Anal sex study reveals climate of 'coercion'

Young people describe 'painful and unsafe' anal sex in study that calls for more discussion between health workers and teenagers

A study on why teenage heterosexual couples may engage in anal sex has revealed a climate of coercion, with consent and mutuality not always a priority for the boys who are trying to persuade girls into having it.

Researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine interviewed 130 teenagers aged 16-18 in three sites across the country to “explore expectations, experiences and circumstances of anal sex among young people”.

The qualitative study found that anal heterosex appeared to be “painful, risky and coercive, particularly for women”, while males spoke of being expected to persuade or coerce reluctant partners.

“Anal sex is increasingly prevalent among young people, yet anal intercourse between men and women—although commonly depicted in sexually explicit media—is usually absent from mainstream sexuality education and seems unmentionable in many social contexts,” the study, published on BMJ Open, says.

It found that some young people normalised “coercive, painful and unsafe anal sex”, in an issue that needs to be addressed by health workers and schools in sex education.

Sexually active people are engaging in anal sex more than ever before, the researchers said of other recent studies, and in this one, they usually occurred between boys and girls within boyfriend/girlfriend relationships.

The interviewed young people rarely spoke of anal sex “in terms of mutual exploration of sexual pleasure”, while condoms were also often not used.

There appeared to be competition between boys to have had anal sex with girls, while the main reason that young people also cited for engaging in the act is that boys “wanted to copy what they saw in pornography and that ‘it’s tighter’”.

READ MORE: The effects of too much fat, sugar, and salt in your diet
Two Kent hospitals declared unsafe
Number of children who self-harm jumps 70 per cent

Other reasons for wanting to do it include “the claim that ‘people must like it if they do it’ ([despite] the seemingly contradictory expectation that it will be painful for women)”.

“The idea that women would generally not wish to engage in anal sex, and so would need to be either persuaded or coerced, seemed to be taken for granted by many participants,” the study says.

“Even in otherwise seemingly communicative and caring partnerships, some men seemed to push to have anal sex with their reluctant partner despite believing it likely to hurt her (although it should also be noted that other men said they avoided anal sex because they believed it might hurt their partners).

“Persuasion of women was a feature to a greater or lesser degree of most men's and women's narratives about anal sex events, with repeated, emphatic requests from men commonly mentioned.

“Women seemed to take for granted that they would either acquiesce to or resist their partners’ repeated requests, rather than being equal partners in sexual decision-making. Being able to say ‘no’ was often cited by the women as a positive example of their control of the situation.”

The researchers also found examples of non-consensual penetration either with a finger or penis in a ‘try it and see’ approach in the hope the girl would not stop them.

“Some events, particularly the ‘accidental’ penetration reported by some interviewees, were ambiguous in terms of whether or not they would be classed as rape (ie, non-consensual penetration), but we know from [one] interview that ‘accidents’ may happen on purpose,” after a respondent admitted telling his girlfriend that he had accidentally penetrated her anally, when in fact he had done it on purpose.

The researchers do not deny that “mutually pleasurable anal practises” are possible among the age group interviewed, but that girls’ pleasure is often “absent in narratives of anal heterosex and how their absence is not only left unremarked and unchallenged, but seems to be expected by many young people.”

“Women being badgered for anal sex appears to be considered normal.”

Dr Cicely Marston led the study, with the hope that its publication would spark "an urgent need for harm reduction efforts targeting anal sex to help encourage discussion about mutuality and consent, reduce risky and painful techniques and challenge views that normalise coercion."

News
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
News
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
News
people
Voices
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

    £35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

    Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

    Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

    £35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

    Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

    £45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

    'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

    In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
    VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

    How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

    Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
    They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

    Typefaces still matter in the digital age

    A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
    Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

    'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

    New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
    The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

    Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

    Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

    Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
    Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

    Crisp sales are in decline

    As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
    Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

    Ronald McDonald the muse

    A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
    13 best picnic blankets

    13 best picnic blankets

    Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
    Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

    Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

    Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
    Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

    Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

    Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'