Anal Beads vs. Butt Plugs

Anal Beads vs. Butt Plugs

Sex can be intimidating, especially if you are trying something new. Even if you’re experienced in a wide range of sex acts and intimate scenarios, there will be things you have never tried, regardless of your orientation or sexual openness.

Like any form or style of sex, there is a wide range of anal-focused sex toys available for both men and women, but understanding their differences and limitations are important if you want to experience pleasure in a safe and healthy way. Anal stimulation is extremely arousing to tens of thousands of people across the globe, if not hundreds of thousands, but there is no single generic toy that they all use.

Which Is Best?

As with any other sex toy, personal preference matters. Anal beads and butt plugs are entirely different, but there is no guarantee that two sets of beads or plugs will look or feel the same, either. Your own needs, desires, pleasure preferences, and health should be the driving force behind your decision, rather than whichever toy looks the most flashy or expensive.

Remember, sex it about the experience: your toys should be improving that experience, rather than getting in the way or hurting you in unexpected ways. Sex (or even masturbation) is a very personal, intimidate thing, so you need to make yourself feel comfortable and focus on you and your partner’s wants and wishes.

From an outside perspective, anal beads and butt plugs might look like they serve the same purpose, but they are vastly different in terms of how they feel, how they can be used, and what kind of alternate designs you can buy. If you’ve never had a chance to use either, or don’t even really know what they are, this comparison of anal beads vs. butt plugs should help you differentiate them properly.

Anal Beads – What Are They?

Anal beads are sort of like a 'chain' of spherical silicone, metal or glass beads that connect on a flexible wand, almost looking like some kind of pearl necklace from a distance. Some are also linked together with string, but these aren’t re-usable, so you won’t see them as often. In addition, there’s almost always a ring at the very end to help remove them, which is a key part of how they’re supposed to work.

They’re used exactly how you expect, although not all designs are exactly the same. They’re meant to provide pleasure while moving both in and out of your rectum.

Some won't use perfect spheres, and others will have the beads slowly increase in size as they get closer to the ring handle. Depending on the wand's material, it might not actually be flexible, but these aren't too common either and are mostly meant for experienced users.

Butt Plugs – What Are They?

Butt plugs are one of the more recognizable sex toys on the market, only surpassed by dildos and a handful of more specific, kink-related toys. As the name suggests, they're used to 'plug' your butt and are inserted into your rectum so that they'll stay there until removed. Most are teardrop-shaped, although some will take longer and thinner forms, and others will have ridges or ribs.

Most butt plugs will be made of silicone or some other flexible materials, but there are some designs that use glass, metal or another solid shell instead. These are better left to people with experience using them since they're not really safe for first-time users who don't fully understand what they're doing.

Although their suitable for both men and women, men often get more pleasure out of them thanks to their prostate. There’s a lot of nerve endings there that can help provide far more pleasure than it would for women, so many butt plugs are specifically designed to hit this spot. If you spend enough time looking for them in sex shops or online, you might even see some oddly-shaped or slightly-curved designs made for this exact purpose.

How Do They Work?

While they might blend together from an outsider’s point of view, butt plugs and anal beads are actually used in different ways, with the only major similarity being that they are inserted into the rectum. In fact, there are some techniques that can only be done with one of them due to the way they're designed.

Anal Beads

One of the most notable features of anal beads Is the fact that you can tug them back out easily. While it's probably not the best idea for a complete novice, being able to pull them out and reinsert them provides a similar kind of pleasure to a dildo, with the added benefit of a much more defined shape that can hit different nerve endings easily. This is generally called "tugging."

Since most designs have the beads slowly get larger nearer the end of the wand, you’re not forced to use them all at once. Many of them are designed in a way that will let you insert and remove them yourself (especially if they have a ring base, which is really easy to handle), so they’re also a great masturbation or foreplay aid, and you don’t need your partner to help you with them if they’re not fully comfortable doing it.

The fact that they stimulate pleasure in your anal nerves means that they can be used in a range of different ways. Not only are they great as a standard sex toy, but you can also pull them out just before your (or your partner’s) orgasm to increase its length and the amount of pleasure it provides. Since they’re easy to pull out one bead at a time, you can also pull it out or insert it slowly, building up pleasure without going far enough to cause an orgasm before you’re ready.

