With all due respect to Salt-N-Pepa, let's talk about Todd. Todd (not his real name) is a friend of a friend. He's a rare breed—a finance guy who lives in L.A. He's been dating the same ladylike woman for three years. They are the picture of late-twentysomething, Amstel Light—drinking America. The very first time they slept together, they had anal sex. Miss Ladylike had never tried it before. For the next five months, anal was the only kind of sex they had. Supposedly, Todd had intimacy issues, and penetrating Miss Ladylike's rectum was less emotionally intense than venturing into the vagina. Eventually, Todd did the deed with Miss Ladylike in the usual way, and continues to, but they still have a whole lot of anal sex.

So, apparently, do a lot of other people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that in 2002, 38 percent of men ages 18 to 59 had entered a woman's back door. Thirty-five percent of women ages 25 to 44 had invited men in. Ten years before, only 26 percent of men and 20 percent of women reported having had anal sex.

"Anal is the new oral," says syndicated sex columnist Dan Savage. "I used to get letters from women about giving head. Those letters are now dwarfed by letters from women asking how to take it up the butt." Okay. But pronouncements and statistics that indicate the rising popularity of rearguard action don't address some nagging questions—the biggest one being how, presuming they haven't had their own rectums messed with, can so many guys justify asking women to let them take the service elevator?

Phillip, an engineer in Chicago, says he and his friends request a ride in the back seat because it's a harder-to-reach goal than old-fashioned intercourse. "Once a guy has anal sex, he's put on a pedestal by his peers," he says. He claims he hasn't had much trouble getting women to agree to it. "I only had to persuade two girls. [I asked] 'Can I put it in your butt?' At first they were like, 'No, it will hurt.' Then time after time of having sex with them they finally said okay. It hurt them the first time, but after that they always said they enjoyed it—if not a little, then a lot."

For other men, the appeal of anal penetration is less the novelty—and the fact that it gives them a good story to tell over beers—and more the psychology. "For most of my friends, it's sort of a domination thing," says John (not his real name), 30, a writer in New York. "[It's] basically getting someone in a position where they're most vulnerable. My friends enjoy that and they tell their friends they did it. But it's not like girls are ready for it—it's something they do when they're really drunk."