Playing Handball: A Guide to Fisting
The term “fisting” refers to the practice of inserting the entire hand into a partner’s vagina or anus. In the gay community, this is often called “handballing,” which I consider a more accurate and less frightening term. When people hear the word “fist,” they often imagine something violent, as if you’re going to be punching someone’s genitals. This is not the case—you’re not going in there like Popeye, people. In reality, fisting can be an intense sexual experience for both partners, one that requires a lot of trust, communication, time and lube.
First of all, your goal when fisting a partner should be to cause no damage, not just to minimize damage. Like any other kind of anal or vaginal play, fisting should not cause pain or serious physical trauma. Pain or severe discomfort is a sign that your body is not ready or relaxed enough for this type of play. It’s extremely important for both partners to communicate to each other about this and to stop if the partner who is being penetrated feels any pain. Sometimes, even if you have fisted or been fisted by a partner before, the body will just not be able to accept a whole hand, and the best thing to do in that case is to acknowledge that it’s not going to happen and move on to another type of enjoyable play. Never force the process.
Second, realize that fisting is indeed a process. You’re not going to squeeze your hand into someone’s body cavity without a lot of warm-up. You can begin with some non-penetrative activities that will get blood moving to the recipient’s pelvis—any kind of genital or anal stimulation that they find enjoyable. When they are ready for penetration, insert one or two fingers anally or vaginally and massage your partner internally to begin to relax the PC and/or sphincter muscles. It’s important to use lots of lubricant during this process! Your partner can let you know when they are ready for three or four fingers. Most people find it easiest to insert their fingers in a “V” shape, with all four fingers coming together in a point like a bird’s beak. At this point, your fingers are not in any way in the shape of a fist!
The most intense part of the process, and the point at which many people get stuck and realize that they may have to stop, is inserting the thumb (again in a “V” shape with the rest of the fingers) and then getting past the knuckles, since this is the widest part of the hand. This requires a lot of relaxation on the part of the receiving person, who may find it helpful to bear down with their PC muscles. People with smaller hands will find this step easier to accomplish than people with larger hands (no surprise there). Once past the knuckles, the inserting partner may find that the rest of their hand is naturally pulled into the vagina or anus and that their fingers and thumb curl into a ball.
Once the hand is inside, the person who is being penetrated may want their partner to stop all movement, may want to rhythmically clench and release their PC muscles, or may want their partner to gently and slowly rotate their hand or lightly flex their thumb and fingers. Even the smallest movement may feel like an earthquake to the person being fisted. Experiment with what feels good in this position, including stimulation of the external genitals or other parts of the body.
People who enjoy fisting may like it because of the intense connection it can create between partners, because of the feeling of vaginal or anal fullness created by the hand, or because the process of opening up your own or someone else’s body in this way is a unique experience. It’s not for everyone, and some people may find it impossible depending on the size of their body and the size of their partner’s hand, but it is in no way unusual or damaging. Bill Brent has a chapter about fisting in his book, The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Men, and Deborah Addington has written a book called A Hand in the Bush: The Fine Art of Vaginal Fisting. I recommend both of these to anyone interested in learning more about the topic since, as always, this column can only serve as an introduction to specific types of sexual activities.
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Laura Anne Stuart has a master’s degree in public health and has worked as a sexuality educator for more than a decade. She owns the Tool Shed, an erotic boutique on Milwaukee’s East Side.