Is anal training the latest pandemic trend?

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All of us have struggled with how to spend our increased alone time during the pandemic. Remember back in March when everyone was baking, and flour became as coveted as male feminists on Tinder? Well, unlike those carb-loving hipsters, some people are actually using their time during lockdown wisely. And by wisely, I mean they are learning to do something new. And by learning something new, I mean they are learning to take it in the ass.

“I decided to use my time in quarantine to train,” an anonymous gay man in San Francisco told Dan Savage on the Savage Love podcast on Monday. In case you’re confused, this man was not calling into a sex podcast to report that he was amping up his cardio routine. What he meant was that he was stretching his anus to accomodate a girthy partner. Some people are, apparently, optimistically prepping for ass play once we’re not scared of each other’s germs anymore.

The man’s description of his process was downright inspiring. “I bought myself a medium-sized egg-shaped butt plug and worked with that for a while and then graduated up to a six-inch suction cup dildo — six inch girth, by the way,” he said. If you’ve ever experimented with butt stuff, I don’t need to tell you what a massive accomplishment this is. If you’ve never experimented with butt stuff, fears of what might happen if you plunge something six inches wide in your butt is probably why.

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Savage is savvy, though, and he responded with the appropriate praise. “You trained your hole to take your fuckbuddy’s enormous dick,” Savage said. “Good for you for making productive use of your time in quarantine, just like Shakespeare, Boccaccio, and Sir Issac Newton,” referring to other men who have achieved monumental tasks during plague situations.

This is not the only instance I’ve heard about folx who are anal training during lockdown. You can judge, but to me, stretching your ass for the pleasure it can bring both now and in the future seems like exceptional self care. “This pandemic has given me time to explore anal stimulation on my own terms, separate from the pressure and insecurity of in-person encounters,” Bobby Box wrote in a personal essay on Xtra, a queer Canadian news outlet. Box said he wanted to reach some next-level orgasms and to proactively prep his body for when he could have sex with other people again.

In both of these cases, anal training gives people a way to feel good now and it also sets them up to receive new kinds of pleasure in the future. This is important because recent studies show that people who are trying new sexual things during the pandemic are happier than other people. This, in combination with the fact that the popularity of anal play has been on the upswing in the last ten years, made me wonder if anal training is a pandemic trend or if my thirsty ass just wants it to be.

While it does seem to be true that butt-stuff lovers the world over are using their time in lockdown to get ready for a new normal, it can be hard to quantify the popularity of sexual behaviors. Still, according to a study of pandemic sexual behavior, about 7% of people have newly experimented with solo anal stimulation during this time and it ranks ninth on the list of new sexual things people have tried by themselves. That is not an insignificant increase, since a study in 2017 reported that only about 40% of people were into anal.

Retail sales trends reports aren’t exactly clinical research, but they do provide some fascinating insight. In this case, they indicate that people have been getting more into butt stuff during the pandemic. Katy Zvolerin, a rep for sex retail giant Adam and Eve, told Mel Magazine 8 months ago that people were panic hoarding anal toys and planning to use lockdown to “explore some backdoor curiosities.” Maybe butt toy shortages didn’t make the news the way that other shortages did, but to be fair, unlike TP, buttplugs are reusable.

“Yes, we are selling more plugs,” say Carol Queen, co-founder of the Center for Sex & Culture in San Francisco, staff sexologist at Good Vibrations, an education-oriented sex shop chain in California, and co-creator of the anal instructional series Bend Over Boyfriend. Queen also wants people to know that folks new to anal play should get educated in addition to buying toys. “Stretching isn't the full secret to anal and it can be harmful if not done with info and care,” she says.

Does that make anal training a pandemic trend or is it just something that already sexually adventurous folks are checking off their to-do lists? No one can say for sure if we, as a people, are newly ass-curious or if those who were already curious now have the time to stretch their sphincters. Either way, it’s heartening that people are achieving your sexual goals. Or, as the anonymous caller on Savage Love said, “If you can see it, you can be it.”