How Common Is Anal Sex (Frequency By Age)

Heterosexual Americans have anal sex about 2.6 times per month on average and among those aged 15 to 44, 34% of men and 30% of women have had anal sex.
split screen image with a bar graph on the left depicting that 34% of heterosexual men and 30% of heterosexual woman have anal sex with a rear view photograph of a woman's denim-clad butt on the right, anal sex concept
Updated:October 2023

Among heterosexuals between the ages of 15 to 44 years old, 30% of women and 34% of men have had anal sex at some point in their lifetimes.

Anal play, including pegging, is becoming increasingly normative despite once being considered taboo.

Key Statistics To Know:

  • Among heterosexuals aged 15 to 44, 34% of men and 30% of women had engaged in anal sex. [1]
  • On average, Americans have anal sex about 2.6 times per month, with those who identify as straight having anal sex about 1.9 times each month. [4]
  • American men have anal sex an average of 3.13 times per month. [4]
  • American women have anal sex an average of 1.66 times per month. [4]
  • Those who identify as gay or lesbian reported having anal sex about 6.9 times per month. [4]
  • One study found that 38% of heterosexual women reported having unprotected anal sex during the previous year. [10]
  • The risk for HIV transmission is 18 times higher for receptive anal sex compared to receptive vaginal sex. [9]
  • As of this writing, sodomy laws still exist in 12 states. [17]

In this article, we will share statistics and data on how common anal sex is among various demographics (including orientations), when they experience anal intercourse for the first time, STI risks, and the American states where the activity is technically illegal.

How Common Is Anal Sex?

bar graph depicting that among heterosexuals aged 15 to 44 years old, 34% of men and 30% of women reported having anal sex at some point during their lifetimes
  • In a study of heterosexuals aged 15 to 44, 34% of men and 30% of women had engaged in anal sex. [1]
  • An estimated 25 to 38% of men and 16-33% of women engaged in heterosexual anal intercourse at some point during their lifetimes. [1, 2]
  • One study found that 36% of women and 44% of men 25–44 years old in the United States reported having heterosexual anal intercourse in their lifetime. [3]
  • One survey found that on average, Americans have anal sex about 2.6 times per month, with those who identify as straight having anal sex about 1.9 times each month. [4]
  • Those who identify as gay or lesbian reported having anal sex about 6.9 times per month, although the study didn’t differentiate between the two groups. [4]
  • Among Americans, 11.9% are “very uncomfortable” discussing anal sex, 21.3% are “somewhat uncomfortable” discussing anal sex, 22.4% are neutral about the topic, 25.3% are “somewhat comfortable” discussing anal sex, and 19% are “very comfortable” discussing anal sex. [4]
  • Between 2009 and 2015, Pornhub reported a 120% increase in searches for anal intercourse in the US and a 78% increase globally. [5]

BDSM and alternative sexuality researcher, DJ Williams, recently published a study on pegging and explained that “We don’t have much science on heterosexual anal intercourse.”

“That research is kind of flawed,” he added, citing that a lot of it “doesn’t really separate who’s receptive and who’s giving.”

While anal sex was once taboo, it is becoming increasingly normative.

Whether or not they actually have anal sex, many couples will broach the topic at least once in their relationship.

Although not all gay men have anal sex, they probably do it significantly more than lesbians.

Though of course, lesbians can enjoy anal play as well, we’d estimate it at a lower rate than gay men.

What Age Do People Start Having Anal Sex?

bar graph depicting that among those who have had anal sex, 36.7% of men and 29.7% of women report having their first anal sex experience before the age of 20
  • One 2019 study found that among males, the first experience with anal sex before the age of 20 was as follows: 19 years old (4.9%), 18 years old (6.5%), 17 years old (7.1%), 16 years old (4.7%), 15 years old or younger (13.5%). [6]
  • The same 2019 study found that among females, the first experience with anal sex before the age of 20 was as follows: 19 years old (4.4%), 18 years old (6.7%), 17 years old (7.4%), 16 years old (4.5%), 15 years old or younger (6.7%). [6]
  • Only 1 out of 10 adolescents reported anal intercourse before the age of 18 in a 2012 study. [7]
  • 16-24-year-old individuals participating in anal intercourse in Britain rose from 12.5% to 28.5% over the course of 12 years. [8]

Longitudinal data highlight a sizable increase in anal sex among adolescents between roughly 2010 and 2020.

