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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.[2] Once insertion is complete, the fingers are either clenched into a fist or kept straight. Fisting may be performed without a partner, but it is most often a partnered activity.


Fisting's emergence as a popular sexual practice is commonly attributed to gay male culture and it may not have existed until the twentieth century.[3][4][5] Robert Morgan Lawrence, a sex educator, however, believes the practice dates back thousands of years.[6] The most famous fisting club in the world was the Catacombs, located in San Francisco, which operated during the 1970s and 1980s.[7] The Handball Express was another such club.[8] Crisco was commonly used as a lubricant, before more specialized personal lubricants became available.

In the 1980s, it was assumed that unprotected fisting—which often produces small injuries to the anus, permitting microorganisms access to the blood—was an easy route for transmission of HIV. This, combined with sexual squeamishness towards the public fisting culture in gay establishments of San Francisco, led gay writer Randy Shilts to successfully campaign for the closure of venues, such as gay bathhouses and sex clubs, that openly permitted it.[9] Fisting gradually returned as a sexual practice over the next 30 years.

The San Francisco South of Market Leather History Alley consists of four works of art along Ringold Alley honoring leather culture; it opened in 2017.[10][11] One of the works of art is metal bootprints along the curb which honor 28 people who were an important part of the leather communities of San Francisco; those honored include Steve McEachern, owner of the fisting club the Catacombs, and Bert Herman, leader of the fisting community, author, and publisher.[10][11]


The beak-like "silent duck" used in the initial stages of fisting
Vaginal insertion
Four fingers inside of the vulva

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]

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, or colon, resulting in serious injury[12] and even death.[13][14][15][16] In addition, 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.[17]

Anal fisting being performed on a man

Anal fisting carries risks of colorectal perforation; participants are advised to use latex gloves and lubricant,[18] 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.[19]

Legal status

In the United Kingdom fisting is legal to perform;[20] however, the Crown Prosecution Service considers publication of fisting material to be grounds for prosecution under the Obscene Publications Act 1959.[21] 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.[22] 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".[20] , In the United States, according to attorney Allan Gelbard there is nothing "per se illegal" about any pornography so long as it is not child pornography, however, it can be found to be obscene. Fisting is on the Cambria List, a list of sex acts which may be prosecutable under U.S. obscenity law, created by lawyer Paul Cambria in 2001. The list is intended to act as guidelines to help producers avoid obscenity lawsuits.[23]

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. ^ "fisting", The Free Dictionary, retrieved June 10, 2018
  3. ^ Damousi, Joy; Reynolds, Robert (2003). History on the Couch: Essays in History and Psychoanalysis. Melbourne University. p. 57. ISBN 052285057X. Retrieved February 24, 2016.
  4. ^ David Bergman (2004). The Violet Hour: The Violet Quill and the Making of Gay Culture. Columbia University Press. pp. 206–207. ISBN 0231503830. Retrieved February 24, 2016.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ Taormino, T. (1998). The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women. Page 103: Cleis Press. ISBN 9781573440288.CS1 maint: location (link)
  7. ^ Rubin, Gayle (1992). "The Catacombs: A Triumph of the Butthole". Leatherfolk: Radical Sex, People, Politics, and Practice. Alyson Press. pp. 119–141. ISBN 1555831877.; reprinted in Deviations: A Gayle Rubin Reader (PDF). Duke University Press. 2011. ISBN 978-0822349860. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 6, 2014. Retrieved September 30, 2014.
  8. ^ Rofes, Eric (2005). "The Handball Express, 975 Harrison Street". A Walking Tour of South of Market in the 1970s (PDF). San Francisco. pp. 16–17. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 31, 2014. Retrieved November 24, 2014.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ a b Cindy (July 17, 2017). "Reginold Alley's Leather Memoir". Public Art and Architecture from Around the World. Art and Architecture. Retrieved July 7, 2018.
  11. ^ a b Paull, Laura (June 21, 2018). "Honoring gay leather culture with art installation in SoMa alleyway – J". Retrieved June 23, 2018.
  12. ^ 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. PMC 1744939. PMID 15572616.
  13. ^ Preuss, Johanna; Strehler, Marco; Dettmeyer, Reinhard; Madea, B. (2007). "Death after anal "fisting"". Archiv für Kriminologie. 221 (1–2): 28–35. PMID 18389861.
  14. ^ Torre, Carlo (1987). "Delayed death from "fisting"". The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology. 8 (1): 91. doi:10.1097/00000433-198703000-00026. PMID 3578218.
  15. ^ 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. PMID 2929548.
  16. ^ 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. PMID 6666762.
  17. ^ 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. PMID 7600403.
  18. ^ 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.
  19. ^ 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.
  20. ^ a b Myles Jackman (August 8, 2012). "Extreme porn trial: consensual sex and the state | Myles Jackman | Law |". Guardian. London. Retrieved January 4, 2013.
  21. ^ "Obscene publications: Legal Guidance: The Crown Prosecution Service". Crown Prosecution Service. Retrieved August 27, 2014.
  22. ^ Beaumont, Peter; Hodgson, Nichi (January 7, 2012). "Obscenity law in doubt after jury acquits distributor of gay pornography". The Guardian. Retrieved January 7, 2012.
  23. ^ "Is fisting the Internet's last taboo sex act?". The Daily Dot. October 21, 2014. Retrieved March 3, 2018.


  • 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, a guide to man-on-man fisting.