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Butt Plugs: What They Are For and How to Use Them

By: Carol Queen, PhD

Good Vibes: The Ultimate Guide to Butt Plugs / What Are Anal Plugs?

There’s no other toy quite like an anal plug. They are safe to use anally, and many other toys are not; they are great for solo stimulation or adding sensation to partner sex; they are one of the few “no hands” toy options; and they are designed to comfortably enter the anus and then stay there while you do other things–read erotica, watch porn, enjoy (or give) oral pleasure… they’d probably even make it feel sexy to wash the dishes! 

What are Butt Plugs?

A butt plug, aka anal plug, is an anal-safe toy (that is, it is smooth, unbreakable, and with a base to keep it from slipping all the way inside) designed to go in and stay in: plugs add stimulation without having to be held and manipulated, except when they are entering the anus to begin with. That’s where the term plug comes from: their narrow neck stays put in the anus while the middle part is larger, which both gives more sensation and also allows the toy to stay in and not slip back out like a dildo might. These toys provide anal pleasure plus let you use your hands for other things, whether you’re playing solo or having sex with another person.  

Understanding the Purpose of Butt Plugs

People like butt plugs for different reasons and hence may use them for a variety of things. Here are some common ones:

Sexual Pleasure

Anal plugs come in a wide variety of sizes, so there’s something to please almost anyone. They stimulate the very sensitive nerves of the anus and anal canal and sometimes the prostate, all of which can feel erotic if done correctly. Used with lubricant they are an easy and safe way to explore anal sensation,  which many people are curious about and like to fantasize about. As we’ll see below, they are a great tool for those seeking higher arousal and blended orgasm.

Anal Training 

“Anal training” involves using toys and anal play to help a person get comfortable with anal penetration and, often, with using larger-diameter toys over time, like you'd find in anal training sets. As the user gets more comfortable, they may be able to relax the muscles of the anal sphincter more easily and enjoy a bigger toy (or more fingers during manual play, or a toy the size of a penis if they want to work up to anal intercourse).

Sometimes the term “anal stretching” is used to describe this, but we don’t discuss it that way because the way to unlock safe and pleasurable anal play is not by stretching, it is by relaxing. Don’t worry, we’ll tell you more about ways to do this.

Prostate Stimulation 

People with a prostate (primarily those who were assigned male at birth) may find that stimulating it is erotic and even that it can help them orgasm. What does this have to do with plugs? The prostate is most directly stimulated through the front anal wall. Not every butt plug is long enough to provide strong stimulation to the prostate, but many are. Whether or not the anal plug vibrates, longer plugs, and those with a curve, can add prostate sensation to any kind of play. 

Adding to Various Kinds of Sex Play 

A butt plug can be a “no hands” toy and anal stimulation pairs well with genital stimulation (for people who want to do this in the first place). Therefore if you desire, you can include a butt plug when doing practically any other kind of solo or partnered play. A plug can be worn by one or both partners during oral sex or vaginal intercourse, and many people use them as a warm-up before anal intercourse. Here are more ways they can be incorporated: 

Blended stimulation and orgasm: A blended orgasm happens when a person is stimulated in more than one erogenous area at once and the extra sensation, which generally involves more of your neurology, boosts arousal and can be more likely to lead to orgasm (or a stronger orgasm). Anal plugs are a great way for those who like anal touch and penetration to explore this type of dual-stimulation play. It’s especially recommended for those who have trouble climaxing in the first place; exploring this strategy can bring orgasm within reach!

Adding sensation for a partner wearing a strap-on: Many partners who use strap-ons find that they want an extra source of sensation for the dildo-wearer. A butt plug is a great choice for this!

Kink play

BDSM is often misunderstood, but people who are into it often love the way the whole body can become a canvas for erotic and intense sensation. Instead of the definition of erotic play being focused on the genitals, some kinksters don’t even engage in that kind of stimulation–they do intricate bondage, or power-infused roleplay, or impact play featuring spanking or flogging. Any of these scenes and more can be hot to add a butt plug to; an aura of domination is also sometimes a perfect accompaniment to anal play.

