At a very young age we are taught to dispose of shit neatly and we are not encouraged to talk about one of life’s messy taboos. And yet, while the anal area exemplifies – for some – everything that’s dirty and unclean, it is also one of the most sensitive and enjoyable parts of the body. Consequently, for many of us, shit is not something we deal with very well, although many of us have had to come to terms with shit as the arse plays such key role in the sex we have. There’s probably been a time in our lives when we have shit ourselves during sex or seen our partner do the same. How we deal with the situation can make or break that hot date!
A well established solution is douching, which means washing out the anal canal, rectum and/ or sigmoid colon with water. Although never fool-proof, it makes fingering, fucking, using dildos and, in particular, fisting much cleaner. Whether you’re learning to drive, use a computer, or put in your first set of contact lenses, the first experience is often uncomfortable or daunting. Douching for the first time is no different. Like many things in life, with practice and familiarity, we can get it right. Quite apart from cleaning you out, douching is a good way for you to get to know your arse, how it feels and works. While shit can be unpleasant to some people, douching helps to put it into perspective and over time it becomes little more than an occupational hazard.
Should we douche?
The short answer is you don't have to, and some guys rely on diet and timely bowel movements instead. However, if you use you arse for sex in some way most men eventually have to cross this bridge, as we generally prefer not to have sex with shitty arses - whether you're just rimming, using fingers, fucking, or using dildoes.
- To some extent, douching will wash away the mucous lining, even though it is constantly regenerating. It protects and lubricates the digestive system (including the rectum) leaving you more open to infections if they are present.
- Rough douching techniques can cause tiny breaks or 'scratches' in the surface of the arse lining wall, making it more susceptible to infections if they are present.
- Overdoing douching can interfere and interrupt with the normal workings of your digestive system which is a well-timed conveyor belt (from mouth to arsehole).
- Consequently, a damaged arse, or one that's not working properly, can provide routes into the body and bloodstream for cum, blood, piss and shit, possibly infected with HIV, Hepatitis C and other STIs.
But saying gay men should not douche is like shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. We've been douching 'successfully' for decades, if not longer, and it's about reducing any risks or harm by:
- good technique
- maintaining good hygiene
- maintaining your douche kit
- moderating how often you douche.
Types of douche kit/ equipment
There are several types of douche equipment which we’ll deal with in turn.
Bulb/ syringe douche
If you don’t have facilities to use a hose or a gravity feed douche, a bulb syringe is a practical alternative and a good place to start for beginners.
The size of a bulb syringe douche will restrict how far you can douche. Smaller ones generally clear the bottom part of the rectum while larger ones will clear out the rectum fully. This method is unlikely to clear out your sigmoid colon.
The equipment consists of bulb-shaped container made of rubber and a plastic or rubbery nozzle that you either screw on or push into the top. They vary in size holding between 125-250ml (3-8fl oz). You fill the bulb with lukewarm water, insert the nozzle up the anal canal and squeeze the bulb gently to pump the water into your rectum.
Gravity douches are generally more thorough than the bulb douche but less thorough than the shower douche. Gravity feed douches will clear out the rectum, sigmoid colon and further with patience.
Douche kits of this type usually consist of a plastic two litre (three to four-pint) bag, a one metre (three foot) tube, a 12cm (five to six-inch) nozzle and a small on/off tap to control the flow. The bag is filled with lukewarm water and hung about two metres (six feet) on a hook above the toilet.
The water pressure increases the higher you raise the bag. Gravity carries the water down the tube, through the nozzle, into your rectum. One bag of water may not be enough; to avoid running out, an extra jug of water is handy. As a rough guide, it takes about 15-20 minutes, but longer if your shit is loose.
Hose douches (showers)
Hose douches provide a continuous stream of water under pressure and is an effective way to clear out the rectum, the sigmoid colon and further up. Attaching one end of the hose to the shower or bath/sink taps and making sure that the water pressure and temperature are correct, you slide the nozzle up the anal canal into the rectum and further as required. Unless you have any preferences, water should be body temperature to lukewarm. Gauging the correct pressure comes with practice, but as a guide turn the head of water upward like a fountain no more an inch high.
Some hot water systems are not able to provide warm water at this low rate of flow and the only way you’ll get water at the right temperature is with a higher fountain. Be careful. If the water pressure’s too high, this is the classic way to perforate the rectum or colon wall, but this is very rare and monitoring flow and temperature will significantly reduce any risks. This type of douche (or direct plumbing hook-up) also runs the risk of unexpected changes which can be uncomfortable or even dangerous.
A hose is more likely to wash away the protective mucus lining your arse than a gravity or bulb syringe douche. Any infections taken into your rectum (eg: dirty douche equipment) or which are already present can be taken further up where they can be difficult to treat. Again, anecdotal evidence suggests that this is rare, but it does happen and good hygiene will significantly reduce any risks.
Many hose douches comprise a standard flexible metal hose to which a shower nozzle is usually attached. The shower attachment can then be unscrewed and replaced with a douche nozzle, usually aluminium purchased from gay shops (£10-15). You can also use a ‘Y’ shaped plastic shower hose which is attached to the hot and cold taps, but controlling the temperature and pressure is more problematic. Furthermore, when you take off the shower nozzle it is not advisable to simply stick the pipe up your arse as the end of the tube can be abrasive. A simple solution is to attach the smooth-edged nozzle from a gravity feed douche.
