“It smells like blood. And it tastes like raw flesh. It’s not something you’ve ever been exposed to. But it strikes a chord somewhere deep inside.” That’s how Sheena Shaw, a 29-year-old porn star and extreme anal queen, describes the primal appeal of rosebud—a kind of extreme anal sex that is rapidly gaining popularity in the adult film world, popping boners and flipping stomachs with equal abandon.
While rosebud is named after those crimson flowers you get on Valentine’s Day, that’s where any intimation of sweet, romantic love ends. The sexual act that Shaw specializes in is, in fact, caused by an anal prolapse—a medical condition in which the inner walls of your rectum collapse and slip out of your butthole, the bright red internal tissue blooming out of your anus like a desert rose (cueSting).
Of course, extreme anal practices like rosebud, fisting, enemas, and ass gaping are nothing new to the S&M crowd, or even the gay-porn industry. What is changing, however, is the encroachment of hardcore sex acts from the fringe into the mainstream. “Everyone’s pressured to do anal,” Sheena says. “Culture teaches us what to like and what not to like.”
What used to be taboo is now a staple, and the public is taking notice. On a thread titled “Increased Visibility of Anal Prolapse: Reasons?” from September 2013 on the online forum Adult DVD Talk, a user commented: “Anal prolapsing: at one time it was reserved… for girls who had performed one too many double anal scenes (Ava Devine, Amy Brooke: we’re looking at you). Now, we’re seeing much more of it on screen, even from performers who are fairly new to the industry.” So what is causing this blossoming of a thousand rosebuds? The same user hypothesized that anal performers just hid their prolapses off camera in the past. “(They) are now only showing it on screen because it has become acceptable and there is a growing market for it.”
Indeed, big porn companies like Evil Angel have started to produce top-quality extreme anal films with a variety of high-profile porn stars. Once a trend like this takes hold, a self-perpetuating feedback loop almost guarantees its continued spread. “When a gorgeous porn star does it, it is legendary stuff for extreme-anal-porn fans, thus resulting in even more gigs for the girls who can and will do it,” says the California-based porn director Jay Sin. He’s witnessed this effect firsthand—films of his like Deep Anal Abyss, Anal Acrobats, and Anal Buffet have gone on to become cult favorites. (Anal Buffet is now into its ninth sequel.)
But the conclusion that everyone from your boss to your creepy uncle is tuning in and getting turned on by girls pushing their innards out of their assholes is a vaguely unsettling—and simplistic—one. While porn films have gotten more aggressive and violent in recent decades, this could also be a result of not just evolving tastes but the internet’s impact on the porn industry.
The sheer quantity of amateur videos available for free on streaming sites poses a huge business problem for the commercial industry. Why would you reach into your wallet to purchase a film when thousands of videos of couples banging in their bedrooms are just a few clicks away? In response, the industry has turned towards niche markets that can’t be found easily online, for free. After all, the average girl next door might be able to take dick like Sasha Grey, but she most likely won’t be able to rosebud on command.
Mike South, a blogger who has been called “the king of porn gossip,” believes that by turning toward extremism, commercial porn has lost touch with its core fan base, who would be grossed out by rosebuds. When he first came into the business, in 1992, as a porn director and actor, the industry was effortlessly churning out releases, South says. A flooded market meant that films had to be different to get noticed. “At first it was relatively benign—gang bangs, anal, that kind of thing,” he recalls. “Then it was dressing girls up like preteens and picking them up on swing sets in schoolyards, forced oral until they threw up, forced anal… The more uncomfortable the girl looked, the more the industry would give it awards.
“Companies in porn are like blackbirds on a phone wire,” he continues. “When one takes off they all follow. I think, in this case, they all followed into the side of a glass building.”
Similarly, being able to rosebud is also a way for actresses to differentiate themselves from their competition. Working up to the level where you can prolapse isn’t easy. It requires repeated and prolonged scenes of taking massive objects up your ass until your rectal walls are so loose, you can just push them out of your anus. Sheena describes the feeling as similar to having a baby—only a few girls can just “plop it right out.” Most have to start preparing for the anal feat the night before, sleeping with butt plugs in to stretch out their assholes. They also train themselves to have powerful abdominal control, relaxing their sphincters and pelvic-floor muscles while simultaneously contracting their abdominal muscles. “I wish it hurt still, but it doesn’t,” she laughs.
Even so, self-inflicted anal prolapses are extremely risky. Few performers will risk losing their fans by admitting this, but bowel problems are a common side effect of repeated rosebud scenes. While many stars claim to take breaks, even time off doesn’t really tighten everything back up.Rectal surgery, typically reserved for the elderly, is the only medical solution for plugging up a leaking ass.
The problem is that in an industry where word-of-mouth is sometimes trusted more than facts, many actresses are ignorant or disbelieving of these long-term health risks. “When I started doing [rosebud], I wasn’t aware of the repercussions,” admits Sheena. “People would say, ‘Oh, that’s a myth.’ But I know women who have gotten really hurt, who’ve gotten tears and fissures in their assholes.”
Roxy Raye, photo courtesy of RoxyRaye.com
Roxy Raye, another leading anal queen who specializes in rosebud scenes, has faith in the invincibility of her physical prowess. “I wouldn’t say I’m concerned about the long term. Over the six years I have done this I have always healed very well,” she claims. “I don’t think the average joe realizes how elastic of a muscle your ass is. Maybe I’ll be the first guinea pig to report back on the results in ten to 15 years.”
The dominant attitude of the industry toward the possible side effects of repeated rosebudding is perhaps best captured by Jay Sin, who has directed Roxy in several of his films. “If there are [side effects], it’s cool,” he says, somewhat flippantly. “She could stop doing it.”
In a way, porn stars who rosebud are like football players, sustaining repeated physical injury for our entertainment. Except that, unlike pro-athletes, porn stars rarely, if ever, make more money for rosebud scenes than “regular” anal acts. (Although anal queens like Roxy and Sheena still command higher overall anal rates than other stars.) When I asked Sheena what resources would be available to her if she got injured on set, she replied, “No one ever talks about that. They make you sign waivers before you do these scenes. You’re absolutely not going to get workers’ comp.”
When it comes to what happens to performers once they leave the business, South glumly notes that there are absolutely zero safety nets to catch them should they develop physical issues further down the line. He puts it this way: “The industry doesn’t care about performers. They care about better train wrecks.”
Perhaps the only recourse for the next wave of rosebud stars is to take the advice of the more experienced. Sheena Shaw remembers how Amy Brooke, a legendary anal veteran, would tell younger performers what they were in for. “OK, girls, keep it up and you’re going to be a spokesperson for adult diapers!”