Good Vibes: The Ultimate Guide to Butt Plugs / What Are Anal Plugs?Different Types of Butt Plugs

Not all anal plugs are the same! There’s a lot of variety in the world of anal toys, butt plugs included. Learning more about your options can help you accessorize your ideal anal experience.

Classic Butt Plugs

The iconic butt plug is shaped something like a stylized pine tree: like a conical item on a narrower trunk. All the angles are typically rounded for comfort and safety, but if you hold up a butt plug and squint, you can see the resemblance. And it will always include a base (sometimes called a flange) to keep it from getting lost inside the butt. These toys are often made of silicone, and they may be pretty small, with just a bit of difference between the widest part of the toy and its narrower neck; or the wide part can be much wider. Everyone’s preferences are different, and an anal-curious beginner often works their way up to a larger girth as they explore anal play. (Note that a very narrow butt plug may not stay in the rectum as well as one with a larger neck-to-girth ratio.) 

Butt Plugs with Tails 

If you are intrigued by furry play* or simply always had that inner self who identified as a fox or a rainbow unicorn, you might want to accessorize with a tail. Anal plugs are perfect for this, and many different types of tail are affixed to plugs. Go ahead and invite your critter persona out to play!

*Please note that furry play isn’t always sexual or erotic to those people who engage in it; we shouldn’t make that assumption without knowing more about the Furry in question. Their outfits sure are cute though, and Good Vibes is happy to offer butt plug tails as perfect accessories for those who want them! 

Vibrating Butt Plugs 

Many plugs do not vibrate–their primary erotic use is the sensation they can add when they are inserted (with lube!) and worn. But some anal plugs DO vibrate, which can be erotic as well as helpful for relaxing the anal sphincter. Vibrating butt plugs are a great accessory for anal sex, but plenty of plug fans simply use them for the added pleasure, including prostate-focused sensations. These great toys can be used by people of any gender and are often controlled by remote controllers or even apps on your phone. 

Inflatable Butt Plugs 

You don’t have to choose a specific size if you have an inflatable plug. These are plugs with an  incorporated inflation pump that forces air into a layer of flexible outer “skin,” often made of rubber or thin silicone. The core of these toys is usually moderately slender but the internal part of the plug can expand quite a bit; they are especially enjoyed by people who can’t relax their anal sphincter enough for a larger-diameter plug, but who like the larger size when they’re inserted and inflated. It’s especially important to use a lot of lubricant with these, since they can create a very tight fit once in the rectum. For maximum safety, de-inflate them before removal. 

Butt Plug Sets 

Maybe an inflatable isn’t your thing but you still want the option of size gradation– plug sets are for you! They frequently come in sets of three sizes, sometimes even more, and allow a beginner to start with the smallest and, anal training style, work up to larger sizes. 

Glass and Metal Butt Plugs 

Most anal plugs are fairly firm, but flexible – except the metal and glass toys that are completely rigid. And they have plenty of fans! The sleek, slippery surface of these toys can feel fantastic, you can use any type of lube with them, and hard toys often feel even larger than they are. Plus these toys are great-looking–elegant or fanciful. 

Choosing the Right Butt Plug

Good Vibes: The Ultimate Guide to Butt Plugs / What Are Anal Plugs?You might enjoy any and all butt plugs! But they do have plenty of differences to consider when you’re making your choice, so here are some you should know about.

Size and Shape

Good Vibes carries butt plugs in all sizes, including lots that are appropriate for beginning and intermediate users: mostly small to medium in size. It’s useful to think about insertable length, the distance from the base to the tip of the plug, as well as width at the plug’s widest point. The length will be especially relevant if you want the plug for prostate stimulation–If it’s a short plug it might not reach. If you are new to anal and can’t yet relax enough for a comfortable insertion of, say, more than one finger, pay attention to the width so that you choose a toy that will be comfortable for the level of play you’re ready for.

While most butt plugs taper gradually from the widest part to the tip, which makes insertion easier, it doesn’t make up for your experience and comfort level. If you like the idea of anal penetration, give it a chance to be pleasurable for you from the beginning! 
Another thing to note is that the narrow neck will sit in the anal canal, which is where all the muscles are that must relax in order for this to be fun and pleasurable play. If that neck is quite short, you might notice that it fits differently than one with a longer neck. (If you’re pretty tight, the longer neck will probably feel more comfortable.)

