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Introducing a little more rumble and tumble to your romps may feel taboo.
But according to recent research,
Still, because everyone’s so hush-hush about how they hanky-panky, there’s not a lot of info out there about pleasurable and safe rough play.
That’s why we called on professional dominatrixes, sex educators, and kink masters to help put together this rough-romp crib sheet.
Generally speaking, “rough sex is any sexual interaction that’s more physically aggressive or possibly physically dangerous,” says Dominatrix and sex educator Lola Jean.
But, as she says, “everything is subjective and what may be aggressive to one person isn’t aggressive to another.”
So anything from a smashed-mouth makeout or consistent pounding from behind to a wound-up bum slap or a full-blown BDSM torture scene can count as aggressive sex — so long as it’s consensual.
If it isn’t consensual, it isn’t sex. It’s assault.
Also important to note: “Rough sex doesn’t have to include any physical pain or discomfort,” says Jean.
Even sexting — IRL or through-the-phone dirty talk — and the kind of porn you’re watching can qualify something as aggressive.
Ain’t no shame in your rough sex game — no matter how “basic” or “extreme” you deem your desire to be!
Feeling ashamed of your sexual tastes? Daniel Saynt, founder and chief conspirator of NSFW, a private members club for sex and cannabis-positive millennials, recommends finding an online community of folks with the same interests.
“Your sexual kink, fetish, or desire for aggressive sex isn’t just yours,” says Saynt. “There are thousands, and many times millions, of others with your same interest.”
And if you have a partner who’s making you feel ashamed? Dump ’em.
So long as you understand the risks of the acts you’re engaging in, taking the proper precautions, and ensuring any other person involved is, too, there’s nothing to be ashamed of, says Jean.
Consent is an ongoing, enthusiastic agreement between all people engaging in a sexual activity.
“It can be revoked at any time,” says Domme Kat, a Denver-based Domme and sadistic little brat who gets what she wants at all (consensual) costs.
“If you aren’t sure if it’s 100 percent a ‘yes,’ it’s a ‘no.’”
And if it’s a no and you keep chugging/humping/rough-housing around? That’s assault. Got it?
It may not need to be said, but there’s a H-U-G-E difference between having a partner push you up against a wall and pound you hard and deep and having your partner tie you to a bed and whip you until your welts say their name.
Since “rough sex” can mean, like, a bajillion different things, you have to figure out what rough things you actually want to try!
One way to do that? Making a yes/no/maybe list.
Take a peek at this list of sexual terms from Scarleteen, then write all of them down into a yes, no, or maybe column:
- Things you definitely want to do or try sexually go into the “yes” column.
- Things you might want to try with more research and under the right circumstances go into the “maybe” column.
- Things that you don’t want to do, are outside of your comfort zone, or triggering to you go into the “no” column.
Have a partner in mind for all this roughhousing? You should each make one of these lists individually and also make one as a couple.
Spoiler alert: Rough sex isn’t all orgasms and screams of pleasure. It also requires a ton of talking.
Before anything happens
Chat with your boo-thing(s) about what acts you want to explore, what you’re each hoping to get out of it, and why you’re interested in exploring it.
“When you’re engaging in rough sex, you’ll have a heightened rush of adrenaline, which can influence how far you’re willing to go,” says Saynt.
Establishing boundaries ahead of time minimizes the risk of doing something you might regret.
You should establish safe words. For example, “yellow” for slow down or nearing your peak and “red” for a full stop and check-in.
If you’re playing with oral or breath asphyxiation, you should also establish a nonverbal safe word. This could be a leg squeeze or shaking your head “no” three times.
If you’re exploring impact play, you might decide to use a 1 to 10 scale. It’s an easy way to qualify just how hard or soft the impact really feels.
After being spanked or paddled, for example, you might say, “That was a 4, and I want to get to about an 8.”
There’s a misconception that only the receptive (or submissive) partner may need a safe word. But that’s not true.
In a BDSM scene where one person is “doing” the roughness and the other person is receiving the roughness, know that either of you can use the safe word, says Jean.
In the moment
“The things that make us salivate when we see them in porn may not be as enjoyable in real life,” says Jean.
That means you and your boo may have crafted a scene around something you’re just not into IRL. And that’s OK!
That’s why communicating with your partner throughout the scene is so important.
Some questions to ask:
- Do you want to take a breather?
- Do you think you can continue?
- Is this what you imagined it would be?
- Does this feel good?
- What do you need right now?
“Checking in goes beyond just what they say, it also means reading their nonverbal cues,” says Jean.
Remember: “There’s infinite time! Don’t feel like it’s your only opportunity to get have this kind of sex. There will be more,” she says.
“Stop when you need to stop and don’t be in a rush to ‘get things done’ or ‘tick off a rough sex box.’”
After all is said and cum (er, done)
Don’t be surprised if getting down and dirty rough-style brings up some feels! This is totally normal.
“For some people stuff comes up immediately after, the day after, or even later than that,” says Jean.
She recommends checking in both with your partner and yourself.
“Unpack what you’re both feeling, what can be done to neutralize any bad or icky feeling, and what you can do to eliminate any bad feelings and enhance any good moving if you do it again.”
Some questions you might ask yourself or each other:
- What surprised you? How did that make you feel?
- Is there anything you’d want to do differently if we did this again?
- Favorite parts? Not so favorite parts?
- How was this different from what you expected?
Before you do it again
Up for round two with this lover? You need to talk about it! Don’t just assume that you’re on the same page and that they want it to rustle and tussle the same way again, too.
When not to bring it up? When you’re already buttering each other’s buns! Chat about it when you’re both fully clothed. Here’s how:
Even if you don’t know their last name, you should still talk it out. Meeting at a bar or on a dating app doesn’t excuse you from talking about the kind of sex you want to have before panties are being ripped off.