Butt Plugs

Butt plugs are much more straightforward, as you might expect. Regardless of whether they’re supposed to hit your prostate or not, they’ll put pressure on the walls of your anus (as well as your vagina, if you are female), hitting more nerve endings and providing a constant amount of low-level stimulation that can help you achieve better orgasms.

They can be a great addition to other sex acts, too. If you don’t need your or your partner’s rectum, you can plug it up for increased pleasure with no real downsides or risks. Since they’re easy to use, it doesn’t take much extra time to get them ready.

There's also another, less obvious use for them. Many people, especially men, use them as a way to "prepare" themselves for larger toys in the long-run. It helps stretch out your anal canal without doing permanent harm to your body, making it easier to insert larger toys in the future. This makes them a great starting point for novices and people without much experience since they're much safer than a full-sized dildo or a similar large toy.

Are They Safe To Use?

It’s important to choose a butt plug that has a large, flared or otherwise safe-to-use base. One of the biggest problems with baseless plugs is that your sphincter can accidentally pull it too far in, leaving it stuck. This isn’t just embarrassing, but dangerous, especially if it’s constantly pressing on certain nerves or creating pressure.

While anal beads won’t have this problem as often, they can still get stuck if the beads are too large – you shouldn’t have to force a bead in, so make sure you stop at reasonable bead size and pull it out gently, especially if you or your partner are using it for the first time.

Like all toys, lubrication is very important. Without it, you'll cause a huge amount of harm to your rectum, as well as the nerves inside it, and the chance of the toy getting stuck increases by a considerable amount. There's almost no upside to taking a non-lubricated toy, and the small amount of extra pleasure you might potentially get definitely isn't worth the pain and risk.

Why Should I Use Anal Beads?

As with most sex toys, there are far more positives than negatives when it comes to using anal beads, as long as you’re doing everything consensually and in a safe way.

They’re Very Simple

Despite their odd designs, anal beads are actually reasonably simple, and they're a great place to start if you're looking into sex toys for the first time. Since the beads start out small and increase in size, they're also a great way to learn your (or your partner's) limits without forcing an oversized toy into your rectum.

Since they're designed to be removed and reinserted repeatedly, they're also very easy to pull out if they start hurting. Many people find anal play odd at first, and take some time to get used to the feeling, so you can remove the beads at nearly any time without ruining the mood. Even the act of removing them creates pleasure, so doing it at the right time can have better results than leaving the toy in.

They’re Versatile

Another great upside of anal beads is that there's a vast range of designs on offer, all with their own quirks and differences. Complete novices can go for a standard, flexible wand, but you might eventually progress to one with a ribbed design or flatter, more oval-shaped beads, both of which change the way it creates pleasure. Even a small change like more distance between each bead can be enough to alter how it feels, which means that as few as half a dozen different types of anal beads can help you keep things fresh each time.

They’re not all just flexible silicone wands, either. You can get ones made of metal and glass, or designs that have a vibrating motor inside, or even specially-created sets of beads that inflate slightly once inside you. For such a simple toy, there’s a lot of different types and features to choose from, and you’ll be able to experience more and more as you get more confident in your ability to use them.

However, if you just want something simple, you’re not losing anything with normal silicone beads. They’re easy to use and easy to clean, so many people prefer to use them most of the time anyway.

They’re Flexible

Since most anal beads are made with flexible materials or at least have flexible links between each bead, they allow for a greater amount of movement once they're inside you or your partner's rectum. This can help create more pleasure than a single, solid toy would, and it has the added benefit of making them really easy to store or hide away. It also means that you can pull them out at certain angles, allowing you to try out different techniques and positions without causing any pain.

Flexibility also means that they’re not as painful if something goes wrong, too. Having a solid, heavy dildo stuck inside you is far more dangerous than a string of soft, small beads, which makes them far less risky to use if you’re a complete novice or beginner.

The Bad Parts of Anal Beads

While they’re not inherently dangerous, there are still a few factors that can make anal beads a bad experience for you. It varies from person to person, so there’s no guarantee than any of these will actually affect you at all.

They’re Terrifying

Anal beads are, to be honest, kind of horrifying for people with no experience using them. Ironically, butt plugs seem far less dangerous from an outside perspective, since they don’t extend very far and have quite a simple shape. Anal beads, by contrast, almost look like some kind of BDSM toy (which isn’t entirely wrong), and they don’t really fit people’s expectations of what a sex toy would look like.

