The Evolution of Butt Play
You know you’re into it. And you’re not alone. Everyone does the finger in the butt move now, but not that long ago, it was strictly taboo.
Just over 15 years ago, the idea of a man fingering a woman’s ass as sexual play was fairly foreign to many Americans. Literally. The 2002 edition of The Joy of Sex, the late Alex Comfort’s seminal 1972 illustrated guide to everything sexual, refers to the act as postillionage, a distinctly French (read: bizarre European libertine) tradition, with which a New York Times reviewer was, circa 2003, completely unfamiliar. It was the provenance of kink or tantric sex—wild and outré.
Yet today, man-on-woman anal fingering is functionally mainstream. It is hard to find solid data on how many people know of or experience it; most researchers don’t see the act as a sexual health priority worth studying. But anecdotes from forums across the digital world suggest it is a now common practice. Many men find anal fingering so desirable, or so routine, that for the past few years it has seemingly become common for guys to try to slip a finger up their partners’ rectums, sometimes without any prior notice or discussion, even on a first date or hookup. As Sheena Sharma wrote in 2015, “the unwelcome finger is a plague upon bedrooms across America.”
So what changed? How and when did anal fingering go from an apparently niche act to a ho-hum part of many men’s sexual repertoires? And what about it do men find appealing? Given how little we talk about sex as a culture, much less document major shifts in our sexual practices, it is hard to say for sure. But sex experts do have a basic sense of how we normalized the finger up her butt.
It is worth establishing that, no matter how unusual it may have seemed to many Americans just a couple decades ago, anal fingering has likely been around as long as our species. Humans are both experimental and pleasure-seeking beings; we explore our bodies, especially in the fumbling heat of sex, discovering every possible erogenous zone that we can. And the anus can be, explains sex educator Eric Garrison, an erogenous zone for any gender thanks to the tons of sensory nerves within it. It is even possible for women some women to orgasm through anal fingering, or other forms of anal play including full-on anal sex, that wind up stimulating their g-spots. (Men, of course, can also orgasm from anal fingering thanks to prostate stimulation.) So some women have likely always worked anal fingering into their masturbatory habits. And some couples have likely always worked it into their sex lives, either as a warm-up for anal sex or a stimulating end in itself.