Thanks in part to social media, it’s easier than ever to look at what others are doing and think, “Should I be doing that, too?” Whether it be vacations to Palm Springs, fanny packs as purses (ha) or anal play. Peer pressure can exert a lot of influence, much too much, over our actions.
There’s a certain perception that if you try things, like casual or anal sex, that you’re more sexually liberated—and there's a catch 22 between being seen as 'liberated' and 'slutty'. On the flip side, that creates a perception that if you don’t want to try these things, that you must not be sexually liberated. You might even be (gasp) a prude. Your partner wants to do it, people in porn are doing it, it seems like everyone else is doing it—doesn’t that mean you have to do it, too?
You may hear the term ‘peer pressure’ and think back to teenage ragers, trying drinking or smoking, but the fact is that we suffer from peer pressure well into adulthood, about all kinds of stuff. We may feel pressured to do, say or buy things just because we see others doing them. Especially when those things seem aspirational in some way (#goals), it can be hard to resist the temptation to try them, just to fit in.
When it comes to sex, you don’t need to do anything you don’t want to do, period! Good sex is all about exploring what feels good to you, and you should always feel free to assert your boundaries. Just like it’s OK to want things in your butt, it’s totally OK to NOT want things in your butt.
Anal sex, in particular, is subject to peer pressure. In the UK, a study showed that both teen girls and boys felt extreme social pressure to try anal. Both boys and girls felt that unless they tried it, they wouldn’t achieve the social and relationship status they wanted, and saw it as a kind of test that must be passed, or else.
Women, in particular, are groomed from a young age to be more compliant, to submit to the male gaze and to male desires. From grooming habits to the orgasm gap, we do many things in order to conform to social pressures that uphold this old dynamic. While anyone can enjoy anal, the way we think and talk about it—as something adventurous, as something partner's want, and we're are expected to give them—can unfairly influence our decision to try it. This goes for all kinds of acts, between all kinds of partners, too.
When it comes to sex and your body, you owe it to yourself not to give in to these pressures. It’s one thing to agree with a trusted partner in an intimate setting to try something new; it’s another to worry that unless you try something, you’ll no longer be loved or accepted. While social media exposes us to a wealth of new ideas, it also has the tendency to exert a more negative influence in our lives, encouraging conformity and leading to issues like FOMO. Because of it, we may feel pressured to compromise, and even change ourselves, to meet expectations.
Remember: Good sex is always consensual, full stop. If a partner is pressuring you to use drugs or alcohol, begging or complaining that you won’t do something, that’s coercion. No means no, and only “Yes!” means yes. If you’re doing something because you feel like you have to, in order to fit in or to please someone else, then it’s not consensual. Like what you like without shame, and try whatever you want on your own timeline, nobody else's!