Anal heterosex among young people and implications for health promotion: a qualitative study in the UK


Marston, Cicely; and Lewis, Ruth


2014 in BMJ Open

  • This longitudinal, qualitative study found that young people's narratives surrounding anal sex often encourage coercion, pain, and other risky behaviors. Additionally, the study found that young people often attribute these narratives to pornography, as it can normalize sexual behaviors and attitudes.
Objective: To explore expectations, experiences and circumstances of anal sex among young people.

Design: Qualitative, longitudinal study using individual and group interviews.

Participants: 130 men and women aged 16–18 from diverse social backgrounds.

Setting: 3 contrasting sites in England (London, a northern industrial city, rural southwest).

Results: Anal heterosex often appeared to be painful, risky and coercive, particularly for women. Interviewees frequently cited
  • "The main reasons given for young people having anal sex were that men wanted to copy what they saw in pornography, and that ‘it's tighter’. The implication was that ‘tighter’ was better for men and was something men were said to want, while women were expected to find anal sex painful, particularly the first time."
  • "Interviewees frequently cite pornography as the ‘explanation’ for anal sex, yet only seem to see this as a motivation for men. A fuller picture of why women and men engage in anal sex emerges from their accounts."
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