When two roads diverged in a yellow wood, Robert Frost had a choice.
He could take one of two paths: the first he described as dilapidated and trodden by many before him, and the other appeared grassy, wanting wear.
Like any red-blooded man, Frost chose the latter because its novelty intrigued him. At the end of his journey, he said that taking the road less traveled by had "made all the difference."
After years of engaging in traditional sexual intercourse, modern men have taken Frost's uplifting aphorism and applied it quite literally to their genitals. I don't blame them; after all, Frost was a wise man. He ended his life with four Pulitzers.
Modern men and women have gone off the beaten path by moving their entry point two inches south from that of their forefathers. Modern American couples have normalized the practice of anal sex. In the words of Frost "the road less traveled by" has gained some serious traffic.
According to the 2006 to 2008 National Survey of Family Growth, 44 percent of straight men and 36 percent of straight women admitted to having anal sex at least once in their lives.
These percentages are big but not surprising if we consider them in the context of history. Although for thousands of years the Christian church condemned the practice of both oral and anal sex, its practice has been recorded and dates back centuries in cultures worldwide.
Ancient engravings, paintings, and artwork from Asia, Europe, South America, and parts of the Mediterranean depict heterosexual men engaging in anal sex, according to psychologist David J. Ley. Certain Polynesian cultures practiced it as a primary form of birth control.
Since the 1950s rates of heterosexual anal intercourse have increased in the U.S. Naturally, these rates are higher among young adults.
While engagement rates are nearly the same for both sexes, Ley said, "men overwhelmingly report positive experiences following performing anal sex," whereas, "more than half of women who have had receptive anal sex describe it as an unpleasant experience they probably wouldn't repeat."
Recognizing that anal sex often involves a degree of physical discomfort for one partner, why even attempt it?
Psychologists and sex experts have broken the issue down by gender. For men, they have determined five common reasons that men wish to plunder down under.
The first being anal sex is taboo. Throughout history, it has served as the ‘forbidden fruit’ of human sexuality. Essentially, men want what they can't have, and finding a woman that's willing to give it is a huge turn on.
Pornography has also fueled this desire. While most women understand that pornography does not accurately represent their sexuality, men often look to porn for inspiration. Anal sex has become a major component to modern pornography, which makes it desirable to those who watch it.
Similar to roles in pornography, anal sex contains a major power differential. The man obviously controls the woman's every move and ultimately determines how she feels. Having that power can be a major turn on.
Two physically practical reasons that men enjoy anal sex are no low risk of pregnancy and a 'tighter fit.'
As for those on the receiving end of the action, their reasons vary. While women stand divided on the issue of anal sex, there are those that say that anal sex provides them with stimulation that vaginal penetration simply can't. These women explain that their orgasms are much stronger than traditional clitoral orgasms.
Women also say that emotionally, the trust involved in anal sex makes the act seem more passionate.
Regardless of where you stand on the practice of anal sex, it's important to recognize that it does come with significant health risks, especially if done improperly. In fact, even when conducted properly, physicians have deemed anal sex the most dangerous form of penetrative intercourse.
The delicate tissues and lack of natural lubrication in the human anal cavity increases the likelihood of anal and rectal tearing. These microscopic tears are highly susceptible to viral and bacterial infection and much more so than the vaginal canal. If practiced too quickly or with too much force, anal sex can even perforate the colon.
Studies have shown that anal exposure to the HIV virus poses nearly 30 times greater of a risk than vaginal exposure.
Anal sex also poses damage to sphincter muscle, which restricts bowel control. Physicians recommend that those who practice anal sex do Kegels specific to the area to prevent accidental expulsion.
However, provided that both parties are healthy, experts recommend three things for successful alternative penetration: slow speed, lubrication, and communication.
Doctors recommend keeping your speed low and controlled, using water-soluble lubricant, and communicate how you're feeling. Letting your partner know what feels good and what doesn't is key in any sexual practice.
Before engaging in any sexual behavior, conventional or progressive, remember what you learned in kindergarten: safety first.