Awareness of what you’re actually experiencing—not an idealized notion of perfection—is the essence of all bodily enjoyment. If you remain attuned to yourself, you can begin to develop voluntary control over your anal muscles. This is not an authoritarian “Do what I tell you!” type of control, but rather a natural and easy flow between what you intend and how your anus responds. In order to acquire this control, you first need information about how your anal muscles work. Then you’ll learn how to use your finger as a sensitive probe to explore the interior landscape of your anus.
Anatomy and Physiology of the Anal Canal
The anal canal is a tube-shaped entryway, less than an inch long, which leads into your rectum. The outer two-thirds of the anal canal is made of the same soft, sensitive tissue that is visible around the opening. The inner third of the anal canal is lined with mucous membrane. This part of the canal is less sensitive to touch than the outer two-thirds, but is very sensitive to pressure. Depending on whether it is wanted, pressure can produce either relaxation or tightening of the surrounding muscles.
The folds of anal tissue give the anal canal a striking capacity for expansion, which varies tremendously according to personal preference, degree of relaxation, amount of practice, and other circumstances. For example, during rectal surgery, under anesthesia, a person’s anal muscles can easily be dilated so that the surgeon’s entire hand can pass through the anal canal.
In the erotic realm a similar expansiveness is called upon in the activity known as “fisting” or “handballing,” which involves inserting several fingers or an entire hand into the anus and rectum. Although hardly a mainstream form of sex play, anal fisting is more popular than most people realize (more on fisting in Chapter 9). These extremes of anal expansion are not experienced by most people, but they do illustrate that anal tissue can easily and safely accommodate a finger, object, or penis.
Below the surface of the anal mucosa, veins and arteries pass blood through cavernous (filled with spaces) columns of tissue called anal cushions. There are three of these cushions running the short length of the anal canal. The cushions are anchored by connective tissue and muscle fibers to the internal sphincter muscle. Within the anal cushions, blood passes from arteries to veins without any capillaries (the tiniest of blood vessels that usually connect arteries and veins). As a result, blood flows with extreme ease through the anal cushions.
During a healthy bowel movement, or during the insertion of something into the anal canal, the anal sphincters relax, allowing some blood to leave the cushions. However, if the sphincters are not relaxed, the anal cushions remain congested with blood. This is what happens when a person strains to force a bowel movement or uses force to insert something into the anal canal. The result is an uncomfortable stinging sensation or other pain. If such straining or forcing happens on a regular basis, a variety of medical problems such as hemorrhoids (protrusions from the anal cushions) or fissures (tears or cracks in the anal lining) can result. To prevent or eliminate this discomfort and the possibility of damage, it’s necessary to understand how the two anal sphincter muscles work.
The anal canal maintains its tubular shape because of two ring-like sphincter muscles. The sphincters are very close together, overlapping somewhat, and are quite capable of functioning independently, which they often do. The external sphincter is closest to the anal opening and is controlled by the central nervous system, the same system that activates muscles in the hands, arms, or legs. With a little concentration, we can make the external sphincter tense or relax at will—just as we move our fingers whenever we want.
The internal sphincter is quite different. It is neurologically controlled by the autonomic nervous system, the same system that makes adjustments in blood pressure, respiration rate and other “involuntary” body functions. Because the internal sphincter normally functions reflexively, most people can’t tense or relax it at will.
When feces pass from the colon into the rectum, the pressure of fullness triggers the rectal reflex. This involves the automatic relaxation of the internal sphincter and a partial draining of blood from the anal cushions. Then the voluntary relaxation of the external sphincter allows for a quick and easy bowel movement.
Three factors can and often do disrupt this course of events.
First, many people have been taught to ignore the urge for defecation caused by the rectal reflex. Instead they hold back, not wanting to be bothered going to the toilet. Perhaps they believe that bowel movements ought to occur only at certain predetermined times—a notion fostered by over-strict toilet training practices.
When it’s consistently ignored or overridden, the rectal reflex fades and the internal sphincter stops relaxing. Once this has occurred, almost every bowel movement requires pushing and straining. Any person who wants a healthy and relaxed anus must learn to pay attention to the rectal reflex. Gradually, the natural urges it produces will again become obvious.
Another factor that can inhibit the rectal reflex is the common habit of resisting the passage of intestinal gases (flatus) through the anal opening. Gases are naturally formed during food digestion, and obsessive attempts to avoid farting inevitably result in unnecessary and potentially destructive muscle tension. Certainly, most of us prefer to exercise some control over the timing of our farts. However, it is a mistake to adopt an always-hold-it policy.
The third, and perhaps most important, factor that disrupts relaxation of the internal sphincter during bowel movements is the absence of adequate fiber in our diet, and thus in our stools. Feces should be soft yet well-formed and bulky. Small, hard feces don’t provide the fullness necessary to trigger the rectal reflex. Once again, the person must resort to straining whenever bowel movements are attempted.
If your stools are not large, well-formed and slightly moist, your goal of anal awareness, pleasure and health will be very difficult to reach unless you add significant quantities of fiber to your diet every day. With adequate fiber, your rectal reflex can be triggered more easily. This will help you immensely in learning how to relax your internal sphincter muscle. The best sources of fiber are whole grains, legumes (beans and peas), nuts, some fresh fruits, and vegetables. Fiber preparations such as psyllium (Metamucil® or cheaper generics) can also be taken as a supplement. Psyllium is made from the husks of seeds and is, therefore, all natural. Avoid the type that includes a chemical laxative; these should be used sparingly, if at all. In the past, psyllium fiber had to be mixed with liquid to form a rather unappealing drink. Not you can buy it in capsules, which are much easier to take, unless you have a swallowing problem. Always take these capsules with a full glass of water.
The ease with which you have bowel movements and the pleasure you receive from anal stimuli will be greatly enhanced if you learn how to voluntarily relax the internal sphincter. How can a person learn voluntary control over an “involuntary” body process? That such control is possible at all still isn’t widely recognized in the West.
In the East, practitioners of healing methods such as yoga and acupuncture have focused on this possibility for centuries. In the West, the turning point was the development of biofeedback, which involves the use of mechanical or electronic devices to provide a person with visual or auditory information about what the body is doing. Put simply, it has been found that if a person can get clear, immediate feedback (such as a changing tone or flashing light) about some “involuntary” body function (such as blood pressure, brain waves, or skin temperature), before long he or she will be able noticeably to influence that function just by paying attention to it.
The key to voluntary control of the sphincter muscles, particularly the internal one, is a steady, accurate stream of information about what the muscle is doing. Happily, no electronic instruments are needed to provide this information. Your body is already equipped with a supersensitive biofeedback device that you can use at any moment—your finger. By inserting a finger into your anal canal, locating the two sphincters, and paying attention to the information your finger provides, you can learn to relax the muscles at will.
Before you begin to explore inside your anus, you should know that your anal canal and rectum normally contain little if any feces. Your rectum and anal canal are merely passageways for feces which, during a bowel movement, are moved by muscular waves called peristalsis out of the colon and into the rectum and out through the anal canal. Feces are not normally stored in the rectum for long periods of time. However, those who have learned to ignore the rectal reflex or whose feces are not well-formed are much more likely to encounter feces in the lower rectum, a situation that can be remedied by changes in diet and toilet habits.
Bathing is usually adequate for cleaning this area, especially when you learn to feel comfortable putting your finger in your anus as part of bathing or showering. If, however, you are concerned about cleanliness, you might want to give yourself an anal douche.