Since coming out, I’ve explored all aspects of my sexuality and never once has my asshole been able to self-lubricate. And yet, so many report the ability to do so. Of course, my first impression is to brush these human dispensers off as braggy bottoms with something to prove. But I started hearing it so frequently from friends and my online communities that I wondered if I was making a biological assumption. So I looked into it.
A quick Google search reveals this is something of an unconfirmed phenomena. Many online sources like Reddit, Go Ask Alice, Data Lounge, and Girls Ask Guys all contain genuine queries from men and women saying that they or their partners’ can anally self-lubricate. “I’m a 19-year-old guy and whenever I get aroused my ass gets really wet. It’s not shit, when I wipe it’s clear. What the fuck is wrong with my ass?” one Reddit user writes. “Recently I noticed that I don’t need to add lube. If I finger my ass (with no lube at all, not even spit—raw finger) it lubes itself and then I can shove anything in there. Is it okay?” writes another.
The collective eye roll from those of us with dry assholes may not be entirely warranted. According to Nicole Prause, scientist at the sexual biotechnology company Liberos, the anus does produce a lubricative film along the anal wall in order to move feces through the rectum.
“Anorectal cells innately produce some mucus that can be thought of as having an element of lubrication,” Dr. Evan Goldstein, D.O. and CEO of Bespoke Surgical, a practice specializing in gay men’s sexual health and wellness, explains to me. “At the distal junction of the anus, two differing cell types meet and form a seam. At this location, there are glands that secrete mucus. With any high-pressure action, any assistance to decrease and disperse the force is essential to function.”
Scientifically speaking, anal lubricant comes from anal ducts when the rectum is distended by the presence of feces. The rectum is also distended by the presence of a penis during anal intercourse, which may cause increased production of this natural lubricant, albeit not designed for intercourse. That is, your body feels sensations that communicates we might need to poop and gets prepared to do that.
When these gland produce excessive amounts of fluid, they can get clogged, leading to anal abscesses (a collection of puss near the anus) and localized infection. Goldstein says these infections are becoming more common among gay men, since we tend to douche prior to anal intercourse, which causes irritation. “Douching with water (tap or bottled) or with enemas can lead to cellular irritation, destruction, and then elevated mucosal lubrication,” Dr. Goldstein says, adding that Fleet enemas—saline laxative enemas—tend to cause more mucus production as the irritation is greater.
“I’ve felt like it might have been lubricant or just some leakage,” Ben, 26, tells me over Instagram DM, adding that at times he considered visiting a doctor. “When I do bottom, I definitely self-lubricate,” writes Xavior, 29 also via Instagram. In speaking with people who believed they self-lubricate, they were very reserved with what they were willing to share. For the most part, they’d say they could and that’s all they’d detail. I wasn’t sure if this was because it was a graphic topic, or rather that they, too, believe this ability to be supposedly impossible. “There are definitely people who say they can or actually do secrete more excrement, Dr. Goldstein confirms, but insists this is due to irritation or possibly even STIs. “Inducing blooming, or its later stages of overt rectal prolapse, has been called the ‘anal cumming’ for a reason,” Goldstein adds. “People love it, but again, it’s the stress in the area that leads to these initial benefits, yet eventual complications.”
Both Goldstein and Prause recommend lube for anal play—it won’t cut it. “Whenever and wherever someone uses saliva, using spit alone elevates the potential risk of injury, as well as the possibilities of STDs,” Goldstein says. “Saliva in and of itself does not provide the appropriate lubricity to decrease friction during anal sex. These increased pressures lead to the possibility of tearing localized tissue (i.e. anal fissures) and the formation of dilated veins (i.e. hemorrhoids), and a possible result of either or both of these is a higher incidence of contracting STD’s. Anal sex, unfortunately, is traumatic and the way to minimize any complication is to use appropriate lubricants.”
However, he mentions that “trendy lubricants” such as those with cooling and warming capabilities, should be avoided as they are a known irritant and are not designed for anal sex. (More mucus!) Desensitizing lubes, unless physician recommended for specific situations, should be avoided, as well. As for how much you should use, it’s totally variable and multifactorial. “Anal skin and the anal canal can change just like any other part of our body and one may need more or less depending on the day,” Goldstein says. “You just have to play to determine your level of usage based on your level of pleasure.”
So the truth is, while people can indeed produce some element of natural lubrication, to skip out on supplimental lubricant can come with significant cost and potential long-term health implications. According to Goldstein, the friction of anal penetration can lead to the glands swelling, irritation, and malfunction. “Yes, [this can happen to] all defecating humans by chance, but anal play and the way we prepare for sex can initiate these negative consequences,” he says. “It’s mucosal food for thought!”