Although kink and BDSM are a little outside the comfort zone of mainstream America, plenty of people fantasize about getting a little freakier in their sex life.
As we’ll talk about later, 69% of the population says that they have had a sexual fantasy about engaging in rough sex.
Despite the stigma surrounding it, rough sex requires an immense amount of trust, open communication, and active consent to be done correctly.
Some people confuse rough sex for an unhealthy relationship, sexual violence, or even domestic abuse and sexual assault, particularly if it involves a man being rough, and that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Rough consensual sex isn’t something you can jump into without doing any research first. There are a lot of rules and safety precautions to consider to make sure everyone involved is happy and fulfilled.
This guide will break it all down for you.
Article Summary: In this article, we’ll talk about:
What Is Rough Or Aggressive Sex — And Why Do People Like It?
It’s totally normal to be interested in rough sex and as we’ll explore, there are a lot of different reasons why people enjoy it!
But what, exactly, does “rough” sex mean? As it turns out, the answer isn’t simple.
What Is Rough Or Aggressive Sex?
Rough sex is a subjective term that can mean a lot of things to different folks.
Sexual activity that is “rough” or “hardcore” to one person might be seen as tame to someone else and we’ll explore the specific activities it involves in greater detail below.
Rough sex can mean anything from gentle slapping and spanking to hardcore BDSM, which stands for bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, and sadomasochism.
Generally speaking, rough sex means sex that is aggressive and/or violent, falling outside the norms of vanilla or conventional sex.
Aggressive or kinky sex should only be engaged when all partners give their consent before the act.
Susan Milstein, a member of our medical review team and who has a Ph.D. in Human Sexuality Education, defined rough sex like this:
“First things first — rough sex should always be consensual.
After that, it gets a bit confusing because ‘rough sex’ doesn’t have a single definition. What one person thinks of as rough sex may be a normal Thursday night for someone else.
Usually, it involves some sort of aggression, which can simply mean the speed of sex is faster and the touch is much rougher, less tender, than usual. There may be a power differential of some sort — one person is more dominant while the other person is more submissive (though who has the power might switch partway through). It may also include things like consensual pain and bondage.”
What Activities Are Considered Rough, Hardcore, Or Aggressive During Sex?
When it comes to rough sex, there is a spectrum of activities ranging from relatively mild to more extreme.
As I mentioned earlier, “rough” sex can also be subjective and what you consider relatively tame is rough to someone else.
Rough sex acts on the milder end of the spectrum:
- Slapping or hitting
- Name-calling and dirty talk
- Rough or forceful motions
Rough sex acts on the more extreme end of the spectrum:
Intensity is a factor as well.
Mild rough sex can be made more extreme depending on how you engage in the activity, or “extreme” acts may be made milder if done gently.
For instance, spanking can be so light it’s barely felt or it can leave behind a welt on your skin that lasts for more than a day.
Similarly, gagging is thought to be extremely rough, but if it’s done loosely, it becomes a softer form of rough sex.
Why Do People Like Rough Or Hardcore Sex?
There are many reasons why people like rough or hardcore sex and all of them are valid!
People enjoy having rough sex because:
- It’s a way to explore something “taboo”
- They want to shift power or control in a way that contrasts with their primary role in daily life
- They’re looking for a way to release inhibitions
- They enjoy the adrenaline rush that comes with it
- They may be using it as a safe way to heal from past trauma
It’s exhilarating to do something considered taboo by the general population.
Once upon a time, BDSM was classified as a sexual disorder or deviation.
Although it’s more mainstream today and there are plenty of adult sex forums dedicated to the topic — there is still a stigma attached to the idea of being deliberately rough in bed.
Some people like rough sex because it’s the exact opposite of their everyday lives.
For instance, if you’re constantly in control and on top of everything at work or home, it can be freeing to let yourself be dominated in the bedroom during hardcore sex. K.W, the owner of fetME Shop, told us:
“It all boils down to psychology and fantasies. What I noticed from watching the industry, people who say ‘Yes, sir/ma’am’ at work every day, tend to take dominant roles in the bedroom.
