Studies warn that young women are being let down by doctors’ reticence to talk about anal sex
Researchers in The BMJ today warn that a generation of young women who are uninformed of the hazards is being let down by clinicians’ unwillingness to disclose potential negative effects of anal sex.
Anal infidelity is becoming increasingly prevalent among heterosexual couples, say surgeons Tabitha Gana and Lesley Hunt, and failing to talk about it “exposes women to missed diagnoses, fruitless treatments, and extra injury deriving from a lack of medical assistance,” they claim.
The authors assert that medical professionals, especially those in general practice, gastroenterology, and colorectal surgery, “have a duty to acknowledge changes in society surrounding anal sex in young women and to meet these changes with open, neutral, and non-judgmental conversations to ensure that all women have the information they need to make informed choices about sex.”
According to the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyle in Britain, the percentage of 16–24-year-olds who engage in heterosexual anal intercourse has increased from 12.5% to 28.5% over the past few decades. In the United States, where 30–44% of men and women report having anal intercourse, similar tendencies are observed.
Pleasure, curiosity, pleasing the male partners, and coercion are listed as causes by young women. Up to 25% of women who have engaged in anal intercourse say they have at least once been coerced into it.
Because it is linked to several sex partners, drug usage, and alcohol consumption, anal intercourse is seen as a dangerous sexual behavior. But, as the authors point out, it is also linked to particular health issues.
For instance, it has been noted that women who engage in anal intercourse have higher incidences of fecal incontinence and anal sphincter damage. Due to their differing anatomical structures from men, women are also more susceptible to incontinence.
The authors state that coerced anal intercourse may raise risks since it can cause discomfort and bleeding, which are symptoms of trauma.
According to them, getting a thorough medical history and identifying the underlying risk factors are essential for effective care of anorectal problems. However, because of societal taboos, some clinicians may avoid having these conversations.
Additionally, the NHS patient information on anal sex primarily addresses STDs and makes no mention of anal damage, incontinence, or the psychological effects of the coercion that young women report in connection with this practice.
“Health practitioners may be reluctant to discuss the dangers of anal sex with young women for reasons other than avoidance or stigma.” Sincere worries exist that the message could be seen as judgemental or even homophobic. “They observe.” But if we don’t have these conversations, we risk failing a generation of young women who aren’t aware of the dangers.
The authors write, “With better information, women who want anal sex would be able to protect themselves from potential injury more effectively, and those who agree to anal sex reluctantly to satisfy partners or fulfill society’s expectations may feel better equipped to say no.”