Being a sexually active gay man now crash-landing into my mid-30s at breakneck speed, I would be lying if I said that I haven’t developed an intimate relationship with shit. Indeed, while not all queer men practice anal sex on a regular basis, if you do, you tend to develop routines and methods to minimise the presence of faeces during sexual intercourse (unless, of course, you’re into that sort of thing, which is another topic entirely). Naturally, trace amounts are somewhat inevitable, but overall, if you want to enjoy a faeces-free sex life, preparation is key. Enter: anal douching. Anal douching is basically the act of flushing out one’s rectal cavity before any sexual activity has occurred, in order to ensure as close to a squeaky-clean experience as possible, for all involved. It does, and I speak from personal experience, take some time to get the hang of it – many a bottom has had an evening of love-making thwarted by improper douching, whether it be an incomplete cleanse, rectal irritation, or even injury. So whether you are a young queer embarking on your first sexual experiences, or a hetero in need of a quick primer, here are some initial pointers on how to douche properly and safely.
Although I do consider myself somewhat of an expert on the subject, it’s wise to refrain from giving any sort of medical advice without first consulting with a professional. Thus, I spoke with Ahmad Awadalla, a sex educator with Berliner Aids-Hilfe, to help me demystify the art of douching. Ahmad has been a sexual health professional for 10 years, and he has the sort of calm and measured demeanour that immediately puts you at ease when discussing sensitive topics – which is great since we’re about to talk openly about shooting water out of our butts. Basically, there are two easy ways to go about douching: enema bulbs and shower douches. “First of all when you douche, you need to think about what kind of water you’re using,” Ahmad explained. “It’s supposed to be saline, so it doesn’t really disturb the bacteria life balance of the rectum. The water should be lukewarm – not too hot, but not cold either. And you need to ease into it. If you’re going to insert anything, you need to be prepared with lube, so you’re not going from 0 to 100. That can cause injuries, and that’s exactly the kind of situation you want to avoid.”
“Many a bottom has had an evening of love-making thwarted by improper douching.”
I personally prefer the bulbs, a kind of rubber squeeze bottle you can easily insert multiple times a session without too much effort. Imagine you’re filling up your rectum like a warm bath, not power-washing your ass like a cheap car wash. Then, hold the water for a minute or so, squat on the toilet and voilà, you’re ready to quite literally rinse and repeat. The biggest mistake rookies make is to not repeat the procedure until the water runs clear, and this can take several cycles. If you only rinse once or twice, you’re likely to just loosen up whatever faecal matter you might have up there, and then you’re even worse off than you were in the beginning. “I think the bulbs are a good idea if you want to integrate them into a routine, or if you douche often,” says Ahmad. “In more relaxed and impromptu settings, then the shower douche would be an option.” I’ve heard of various shower head and toilet attachments that are supposed to make douching even easier, but the idea of having water pressure up there makes me a little skittish. “Although the threat of water pressure causing injury is real, you can start from a distance and take it slow,” Ahmad assures me. “For me, growing up in Egypt, there was always this sort of toilet-shower, and for a lot of gay men, that was just the most obvious solution. I’ve actually installed a bidet hose on my toilet right now because generally, it’s just part of anal hygiene, to actually rinse with water.”
However, and this may seem counter-intuitive, the best advice you can give anyone about douching is to not over do it. While of course, Ahmad advises his clients to practice sound sexual health and hygiene (including regular STI check-ups), when it comes to douching, you have to know when to stop. “The idea of douching, in a way, lies in the fear of shit. But it sometimes drives people to practice extreme hygiene,” he warns. “This fear is where a lot of shame comes from, and as men who have sex with men, we are not completely free of that. It’s very important that we be careful not to hurt ourselves, not to do it too often, not to strain too much. In my observation around queer men, this fear actually a lot of times stops them from enjoying and being spontaneous about sex.” It’s a brilliant point that hadn’t really struck me until Ahmad articulated it. Poop is gross, that’s a given, but maybe the never-ending quest to eradicate it forever, no matter the cost, is also taking a toll on our sex lives. I don’t know a gay man on this planet, myself included, who hasn’t been on both sides of this struggle (to the cute professor I hooked up with in Brooklyn in 2009, I’m still sorry about your couch). If we’re going to be supporting each other as a sex-positive community, we can’t resort to shaming each other or ourselves when something as natural as defecating occurs, no matter how icky the circumstances. As the saying goes, shit happens.