Vice versa, when it comes to submissiveness, folks who ‘call the shots’ in real life want to relax and not make any decisions in the bedroom. Dominance and submissiveness in the bedroom are all about power exchange.”
Some people look at rough sex as a way to release their inhibitions or let out their “animal side,” exploring a part of themselves that they don’t typically have an opportunity to set free.
Many people feel a rush of adrenaline from the intensity of rough sex, as well as from the pain — although that’s not necessarily an aspect of rough sex for everyone.
Susan Milstein has a Ph.D. in human sexuality education and sits on our medical review board. She explained it like this:
“When we have sex our bodies release dopamine, which makes us feel good. When we have rough sex it can also impact our cortisol and testosterone levels, which can make it feel good in a different way.”
It makes sense since studies have found that elevated adrenaline can increase attraction between partners.
For some, rough sex can also be a way to work through trauma. Kay Johnson, the founder of Let’s Get Kinky, told us:
“For me, rough sex is a way to heal from past trauma and abuse. As a child, my father often used corporal punishment for even the smallest mistakes. Rough sex allows me to feel in my power with a partner since I know I can stop the roughness at any time.”
It’s important to note, however, that this is not true for everyone, or even most people.
Is It Normal To Enjoy Rough Sex?
Despite the stigma that surrounds it, it’s very normal to be interested in rough sex or to take pleasure in it.
As we mentioned earlier, 69% of the population has fantasies about engaging in rough sex of some kind and it’s a popular type of pornography.
Dr. Justin Lehmiller, a member of our medical review board and author of the book Tell Me What You Want, broke down a study of almost 5,000 undergrad students in the Midwest. He discovered:
“Among those who had a current sexual or romantic partner (about 36% of the sample), 79% of them said they had engaged in rough sex with their partner before.
Put another way, just 1 in 5 people in relationships said they had never done it.”
Of the 79% who had rough sex, 13% do it often, 37% do it sometimes, and just 29% do it rarely.
It’s worth noting that 46% of them initiate rough sex, while 54% of them said their partner initiates it.
What Are Other Names For “Rough Sex”?
Rough sex can be called hardcore sex, aggressive sex, forceful sex, BDSM, kinky sex, violent sex, and even passionate sex.
No matter what you call it, this type of sex falls under the category of kinky sex, but not all kinky sex is rough.
The words “kink” and “fetish” tend to get thrown around as umbrella terms when it comes to non-vanilla sex — or anything that falls out of the scope of “conventional” sexual relations.
The truth is that kinks and fetishes are different from one another.
A fetish is when a person fixates sexually on an object or body part that typically isn’t considered sexual, the most common example being feet or high heel shoes.
A kink, on the other hand, is essentially any sexual activity that falls beyond the realm of or mainstream sex.
Bottom Line: Rough sex is more forceful or aggressive compared to “vanilla” or conventional sex. Rough sex can range from light spanking to hardcore BDSM and one person’s idea of “rough” can be completely different than someone else’s. People enjoy rough sex for reasons such as being excited by something taboo, playing a different role than in their everyday lives, or even working through trauma. It’s completely normal to be interested in kinky sex.
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How To Talk To Your Partner About Rough Sex
Having an interest in rough sex can be a scary thing to bring up with your partner!
Because of the controversial nature of kinky sex, it’s easy to picture your partner calling you a sex pervert and kicking you straight out of the house.
But don’t book a hotel room just yet.
Let’s talk about how to best broach this taboo subject.
How Do You Bring Up The Topic Of Rough Sex With Your Partner?
It’s intimidating, but the best way to let your partner know you are interested in rough sex is to sit down and have an open and honest conversation about it.
Your partner may be wary of rough sex because of the stigma that surrounds it. Open up a dialogue so you can answer any questions that they may have.
It’s understandable if you’re hesitant to open up about your fantasies, especially if you’re afraid your partner will reject them.
