve endings they have,” Winston says. Your body’s number one big hitter is your genitals. Number two is your anus. “The pleasure potential is enormous,” she says.

Still, Winston sees people get shy about their back end—even if it’s something they fantasize about or want to explore. She thoughtfully shifts the conversation toward sexual agency. “There’s an invitation here. There’s all this pleasure in your body that you might not be accessing because you’re letting this old, misinformed stigma keep you away from that part of your body,” she says.

Winston says that while the anus is ungendered—we all have one—the reasons anal stimulation feels good are related to how pleasure is wired in our bodies. For most men, it has to do with indirect stimulation of their prostate. For most women (and anyone without a prostate), it’s a little more complex. She gave us a sexual anatomy lesson—a fascinating one—plus her guide to butt plugs.

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THE GATEWAY TO FULLER, DEEPER ORGASMS

There are three nerves that relate to sex, Winston says. Understanding them can help you understand where pleasure comes from—and how to access deep, satisfying orgasms. First is the vagus nerve, which innervates nearly your whole body and connects to your sexual anatomy as well as your lungs, heart, and digestive tract. (The vagus nerve, Winston says, is responsible for hands-off orgasms.)

Second, there’s the pudendal nerve, which connects your brain to the sexual anatomy closest to the surface of your body: the clitoral structures, the urethral sponge, the vestibular bulbs, and the outer layer of muscles in your pelvic floor. These are parts of your body that you can generally stimulate with touch.

Finally, there’s the deeper pelvic nerve. Winston says the branches of the pelvic nerve go to the more internal parts of your sexual anatomy you’re mostly unable to access: the uterus, the back part of the urethral sponge, the erectile tissue in your pelvic floor, and the deeper pelvic floor muscles—and the anus and rectum.

“Stimulation inside the anus is going to be stimulating that deeper nerve pathway,” Winston says. It’s a pathway for sexual pleasure that you don’t otherwise access—a whole constellation of connections that can increase your access to not only orgasm but an expanded, deeper orgasm than you might be used to.

“The more you get that deep nerve pathway involved, the more you’re going to have those kinds of orgasms where you burst out crying or screaming—those ones that are really earthshaking,” Winston says.

SEDUCING YOURSELF AND ELIMINATING PAIN

For getting the most out of a butt plug—or any anal stimulation—Winston offers one more anatomy lesson. Your anus has two sphincters, round muscles that can dilate and contract like the irises of your eyes. One of those sphincters is under voluntary control—you can relax it or hold it tight—and the other is involuntary.

“Anytime you feel any pressure, performance, anxiety, any of that, your butt’s just going to close right up,” Winston says. That’s why, if you’re trying butt plugs to work up to anal sex, she encourages solo masturbation before diving in with a partner. (This is not a hard-and-fast rule, she notes. If you have an especially loving and supportive partner, it can be a beautiful experience to explore this together. Use your judgment about your relationship and sexual communication skills.)

From there, Winston advises that people ease into the experience. That is, don’t jump to inserting a butt plug; start with whatever kind of touch turns you on, and touch only the outside of the anus at the beginning, preferably with your own finger. As you approach penetration, go slowly, use lubrication, and pay attention to your body’s signals. “If you’re not turned on enough and it doesn’t feel great to have a fingertip just at the opening of your anus, you’re not ready for more,” Winston says.

The benefit of using a finger is that you can feel exactly how your sphincters respond to touch and use that information to guide you. “If you just have your finger inside and you just gently press outward, at a certain point, you’ll feel that release and relaxation of the involuntary sphincter. And at that point, it’s time, then, to insert more of whatever you’re inserting. But you have to let the anus be the decider,” she says.

If at any point you feel discomfort or pain—even if the finger or butt plug was feeling good before—Winston suggests backing off and starting from step one: “An anus, it needs to be seduced, it needs to be coaxed, it needs to be reassured, it needs to be loved open.”

WINSTON’S BUTT PLUG NONNEGOTIABLES

  1. Set strict rules for sexual hygiene. Never put anything that’s been in your anus in your vagina without washing it first. “Draw an imaginary line across your perineum. What’s gone in the back of the line stays in back of the line until it gets washed,” Winston says. Soap and water do the job.
  2. Butt plugs must have a flared base. “Any emergency room worker will tell you how many times they’ve had people come in because they shoved something up their butt and they couldn’t get it out,” Winston says. “Sex toys that are designed for your butt will always have a flange. Don’t just be shoving other random things up there that can get stuck.”
  3. Lube, lube, lube. “Your butt does not self-lubricate,” she says. The rectum is more delicate than the vagina, with less ability to expand and contract. With a finger, a butt plug, or anything else you insert into the anus, a water-based lubricant or serum reduces friction and helps minimize discomfort. Winston notes that you should not use silicone-based lube with silicone toys—it’ll ruin them.

Shopping for Butt Plugs

Start small. “Many people’s eyes are bigger than their anus,” Winston says. She notes that you can always get a bigger butt plug next time if you’d like to. Larger toys can lend themselves to a pleasurable feeling of fullness, and they can be useful if you’re interested in anal training, but they’re not the best place to begin.

If you’re buying only one butt plug, make it one with a vibrating function—if you discover you like the feeling, you’ll have it available. (And if you’re not a fan, you don’t have to use it.) Vibrating devices that come with remote controls are especially great because it’s so easy to adjust their settings.

As you look, you might notice that some butt plugs are curved or have an external vibrating arm; those features are designed for prostate stimulation and have most men in mind. They don’t offer a particular advantage for people who don’t have prostates, but there’s nothing stopping you from enjoying one, either.

Some worthwhile add-ons: water-based lube and a powerful clitoral vibrator to double down on your orgasmic potential.

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