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Anatomy of the arse

Mon 17 Jan 2005 In: Safe Sex View at NDHA

It's official – anal sex is good for you. At least, according to the man behind The Arse Class, a one-day educational course to be held in Auckland in Feburary, and Christchurch in March. "There is some evidence to suggest that regular massaging of your prostate by whatever means can reduce the likelihood of prostate cancer," says Jock Scott, a volunteer trainer from Gay Men Fighting AIDS in London. "So if you ever needed a reason for getting a good shagging, then there you are. I offer it to you on a plate." This is the second Arse Class to be held in Auckland. Scott was in New Zealand late last year holding the inaugural Arse Class, which is limited to 24 participants. It was quickly booked out, as hordes of gay men clamoured to join the course which aims to teach you how to get more pleasure out of your nether regions. It's all educational, mind – there is no sexual activity involved in either this, or the separate companion course, Spice Up Your Sex Life, which Scott backgrounded for on his previous visit. This time, we've extended our voyeuristic curiosity to go deep inside the Arse Class, and find out just what participants can expect when they attend. The class was developed in London by Gay Men Fighting AIDS (GMFA). It was borne out of a recognition that a lot of men had had bad experiences with anal sex, and were intimidated by the social stigma surrounding it. The Arse Class was designed to identify what problems men were having, and to help rectify them – so to speak – in an open and friendly environment. So what were the common problems that GMFA uncovered? “It could be very domestic things like being dirty, some people don't want to engage in anal sex because they think it's going to be dirty,” says Scott. “It could be a medical condition, like piles for example, or it could be something that's happened to them in the past, which means they're not enjoying anal sex. It could be they have some sort of hang up about it being not manly to get fucked.” “Some men have got psychological problems, perhaps because they've been raped – that has come up in the courses we've given in London, the reason some men can't enjoy it is because their first experience was so traumatic for them. We recommend they seek appropriate counselling and deal with it in that way.” The course begins with twenty-four complete strangers in a room, armed with the knowledge that for the next seven hours they're going to be discussing and exchanging intimate anal information. How does Scott go about getting a bunch of Kiwi men, not renowned for their forthrightness, to – ahem – open up? “It was a concern I had when I ran the first class,” he admits. “But we have an icebreaker which shows people pictures, and we encourage them to say a bit more about things. Usually you'll find in the group there's somebody whose willing to take up the torch if somebody runs dry, it's about giving people the space to open up and feel comfortable with each other.” “We start by looking at guys having sex, and letting people say what they think about the sex that they're having. The aim of this is really so we can start talking about things in appropriate language for gay men – so we talk about cocks, we talk about arseholes. We dispel any embarrassment people might have talking about their sex organs and sex itself.” The movie “Kinsey,” recently opened in New Zealand, illustrates clearly how ignorant both the heterosexual and homosexual masses were in the 1940's about the mechanics of sex. When it comes to gay men and anal sex, despite decades of social progress, that ignorance still exists, and works to inhibit many peoples' enjoyment of sex. To help bring participants up to speed, Scott's course moves on from the icebreaker to cover the elusive anatomy of the arse. “A lot of people have never covered that, you just don't do it at Biology 101 at school. They teach you a lot of other things, like how to dissect eyeballs and frogs, but they never tell you what the inside of your arse looks like.” It's a revealing journey through the various parts of the arse, and how they can interact in anal sex. At each stage, various pleasure techniques are discussed, starting with the area just outside the arse, the anal canal. “Those areas are very sensitive to touch, and to sensations of heat, cold and sensations of pressure. Fingering, rubbing, licking, all those things are fantastically enjoyable for men to play with.” From there, it's onto the rectum. “In there, you have less receptors, less nerve endings, and so what you're reacting to when you go deeper into the arse is sensations of bulk and pressure,” says Scott. “Your rectum is hugely expandable, and that's why, not just things the size of cocks, but bigger things can go in there too. We talk about butt plugs, we talk about dildos.” No journey into the arse would be complete without an examination of the holy grail of rectal odysseys, the prostate gland. “I think this is the classic item on the anatomy of the arse. The prostate gland is the male g-spot if you like, and by learning where that is, you can actually give your partner an orgasm just by massaging it in the right way.” Size isn't important for our friend the prostate. Big dicks may look good, but even a small member rubbing against the gland of joy is worthwhile. “A little cock rubbing against your prostate gland is going to give you a fantastic orgasm as much as a huge cock going deep inside your arse.” For those interested in attaining that cow-giving-birth