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Ask Dr. Laura: Anal Douching and Feminist Porn

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By Dr. Laura McGuire

Welcome to the first edition of my column! I’m so thrilled and honored to be part of your sexual empowerment. This month, we will discuss the wonders of anal douching and feminist porn. Please remember, we need you to email your questions! This is a partnership, Houston—50/50, people! I can’t wait to hear your thoughts and further questions. Ask me anything at [email protected].

Dear Dr. Laura,

Is excessive anal douching hazardous to a person’s health—and specifically to a man’s health?

Dear Dynamic Doucher,

Great question—though I honestly think all sexuality questions are great questions! Douching is such a common practice for all genders, both vaginally and anally. It’s easy to imagine that if everyone you know is doing something, it must be safe. The thing about the human body is that it is very smart and doesn’t do well when we try to interrupt its natural awesomeness.

As a doula, I see problems with childbirth all the time. People think they can outsmart the body with technology and procedures. This is very often done in the name of hygiene or safety, and while those are good intentions, they almost always have the opposite effect. So back to your question on douching—I am sorry to tell you it is the same thing there, my friend. Your anus/vagina is mad smart and fabulous. As long as you eat right, exercise, and bathe externally, your body will do all the internal cleaning. If you interrupt that, you get some pretty horrible effects.

Let’s “sex geek out” for a second, okay? Lots of research has come to one very real and scary conclusion—regular douching can greatly increase your risk of multiple infections and STIs (see citations). Yep, what you thought was making you “cleaner” is actually going to break down the very important natural barriers your body has in place and open you up to the real “dirty” stuff. Your anus and vagina do a pretty incredible job of coating themselves in good bacteria that kills bad bacteria, and also in producing lovely mucus that makes your skin tissues supple and stretchy and therefore way less likely to tear and say, “Hey bacteria, I’m wide open.”

So I know what you are probably thinking: “But what can I do to feel clean?” Another great question! First of all, to clear out as much fecal matter (poop) as possible from the anus, eat lots of fiber and get regular exercise. This will take everything out in a clean swoop each time you use the toilet. Other than that, shower with a very mild fragrance-free soap and gently wash the outside of your anus with your finger to remove any fecal particles left behind (pun intended).

Now you may still be like, “Girl, you crazy—no one will be okay with getting their freak on with me if there is even a trace amount of poop still there.” Again, great point! If you grew up in the Western world, then you grew up with 200-year-old puritanical ideas about the human body and sexuality. This means what is natural and normal in sex is often painted as dirty or messy or nasty, when it’s not at all. You are having sex—it is messy and smelly and sweaty and noisy, and that’s wonderful. Anal sex involves anuses (yeah, shocker—I know), and anuses involve poop (again, I know I’m hitting you with some serious knowledge). What we really need to do is stop hating the intensity and complexity of human sexual expression. Save your money on douching and buy some really great silicone-based lube (the best for anal sex) and buy whatever is going to relax you and make you feel like the total badass (pun intended) in bed that you are. You and your anus are worth it!

In sex positivity,

Dr. Laura McGuire

Sex Geekery:

Winkelstein, W., Lyman, D. M., Padian, N., Grant, R., Samuel, M., Wiley, J. A., … & Levy, J. A. (1987). Sexual practices and risk of infection by the human immunodeficiency virus: the San Francisco Men’s Health Study.Jama257(3), 321-325.

Fonck, K., Kaul, R., Keli, F., Bwayo, J. J., Ngugi, E. N., Moses, S., & Temmerman, M. (2001). Sexually transmitted infections and vaginal douching in a population of female sex workers in Nairobi, Kenya. Sexually transmitted infections77(4), 271-275.

Carballo-Diéguez, A., Bauermeister, J. A., Ventuneac, A., Dolezal, C., Balan, I., & Remien, R. H. (2008). The use of rectal douches among HIV-uninfected and infected men who have unprotected receptive anal intercourse: implications for rectal microbicides. AIDS and Behavior12(6), 860-866. 

Dear Dr. Laura,

What is the difference between ethical/feminist porn and regular porn? Where are the best places to find ethical/feminist porn?

