What is the Bible's view of anal sex generally? Is it alright to engage in it in marriage? Is there scriptural basis to reject anal sex?
The Bible does not say anything about anal sex between and husband and wife in marriage. The same situation also exists regarding self-masturbation and oral sex in marriage. However, there are biblical principles that provide some guidelines. First we will examine evidence provided by psychologists and medical authorities and conclude by looking at what the Bible says about anal sex in marriage.
Advice of Sexual Therapists and Psychologists
Dr. Clifford and Joyce Penner are international sexual therapists, educators, and authors. Joyce Penner is a registered nurse and holds a master’s degree in psychosomatic nursing and nursing education from UCLA. Dr. Clifford is a clinical psychologist, earned an M.A. in theology from Fuller Theological Seminary and holds a Ph.D. from Fuller’s Graduate School of Psychology. They write the following about anal sex in their highly rated book about sex in marriage,
Anal sex, the penis entering the woman’s anus, is dangerous. The anus is highly contaminated, whereas the reproductive tract is sterile in men and clean in women. When the penis enters the anus, there is high risk of infections and prostate problems [for men]. If the penis enters the vagina after having been in the anus, the woman’s reproductive tract can easily become infected. In addition, the rectum is not designed for entry and thrusting. The small blood vessels along the wall of the anus and rectum break. We do not recommend anal sex.
Dr. Douglass E. Rosenau is a licensed psychologist, marriage and family therapist and certified sex therapist. He writes this about anal sex,
One of the obsessions I commonly encounter is anal sex. The vaginal tissue, with its lubrication and muscle, was designed for childbirth and intercourse, but the anus was not. The anus was meant to push out waste, not sustain vigorous thrusting. With hemorrhoids and the fragility of the rectal tissue, it is better not to make it an organ of sexual play. Also, the many bacteria in the anus can interfere with the bacteria in the vagina and cause infections. Let go of your fetishes and obsessions, so they don’t destroy your ability to really have fun.
Contrary to the current and increasing popularity of anal sex, these professionals warn against having anal sex. They warn of damage to the wife’s anus and infection to her genitals. Objective studies have demonstrated anal sex rarely results in orgasm for the wife and often results in pain, discomfort, infection and bleeding.
Advice of Medical Authorities
The Medical Institute of Sexual Health, an organization composed of numerous MDs and Phds, is committed to sexual health. In their article “The Consequences of Heterosexual Anal Sex for Women” they report the following:
Heterosexual anal intercourse predominantly impacts the health of young females as compared to young males. These same risks can affect women of any age. Some examples follow:
A) A small Guttmacher Institute study (28 women) from 2009 reports that 25% of the women interviewed had been forced into having anal intercourse at least once. It goes on to say, “Coercion and violence notwithstanding, many participants reported pain and discomfort, including emotional distress, during anal intercourse.” Furthermore, a qualitative study from the United Kingdom concludes, “Young people’s narratives normalized coercive, painful and unsafe anal heterosex. This study suggests an urgent need for harm reduction efforts targeting anal sex to help encourage discussion about mutuality and consent, reduce risky and painful techniques and challenge views that normalize coercion.” It is the woman who is being coerced and feels the pain.
B) Anal intercourse can eventually lead to fecal incontinence. A February 2016 study concludes: “The findings support the assessment of anal intercourse as a factor contributing to fecal incontinence in adults, especially among men.” In the case of heterosexual anal intercourse it is the woman who is at risk to develop fecal incontinence.
C) The American Cancer Society reports, “Receptive anal intercourse also increases the risk of anal cancer in both men and women, particularly in those younger than 30.”
In summary, the information provided shows receptive anal intercourse to be a very high-risk sexual activity for women as well as men: fecal incontinence, anal cancer, HIV infection, etc. Awareness of these substantial health risks can enable women of all ages to emphatically say no to anal intercourse.
The conclusion of the article is that anal sexual intercourse is a high-risk activity for women.
The highly regarded medical website WebMD also agrees with the above comments when it states this about anal sex,
An estimated 90% of men who have sex with men and as many as 5% to 10% of sexually active women engage in receptive anal intercourse.
Often referred to simply as anal sex, anal intercourse is sexual activity that involves inserting the penis into the anus. People may engage in anal intercourse, which has health risks, because the anus is full of nerve endings, making it very sensitive. For some recipients of anal sex, the anus can be an erogenous zone that responds to sexual stimulation. For the giving partner, the anus may provide a pleasing tightness around the penis.
While some people find anal sex enjoyable, the practice has downsides and requires special safety precautions.
It is important to note several facts. First, anal sex is primarily a male-with-male activity and not a male-with-female activity (see first paragraph). Second, health risks are cited once again. Third, anal sex provides pleasure to the male because the penis is squeezed more tightly by the anus muscle which increases the male’s pleasure during orgasm. If a wife decides to not participate in anal sexual activity, she could consider Kegel exercises to strength her vaginal muscles to provide greater pleasure to her husband during intercourse. Finally, WebMD warns against anal sexual activity and adds that special safety precautions should be followed if two people engage in anal sexual activity.
These authorities clearly reveal that anal sexual intercourse between a husband and wife is not only risky and not recommended, but they clearly state that the anus was not designed for entry by the penis. God designed the vagina for the penis. We will revisit this conclusion later.
Anal Sexual Intercourse in the Bible
The term “anal sex” or “anal sexual intercourse” does not occur in the Bible. Anal sex historically has been included in the definition of the word “sodomy.” The term “sodomy” includes both anal and oral sexual intercourse. The highly regarded Shorter Oxford English Dictionary defines sodomy as,
Any form of sexual intercourse with a person of the same or opposite sex, except for copulation: spec. anal intercourse.
