Starting with: What is a butt plug, exactly?

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What Is a Butt Plug?
Credit: Vera Lair/Stocksy

The single sad side effect of anal intercourse gaining popularity as music and media fodder (sup, Nicki!) is that butt plugs have gotten left behind, misinterpreted as Anal Sex Lite. But such is not the case!

"While some people use butt plugs only as a way prepare the body for anal intercourse, LOTS of people find that plugs are a fun toy on their own," explains longtime sex educator Searah Deysach, owner of Early to Bed, a pleasure-product company in Chicago that ships world-wide. (Emphasis hers!). "With so many styles, shapes, and sizes to choose from, it is easy for the anal-curious and anal adventurous to find something fun and fulfilling," she says. 

Got Qs? Read on for an ultimate guide on butt plug play. Below, you'll learn exactly what a butt plug is, as well as how to use one to maximize pleasure. 

What is a butt plug, exactly? 

Just as vibrators vibrate and nipple clamps clamp nipples, butt plugs plug butts. One category of sex toys designed for anal stimulation, butt plugs are designed to go in the butt and stay in the butt for a sustained period of time.

"They're a toy anyone with a butt might enjoy," says Deysach. Given that literally everybody and every body has a butt, a person of any gender or sexuality could enjoy butt plugs — or any other anal stimulation for that matter! (Hey, hi, hello this your friendly reminder that people, not sex acts, have sexual orientations!).  

Why would someone want to use a butt plug? 

To provide pleasurable pressure to internal hot-spots that can be stimulated directly or indirectly through the anal canal, such as the P-spot (prostate), G-zone, C-spot (cervix), or A-spot (anterior-fornix zone). In fact, some people report being able to orgasm from, or with the help of, a butt plug. 

"Someone might want to try a butt plug or anal beads to experience pleasure," says queer sex educator Marla Renee Stewart, MA, sexpert for Lovers, an adult wellness brand. "Some people have amazing anal orgasms and some folks prefer these over genital stimulation, so it's worth it to give it a try." Especially if you have difficulty orgasming from genital stimulation! 

Some people use butt plugs to prepare for anal sex, either during that same sexual encounter or for a future sexual encounter. (This is known as anal training). "Plugs can be used for anal training, which is the act of preparing the body for anal sex with bigger objects," says Goody Howard MSW, MPH, the resident sex educator for Royal, a vegan-friendly condom and lubricant company.

Butt plugs can also be used in a kink or BDSM scene or dynamic. A dominant partner might (consensually) force their submissive to wear a butt plug as a constant reminder of who "owns" their ass, for example. Butt plugs can also allow a kinkster to explore feelings of humiliation, vulnerability, and power, adds Howard. 

Are butt plugs safe? 

Yep! So long as it has a flared base or kink, crook, or curve that keeps the toy rooted firmly outside the body. 

"The anus has sphincter muscles in it that are always closed. This closure creates a vacuum effect, so if you put something in your anus, it can get sucked up into the rectum," explains Howard. "The flared base is larger than the anus, so it helps keep the plug from getting closed up in the rectum by the sphincters." 

In short, flared bases keep you out of the emergency room. 

Wait, how are butt plugs different from other anal toys?

The world of butt toys is wide and vast. In addition to butt plugs, there are also anal beads, prostate massagers, anal-safe wands, and dildos. What sets anal plugs apart from other anal-safe toys is their shape and function. Anal plugs usually have a carrot-like shape, which allows them to comfortably slide past the internal anal sphincter and (safely) stay put in your body, while still providing the sensation of fullness. 

Prostate massagers are also designed to go in the body and stay in — specifically, the bodies of people with prostates, which is most people with penises. Prostate massagers, however, look less like a carrot and more like a gourd. Meaning, they have a curved, hook-like shape. "The prostate is about four inches into the anal canal," says Deysach. "Continuous pressure on this spot can increase pleasure and make orgasms more intense," she says. Some people with prostate can orgasm from prostate stimulation alone! 

Meanwhile, dildos and anal beads are designed to provide pleasure through movement. While butt plugs usually go in once, then stay in, both anal beads and dildos are designed to be moved in and out of the anal canal. Anal beads feature a series of spheres on a (usually silicone) string, which creates a pull on and pop of the anal opening that some people find pleasurable, explains Deysach. And while dildos come in all shapes and sizes, most dildos are longer and thicker than butt plugs, and are usually shaped more like zucchinis (they're the same size all the way up, they don't get thicker the way plugs do). 

"You may have to do some experimenting with different toys to find the right butt toy(s) for you," says Deysach. But generally, a butt plug is what you're going to want if you want consistent pressure, she says. 

Exactly how do you use a butt plug?

To put it simply: patiently and with a (ahem) butt-ton of lube. "Using lots of lube and going slow is the best way to make sure your anal adventure is fun and safe," says Deysach. To make sure the plug is being inserted at a pace that feels good to the receiver, communicate! 

Oh, and make sure the toy is made out of a non-porous material like silicone, stainless steel, glass, or ABS plastic. "A porous toy can harbor bacteria even after you clean it," explains Deysach. Ick. Because silicone is softer than the other body-safe sex toy materials, beginners should start with silicone. 

What are the best beginner butt plugs? 

To start, opt for a plug that's half as big as you think it should be. "You will miss out on all the delicious pleasure plugs can offer if the one you're using is too big," says Howard. For a sense of comparison, you don't want anything much bigger than your pinky finger — at least to start. The Tango Butt Plug ($28, TangoWithUs.com), Inya Prince ($11, Babeland.com), or Gala Confetti Mini Anal Plug ($15, Babeland.com) are all good beginner options. 

If you've previously explored anal fingering with more than one finger, you can size up to something slightly bigger, like the b-Vibe Snug Plug 2 ($60, Babeland.com) or the Play With Me Naughtier Candy Heart ($22, Babeland.com). 

Worth mentioning: As you shop around for a butt plug, you'll notice that some vibrate. Vibrating butt plugs like the b-Vibe Vibrating Snug Plug ($110, Babeland.com) and the b-Vibe Vibrating Novice Galaxy ($140, Babeland.com) are a great way to exponentiate the pleasure. As Deysach explains, the vibrations stimulate the anal hot-spots, as well as reverberate through to other pleasure zones in the body. However, because they're so intense, vibrating butt plugs are best for intermediate — not beginner — status.