One online questionnaire enables couples to learn about their mutual kinks by asking both to check off their interests separately. The results of the questionnaire show only the activities both partners have a shared interest in.
It’s important to listen to your partner’s desires and boundaries and clearly express your own.
Much like aftercare (which we’ll talk about later on), after sex can be a good time to bring up the things you would like to do in the future.
If you bring it up right before having sex, your partner might feel ambushed and not have enough time to fully consider what you’re asking.
Most importantly, don’t abruptly approach the topic of rough sex by getting rough in bed out of the blue.
Rough sex should never happen without consent and communication beforehand.
What Do You Do If Your Partner Is Not Interested In Rough Sex?
If you have talked it through with your partner and they are certain that rough sex is something they’re not interested in, it is time for you to decide how important it is to your sexual satisfaction.
Can you be happy and fulfilled without it?
If you cannot sacrifice the experience of rough sex, you may consider asking if your partner is comfortable with opening your relationship so that you can find someone else to satisfy this need.
If they are not comfortable with an open relationship and you can’t sacrifice the type of sex you would like to have, it may be time to think about separating so both partners can get what they need.
K.W., the owner of fetME Shop, told us that some people are unable to give their partner what they want because of the dissonance between how they view their partner and the things their partner would like done to them:
“I’ve heard some women say: ‘I wish he bent me over and pulled my hair’, but their husband is too ‘boring’ for this type of play. Men would say: ‘She is a mother, a wife, I can’t do this, it’s degrading’.
But is it bad if she asks for it? You have the consent. It stays in the bedroom. You can be whoever you want to be.”
This is why it’s important to talk with your partner, even if the conversation is difficult to have.
Neither person can get what they want in a sexual relationship without communication — whether it’s rough sex or any other sexual activity, for that matter.
Why Is Communication Important Before Having Rough Sex?
K.W. also told us about the importance of communication and consent:
“Communication is THE MOST important thing in kinky sex, especially, the one that involves implicit consent at all times. At all times means that if I said ‘Yes’ to this type of kink today, you need to ask again tomorrow. Nobody should EVER assume consent.”
These questions are a good place to start your journey into rough sex/kink:
- What are your partner’s and your levels of experience?
- What type of touching is acceptable?
- What are your soft and hard boundaries — meaning, those that you may not choose to enforce (soft) or ones that must not be crossed (hard)?
- What kind of experience do you want to have? How do you want to feel?
Again, this kind of sex talk should not happen when your partner might feel pressured into doing something they haven’t fully considered.
After sex or anywhere else outside the bedroom can be good places to discuss such matters.
For instance, while cooking dinner or going on a drive, neither partner is being pressured into sex at that moment and the topic can be discussed objectively and openly.
Once you have answered these questions with each other everyone must be very careful not to cross the boundaries you have created together.
How Do You Set Your Boundaries For Rough Sex With A Partner?
If you or your partner are new to rough sex, an easy way to define your limits and boundaries is to find a list of kink/BDSM acts and then go through and check off the items you would be comfortable or interested in.
Then, sit down with your partner and discuss the lists you have both made in detail.
If you’re too shy to do this openly, this online questionnaire provides a way for couples to share their mutual kinks — the results of which displays only the activities both are interested in, and nothing else.
Since each person’s limits can change as time goes on, set a time to check in with each other where you can change or reset your boundaries as needed.
Establish TWO safewords with your partner — one for when you are nearing the end of your boundary (a soft limit) and another that communicates you have reached or crossed a hard boundary.
Make sure to use unique words that can’t be misinterpreted. Saying “no” or “don’t” can easily be part of the fantasy during rough sex, so it’s better to choose something completely out of context, like “spider monkey” or “pancakes.”
K.W. gave us some insight into the wide world of safewords:
“The most common safeword is … ‘safeword.’ Hand taps or other gestures are also acceptable (especially, when gag balls are involved and you literally can’t talk).”
A safe signal or gesture is a hand or body movement that you and your partner agree will signify a need to stop the activity, which is important when one (or both partners) are unable to speak a safe word.