Most plugs are shaped similarly, as has been described, but there can be variations. Some longer plugs have a curve to them, which is a feature that might make them well-suited to prostate stimulation; in this case, the curve would be aimed toward the front of the body, not back toward the tailbone or to the side. Some, like the Aneros line, are designed for prostate stimulation and PC exercise and don’t have the “pine tree” shape of classic plugs, but they are wider at the central part of the plug and have small necks so that most users will be able to hold them in just with their muscles. And some plugs have bubble-like gradations or other gradual levels that may make them function more like a string of anal beads.


Silicone is a terrific material for toys, and most plugs you can buy at Good Vibes are silicone. They are easy to clean because silicone is non-porous, and silicone is a smooth and comfortable material; it often has some flexibility or give to it, which might also make it more comfy to insert or wear. Don’t use it with silicone lube (water-based, hybrid or even oil-based lubricants are fine). If you do, put a condom over the plug to prevent the silicone lube from damaging the material. 

Butt plugs can be made of other flexible materials too, though some are not as body-safe as others. Latex rubber is a classic material, especially for expanding plugs. This is a great material unless the user is sensitive or allergic to latex; it will not last as long as silicone, though, and can’t be used with oil-based lubes (though silicone is okay). “Jelly rubber” toys are not latex, but they generally are porous and can’t be kept as clean as other materials, plus they often contain phthalates (a plastic softener that has been linked to health problems by some studies), which is the reason Good Vibes stopped carrying this specific material many years ago and we do not recommend it. 

Butt plugs are also available in completely rigid and non-porous materials like annealed borosilicate or soda lime glass (never use an ordinary glass item as a penetration toy during sex or masturbation!) as well as metal. Any glass item must be handled carefully–don’t boil them, store them with care, don’t drop them on hard surfaces.

Extra features 

We mentioned various types of anal plugs and their special features already, including inflatables and those that include tails. Some anal plugs also have built-in cock rings. Vibration capabilities are a popular extra for many butt plug users and probably the most notable–plugs with vibration can provide erotic sensations, help relax the anus, add to prostate stimulation and more. Some vibrating plugs can be used with apps that allow for remote partner play; some just come with a remote controller so it’s easier to use the toy.

Preparing for Butt Plug Use

Good Vibes: The Ultimate Guide to Butt Plugs / What Are Anal Plugs?Anal play of all kinds is safer, more comfortable and more pleasurable when you’re into it… and prepared.

Hygiene Practices

Different plug users (and those who do anal play of any kind) can have different preferences about cleaning out the rectum and other hygiene options, but there are a few things to note.

A diet with plenty of fiber may leave the rectum pretty clean after a bowel movement. But for some, rinsing out the rectum before anal play definitely leaves a cleaner environment. Use a bulb syringe, enema bag, or shower attachment to clear out any fecal material–keep the water at room temperature or just a bit above.  Do not use store-bought enemas for this purpose, or if you do, choose saline enemas, not those with additional chemicals.

Many plug users like to have wipes on hand to use on the toy and/or anal area when it’s time to remove the plug. Don’t flush these, unless the packaging is clear that you can.

Wash your plug in hot soapy water, rinse thoroughly, and dry it thoroughly before storing it. For more on cleaning your sex toys properly, check out our ultimate guide to cleaning your sex toys here.

Warm Up and Relaxation 

Any sexual penetration will feel better–and be safer–when arousal is present, so warm up for play in any way that increases arousal and desire: fantasy, skin contact, genital touch, nipple play… choose the turn-on activities that you respond to! Before inserting a plug (or any other toy or penetration option), make sure to relax. Assess whether you’re comfortable, want to do anal play at this time, and use deep breathing to increase calm. A warm bath or shower is another great way to relax, and some like the tense muscle/relax muscle technique too. Pair it with deep rhythmic breaths!