It should be noted that the dictionary defines copulation as physical union of male and female genitals (penis in vagina). Therefore, the definition states that sodomy is any form of non-vaginal intercourse, and more specifically to anal sex. Consequently, sodomy includes the insertion of the penis into the anus of either a male or female.
The word “sodomy” can be traced back to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19) where it is clear from Genesis 19 that the men of the city wanted to engage in sexual activity with two angels. When Lot offered the men of the city his two daughters, the men rejected his offer (Genesis 19:6-11). They wanted the two angels. Historically, it has been understood that the men of the city did not want to have vaginal sexual intercourse. Instead, they wanted to have an orgasm by oral and/or anal sex activity.
Later in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 God gives a warning that clearly prohibits male-with-male sexual activity.
You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination. Leviticus 18:22 (NASB)
If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their bloodguiltiness is upon them. Leviticus 20:13 (NASB)
Later in Judges 19:22-25 we read this,
While they were celebrating, behold, the men of the city, certain worthless fellows, surrounded the house, pounding the door; and they spoke to the owner of the house, the old man, saying, “Bring out the man who came into your house that we may have relations with him.” Then the man, the owner of the house, went out to them and said to them, “No, my fellows, please do not act so wickedly; since this man has come into my house, do not commit this act of folly. “Here is my virgin daughter and his concubine. Please let me bring them out that you may ravish them and do to them whatever you wish. But do not commit such an act of folly against this man.” But the men would not listen to him. Judges 19:22-25 (NASB)
Verse 23 reveals that this activity is described as “wickedly.” Verses 24-25 clearly reveal that sexual activity between two males is a sin. The same message is repeated in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Timothy 1:10).
In Jude 7, we read,
. . . just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. Jude 7 (ESV)
The verse clearly indicates that Sodom and Gomorrah engaged in sexual activity that God condemned.
In summary, the Bible condemns anal sexual activity between males, but Scripture never explicitly condemns such behavior between a husband and wife.
Anal Sex Between a Husband and Wife
Therefore does this mean that anal sexual activity between a husband and wife is okay? Maybe the clearest passage in the Bible about anal sexual intercourse between a husband and wife is Romans 1:26-27.
For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. Romans 1:26-27 (NASB)
This is an important passage since God condemns the unnatural use of the woman. What is the natural use of the women? The Greek word that is translated as “natural” is physikos and it means “produced by nature, inborn.”[7, 8] The Greek for “function ” is chresis and it refers “to sexual use of a woman” or “the sexual function.” What is being described is natural sexual intercourse or vaginal sexual intercourse. God’s design for the male and female reproductive systems is reproduction or having children. That is the natural function of sexual relations. Therefore, we should understand that this verse is primarily referring to sexual intercourse (vaginal intercourse) between a husband and wife as being natural, as opposed to sexual activity between two men or between two women. Secondarily, the verse refers to vaginal intercourse as God’s design for sexual activity. That is the natural use of the woman. This is an important distinction.
Earlier, it was stated, “These authorities clearly reveal that anal sexual intercourse between a husband and wife is not only risky and not recommended, but they clearly state that the anus was not designed for entry by the penis. God designed the vagina for the penis.” That is, anal sexual activity is not natural and Scripture and both psychological and medical professionals agree. This is contrary to the opinion of the popular trend of our cultures.
Therefore, while the Bible does not explicitly and specifically condemn anal sexual activity (penis in the anus) between a married husband and wife, it is concluded that anal sexual activity may not be a sin between a married female and male. Yet, it is recommended that anal sexual activity be avoided based on Romans 1:26-27 and the advice of the medical authorities quoted above.
Every husband and wife must respect one another in this area. A very important principle has been given to us by God in Ephesians 5:25, 28 and 1 Peter 3:7. Both passages warn the husband to love his wife as he loves himself and to treat her as an equal. Therefore, if she does not want to engage in anal sex or oral sexual activity, then the husband is warned to respect her. Treat her as a fellow-heir of Christ. This principle applies to the gray areas of Scripture. We use the term “gray areas” to refer to those areas where Scripture has not given us a clear statement about some activity that might be sin.
It is clear in 1 Corinthians 7:4-7 that both husband and wife do not own their own body and should submit to sexual intercourse (penis in vagina) if either the husband and wife desire it. The passage indicates that sexual intercourse should only be delayed by mutual agreement. It is important for every husband wife to understand that sexual activity is not about “me getting what I want but about me lovingly giving myself to my spouse.”
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NASB)
The following article is highly recommended, “What does the Bible say about foreplay and sex in marriage?”
1. Clifford & Penner. The Gift of Sex. A Guide to Sexual Fulfillment. Thomas Nelson. 2003. pp. 215-216.
2. Douglass E. Rosenau. A Celebration of Sex. Thomas Nelson. 2002. p.158.
3. “The Consequences of Heterosexual Anal Sex for Women.” Medical Institute of Sexual Health. August 2016. (www.medinstitute.org/2016/08/the-consequences-of-heterosexual-anal-sex-for-women/)
4. WedMD (www.webmd.com/sex/anal-sex-health-concerns#1)
5. Miriam-Webster Dictionary (www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sodomy)
6. Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. 2007, p. 2906.
7. Joseph Henry Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Being Grimm’s Wilke’s Clavis Novi Testamenti., 1889, p. 660.
8. G. Harder, “Nature,” ed. Lothar Coenen, Erich Beyreuther, and Hans Bietenhard, New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology. 1986, 661.
9. Joseph Henry Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Being Grimm’s Wilke’s Clavis Novi Testamenti. New York: Harper & Brothers., 1889, p. 671.
10. Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains. United Bible Societies, 1996, p. 257.
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