This could be a hand gesture, a specific arm movement, or anything that conveys a message clearly — just make sure that the limbs or body parts involved in making that gesture are in a position to do so.
If your partner is not respecting your boundaries, communicate that to them.
Depending on if they crossed a soft or hard limit — and how — you may prefer to warn them and offer another chance, or you may feel the need to end the relationship.
Bottom Line: Rough sex can’t happen without thorough consent and communication. It’s best to bring up the topic at a time when your partner won’t feel ambushed or pressured. Give them space to ask questions and fully consider the idea. If your partner is uninterested in rough sex, you will have to decide if it’s something you can live without or if you need to find a partner who shares your desires. If proceeding with rough sex, set some boundaries and decide which acts you and your partner are okay with and do not cross the boundaries you have made. Consent is constantly changing so you have to communicate with your partner at all times, not just when you pitch them the idea.
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How To Explore Rough Sex Safely
So now that you understand the basics of rough sex, you’re probably wondering how to apply these concepts to your actual sex life.
It’s easy to imagine these things in theory, but how can you start to explore this sexual desire yourself?
How Should You And Your Partner Prepare For Rough Sex?
I may have mentioned this already but…communication!
Founder of Let’s Get Kinky, Kay Johnson, reminded us how important communication is during rough play:
“You can never over-communicate. I recommend asking your partner about their kinks and turn-ons and sharing yours as well. The chances are high that you have some kinks in common, as well as some red lines.
Communicating openly about your kinks helps each person protect their boundaries. I also can’t stress enough establishing a clear safe word. Some of my favorites are ‘Red’ and ‘Yellow’ for stopping and slowing down.”
Kinky sex begins with a huge amount of trust. K.W, the owner of fetME Shop, explained the need for trust and openness like this:
“I’m a huge fan of exploring the boundaries of your partner (and yourself). This type of intimacy requires enormous trust, a safe zone, and a non-judgemental attitude. I trust my partner to push my boundaries (with my consent) and also stop [the activity] when I need him to.”
Make sure you talk to your partner and make a plan beforehand, and then make the necessary preparations together.
What Are Some Things To Try If You’re New To Aggressive Sex?
Kay Johnson suggested some rough sex ideas for beginners dipping their toes into kinky waters:
“Before trying any new rough sex move, get enthusiastic verbal consent. Given that you have consent, I recommend trying [light] choking, spanking, and name-calling. Even just groping with force can be a big turn-on.”
After getting consent from your partner, start with some simple rough sex moves like:
- Light biting: get a good amount of skin, as a small bite can break the skin more easily. This is best avoided during oral sex.
- Spanking: start gently with open hands only before moving up to paddles or other tools
- Hair pulling: make sure to grab a thick section from close to the scalp to prevent pulling it out
- Dirty talk/degradation: keeping in line with any boundaries set beforehand
- Playing with control: your partner doesn’t move without your say so, or vice versa
Many BDSM activities have a range of extremes to explore throughout sex, like vibrator bondage.
For instance, if you are interested in wax play you can start with a massage candle, which burns at a lower temperature so the wax isn’t as hot, before experimenting with a regular candle.
Slapping, hitting, or spanking can all begin lightly and intensify to the point of leaving a mark.
Light choking can involve superficial hand placement over the throat or can be a hard squeeze on either side of the esophagus.
Remember to never press on your partner’s windpipe. Choking can be very dangerous so make sure you know what you’re doing to avoid actual strangulation.
Although many people are eager to try out bondage with their sexual partner (it’s the B in BDSM for crying out loud), if you’re new to the game you may want to wait.
Using the correct equipment and tying the proper knots takes a lot of training. The Seductive Art of Japanese Bondage by Midori is a good place to start.
In the meantime, try a pair of velcro wrist cuffs. You can still restrain your partner without the risk of lost circulation.
As with any BDSM act, it’s always important to do your research and learn the proper technique to keep yourself and your partner safe.