Anal insertion is safer and feels better when lubrication is used; the anus isn’t lubricated, so add plenty to prevent discomfort or injury. You might want to precede butt plug insertion with adding lubricant to the rectum first–lube shooters are great for this purpose. Then lube your toy and anus too–give your toy plenty of opportunity to slide.

For a full breakdown on anal lubricants and to find which is the best for you, check out our blog post all about the best lubes for anal sex here.

How to Use a Butt Plug

Good Vibes: The Ultimate Guide to Butt Plugs / What Are Anal Plugs?You can enjoy butt plug play in various contexts:

  • Solo, for anal stimulation while masturbating or enjoying erotic relaxation like reading sexy stories or watching porn
  • Solo or partnered for “anal training”--getting accustomed to having something inside you as a precursor to bigger toys, anal intercourse, etc.
  • As an element of D/s play
  • To add stimulation during penis/vagina intercourse or strap-on sex (for either or both partners)

In all cases, your anal plug experience will be more pleasurable (and safer) if you are aroused when the plug goes in. 

Insertion Techniques 

Unless the butt plug is quite slim, just pushing it into the anus isn’t the best idea. (Even in that case, lube it up first!) Rather, approach the anal opening so the tip of the butt plug is at a bit of an angle. Make sure you’re relaxed with a few deep breaths–when you’re ready, take a breath, bear down slightly (as you would on the toilet–this relaxes the anal sphincter that is not in your conscious control), and slide the plug in as you straighten it out to follow the positioning of the anal canal.

This technique lets the anus open and relax more, rather than tensing and tightening if you try to push the toy right in. 

And no matter what - do not forget the lube! And the larger the toy, the better it is to add lube to both the toy and the anus.

If this action is being performed on another person (rather than your own insertion process), get feedback from them. They can tell you when to insert, if they need you to stop, and help you time the insertion so you don’t hurt them. Anal insertion is not supposed to hurt.

What to Do After Insertion 

An anal plug is shaped so it can rest in the rectum, with its base on the outside of the anus to hold it steady and prevent it from slipping inside. So one option after it’s in: just relax and enjoy the sensations! You can add stimulation with vibration (either via a vibrating plug, or touching the external end with a vibe); grasping the base and moving it gently (try side to side or pushing it in–do NOT push so hard that the base folds up and goes inside the rectum); or other erotic touch or experiences anywhere on the body. When using a butt plug during partner sex or genitally-focused masturbation, the anal stimulation increases the odds of a blended orgasm. That’s the term for an orgasm sparked by two separate erogenous zones (and the nerve pathways that serve them). 

Removal Process 

You might find that your anus gets quite sensitive after orgasm (this is pretty common and can happen to the clitoris or head of the penis as well), meaning that you will want to cease all direct stimulation. In a situation like this you can let the plug rest for a bit before trying to remove it–you’ll be able to tell when your nerves have calmed down. 

In any case, the plug comes out the way it went in–gently, making sure there is still enough lube to comfortably slide (if not, it can help to massage some lube onto the stem of the plug and wiggle it gently til you feel some of the friction subside). Pull at a bit of an angle so that one of the widest edges of the plug can emerge before the full girth, which can help it slide out more easily. If it’s fairly wide, it might help at this point to give it a bit of a turn. 

Don’t simply pull the plug straight out, unless it’s quite slim. The largest part of the plug is resting up against the inside of the anal canal, which is the tightest part–unless you are very experienced with anal penetration and especially plugs or other larger toys (or multiple fingers), this tight passageway does not want to simply relax and become much larger than usual! Take it easy. This part is not supposed to hurt either. Again, communicate if you are removing the plug from someone else or vice versa.  