The size of the beads can also be quite intimidating, especially to people who don’t realize that you don’t need to use the entire wand. The idea of putting something so large up a person’s rectum can drive some people away quite quickly.

It Can Hurt

Not every person enjoys anal play, and it can take a while before you warm up to it. Some people simply never enjoy it no matter how they practice, either. Like any anal-focused sex toy, it’ll take a while before your body adjusts, so it can be oddly painful the first few times you use them.

Even if your body learns to accept it, the feeling might also still be strange and uncomfortable. Again, this is something you’ll usually get used to, but some people won’t enjoy it no matter what.

Not All of Them Are Safe

Remember how most anal beads are made with silicone? That’s for a reason – the toy is not likely to break inside you. Some less common models use string, glass and other hard or breakable materials that can be dangerous if used incorrectly. Let’s just say you don’t want a glass bead breaking while you’re using it.

String beads are usually much weaker than silicone ones, so they’ll eventually wear out and fall apart, meaning that the beads are no longer connected properly. They might also not have a proper base, so you need to take care when using them, and dispose of them if they’re starting to break.

Why Should I Use Butt Plugs?

If you’re interested in using butt plugs, there’s actually a good list of reasons why they might be useful. Some have already been covered earlier, but that’s not all they’re good for:

They Feel Different

Butt plugs are much thicker and heftier than anal beads, making them closer to real anal sex than their longer counterparts. They’re also more concentrated into a single space, so you’ll be dealing with a single “chunk” rather than a lot of individual beads. This provides a different kind of pleasure, but that’s not a bad thing.

You can also often get hold of plugs with their own design differences and extras, such as a ribbed surface or specially-designed top half. This is great if you want a particular kind of experience, and makes it much easier to expand your horizons without having to use tools you might not be comfortable with.

They Offer Stable Pressure

One of the best parts of using butt plugs is that they provide a constant kind of pressure – unlike anal beads, which are meant to be moved around, butt plugs help create a “full” feeling that creates steady pressure, something that many people find very pleasurable.

This is actually a very useful upside for women, since the pressure in the anus also applies pressure to the vaginal walls, creating even more pleasure in the process.

They Stretch You Out

As mentioned earlier, one of the more practical uses of a butt plug is the fact that they help stretch you out. This isn’t just great for in-the-moment pleasure, but it also makes it much easier to take larger toys in the future, which can be great for people who want to escalate things slightly. However, since it’s not actually forcing your butt to open wider, you won’t run into problems with the toy feeling too small, either.

The Bad Parts of Butt Plugs

Again, just like anal beads, there are some problems that certain people might run into when using butt plugs.

They’re Harder to Use

Butt plugs aren't as varied as anal beads, even if you buy a set of dozens of different sizes. If a plug doesn't fit, it doesn't fit, and unless you stretch yourself out in the future with a different toy, it probably never will fully fit. This makes them difficult for complete novices to use since it's possible that you'll never find one that perfectly fits.

It also means that they can be more dangerous if you try to force it. While there are ways to temporarily stretch yourself out, you should never force yourself to take a plug that your body isn’t able to handle.

They Can Hurt

There’s also a chance that they’ll hurt, especially if you start with a specialized design. Even with lubrication, it's still possible that you'll end up in pain – with butt plugs, there's no way to go at your own pace, and the toy is either "in" or "out." There's not really a middle ground there, so you might need practice before you can use one properly.

Which Should I Choose?

When it comes to choosing between the two, you need to keep your personal preferences in mind, as well as your past experience and the size you’ll actually be able to take. While anal beads are often more useful for beginners, they can also be far more intimidating, so it’s really a question of simplicity against comfort.

Like any sex toy, you need to make sure you’re safe. If you’re completely new to using anal sex toys, anal beads are probably the way to go, since you can use them slowly and don’t need to commit to an all-or-nothing approach like butt plugs. However, once you have some experience, butt plugs are a great way to start developing a proper tolerance towards larger objects, making it easier to get into larger toys in the future.

Women might find it easier to go for butt plugs straight away since it provides more pressure (and therefore pleasure) than it would if a man used it.

No matter what you pick, as long as you're careful and stay safe, you should be able to enjoy either toy and get an extraordinary amount of pleasure in the process.


Fiona Petree

Every product on The Elaborated is hand picked by me to ensure you get the most out of your new toy. If you have a question about any product, or the correct use of any of our products, myself or an experience team member will reply to your emails and comments, and we love to hear from our satisfied customers.

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