What is rimming: is anilingus safe and how should you prepare for it?

All your questions about anal foreplay, answered.

What is rimming: is anilingus safe and how should you prepare for it?
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You've might have heard of rimming, but you'd be forgiven for not knowing exactly what it means. The term refers to anal foreplay with the tongue - specifically licking, penetrating, sucking, kissing, or otherwise orally stimulating your partner's anus.

People of all genders and sexual orientations have been engaging in anal play for centuries. We know this thanks to the saucy pictures depicted on Ancient Greek pottery dating back to 500BC. But is anilingus safe and does it come with any health risks?

We speak to psychosexual and relationship counsellor Carolyn Cowan and GP trainee Dr Elizabeth Dapre about rimming risks, safety tips and how to enjoy anal play responsibly:

What is rimming?

Rimming, also known as anilingus, is part of anal pleasure. 'It is licking the anus, the anal sphincter and the perineum,' explains Cowan. 'It is often performed alongside genital touch.'

Although it's an enjoyable foreplay experience, those who engage in rimming are unlikely to climax from it alone. 'Most will not orgasm through rimming alone and it is considered as a part of sexual foreplay,' adds Cowan. 'However, it is a great way to discover if you find your, or your partner’s anus, or anal play, arousing as it does not involve penetration and so there is no risk of pain.'



How does anilingus work?

As with any sexual activity, this depends very much on the couple. Cowan suggests: 'It's best to discuss with your partner if they would like to try to play in this way, first. For some the anus is no-go area and it is important to respect this.

With a little bit of preparation and some basic hygiene, there's no reason why you can't still enjoy anilingus.

'If playing with this for the first time you could begin with oral sex and genital play and they work your way down. It can be enjoyed across the gender and gender preference spectrum, and is considered a gentle form of anal play.'



Is rimming safe?

While rimming is an enjoyable experience for many, some of you may be concerned about the hygiene risks associated with putting your tongue on your partner's anus.

'In addition to the common sexually transmitted infections, such as herpes and warts, which can be passed on via any type of oral sex, venturing that little bit further to experiment with analingus does increase your risk of contracting specific infections carried within faecal matter,' says Dr Dapre.

Rimming is one of the riskier choices of sexual play because of the potential for contracting infections.

In short: 'rimming is one of the riskier choices of sexual play because of the potential for contracting infections which can be transmitted via your poo,' explains Dr Dapre. But with a little bit of preparation and some basic hygiene, there's no reason why you can't still enjoy the activity.



Potential rimming risks

As with most sexual activities, there is a risk of catching a sexually transmitted infection (STI) if you engage in analingus with an infected partner. Dr Dapre outlines the following potential risks that comes with rimming:

• Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a common viral infection which can cause inflammation of the liver and can make you feel very unwell.

• Bacterial infections

Salmonella, shigella, E. coli and campylobacter are all bacterial infections which can cause diarrhoea, abdominal pain and fevers, and which are also transmitted via the faeco-oral route.

• Parasitic infections

Parasitic infections such giardiasis are also transmitted in this way, and produce similar symptoms, often requiring treatment with antibiotics.

⚠️ If you are concerned about contracting or passing on an STI, make an appointment with your local sexual health clinic to get checked out before engaging in sexual activity with a new partner.



How to enjoy rimming safely

Don't let the health risks put you off - if you want to try rimming, there are steps you can take to make the activity as safe as possible and still have a great time, as outlined by Dr Dapre:

✔️ Preparation is key: the anus is rife with bacteria and so cleanliness and protection is key. Ensure the area is completely cleaned before engaging in sexual activity.

✔️ Get checked for STIs: the safest way to engage in oro-anal play is to ensure that you and your partner are up to date with your STI checks.

✔️ Try dental dams: using barrier methods such as dental dams can significantly reduce the risks of catching or passing anything on. Dental dams, for those who are not familiar, are sheets of latex that can be used on genitals to protect against STIs and infections.

✔️ Douche in advance: you may also wish to douche the area before rimming in order to ensure cleanliness and help you both relax. If so, ensure you use a douche or enema designed specifically for anal use.

✔️ Wash before and after: if you intend to continue with foreplay or sex after anilingus, it's extremely important to wash your mouth efficiently before putting your tongue anywhere near your partner's mouth, penis or vagina afterwards, to avoid spreading infection.

Aside from our rimming safety tips, anal play can be great fun so use your imagination and enjoy!



Last updated: 04-12-19

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