Butt Plug Safety Measures

Here are elements to factor into anal plug play to stay safe:

  • The person receiving the plug must want the experience. Research has shown that the desire of the penetrated person is very important in determining whether the experience is comfortable or painful. Related to this, NEVER engage in penetration (anal, oral or vaginal, with a toy or otherwise) that is not fully consented to or has been coerced.
  • Don’t start penetration until the penetrated person is turned on.
  • Never use a toy (or household item) for anal than is rough, breakable, sharp or scratchy or that can slip into the rectum. (It’s especially unsafe to let a vibrating toy get lost in the rectum–that’s a medical emergency, since vibration will increase the temperature inside and that tissue is delicate.)
  • Have plenty of lube on hand; with anal, it can take more than you expect for penetration to be comfortable.
  • Take it slow and easy as you begin. It can take some time for some people to relax. Make sure the situation is conducive to this.
  • Solicit feedback from the penetrated person and follow it.
  • None of this is supposed to hurt. If it hurts, STOP.
  • Beware using substances that might mask pain, from “anal ease”-type products to excessive alcohol or party drugs. Let the anus tell you if something is too much!
  • Remember the main principles of anal penetration: relaxation, lubrication, and communication.

Timing and Monitoring

Some people love the idea of wearing a butt plug for a long period of time. This is absolutely not a beginner move, and in general, it’s wise to be cautious if trying this, as well as body-aware. The rectum is expansive and stretchy–but the muscular anal canal is less so, and duration-focused butt plug play makes it stay more wide-open than it is accustomed to. This impacts its neurology, at least while this play is going on. Therefore, stay aware! If there is any discomfort or numbness involved, remove the plug. 

Cleaning and Maintenance 

Choose a plug made of a material you can easily clean: silicone, latex rubber (if you are not sensitive to that material), metal. Make sure the plug is clean when you begin play, and when you’re done, wash it thoroughly with soap and hot water. In some cases you might find fecal material on the plug; wipe it off with TP, follow up with a cleansing wipe or toy cleaner, and then do the soap and water step. (If your plug is solid silicone, without mechanical or electronic elements, you can run it through the dishwasher and then rinse thoroughly or boil it for a couple of minutes.) 

Dry your toy off with a clean towel or allow it to air-dry thoroughly. Do not store your butt plugs or other toys before they’re fully dry, especially not in a closed bag or case. 

If the surface of your toy becomes unstable (for instance, if you can wipe some of the color off or the texture changes), do not use the toy. 

What to Do in Case of Pain or Discomfort 

First, STOP. Withdraw the plug, remembering that you might need to wait a bit if you have gotten sensitive after orgasm, your lube needs to be refreshed, or you’ve tightened up and can’t relax. 

Look at the safety listing above and see whether there are elements of safe toy use you have missed. You might need more lube; you might have reached the limits of comfortable penetration for today; you might have changed positions and caused the plug to pinch or stretch the anal canal. Try to evaluate what happened. If you can figure that out and fix the situation, and you want to go back to play, add more lube and start over.  

There are also a few health issues than might affect whether anal plug use is uncomfortable or painful:

Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in the anal canal or rectum; in some cases you can see or feel them at the edge of the anus. Anal play (fully relaxed and with plenty of lube) is actually good for these, in the long run, but troublesome hemorrhoids can also cause discomfort and even bleeding during play.

Fissures are very painful and if you have them, you will likely not want anal play until they heal. These are cracks along the edge of the anus–compare them to the painful cracks you might experience at the sides of your mouth when your lips get chapped. They can happen, or be aggravated, by straining too hard on the toilet; hard stool; and anal penetration without sufficient relaxation or lube. Follow the safety instructions above to avoid fissures.

It is possible for internal rectal issues to cause discomfort and even bleeding. If following the safety suggestions doesn’t help, it’s time to see a doctor.  

Enhancing Sexual Experience with a Butt Plug

Good Vibes: The Ultimate Guide to Butt Plugs / What Are Anal Plugs?Butt plugs let you customize your stimulation and add anal sensation, which many people find very erotic, whether you’re enjoying partner sex or solo play. They are also a great option for easing into anal penetration with other toys or working up to anal intercourse. 

Dispelling Stigmas Surrounding Butt Plug Use

The anus and rectum can provide powerful erotic sensations for those who want them, and despite common myths, this isn’t limited to users of any particular gender or orientation. Whether or not a person has a prostate or even wants to engage in anal intercourse ever, a butt plug can add stimulation that can increase sexual enjoyment and orgasm. There is NO reason to feel shame about pursuing pleasure consensually, and no assumptions to be made about any person who would like to explore the pleasure their body is capable of. 

Stay safe–no shame.