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An illustration of a woman engaged in the sexual activity known as fisting, in which a hand is inserted into the vagina or rectum.

Fisting, handballing, fist-fucking, brachiovaginal, or brachioproctic insertion[1] is a sexual activity that involves inserting a hand into the vagina or rectum. Once insertion is complete, the fingers are either clenched into a fist or kept straight. Fisting may be performed with or without a partner.


Fisting is said to be the only sexual practice invented in the twentieth century.[2] It was "invented" by gay men, then adopted by women following the gay men's example.[3] The most famous fisting club in the world was the Catacombs, located in San Francisco, in the 1970s and 1980s.[3] The Handball Express was another such club.[4] Crisco was commonly used as a lubricant, before more specialized personal lubricants became available.

In the 1980s, based on the erroneous assumption that fisting was a major route for transmission of the AIDS virus, and sexual squeamishness, the public fisting culture in gay San Francisco led gay writer Randy Shilts to lead a successful campaign for the closure of venues (gay bathhouses and other sex clubs) that openly permitted it.[5] Fisting gradually returned as a sexual practice over the next 30 years.


The beak-like "silent duck" used in the initial stages of fisting

The "Silent Duck", also called "Duck-Billing", is the technique often used in which the person engaging in hand insertion shapes the hand to resemble a duck's beak. Typically, fisting does not involve forcing the clenched fist into the vagina or rectum; this is a practice called "punching". Instead, all five fingers are kept straight and held as close together as possible (forming the beak-like "duck"), then slowly inserted into a well lubricated vagina or rectum.[1]

Vaginal insertion

In more vigorous forms of fisting, such as "punching" or "punchfisting", a fully clenched fist may be inserted and withdrawn slowly.

Fistees who are more experienced may take two fists (double-fisting). In the case of double-fisting, pleasure is derived more from the stretching of the anus or vagina than from the thrusting (in-and-out) movement of hands.[1]


Fisting can cause laceration or perforation of the vagina, perineum, rectum, and/or colon, resulting in serious injury[6] and even death.[7][8][9][10] In general, sexual activities that cause air to enter the vagina can lead to a fatal air embolism, and the risk is probably even higher during pregnancy.[11]

Anal fisting being performed on a male.

Anal fisting carries risks of colorectal perforation; participants are advised to use latex gloves and lubricant,[12] and designate a safeword, the utterance of which will call an immediate halt to the activity. The practice, along with the insertion of hard objects into the anus, has been significantly related to the traumatization of the rectal mucosa in increasing the likelihood of infection, including Hepatitis B.[13]

Legal status

In the United Kingdom fisting is legal to perform;[14] however, the Crown Prosecution Service considers publication of fisting material to be grounds for prosecution under the Obscene Publications Act 1959.[15] Despite the CPS's guidance, in the case of R v Peacock in 2012, Michael Peacock was found not guilty of breaching the Obscene Publications Act for selling DVDs containing anal fisting.[16] There was also an unsuccessful extreme pornography prosecution in 2012 where it was argued by the prosecution that images of anal fisting constitute extreme pornography and thus are illegal to possess because the act is "likely to result in serious injury to a person's anus, breasts or genitals".[14]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Herrman, Bert (1991). Trust—the Hand Book: A Guide to the Sensual and Spiritual Art of Handballing. San Francisco: Alamo Square Press. pp. 46–47, 58. ISBN 978-0-9624751-5-3. Retrieved March 4, 2014. 
  2. ^ Piontek, Thomas (January 2006). Queering Gay and Lesbian Studies. University of Illinois Press. p. 90. ISBN 978-0-252-03031-4. Retrieved October 9, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b Gayle Rubin, "The Catacombs: A Triumph of the Butthole," in Leatherfolk: Radical Sex, People, Politics, and Practice, Alyson Press, 1992, ISBN 1555831877, pp. 119-141; reprinted in Deviations: A Gayle Rubin Reader, Duke University Press, 2011, ISBN 0822349868,, retrieved September 30, 2014.
  4. ^ Eric Rofes, A Walking Tour of South of Market in the 1970's, San Francisco, 2005, pp. 16-17,, retrieved September 30, 2014
  5. ^ Gayle S. Rubin, "Elegy for the Valley of Kings: AIDS and the Leather Community in San Francisco, 1981-1996", in In Changing Times: Gay Men and Lesbians Encounter HIV/AIDS, ed. John H. Gagnon, Peter M. Nardi, and Martin P. Levine, University of Chicago Press, 1997, ISBN 0226278573, pp. 101-144.
  6. ^ Cohen, C. E.; Giles, A.; Nelson, M. (2004). "Sexual trauma associated with fisting and recreational drugs". Sexually Transmitted Infections 80 (6): 469–470. doi:10.1136/sti.2004.011171. 
  7. ^ Preuss, Johanna; Strehler, Marco; Dettmeyer, Reinhard; Madea, B. (2007). "Death after anal "fisting"". Archiv fur Kriminologie 221 (1–2): 28–35. 
  8. ^ Torre, Carlo (1987). "Delayed death from "fisting"". The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology 8 (1): 91. doi:10.1097/00000433-198703000-00026. 
  9. ^ Fain, Dawn B.; McCormick, George M. (1989). "Vaginal "fisting" as a cause of death". The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology 10 (1): 73–75. doi:10.1097/00000433-198903000-00019. 
  10. ^ Reay, Donald T.; John W. Eisele (1983). "Sexual abuse and death of an elderly lady by "fisting"". The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology 4 (4): 347–350. doi:10.1097/00000433-198312000-00013. 
  11. ^ Kaiser, Rachel T. (1994). "Air embolism death of a pregnant woman secondary to orogenital sex". Academic Emergency Medicine 1 (6): 555–558. doi:10.1111/j.1553-2712.1994.tb02552.x. 
  12. ^ Dyk, Alta C. Van (2008). HIVAIDS Care & Counselling (4 ed.). Pearson South Africa. p. 156. ISBN 978-1-77025-171-7. Retrieved March 4, 2014. 
  13. ^ Auerbach, Judith (January 15, 1994). AIDS and Behavior: An Integrated Approach. National Academies Press. p. 49. ISBN 978-0-309-05093-7. Retrieved March 4, 2014. 
  14. ^ a b Myles Jackman (2012-08-08). "Extreme porn trial: consensual sex and the state | Myles Jackman | Law |". London: Guardian. Retrieved 2013-01-04. 
  15. ^ "Obscene publications: Legal Guidance: The Crown Prosecution Service". Crown Prosecution Service. Retrieved August 27, 2014. 
  16. ^ Beaumont, Peter and Hodgson, Nichi (7 January 2012). "Obscenity law in doubt after jury acquits distributor of gay pornography". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 January 2012. 


  • Addington, D (1998). A Hand in the Bush, The Fine Art of Vaginal Fisting. Greenery Press. 
  • Donovan B; Tindall B; Cooper D. Brachioproctic eroticism and transmission of retrovirus associated with acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). Genitourin Med. 1986 Dec;62(6):390-2.
  • Herrman, Bert (1991). Trust, the Hand Book: A Guide to the Sensual and Spiritual Art of Handballing. San Francisco: Alamo Square Press. ISBN 0-9624751-5-7. 
  • Inciardi, James A.; Surratt, Hilary L.; Telles, Paulo R. (November 1, 2000). Sex, Drugs, and HIV/AIDS in Brazil. Westview Press. ISBN 0-8133-3424-1. 
  • Medical terminology and some information on risks were taken from The Intelligent Man's Guide To Handball[dead link], a guide to man-on-man fisting.