We’re going to cut right to the chase with this article: if you’re having sex, you need to use a lubricant. No ifs, ands, or butts (excuse the pun) about it – lube is important for both partners, and you should never even attempt sex without it.

You probably realize that lube is sometimes optional for vaginal sex because the vagina provides its own lubrication, but the anus isn’t biologically designed for sexual penetration. While it produces some fluids, it doesn’t really lubricate, so lots of friction can occur. If you have sex without an added lubricant, you’ll risk damage to the sensitive tissues in that area.

It’s especially important to note that when anal damage occurs, infections are common. There’s fecal matter in the colon (duh) and bacteria that help your body break down food matter, so a cut or wound can take a long time to heal. The best course of action is to prepare thoroughly before sex, and that starts with lots of lube.

Here are a few tips to make anal sex more comfortable and safe for both partners:

Use a Lube Designed for Anal SexThicker lubricants often work better for anal, since they stay in place and they don’t tend to dry out quickly.

While water-based lubricants don’t last as long as silicone or oil-based lubes, they’re inexpensive and easy to clean up. Silicone lube works well, but it’s not compatible with most silicone toys. Oil-based lubricants aren’t safe to use with latex condoms, but they provide an excellent slickness. However, they’re often difficult to clean up.

Generally speaking, a thicker water-based lube offers the best balance in terms of features, but experiment with different types of lube to see what you prefer. Avoid lubes with added cooling or warming ingredients at first, as these can make anal sex a little too intense for first-timers.

Use More Lube Than You Think You Need – There’s a popular saying on major Internet sex forums: when you think you’ve used too much lube, you haven’t used enough.

Of course, this depends on the type of lube you’re using; oil and silicone lubes last much longer than water-based lubes, so you can generally use less of these products. Still, err on the side of safety by using a liberal amount. Keep extra lube by the bedside in case you need more once you get started.

Avoid Desensitizing Lubricants at First – Some lubes contain ingredients like benzocaine and lidocaine, which gently numb your nerves to limit sensation. However, pain is your body telling you to stop, and if you’ve never had anal sex before, you’ll need to know when you’re at your limit. Don’t use a desensitizing product until you fully understand how your body works; if desensitizing lubes appeal to you, you can try one after you’ve had comfortable sex with a standard lube.

Start Small and Go Slow – We strongly recommend using small toys for anal play before having intercourse. This prepares your body and gives your muscles time to adjust. Ideally, you should experiment with toys for several weeks before trying anal intercourse, gradually moving up in size as you become more comfortable.

Look for a toy that flares out towards its base, as this prevents it from slipping completely inside you (if this happens, you’ll probably need to visit the emergency room). Use plenty of lube and stop immediately if you feel pain. Non-porous toys are a must, as porous materials can inadvertently cause an infection by trapping fecal material and bacteria.

Finally, remember to stay safe when enjoying any type of anal play. Use a condom and clean everything thoroughly, including any toys. Talk to your partner and make sure you have a plan to go slow. Anal sex can be a fun and surprisingly intimate act with the right partner, but proper preparation (and plenty of lube) is certainly a key part of the experience.