What Safety Considerations Should Be Made Before You Begin Having Rough Sex?
In the kink/BDSM world, the two big safety acronyms are:
- SSC: Safe, Sane, and Consensual
- RACK: Risk Aware Consensual Kink
SSC was coined by David Stein and means:
- Safe: No one should be left with permanent injuries after play.
- Sane: When engaging in kink, it’s important not to lose track of reality within the fantasy. “Safe” refers to protecting your body during BDSM play, while “Sane” means protecting your mind.
- Consensual: Despite the power dynamic between two people taking part in BDSM, everyone deserves to be treated with respect. Consent should never be assumed.
The concept of RACK, attributed to Gary Switch, surfaced in response to SCC because Switch believed the BDSM community and the general public’s ideas of “safe” and “sane” were very different.
Switch wrote that, much like mountain climbing, an aspect of danger is inherent to BDSM (and what makes it exciting). Both parties understand and consent to the risk, and the level of risk is lowered with proper training.
RACK is defined as:
- Risk-Aware: Both or all partners are well-informed of the risks involved in the proposed activity.
- Consensual: In light of those risks, both or all partners have, of sound mind, offered preliminary consent to engage in said activity.
- Kink: Said activity can be classified as alternative sex.
Whichever concept you prefer to go with, all partners need to follow it to ensure the safety and happiness of everyone involved.
Why Is Aftercare Important Following Rough Or Aggressive Sex?
Aftercare is the time after sex when you check in with your partner about how they are feeling, make sure everyone is okay with what just happened, and talk about anything you would like to change or keep the same in the future.
There are two main types of aftercare:
- Physical: This involves making sure everyone’s body is safe, removing restraints/nipple clamps/etc., getting something to eat or drink, or taking a shower.
- Emotional: This involves checking in on how everyone is feeling, what was good and what was bad, and discussing anything that pertains to the experience from an emotional or mental standpoint.
In this article, we talked to Andrea, a woman who has been in a loving Dom/sub relationship for years.
Andrea told us that the communication and aftercare that became part of her sex life strengthened her entire relationship and fostered greater intimacy.
The communication relating to her sexual pleasure made both her and her partner feel heard, safe, and satisfied and extended into the rest of her relationship.
Andrea said that she hadn’t expected the deepened intimacy that came with aftercare until comparing the experience to past relationships that didn’t prioritize it.
Communication is a keystone of healthy sexual behavior, just as it’s part of a healthy relationship in general!
Bottom Line: Because of the inherent risks, safe rough sex involves a ton of communication. It’s important to communicate what you want but also what you don’t want. Once you establish boundaries, you can start slowly with things like hair-pulling or aggressive groping and as you get more comfortable, work your way up to more extreme acts. Aftercare, the time following sex when you and your partner check in with each other and say what you liked or what you would like to change next time, is an integral part of rough or kinky sex and makes both parties feel safe and heard.
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Best Toys And Gear For Rough Sex
Although rough sex can be had without any hardcore sex toys or gear — and some prefer it that way — there are tons of fun options out there when it comes to sex toys made for kinky sex.
Cuffs, nipple clamps, butt plugs? Those are just the tip of a very deep iceberg!
Is It Safe To Use DIY Gear During Rough Sex?
K.W. the kink shop owner, says to steer clear of a DIY (do it yourself) sex toy:
“When it comes to your health, it’s better to use manufactured toys with quality assurance and use them as intended. The toys are made with body-friendly materials. You don’t want infections or some tissue reactions from DIYs.”
When engaging in bondage, it’s best to use items specifically made to do what you are doing, such as bondage rope or a bondage kit that includes everything you need.
Household items being used to bind your partner can lead to injury from lack of circulation.
Things like scarves, jump ropes, string, and neckties can seem convenient when you’re jumping into bondage but these objects can cut off circulation and cause grievous bodily harm if you’re not careful.
The same holds true for a chastity belt — a device made to deny a person the ability to access their genitals as part of orgasm denial or even cock and ball torture. Don’t try to build your own — buy one specifically designed to be used safely.
