Ask the Doctors: Anal Cleanliness

My s.o. says that one of the reasons why she doesn’t give me head is that my ass smells. I think the cleanliness factor, or lack thereof, is also a reason why she won’t participate in anal play or sex.

I use flushable moist wipes after a b.m. and I use the hand-held shower head to irrigate/clean that area. How do I keep myself cleaner and smelling better down  there?

Also, do you have any suggestions for making anal cleaning a sensual, pleasureful ritual for me to do with her and vice versa?
-Thank you!

What a great question, one I’m sure many people have!

As you no doubt know, some people have more sensitivity and concern than others about anal play — even getting close to an anus, as your partner is demonstrating. While it’s possible that you have a more “scent-ual” booty than the average person, it is also possible that she is extra-aware of natural smells, or even that when she gets close to a butt, she imagines she’s going to smell something nasty, which is so close to actually smelling it that she won’t go any further.

If she was eager to give head to any past partners, that might argue for the former interpretation, but it certainly a possibility that she has always preferred not to go down.

There are three main considerations re: cleanliness. One is how often you shower or bathe and how well you scrub up and rinse off, although your letter indicates you are quite aware of this factor. A well-washed person typically doesn’t give off a noticeable anal scent, and unless you are only bathing once a week and letting the wipes take care of things from day to day, or you’re not using soap, only water, you are probably keeping yourself approximately as clean as most people who do sometimes (or frequently, even) enjoy oral attention from their partners. (Note that for some people, the smell of wipes can be unsavory too, especially the baby wipe version of the product. Some companies, including Good Vibes, make a non-baby-powdery intimate wipe that might be a big improvement.)

Related to this question of external cleanliness: If you are furry, it is certainly possible that body scents linger in your hair even after you wash. Some people choose to shave, trim, or even get waxed for this reason, while others remove hair for visual aesthetic reasons or for the feel. Hair removal is not an exact science, and if you do it via waxing, it is painful. You’d have to be rather committed to the experiment to give it a go; if there is any chance your partner still won’t want to give you head even after your fuzz is all gone, I wouldn’t suggest trying this. (On the other hand, people who like hair removal often love it to the point of fetishism, and it’s possible that if you do it, you will discover something you really enjoy–your partner might, too.)

The third question is internal cleanliness — rinsing any fecal matter out of the rectum. This is easy to do, once you get the hang of it, and can feel quite sensual. You don’t need to take a full enema, just a pint or so of water, and then release it into the toilet. Insert it by means of a saline enema (you can get these in drugstores — don’t get the kind that has other stuff in it, only saline); a re-useable anal rinse (sometimes called a douche) bulb; or a gizmo sometimes known as a “shower shot,” which is a hose that attaches to your bathtub faucet. If you use the bulb, especially if you use it frequently, add a tiny pinch of salt to salinate the water; don’t use very warm or cold water –body temperature is best– and if you can use filtered water, so much the better, since the rectum’s lining is absorptive. If you use a shower shot, beware of too much pressure — don’t turn the water on too high — and if you  live in one of those apartments where the shower temperature changes when your neighbor turns on the water, watch out.

A couple more things about smell: If by chance you’re eating food that doesn’t agree with you, digestion-wise, it can change the smell of your fecal material for the worse. If you have any issues with gassiness, bloating, and such, looking into whether you have a food allergy might be worthwhile. Finally, it does sometimes happen that people get together who don’t appreciate each other’s bodily odors (though loving each other’s smells is a better predictor of coupling). There’s a chance that she is responding to the scent of your crotch in general, and body scents can sometimes be affected by diet, pharmaceuticals, recreational drugs  and such. If she is not over-sensitive to all scents, perhaps it’s worth exploring whether a drop of essential oil (one she likes) will help overcome any noseful of bodily funk she’s exposing herself to by getting her face below the belt. Try not to get this on your mucosa (fore or aft), where oils might irritate.

Any of the above possibilities could become part of pleasurable erotic rituals, from the sensuality of showering right before sex, to shaving your nether regions, to taking an anal rinse. Plenty of people like the latter sensations so much, in fact, that they incorporate water play into masturbation. Whether your partner will join you in these sexy pre-play preparations, and whether she will find them erotic herself, depends very much on her sense of playfulness, sexuality, and general comfort. Some people who love sex only love it their way, you know — perhaps she goes wild over intercourse but can’t find a way to consider a shaving scene erotic. Perhaps, too, the trappings of sex play don’t seem fun unless she herself is turned on. There are many variations on this, but encouraging playful experimentation in eroticism will certainly be your best bet with her, plus really encouraging her to tell you what she does like about sex — and, of course, listening when she does.

Oh, one last thing — if you can manage to get a bidet in your house, it might really pay dividends for your love life. (I understand there’s even a type that can be attached to a toilet seat so you don’t have to re-plumb the whole bathroom.) I’m not trying to re-decorate your place — but it’s a thought!

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Dr. Carol Queen

Carol Queen has a PhD in sexology; she calls herself a "cultural sexologist" because her earlier academic degree is in sociology: while she addresses individual issues and couple's sexual concerns, her overarching interest is in cultural issues (gender, shame, access to education, etc.). Queen has worked at Good Vibrations, the woman-founded sexuality company based in San Francisco that turned 35 years old in 2012, since 1990. Her current position is Staff Sexologist and Good Vibrations Historian; her roles include representing the company to the press and the public; overseeing educational programming for staff and others; and scripting/hosting a line of sex education videos, the Pleasure-Ed series, for GV’s sister company Good Releasing. She also curates the company's Antique Vibrator Museum. She is also the founding director of the Center for Sex & Culture, a non-profit sex ed and arts center San Francisco, and is a frequent lecturer at colleges, universities, and community-based organizations. Her dozen books include a Lambda Literary Award winner, PoMoSexuals, and Real Live Nude Girl: Chronicles of Sex-Positive Culture, which are used as texts in some college classes. She blogs at the Good Vibes Magazine and at SFGate's City Brights bloggers page and contributes to the Boston Dig. For more about her at

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