We’re always hearing that we could be having better sex, a better orgasm, or a better relationship. But how often do we hear the nitty-gritty of how we can actually better understand our deepest desires and most embarrassing questions? Bustle has enlisted Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist, to help us out with the details. No gender, sexual orientation, or question is off limits, and all questions remain anonymous. Now, onto today’s topic: is it OK to like rough sex?
Q: I'm into rough sex. Very rough sex. I like being spanked, choked, pushed, and slapped. It feels great in the moment, but sometimes I feel a wave of doubt and regret after the experience is over. I consider myself a staunch feminist, but allowing men to hurt me during sex doesn't feel feminist at all. Is it OK for me to like rough sex?
A: Thanks for your question! From the get-go, let me just say that there's nothing wrong with rough sex in and of itself. There are plenty of normal, healthy — and feminist — people who love bringing aggression into the bedroom.
At the same time, it's worth trying to get a sense of your specific interests in rough sex. Sexual preferences can be tricky to sort out. Sometimes we like certain things in the bedroom for no discernible reason. You may like doggystyle sex in the same way you like red grapes: there's no particular rhyme or reason to it, you just like it. But some sexual preferences do have deeper meaning. Sometimes we can use sex to work out other dynamics in our lives, and sometimes that can happen in unhealthy ways.
Here are seven questions to ask yourself to make sure you're being safe while engaging in rough sex.
1. Am I Choosing Trustworthy Partners?
It’s always a good idea to be thoughtful about your sexual partners, but partner selection can be especially critical if you want to have rough sex. Rough sex is intense. You’re asking someone to inflict physical pain onto your body. You need to be able to trust that your partner will tread carefully and will respect your boundaries.
In general, I don’t recommend having really rough sex with one night stands or people you’ve just met, as it could potentially lead to dangerous situations. Rough sex often requires conversations about boundaries (more on that below). It’s fine to ask a one night stand to give your hair a little tug during sex, but asking them in the moment to choke you is much trickier. You don't have to be in a committed relationship with someone in order to have rough sex, but you want to make sure you’re with someone you trust.
2. Do I Have Limits?
Try asking yourself what your limits are when it comes to rough sex. Are there certain activities that feel like they would be crossing the line? If you can’t think of any boundaries, or if you feel scared by your boundaries, it may be a sign that your interest in rough sex isn’t entirely healthy.
In general, some good limits to keep in mind include avoiding the face and other delicate areas of the body. Consider the marks that could be left behind on parts of your body that aren’t usually covered by clothing. Of course, you want to avoid anything that could cause serious injury, like sprains, broken bones, or damaged blood vessels.
3. Am I Comfortable Talking About My Limits?
It’s not enough to just have boundaries; you need to be willing to share them with a partner! Things like light spanking and gentle hair-pulling generally don’t require too much communication, but you should talk about hitting, punching, choking, and anything that causes real pain. Simply telling your partner “I like it rough” can lead to miscommunication, so be clear on what specific activities are and aren’t on the table.
For example, you could say something like, “if you’re comfortable with it, I’d love if you could slap me across the face while we’re having sex. That’s the only part of my body that I like being slapped. It needs to be open-palmed, not closed-fist. I can show you the level of pressure that I like.” It’s also a good idea to agree on a safeword beforehand, so you can let your partner know if and when you need to stop.
4. Have I Educated Myself?
People like rough sex because it's, well, rough. They enjoy having a little (or big) side of pain with their pleasure. But in order to have rough sex safety, you need to know how to keep that pain from becoming too intense or potentially damaging. There are actually a number of techniques behind rough sex.
For example, if you're into being choked, you should know that pressure should be applied to the sides of the throat, but never to the front. If you're using specific props or toys, you should understand the correct way to use those items. Check out Tristan Taormino’s excellent book, The Ultimate Guide to Kink: BDSM, Role Play and the Erotic Edge, or consider signing up for a rough sex workshop.
5. Am I Using It As Therapy?
Some people believe that rough sex can help them process past experiences of physical or sexual abuse. Being able to consent to rough sex and having agency during the process can be incredibly powerful. Still, it's important that you have other outlets to talk about your feelings and process your experiences. After all, our sexual partners aren't trained therapists.
This is absolutely not to say that anyone who has rough sex has been abused, but it is worth being honest about whether you may be using sex to mask other feelings or experiences. If so, it doesn't mean you need to stop having rough sex, but it might make sense to also reach out to a trained professional.
6. If I Feel Regret After, Where Is It Coming From?
So many of us experience guilt or shame when it comes to sex. This is mostly due to the fact that sexuality is stigmatized in our society, so your feelings of doubt aren’t necessarily a red flag. To sort out what those feelings might be all about, ask yourself, “where are these feelings of shame coming from?” and “what does this voice in my head want me to do?” If it feels like you’re more concerned about what your friends, family, or society as a whole might think, rather than feeling genuine concern for yourself, you can disregard that wave of regret.
If it seems like the regret stems from something more, then again, it might be worth talking to a therapist in order to better understand the root of the feeling.
7. Am I Enjoying Myself?
This is one of the most important questions to ask yourself. If you’re having fun, experiencing pleasure, and being thoughtful and safe, you have nothing to worry about! What matters most is your enthusiastic consent and enjoyment.
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