I admire Maureen O’Connor, New York magazine’s current sex columnist, for having the lady-balls to address the subject of rimming in a major mainstream publication. At the same time, I’m kind of appalled at her ignorance and misinformation about the intersection of pleasure and hygiene in this department. It’s one thing to start off with a certain amount of squeamishness about merging the hole you eat with and the hole someone else poops with – we’ve all been there. But O’Connor’s column begins and ends without making any distinction between butt-munching and shit-eating. The latter is a fetish that has its adherents – the clinical word for the practice is coprophagia – but they are very few and far between, virtually all of them “mentally ill, retarded, or otherwise missing a few teeth off the main sprocket.” Analingus is a whole other story, and its enthusiasts know perfectly well how to make a tasty meal out of eating ass without unwanted guests showing up for the feast.
Of course, as with every sexual practice under the sun, not all practitioners apply the same standards. For instance, not every heterosexual man loves to perform oral sex on women (nor is every guy equally adept at it), and although there may be some pussy-eaters who will go down on a woman who is menstruating, I think it’s fair to say that’s not the majority. Similarly, I think it’s fair to say that most people who are into eating ass take steps to make sure their partners are reasonably clean. Not everyone is that meticulous. My friend Eric had a knack for picking up macho construction workers, and he loved burying his face in their musky buttholes. The way he dealt with the hygiene issue was to ration his rimming – he only allowed himself four analingus episodes per calendar year. That worked for him. For me, that’s way too risky. I would prefer the option of unlimited butt-licking, as long as the butt is clean.
How do you determine cleanliness? Some people employ the smell test, either sneaking a finger down there and discreetly sniffing it or waiting until your face is close enough to get a good whiff. You can usually tell. Sometimes I will ask my partner, “Is your ass clean enough to eat off of?” You have to know your partner well enough to know if those words mean the same thing to both of you. I’m always happiest rimming someone who has just stepped out of the shower. (Certainly, that is the best way to engage in butt-licking with close to zero risks to your health. See Cecil Adams’ frank and characteristically informative Straight Dope column for the list of possible diseases that you can get from ingesting fecal matter.)
I want to mention something about rimming scenes in porn. Nowadays you can spend all day watching rimming scenes online, some of it pretty hot. Some commercial porn producers make it a point to model safer sex practices, but many don’t. Maybe especially because it’s ridiculous to expect porn film to take responsibility for educating the public about sexual hygiene, I want to mention that as a sex educator myself, I cringe when I see scenes in porn where someone is rimming, then plays with the partner’s asshole, sticks his finger(s) inside, and then goes back to eating ass again. People do it all the time, but it’s not advisable – even a rectum that’s been recently cleaned out can have traces of fecal matter sloshing around inside, and you don’t want to pull what’s inside out to where it can get in your mouth. If you do, you run the risk of picking up parasites or hepatitis. That’s probably why some people abstain from ass-eating altogether. The closest thing to completely risk-free rimming is covering your partner’s ass in Saran Wrap – you’ll never see it in any porn film, because it’s not especially photogenic, but it can feel fantastic for both partners, and it has the added appeal of removing the possibility of unwanted smells and tastes, not to mention any health risk.
I wasn’t always an aficionado of ass-eating. When I was a young gay guy in my twenties, I couldn’t imagine doing it or enjoying it, partly because anal eroticism was not my strongest interest and partly because of the poopy connotations. It was a mid-‘70s porn film that changed my mind completely, I can’t remember the name of the mustachioed performer or the film I was watching, but his tender ardent tonguing made rimming look like kissing, which was a revelation for me. I’ll always be grateful for that life-changing celluloid moment of adult sex education. If you approach rimming the way you approach kissing – that is, if everybody makes sure to freshen up in advance — it can’t help but be sweet, tender, juicy, exploratory, and intimate.