Getting Clear About Rectal Douching Among Men Who Have Sex With Men

Christian Grov, Drew Westmoreland, Pedro B. Carneiro, Jose A. Bauermeister, Adam W. Carrico

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Receptive anal sex is the primary means through which HIV is transmitted among men who have sex with men (MSM). Recently, researchers have begun investigating the role that rectal douching may play in amplifying risk for transmission. Yet, there is limited research on the frequency with which MSM douche, the products they use, and how this may vary across sociodemographic characteristics. A U.S. national sample of 4745 MSM completed an online survey that assessed their douching behavior, demographic characteristics, sexual behavior, and their anal sexual positioning (i.e., top, bottom, versatile). Nearly two-thirds (65.8%) had engaged in rectal douching in the last three months. Among those who douched, water was commonly reported (84.2%) and 20.1% reported using commercial enemas (e.g., Fleet), as well as water and soap (15.0%)—numbers exceed 100% as some participants reported more than one. Men who douched reported significantly more receptive and insertive condomless anal sex acts in the prior 3 months. One-in-ten men reported rectal bleeding after douching. Compared to HIV-negative participants who had not taken PrEP, participants had higher odds of reporting douching in the past 3 months if they were HIV-negative and currently on PrEP (AOR = 1.82), HIV-negative and previously used PrEP (AOR = 1.58), and HIV-positive (AOR = 1.83). Douching was common in this sample. Given that douching could amplify risk for HIV transmission, healthcare providers should discuss douching safety with their patients, with a focus on harm reduction (e.g., reduce risk of bleeding, as opposed to abstinence from douching).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2911-2920
Number of pages10
JournalArchives of Sexual Behavior
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • Anal sexual role
  • HIV risk
  • Men who have sex with men
  • Rectal douching
  • Sexual orientation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology(all)


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