feeling, fisting is also discussed. “We don't discuss it to any great extent, some guys will be interested in it, the bulk of people will not, but we mention that it's certainly possible and how it can be done. Fisting and bigger toys take you beyond the third sphincter, which is called the sigmoid colon.” And now for a brief diversion into scatology, for it is behind the sigmoid colon that shit is stored. Now, before you spit the coffee back into the cup and close the browser window, thinking we're giving you too much information, do stay with us. It's vital in dispelling some rather puritanical myths about the arse that have been instilled in us since childhood. “One of the key things we tell people is that our arses are not generally dirty. Unless we've got some sort of medical condition, the rectum is empty. It's cleaner than your mouth,” says Scott. “There's no shit lying immediately behind your arsehole. It's all up behind the sigmoid colon. It's only when you're ready to go and have a shit that shit descends into your rectum and is ready to be expelled. A lot of people don't even know that.” It's this belief that leads some people to excessive use of douches, which is not good for you. “It's probably better not to do it for the simple reason that lining the rectum is something called rectal mucus. It's like the stuff you find in your throat which aids swallowing. Rectal mucus has a very important function – it lubricates stools when they drop out your sigmoid colon, through your rectum, and out into the world.” Scott says you should only douche in moderation. “It shouldn't be done on a daily basis, absolutely certainly not, but if you've got a big date lined up, and you've had concerns about being dirty in the past, and you want to do it on the odd occasion, that's absolutely fine.” The course covers some simple douching methods. “Some gentle douching can be easily done with a small quantity of water. What we have to dispel is some of the ideas people have that you have to stick a hosepipe up there, and pour half a reservoir of water up your arse to get yourself clean. It's not the case.” Beyond the anatomy, there's also an examination of what gets in the way of enjoying anal sex. “We look at that in a physical and psychological sense, and then we look at how those can be remedied. Some can be short term. If it's simply that your arsehole clamps up the minute a dick comes toward you, you can do some deep breathing exercises,” Scott says. “But if you have other problems like diarrhoea, constipation, anal warts, you need to seek medical help. Being aware of your body and how it's behaving is very important in those circumstances.” Pain, discomfort, and social stigma. These are three areas that prevent men from engaging in, or enjoying, anal sex. Scott feels that porn films are to blame for some of this – they give people a false impression of what it's actually like, and how easy it is. For men that experience pain during anal sex, it's probably because they're not learning to relax their muscles properly, and this is potentially dangerous. “In your anal canal are the anal pillows, and these have to deflate before anything can go up there. Contained within the anal pillows are a lot of blood, and often when guys see some blood when they've been fucked, it's often from the anal pillows.” This helps to explain why safe sex – fucking with a condom – is vital to prevent transmission of HIV. “The anal pillows are supplied by capillaries. These have no way of filtering out any agents which are introduced into the body. So if an HIV carrying agent – blood or cum – is introduced into the anal canal the capillaries will suck it straight into the body and it can lead to HIV being transmitted.” So, learning to relax is essential. “Physiologically, the anatomy of the arse can be opened up. It's perfectly possible when somebody's under a general anaesthetic, for example, for a surgeon to put two hands up your arsehole. It can expand. It has that elasticity. There are lots of way you can relax your arse muscles if you want to be fucked, fingered, dildo-ed, etc.” But what about those residual feelings of guilt? We're bombarded from childhood with the message that homosexuality involves “unnatural acts”. Even the most well-adjusted of us can struggle with the idea that anal sex is something that we're not “designed” to engage in. "I think we all learned as children that our arseholes were dirty, that's where shit comes out of, therefore it was dirty," says Scott. "However having said that, would something that was so pleasurable not be permissible? The fact is, we have our prostate gland there, and having that massaged is so enjoyable for so many men." At the end of the day, though, Scott is not an evangelist of the arse. He's not looking to convert anyone. "This course is for men who are interested in having anal sex, we're not trying to get men to all open up their arses and get rogered by anyone who wants to," he says. “What we're saying is if you're interested in being fucked, and you have experienced difficulties in the past – come along and see what we've got to offer." The Arse Class will be held at Lateshift Auckland on Saturday February 5th from 11am to 6pm, and at Menfriends Christchurch on Saturday March 19th (same hours). The course is limited to 24 participants, with a fee of $20. You can book through the NZ AIDS Foundation on 303-3124 or email to reserve your place. Chris Banks - 17th January 2005    

Credit: Chris Banks

First published: Monday, 17th January 2005 - 12:00pm

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