Many still abstain, and others wait until they are older.

Nonetheless, a noticeable trend is present and future data will reveal whether this trend continues or stagnates, as a decrease seems unlikely.

How Many Women Have Anal Sex (Or Like It)?

bar graph depicting that on average, american women overall have anal sex 1.7 times per month
  • American women have anal sex an average of 1.66 times per month. [4]
  • In a study of those aged 15 to 44, 30% of women had engaged in anal sex at some point in their lives. [1]
  • One study found that women who reported being attracted “mostly to the opposite sex” (59.5%) were more likely to have had anal sex with an opposite-sex partner compared to women who were attracted “only to the opposite sex” (32.3%). [13]
  • In a small study of 32 women, 9% reported “desire to avoid vaginal sex” [while on period] as a reason for preferring anal sex. [14]
  • In the same study, 28% reported engaging in anal sex “to please her partner.” [14]
  • In the same study of 32 women, 49% reported having anal sex because they had a personal desire for it. [14]
  • In the same study, 62.5% of women reported being “under the influence of drugs or alcohol” as the reason for engaging in anal sex. [14]
  • In the same study, 53% of women reported they did not want anal sex but did not feel comfortable saying no, where anal sex “was not something she decided to do in any conscious way.” [14]
  • In the same study, 31% of women said that anal intercourse was enjoyable. [14]

There are numerous studies that find bisexual women to be more sexually adventurous than most.

The thought is that questioning one’s sexual orientation and being open to more than one gender seems to be associated with a general openness to diverse sexual experiences, including anal sex.

Receptive anal sex can be highly pleasurable for many women, regardless of orientation.

Unfortunately, however, pleasure is only one of the reasons women have anal sex.

Sometimes implicit or explicit pressure from a partner, or a sense one can’t say no, leads women to engage in anal sex they do not want.

Unwanted anal sex can increase the risk of tearing and pain.

How Many Men Have Anal Sex (Or Like It)?

  • American men have anal sex an average of 3.13 times per month. [4]
  • In a study of those aged 15 to 44, 34% of men had engaged in anal sex at some point in their lives. [1]
  • One study of undergraduate men found that 24% had received some form of anal stimulation. [15]
  • One study of young men aged 16-18 in the UK found that among the primary reasons to engage in anal sex (as the giver), men “wanted to copy what they saw in pornography” along with the implication that a woman’s anus was tighter and thus more pleasurable in comparison to her vagina. [16]
  • That same study of young men aged 16-18 in the UK reported that in group discussion, the male participants said that anal sex was “something we do for a competition.” [16]

While anyone can enjoy anal sex, men and women tend to engage in this act for different reasons.

Some young men’s rationale for anal sex is concerning and could easily lead to objectifying a partner — hence, the need for better sex education that includes information on communication and consent.

Further, while we culturally tend to assume that in heterosexual anal play, men are the givers, research shows that men enjoy various forms of anal stimulation as well.

STI Risks Of Anal Sex Statistics

donut chart depicting that collectively, multiple studies examining anal sex and condom use found that 25% or less of respondents use condoms during anal sex consistently
  • Although difficult to track given the range of sexual activities a person engages in (and which led to infection, if one occurs), the risk of HIV transmission is 3 to 23 times higher for receptive anal sex (being on the receiving end of penetration) compared to insertive anal sex (being on the “giving” end of anal penetration.) [9]
  • The risk for HIV transmission is 18 times higher for receptive anal sex compared to receptive vaginal sex. [9]
  • One study found that 38% of heterosexual women reported having unprotected anal sex during the previous year. [10]
  • One study that examined multiple research papers found that “25% or less of respondents consistently use condoms for anal sex.” [1]
  • Among men who have sex with other men, the lifetime risk for HIV infection is 1 in 6, compared to heterosexual men’s risk at 1 in 24, in part due to higher rates of receptive anal intercourse. [11]
  • Among men who have sex with other men, “rectal gonorrhea and chlamydia are associated with HIV infection” and those with recurring rectal infections may be at an even higher risk for acquiring HIV. [11]
  • In a survey of 4,000 Americans, individuals on the receiving end of anal intercourse experience higher rates of fecal incontinence than givers or those who abstain. 9.9% of women and 11.6% of men who have had receptive anal intercourse reported fecal incontinence compared to 7.4% of women and 5.3% of men without receptive anal experience. [12]