Dear Frisky Feminist,

Thanks for asking this amazing question! If I were to make a list of my favorite things to discuss and debate, it would probably go: pizza (the greatest of all foods); which Star Trek has the best captain (hint: no debate, it’s Picard—sorry, Janeway); structural inequality; intersectional social justice; and feminist porn. Yes! So let’s boldly go where this column has never gone before…

Let’s first discuss the very word “porn.” Porn is short for pornography, and pornography means to depict prostitution; from the Greek words “porni” (prostitute) and “graphein” (to write). Yeah, not that empowering, right? That’s why a lot of feminists prefer the word “erotica,” which is derived from the Greek word “eros,” which means “love.” Awwww, so much sweeter. But sex isn’t always lovely and sweet and covered in roses and bubbles. Sometimes it’s visceral and raw and vulnerable and powerful in ways that sweep us away like a riptide. So what word do we use? Well, you can use either, but since most people are more familiar with the term “porn,” many third-wave feminists have reclaimed it and differentiated their sexual imagery by calling it “feminist” or “ethical” porn.

Porn is everywhere. Look over there! And there! And over there, too! See, it’s everywhere. Despite what some oldies tout, there really were never any “good old days” when everything was sterile and sex free. Pornography in many forms has been around since people could draw. The minute our ancestors invented paint, they immediately sat around the bonfire and said, “Oh, gee whiz, what images should we depict with this? I know—sex!” In every continent going back to prehistory, you will find graphic depictions of sexual organs and sex acts. There also has never been a period of history where people didn’t create pornographic images. And why shouldn’t they? Sexual imagery is as common and natural as enjoying and depicting the foods we love, the animals and plants around us, and self-portraits (the original selfies). People generally like sex, have sex, and want to document this in some artistic way.

In the 1980s, a number of cool things came along: Boy George, Reading Rainbow, me, and feminist pornography. The culture wars were blazing, and some feminists were joining forces with evangelical Christians in saying that pornography was pure evil. They certainly had some good points—many people were being abused by pornographers and forced to do things they didn’t consent to or desire to be a part of. But other feminists felt this desexualized their identities as humans and forged a different path. Instead of demonizing sex, desire, and sexual expression, they said, “What if we celebrate sexuality by depicting it in empowering and ethical ways?” Since the 1980s, a number of pioneers have created a foundation of values and objectives for porn that reflects feminist values. These include:

Ethics: One of the biggest problems with mainstream pornography is that the performers are often mistreated in multiple and compounding ways. From consent to safety to pay, many of the mainstream pornographers do little to protect and provide for their employees. If you use mostly “free porn” sites, you are likely contributing to the denigration of sex-worker job rights and pay. Sex work is real work, and making sure performers are paid well and able to negotiate on every level is vital to the social justice of porn and sexuality. 

Consent: Consent culture as a paradigm is relatively new to most of the planet and yet completely crucial to holistic sexual wellness. In feminist pornography, consent is seen before, during, and after a scene. Directors and performers discuss all aspects of what is being consented to before anything happens. During scenes, you will see performers genuinely discussing boundaries and continuing to check in with each other. Afterward, the performers are interviewed about their feelings and reflections about what thoughts and feelings they were having while performing.

Safety: For sex to be ethical and empowering, safety for all parties must be paramount. Safer-sex practices are used throughout scenes and discussed as part of the ongoing foundation of consent.

Intersectional Inclusion: Much of mainstream pornography fetishizes, mocks, and degrades identities. Feminist porn, on the other hand, includes, acknowledges, and celebrates all identities, but particularly marginalized groups. It normalizes all forms of consensual sexuality and thus empowers viewers to see genuine depictions of a myriad of sexual expressions. Feminist porn shows viewers that all cultural, racial, physical abilities, body shapes/sizes, and gender expressions a person may have are an honored facet of a person’s sexuality, and not something to fetishize or desexualize.

Pleasure: Genuine sexual pleasure is so rarely depicted in our modern Western culture. Even more rare is the depiction of genuine sexual pleasure for women, transgender people, non-binary people, and differently-abled people. That’s why so many people don’t even know what sex and pleasure could really look or feel like for themselves or their partners. That’s horrible! Feminist porn shows pleasure without theatrics and as a normal, natural, and mutual experience.

Now that I have whet your appetite (pun intended) for feminist porn, where can you find this gold mine of sexy awesomeness? While there are many resources, a few of my favorites are:

Crash Pad Series

The Clit List

The Feminist Porn Awards

If you want to read more, check out The Feminist Porn Book: Politics of Producing Pleasure.

Happy viewing!

In sex positivity,

Dr. Laura

Dr. Laura McGuire is a sexologist and recent Houston transplant. She completed her doctoral dissertation on sexuality education, is certified as a doula, and is certified as a sexuality educator through the American Association of Sexuality Educators Counselors and Therapists.

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Laura McGuire

Dr. Laura McGuire is certified as a sexuality educator through the American Association of Sexuality Educators Counselors and Therapists.

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