Everything You Need To Know About Rimming

Photographed by Lula Hyers.

If you think tossing salad only refers to meal prep, let us widen your horizons. Tossing someone's salad, also known as rimming or analingus, is oral sex performed on someone's butthole, says Jessica O'Reilly, PhD, a Toronto-based sexologist. But even if you do know what salad tossing means, you may have questions if you're thinking about trying it (or you're just curious).

Like oral sex on a vagina or penis, you can both give and receive analingus. And there's a reason why people enjoy it: The anus is an erogenous zone ripe with nerve endings, so it can feel really good when it's stimulated. Like our other erogenous zones (including the clitoris, penis, and nipples), the anus has heightened sensitivity and can generate a pleasurable sexual response, says certified couples counselor Annabelle Knight.

How does rimming work?

You can give someone a rim job as a standalone sex act, although it's commonly performed prior to anal sex or integrated into blowjobs and eating someone out (just remember to wash up before going from the anus to another orifice). In her book, The New Sex Bible, Dr. O'Reilly describes a rimming technique called the "tongue twister," in which you spread apart your partner's butt cheeks with your hands and twirl your tongue in circular motions. Another move she describes is the "slurpee," which is when you press your lips around your partner's asshole in an oval and thrust your tongue flat against it. "Slurp away as though you’re sucking on a bottle allowing your natural sounds to emanate freely," Dr. O’Reilly writes in her book.

What are the risks?

Of course, like all sex acts, there are some safer sex techniques to keep in mind. Since the anus is an opening at the end of the gastrointestinal tract, that means it can harbor bacteria. If this bacteria comes in contact with the vagina, that can lead to infections, such as UTIs and bacterial vaginosis. This is why it's particularly important to make sure to wash your anal area with water before engaging in rimming, Knight says (just avoid using soap). If you have a vagina, you can try bathing with your partner or incorporating rimming into your shower sex to make the sanitary prep feel more steamy than sterile.

The STI risks of rimming have never been formally studied, but rimming is believed to be less risky than penetrative anal sex when it comes to contracting STIs, such as HIV. That said, when you give or receive a rim job, there's still a chance of transmission for infections that are spread through skin-to-skin contact, such as syphilis or HPV. Both Dr. O’Reilly and Knight suggest using a safer sex barrier, like a dental dam, to be extra safe — although dental dams aren't very popular. "If you're one of these people [who don't like to use dental dams], then make sure you don't double dip," Knight says. "Don't allow anything that's been near an anus to enter your vagina without cleaning it first." (Remember what we said about GI bacteria?)

What if I feel insecure about doing it?

Of course, rim jobs aren't for every sex-haver out there. For one, not everyone is interested in anal play, and that's okay. You should never do anything in bed that makes you uncomfortable, and rimming is not a requirement for a fulfilling sex life. And while rimming may feel awesome for some people, for many others, it can be more nerve-wracking to receive analingus than it is to give — butthole insecurities are real. When getting rimmed, it's normal to wonder, Does my partner think this is gross? Do I smell bad? What if I fart? That's why Knight recommends that you wash up first, set mood lighting, and communicate any desires or anxieties to your partner beforehand to help you relax.

"Your butt is a thing of wonder, but since you probably don’t know this nether region like the back of your hand, you’ll want to do some exploring [on your own] before you venture into the exciting land of anal play," Dr. O’Reilly writes in her book. (We suggest trying out butt plugs if you haven't already.)

So if the X-rated version of tossing salad sounds fun to you, just make sure to proceed as safely as possible, and just know that you — and your butthole — are more than worthy of the pleasure rimming can bring.