How far to douche
What you want to do sexually will determine how far to douche. The further up you douche the longer you will usually remain clean. Douching to the depth you require comes with practice. Factors to consider include the position of the nozzle, the amount and pressure of water and how long you keep the water inside before releasing it. You have sphincter muscles above and below the rectum and you need to bear in mind that there is sometimes shit above both of them. When douching the rectum, the nozzle or the build-up of water can accidentally stimulate the top sphincter muscle which may relax and let a dump of shit down from the sigmoid colon. This often means that you have to douche again. What was to be a 10-15 minute douche now takes much longer as you have to wash out the area above the top muscle as well as the rectum. With practice, however, you can improve your muscle control and sense how long your douche will take.
It’s difficult to gauge how long you will remain clean. As a rough guide, a light douche (rectum only) may keep you clean for 4 to 6 hours. A heavier douche (rectum and sigmoid colon) is effective for up to 12 hours, maybe longer. Factors to consider include what and when you last ate, to what extent you’ve douched and whether you have any diarrhoea, irritation or infection. The digestive system moves everything along and will affect the time you will remain clean. Occasional muscle reflexes from the rectum to the stomach and small intestine can cause symptoms such as tummy upset and cramps which can affect the speed food is moved towards the rectum.
What to do
If you’re new to douching be gentle and take your time. Follow these guidelines to ensure that you do the job as well as possible and keep the risk of complications or infection to a minimum.
- First of all, decide where you’re going to douche. The toilet is usually the best place but wherever you do it remember that pushing lumps of shit down a shower or bath plug-hole isn’t much fun and can upset hotel staff, flatmates or your mother. Some people find it easier to shit naturally before douching but this not essential.
- When you’re ready to start, wash your hands thoroughly.
- You may wish to lock the door (unless you want someone to watch).
- Using lukewarm water will make douching easier and more comfortable. Let the water run through for a few seconds to make sure it is at the correct pressure and temperature. Make sure metal douche nozzles are warm. Using cold water is like throwing your arse into a freezer – the muscles clamp up and can send you into shock.
- Smearing a little lubricant on the inside of the entrance of your arse and on the nozzle end will help it slip inside. (As you continue to douche you might need to re-lube).
- Relax your sphincter muscles and gently slide the nozzle up the anal canal into the rectum. Without straining, close your sphincter muscles. As you feel your rectum filling with water, you’ll feel the urge to shit. Without straining, take inside as much water as you can before relaxing your sphincter muscles to let out it out together with any shit. Repeat the process until you’re flushing out clear water.
- You will probably need to hold the nozzle in place with your hand while you’re douching. When you let the water and shit out, your hand is very likely to come into direct contact with it. This may come as a bit of a shock to you but, however, unpleasant as it may seem, shit is nothing more than the remains of digested food.
If you hurry your douche by perhaps thrusting the nozzle inside or banging it against a sphincter muscle, your arse will register the pain by tightening up or prematurely emptying out the water and shit. These spasms or cramps may mean you’ll experience some discomfort but this is not so much dangerous as unpleasant. Your muscles usually settle down after a few minutes. When you’ve finished you may feel that there is some excess water caught inside. Depending on how much is there, the urge to shit it out sometimes goes away as the colon absorbs the water back into the body. Douching is never fool-proof. Sometimes you can clean yourself out and then find yourself wanting a shit an hour later. There will be other times when you’ll remain clean for longer than you anticipated. Practice and experience are your best guides.
Keeping kit clean
Keeping douche kit clean is an important part of reducing risks particularly if the kit is shared (so especially at sex parties). Use a commercially available sex toy cleaner or you can make up your own solution of 1 part thin bleach to 10 parts water but remember, bleach or bleach derivatives can cause rubber to perish. Clean your equipment before and after use.
Make sure the area is clean when you or your friends have finished particularly if the bathroom/ shower area is shared. If you’ve taken someone back, make sure they know where to douche, and what they should and shouldn’t use by way of bathroom douche and shower utensils. (Remember the fluffy towels).
If you’ve taken drugs your ability to make judgements will often be impaired. For example, you might injure yourself when inserting the douche and there have been horror stories of bathrooms resembling sewage farms. Better still, there’s always the one about the guy who douched on drugs and was inspired to paint the bathroom... the hallway... and the bedroom… a fragrant brown.
Anal douching: What to know | Medical News Today | 28 Jul 2022
"A 2018 study involving MSMs found that among those who reported douching recently, 87–97% did so before anal sex, and 13–48% did so afterward."
A Queer Dietitian’s Guide to Eating for Anal Sex | The Body | 20 Jan 2021
Rectal douching by MSM associated with increased odds of infection with HIV and STIs | NAM Aidsmap | 28 May 2019
How to anal douche preoperly | HuffPost | 25 Apr 2017
How to anal douche properly | wickydkewl | 24 Apr 2017 | 4m 23s↑ Back to top