You actively look for pregnant ladies to give your seat to on the bus. You always hold open doors for strangers. You help your friend lug a sofa across town and up five flights to their new apartment. You're a nice person.
Illustration by Angelica Alzona.
So when someone yells at you to slap them across the face in the middle of sex, you freeze. The nice side of you doesn't want to hurt them, but the caretaker side of you feels like you should fulfil their request. And, if you're really honest with yourself, there's a little part of you that's curious about what it would be like to actually slap someone.
What is rough sex, anyway?
Most people would describe rough sex as some combination of wild, animalistic, passionate, kinky or raw. It isn't defined by one specific action, but can include things such as one person being dominant, roleplaying, talking dirty, spanking, biting, scratching, or using props such as restraints, paddles or whips.
One way or another, rough sex is more intense than everyday sex. Clients in my sex therapy practice say that consensual rough sex is fun because it's so intense. There's a sense that you're breaking the rules or doing something you shouldn't be doing. That element of the taboo makes it all the more thrilling. Even if rough sex is not something you've naturally gravitated to in the past, exploring it in a safe and boundaried way with your partner can help you tap into a side of your sexuality that you never realised existed. It can be really fun to not have to be the nice person all the time.
Only try it if you want to
The great thing about consensual rough sex is that you can decide on the specific activities that sound appealing to you. There are no rules. Still, you should only have rough sex if you genuinely feel interested in or curious about it! A lot of people push themselves to engage in rough sex because they think they're "supposed" to, or because a partner has requested it. Don't even get me started on the stories I heard in my practice after 50 Shades Of Grey was released.
Unfortunately, if you're only doing it out of a sense of obligation, your partner will be able to tell pretty quickly. There's nothing worse than being half-heartedly spanked. It might take a bit of practise to get good at being rough in the bedroom, but the important thing is to start with a genuine desire.
It's important to make sure both you and your partner are on board and excited about experimenting with rough sex. I suggest sending your partner this article, giving them some time to read it on their own, then having a conversation about the specific things you want to try together. You should also come up with a safeword that you can use if either one of you feels uncomfortable and wants to stop.
Sometimes I hear partners say, "I just want my partner to be rough. I don't want to have to talk about it." I get the appeal, but that's just not the way sex works. You both have to be willing to discuss your desires and boundaries, and negotiate safety. These kinds of conversations don't have to take all the fun out of sex, though! You can agree to play around with spanking, for example, but still have your partner surprise you with a spank in the moment.
Rough sex is really about being in the right state of mind. If you're a nice person outside of the bedroom, it may feel hard to tap into that raw, animalistic energy that rough sex requires.
One way to work around this is to roleplay. If you feel like you're just playing a character, it may be easier to let loose. You can set up a specific roleplay scenario with your partner. Pick something that has a natural power imbalance, like a teacher/student dyad. Or you can try simply envisioning yourself as someone else, like a celebrity or a character in a movie.
If you feel a little nervous about getting physically rough, you can always start with dirty talk. Talking dirty can be just as arousing and intense, without any fear of drawing blood or leaving a bruise. Here are some examples of different types to get started with:
- Talk about what you want to do to your partner, or what you're going to do to them. For example, "You're mine tonight. I'm going to have my way with you."
- Boss your partner around. "Get down there and lick my clit right now."
- Be withholding. "Oh, you want to come? Too bad."
Talking dirty is also a great way to reaffirm that you have permission from your partner. (Remember, consent conversations should always come first.) If you're nervous about springing something on them in the moment, you can say something like, "Do you need to be spanked?" Or, "You like that? You want me to go harder?"
Ease your way into it
As with all new sexual activities, I recommend starting small. Give yourself time to get comfortable. You don't have to go all-in on rough sex, especially if you've never tried it before, or don't naturally relate to that kind of energy.
Here are some ways to experiment. Read through the list with your partner and identify one or two that sound most intriguing to you both:
- Go harder, deeper or faster. You can up the intensity with kissing, touching, manual stimulation, oral sex, intercourse or toy play by thinking of the quality of your motions: As you touch your partner, think to yourself, "How hard, fast or deep am I going?" Try rotating between each of these three qualities.
- Spank your partner. The best place to start spanking is right in the middle of the butt cheek. It's a well-padded area, so it doesn't cause a lot of pain. It also makes a nice satisfying sound! Keep your fingers loosely together, and aim to make the most contact with your fingertips.
- Scratch your partner. Good places for scratching include the back, the butt and the neck. Curl your fingers, and gently drag them like a rake across your partner's skin.
- Pull your partner's hair. Take your hand rake and drag it up your partner's neck, into their hair. Curl your fingers tighter so you grab onto their hair. Slowly increase your pressure into a nice squeeze.
- Bite your partner. Aim for fleshy parts of your partner's body. Take their skin in between your teeth and gradually increase the pressure for a second or two.
- Restrain your partner. Pull your partner's hands above their head while they're lying flat on the bed, and hold them there with one or both of your hands.
With anything you do, pay attention to how your partner is receiving it. They can always use their safeword, but it's still important for you to keep an eye out for negative reactions. If you're not sure if their grimace is a good or bad sign, take a moment to ask, "How are you doing over there?"
Practise on your own
If you're unsure of how much pressure to use, or you want to refine your technique, you can always practise on yourself first. Try grabbing parts of your body more forcefully, and getting a sense of when it starts to hurt. Spank your thigh until you get the knack for the motion. Bite and scratch yourself. Pull your own hair. You might feel silly doing it initially, but these little experiments can go a long way towards helping you feel more comfortable in the moment with your partner.
Take care of each other afterwards
Rough sex can trigger unexpected reactions, which is why it's important to be prepared with safety conversations and safewords. If your partner uses their safeword, stop immediately, give them a little bit of space, then take plenty of time to discuss what happened. Even if no safeword was used, take a few moments afterwards to talk about what that was like for each of you. A lot of couples find that they like to be extra cuddly and intimate afterwards, as a contrast to the roughness. At a later date, you can also talk about whether or not you'd like to continue your explorations.
This article has been updated since its original publication.