What's rimming?

Originally Published: December 11, 1998 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: July 17, 2009
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Alice,

What is rimming?

Dear Reader,

Our bodies contain a rainbow of pleasure potential. Even seemingly unlikely body parts can be intense pleasure centers when fully aroused. Rimming, also called anilingus, refers to making oral-anal contact. While sometimes a precursor to anal sex, rimming is a form of stimulation that can be its own means to an erotic end.

Getting down anilingus-style involves licking, penetrating with the tongue, sucking, kissing, or otherwise orally stimulating your partner's anus. Many people mistakenly label rimming as an exclusively gay activity because of its association with anal sex, but heterosexual, lesbian, and gay partners all enjoy rimming, sometimes as foreplay or on its own. Trust and communication, like all sexual explorations between consensual partners, are key components to mutually enjoyable rimming.

Like any sex act, it's vital to protect yourself and your partner by practicing safer rimming. Dental dams offer great protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Condoms can be cut carefully down the middle to become an impromptu dental dam, and additionally, adding lube to the situation will help protect and add pleasure.

Another aspect of rimming responsibly is understanding that the vagina and anus operate under very different hygienic house rules. Bacteria in the anus should never make their way into the vagina, whether via fingers, tongue, penis, or sex toys. Washing up before and after rimming will help prevent unwanted transmission of bacteria and help to avoid vaginal infections.

While highly sensational, rimming does carry some potential health risks. Sexually transmitted infections are always a concern with unprotected sex play, and rimming is no exception. Hepatitis A or B, gonorrhea, syphilis, and herpes/genital warts are all STIs potentially contracted through rimming. In addition, because the interior of the anus hosts intestinal bacteria, oral-anal contact carries risk for giardia and other intestinal maladies. Using dental dams, cut condoms, and lube will greatly reduce the likelihood of transmission of STIs and other infections. No documented cases of HIV transmission have ever been connected to rimming. For more information on anilingus, check out the Rimming page at Babeland, a sex-positive website and retail store. Also see Anal Pleasure and Health by Jack Morin.

If you do decide to venture around the back or be the recipient of an adventurous tongue, play it safe when it comes to protection and enjoy the new, cheeky, addition to your sexual repertoire.

Alice

August 3, 2001

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Dear Alice,

I have been doing a web search on prevention of Shigellosis and Giardia during Rimming — we are having an outbreak in our area in the MSM [men who have sex with men]...

Dear Alice,

I have been doing a web search on prevention of Shigellosis and Giardia during Rimming — we are having an outbreak in our area in the MSM [men who have sex with men] population — and yours is only one of two sites that gives useful and accurate information on the risks of rimming.

More info on the use of barriers — such as putting a few drops of lube on the anus before placing the barrier — might be helpful for your readers.

Keep up the good work.

Communicable Disease Investigator