Perceptions of Young Women Who Engage in Anal Sex: A Sociological Inquiry

James Pickles, Julia Hirst, Chloe Froggatt, Megan Kenny

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite data suggesting that anal sex is increasingly common among heterosexual individuals, women who engage in anal sex have had little attention in academic scholarship beyond medical fields. Research on anal sex is typically androcentric, with many key studies examining the dynamics of malemale sexual practices. Moreover, research reporting anal sex among young women is often accompanied with concerns around coercion and health risks. Taking a critical view, we argue that normative assumptions about anal sex may obscure or ignore other ways that women and others might engage in anal sex, and, given the emphasis on harm reduction, may obscure a range of reasons for involvement in anal sex. Through focus groups and individual interviews with a range of individuals (n=20) including sexual health practitioners and young people, aged 19-56 years, our qualitative pilot study generated detailed discussion on (1) how anal sex is perceived in general (‘what’ practices constitute anal sex, who might be involved, and why), and (2) specifically how it is perceived in relation to young women. This paper focuses on the second area and three resultant analytic themes:
why women may engage in anal sex, women’s bodies and gendered agency, and sexual literacy. We conclude that meaningful sex and relationships education and sexual health services could usefully adopt a more nuanced appreciation of the range of practices that can comprise anal sex, and that some young women engage in anal sex for a variety of reasons (beyond coercion) including pleasure, bodily autonomy and relationship dynamics.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Positive Sexuality
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2023


  • anal sex
  • young women
  • sexual health
  • sex and relationships education
  • sexual literacy
  • agency


Dive into the research topics of 'Perceptions of Young Women Who Engage in Anal Sex: A Sociological Inquiry'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this