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Dear Drs. Lewis and Gail Wyatt:

My boyfriend keeps asking me to have anal sex. Does that mean he’s gay? Jacqui W.

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Not everyone who wants to have anal sex is gay. You are assuming that his sexual behavior has something to do with his sexual orientation or his sexual attractions. That is not always the case.

However, you need to ask about anal sex in a way that does not wrongly accuse him of something and creates a wall between the two of you. What you really need to know is what he likes to feel sexually, and you should provide the same information about what you like to feel, too. Otherwise, you are going to sound as if you are interviewing him rather than trying to find out how to please him while he finds out what pleases you. Here is how that conversation could go:

1. Find a date and time when the two of you are alone, with your clothes on and with no interruptions. Tell your partner that you want to learn more about how he likes to have sex. (Actually, this talk should really begin before you ever have sex with him!)

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2. Tell your partner what you like about having sex with him. Ask him to tell you what he likes about sex with you.

3. Tell your partner if you ever experimented sexually (trying different positions and behaviors other than the penis entering the vagina) with other male or female partners and what that was like. Ask him if he has experimented with male or female partners and what that was like for him. Tell your partner what you would like and would not like to try with him. Ask him to tell you the same from his perspective. If he mentions anal sex, ask him what he likes about it. Most men say that they like the feeling of tightness around the penis that creates more sexual excitement and leads to a faster ejaculation.

4. Ask your partner if he has ever been sexually attracted to other men and if having sex was part of that attraction. Ask if he continues to be sexually attracted to men or to men and women. Now you have asked about his sexual orientation. Allow him to define his own sexual attractions.

5. If you prefer a specific type of sex or you are willing to experiment, here is your opportunity to let your partner know. If you don’t want to include anal intercourse when having sex, then now is the time to say it. You need to discuss what you would like to do for each other each time before you have sex. Your decision about what you are willing to do might depend on how you feel about your relationship, how much you trust your partner, how close you want to be or what risks you are willing to take. If you are unsure of where the relationship is going or don’t trust your partner, you should not be as willing to take any risks with your partner.

6. If both of you mention anal sex and you understand more about what your partner likes and why, then it is a matter of deciding how and when that will happen. If you both decide to try it, you need to have plenty of water-based lubricants and condoms ready. It is also important for both of you to get tested for sexually transmitted infections and HIV and to show each other the results before having anal sex. It is an easy way to transmit infection, so protect yourself. You may need to be treated for what your results indicate before discussing anal sex again.

7. If only one of you wants to try anal sex, this is not a behavior that you do as a favor for your partner. If you hear or say no, then honor it.

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8. If you prefer vaginal sex, and your partner says that he likes a “tight fit,” you need to know how to keep your vagina in the best of shape. Practice the Kegel exercise. You can identify the muscles that need to be toned by flexing around the opening of the vagina when you urinate. If you stop the flow, you are using the muscles that you also can use more effectively during sexual intercourse. Practice opening and closing these muscles when you are at a stoplight. Make it a part of your everyday routine, like brushing your teeth—at least 30 contractions every time. If you don’t exercise these muscles and have had a lot of sex or children, your vaginal muscles can get weak or “flabby.”

9. The healthiest relationships are the ones that allow each partner to speak openly and honestly about what they would and would not like to try and with whom. The best that you can do is to respect each other’s sexual preferences and attractions and not try to change or ignore them.

For answers to your questions about sexual health, write to us at justsex@theroot.com. Be sure to include your age, gender, any medications you’re taking and the nature of your sexual problem.

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Gail Wyatt, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist and sex therapist. She is also a professor at UCLA and director of the university’s Sexual Health Program. Lewis Wyatt Jr., M.D., is a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist in private practice in Beverly Hills, Calif. He specializes in sexual health and bioidentical hormone treatment.