Using an improvised item as a nipple clamp can also lead to permanent injury. Nipple banding, however, uses small rubber bands to achieve a similar effect, but this should still be done with caution.
It can be expensive, depending on what you’re into, but it is best and safest to use gear that was specifically made for having rough sex.
How Can You Experiment With Different Toys And Gear For Rough Sex?
K.W. told us about the joys of bullet or lipstick vibrators for both men and women, saying, “They are usually discreet and small (the size of a finger), so it’s an easy beginner toy. Plus, [they’re] easy to travel with.”
You gotta love a vibrator that can join you on vacation. Even a cock ring makes for an easy travel companion. Your handcuffs and suspension harness might be harder to get through TSA though…
She also suggested using small butt plugs (with lube, of course):
“These toys have no gender and are enjoyed by pretty much everyone. Always watch out for HOW those are made. You want a solid plug, not a screw-on.”
When venturing into butt play or using an anal toy, don’t switch a toy back and forth between different orifices without properly cleaning it first. Not doing so can lead to infections.
Always remember to choose a butt plug with a flared bottom or an anal toy that has a retrieval string so that it doesn’t get lost in your body.
That’s a trip to the ER no one wants to have.
What Are The Best Toys And Gear For Rough Sex Beginners?
Adam & Eve offers a wide range of BDSM toys, including bondage kits, handcuffs and restraints, floggers, ticklers, blindfolds, and so much more.
When you’re new to rough sex play, K.W., the kink shop owner we talked to earlier, recommends starting with gag bones versus a ball gag.
“They are fun to bite and thinner than the usual round gag ball,” she explained. “Your jaw will thank you for choosing something smaller at first.”
K.W. also suggests sex toys like spanking paddles, harnesses, and nipple clamps:
“Spanking paddles — they are great to kick start that adrenaline.
Harnesses and cuffs — there is something about being restricted in your movements that also kicks up the adrenaline, plus, those are sexy.
Nipple clamps — breasts are sensitive, so a little roughness with clips adds blood flow and stimulates that tingling sensation.”
A gentler solution to nipple clamps is nipple banding, which uses small rubber bands to achieve a similar effect.
Let’s Get Kinky’s Kay Johnson also had some gear to recommend while you’re perusing the BDSM toy aisle:
“Handcuffs or bondage tape are a great way for beginners to experiment with rough sex. They don’t take any technical skill and can enhance the power play between the more dominant and submissive partner. Paddles and floggers can also be fun toys for impact play.”
What Are The Safest Materials For Toys And Gear Used During Rough Sex?
As always, the best sex toys to use are ones made from body-safe materials.
Avoid toys with a porous surface, PVC or jelly rubber (or anything that contains phthalates), BPA, and rubber.
Toys with porous surfaces hold moisture and bacteria, making them hard to clean which can lead to infection. Rubber can cause allergic reactions and BPA, PVC plastic, and phthalates have been known to cause cancer.
That said, many toys used for bondage or other rough sex acts may be made from natural porous materials like leather or cloth, so always make sure to clean these according to their directions after every use.
The best and safest sex toy materials are:
- Body-safe or medical-grade silicone
- ABS plastic
- Annealed glass
- Nickel-free metals
Always make sure you’re using the correct lube with your sex toys and thoroughly clean all of them afterward.
Bottom Line: Using household items for rough sex can lead to unintended bodily harm. It’s best to purchase gear specific to the act you would like to try. When it comes to toys and gear for rough sex, the best materials (especially if being used internally) are ABS plastic, silicone, nickel-free metal, or annealed glass.
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Although consensual rough sex gets a bad reputation, it takes a lot of support, communication, emotional and sexual intimacy, and trust.
Hardcore sex and BDSM have the potential to be dangerous, but if done correctly and mindfully, everyone can stay safe emotionally and physically and can have a lot of kinky fun!
Now that you understand the ground rules, you’re bound (and gagged) to have a great time!