Receptive anal sex is substantially more risky for the transmission of STIs because the anal tissue is very thin and delicate.

Many individuals do not use protection for anal sex, though notably because some may reserve anal for intimate, monogamous relationships, condoms may not be needed if both parties have been tested.

Anal Sex Is Against The Law In How Many States

vector map graphic depicting states that have sodomy laws prohibiting anal sex: texas, oklahoma, kansas, louisiana, mississippi, kentucky, michigan, florida, georgia, south carolina, north carolina, and massachusetts

Despite sodomy laws being struck down in 2003, some states have legal codes that remain in place prohibiting anal sex, with some (such as North Carolina) listing it as a Class I felony [17]:

  1. Florida (Fld. Stat. 800.02.)
  2. Georgia (O.C.G.A. § 16-6-2)
  3. Kansas (Kan. Stat. 21-3505.)
  4. Kentucky (KY Rev Stat § 510.100.)
  5. Louisiana (R.S. 14:89.)
  6. Massachusetts (MGL Ch. 272, § 34.) (MGL Ch. 272, § 35.) – 2023 repeal bill
  7. Michigan (MCL § 750.158.) (MCL § 750.338.) (MCL § 750.338a.) (MCL § 750.338b.) – 2023 partial repeal bill
  8. Mississippi (Miss. Code § 97-29-59.)
  9. North Carolina (G.S. § 14-177.)
  10. Oklahoma (§21-886.)
  11. South Carolina (S.C. Code § 16-15-60.)
  12. Texas (Tx. Penal Code § 21.06.)

Despite the fact that anal sex is technically illegal in many states, we wouldn’t worry too much about the police knocking on your door.

What happens in privacy is, well, private!

However, having anal sex in these states more publicly, or on video, may be more cause for concern.

Sources:

  1. Prevalence and Correlates of Heterosexual Anal and Oral Sex in Adolescents and Adults in the United States
  2. Sexual behavior and selected health measures: men and women 15-44 years of age, United States, 2002
  3. Sexual behavior, sexual attraction, and sexual identity in the United States: data from the 2006-2008 National Survey of Family Growth
  4. How Often Americans Have Anal Sex
  5. It’s All Coming Up Anal
  6. Home Base: Family of Origin Factors and the Debut of Vaginal Sex, Anal Sex, Oral Sex, Masturbation, and Pornography Use in a National Sample of Adolescents
  7. Sexual Timetables for Oral-Genital, Vaginal, and Anal Intercourse: Sociodemographic Comparisons in a Nationally Representative Sample of Adolescents – PMC
  8. Heterosexual Practices Among Young People in Britain: Evidence From Three National Surveys of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles – PMC
  9. Putting a Number on It: The Risk from an Exposure to HIV
  10. Unprotected Anal Intercourse and Sexually Transmitted Diseases in High-Risk Heterosexual Women
  11. Detection Of STIs In Special Populations (MSM)
  12. Anal Intercourse and Fecal Incontinence: Evidence from the 2009–2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey
  13. Sexual Behavior, Sexual Attraction, and Sexual Orientation Among Adults Aged 18–44 in the United States: Data From the 2011–2013 National Survey of Family Growth
  14. Why Women Engage in Anal Intercourse: Results from a Qualitative Study – PMC
  15. Relaxing the straight male anus: Decreasing homohysteria around anal eroticism
  16. Anal heterosex among young people and implications for health promotion: a qualitative study in the UK
  17. The Supreme Court Struck Down Sodomy Laws 20 Years Ago. Some Still Remain.