A few ways to bring it up, either via text ahead of time or IRL:
- “I really enjoy having my hair pulled during sex and being spanked. Is that something you might be into? Totally OK if not. But if it is OK, I’d like to show you how hard I like to be spanked ahead of time.”
- “Before we start smashing, I just wanted to let you know that I enjoy dirty talking while we f*ck. Are there certain words or scenes that turn you on or off? Rough sex? Romantic sex?”
- “Do you have any experience with impact play? It’s something I really enjoy, so I’d love to know your experience level.”
Maybe you’ve been banged a few times. Maybe it was more than a few times. Either way, the sitch isn’t serious.
Just because it’s casual doesn’t mean you can’t be having the rough sex of your dreams!
Try out one of the following lines instead of your next “u up” sext, or when you’re lying in bed after your next rough-free romp:
- “Do you have any experience with [insert rough sex act here]. I read an article about it the other day and I think it’s something I’d like to try with you, if you’re interested.”
- “I’m craving being pushed up against the wall… you down to be a little rougher than usual with me tonight?”
- “I really liked when you f*cked me from behind. Do you think next time we do that you can try spanking me at the same time?”
If you’re in a long-term relationship you’ve prob got a go-to sex routine with your partner.
While that can make introducing more aggressive sex a little nerve-wracking, know that your partner’s probably got some things on their sex bucket list they’d like to try, too!
Some lines you might try:
- “I had a sexy dream the other night where you choked me during sex, and now I can’t stop thinking it might be something I’d like to try. Is that something you can see being hot?”
- “I’d love to plan a date night where we each pick a porn to watch together. How does this Friday sound?”
- “I read an article about the best sex positions for deep penetration and I found out a position I think it’d be really hot to try together. Can I send you the link?”
RomComs aren’t going to give you much rough sex inspo, but these starter scenes might.
Dirty talk IRL, on the phone, or via text
With a low risk for physical harm, dirty talk allows you to try out how certain scenes, positions, and acts make you feel.
“Paint a dream scenario with your words and allow your person to participate,” says Jean. “If they’re shy, you might give them A, B, C, or D options.”
Watch ethically created porn with your partner
So long as you and your boo fully and completely understand that porn is entertainment, not educational, watching porn featuring the rough sex acts you’re into can be an H-O-T way to bring it into your sex life.
You might even engage in a little mutual masturbation while you ogle the screen.
Explore play fighting
Pleasure-based sex educator and sex positivity advocate Lateef Taylor created something called, “baby bear-ing,” which Jean says can be a fun way to explore sensual roughhousing.
“Similar to when baby bears tussle and play with each other, you’re not trying to overpower or hurt each other,” she says. “You’re taking turns making your partner squirm.”
Try some brat play
No! Not like the doll.
“In brat play, one partner behaves in a way deserving of some form of punishment,” explains Saynt.
“They purposely antagonize their partner to push their buttons and get them to react in elevating aggressions for the purpose of teaching a lesson.”
This type of play can include some light aggressions like slaps and then lead up to rough sex and some forced orgasms, he says.
Ever wrap your arms around your partner and recap the romp you just had? In the world of BDSM, that’s called aftercare.
And after rough sex, it can be especially important.
“When you’re in aggressive sexual situations, your adrenaline goes up,” explains Saynt.
“Aftercare gives you a moment to calm down, hold each other, and for your consciousness to catch up.”
This is also a time to:
- ice any potential bruises and care for any rough-play induced wounds
- rehydrate and re-fuel if you’re hungry or thirsty
- read, watch a movie, or peruse a comic book alone or together
- cuddle, massage, or kiss your partner(s)
Ultimately, what aftercare looks like depends on how you and partner “enacted” rough sex — and what both of your mental, emotional, and physical needs are post-play.
Repeat it over and over to yourself as many times as you need to get it!
Research the activity before you do it
“Please take a kink 101 class, read some reference books, or hire a sex worker to show you some moves,” says Domme Kat.
Keep a little safety kit nearby
Depending on what acts you’ll be exploring, there may be some real risks involved.
Put together a first aid kit with everything you’d need should any mishaps happen.
If you’re using rope, for instance, you may want Neosporin for any rope burns and body-safe scissors to cut through any rope in a cinch.
And if you’re exploring blood play (hematolagnia), you’ll want to have alcohol swabs and bandages nearby.
Make sure neither of you are inebriated
“Even if your partner says they want rough sex, if they’re too drunk or high to mindfully consent to the action you run the risk of your actions being considered nonconsensual,” says Saynt.
Remember: Consent can be taken back at ANY time!
The category of rough sex is as unique and varied as all the rough rompers themselves! So probably still have some Qs about the sex acts and scenes that you want to try.
Going to sex parties, chatting up your kinky friends, hiring a sex worker, and exploring online communities are a good place to start.
Big reader? You can also check out the following books:
- “The Ultimate Guide to Kink: BDSM, Role Play, and The Erotica Edge” by Tristan Taormino
- “The New Topping Book” by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy
- “Vanilla to Kinky: The Beginner’s Guide to BDSM and Kink” by Jonathan Wolf
Gabrielle Kassel (she/her) is a queer sex educator and wellness journalist who is committed to helping people feel the best they can in their bodies. In addition to Healthline, her work has appeared in publications such as Shape, Cosmopolitan, Well+Good, Health, Self, Women’s Health, Greatist, and more! In her free time, Gabrielle can be found coaching CrossFit, reviewing pleasure products, hiking with her border collie, or recording episodes of the podcast she co-hosts called Bad In Bed. Follow her on Instagram @Gabriellekassel.