Doing It Rough, Safe

In Sex on January 13, 2010 at 12:28 am

Crawling for her master in the BDSM classic, Secretary.

Dear Yenta,

I have never struck a woman, never even been remotely aggressive. In fact, I might practically be too gentle in bed, and have had complaints from girlfriends who wished I would pump them harder.

On the flip side, I love porn. I not only love porn, I love gruesome porn, like gang-bang porn, close-up on the anal porn, anything that is rough. I am pretty much disgusted sometimes by my own choices, even tend to turn off the videos when I can see that the women in them are numbed out.

Am I a freak? I feel like a bomb waiting to explode.

-Two-Faced Lover

Dear Two-Faced Lover,

On the TV show Six Feet Under there is a whole stretch where all Brenda wants is “normal healthy sex,” which she defines as sex without kinks or tools or whips. She wants a vanilla life in bed so as to somehow prove her sanity.

Brenda, however, was judging herself and her sexual practices by labeling one form of expression “normal.” No one should be judged for what turns them on unless it directly harms the life or health of another, mentally or physically, in an undesirable way. Some women want to be faux-raped, some men want to be tied up and beat up. There is no normal when it comes to sex, it comes in all different kinds of whacked out forms. One thing people make a mistake of doing is judging their sexual choices, attempting to translate “smack my ass” to “wow, I am a real self-inflicted misogynist.”

Sex is its own language, not necessarily an acting out of social order, rather an expression of the subconscious using external props and scenarios as tools. This, in simple terms, means that wanting to bang your girlfriend hard does not mean you hate her and want to kill her (necessarily), rather that that is your source of pleasure. You could exhaust yourself and ruin your sex life by examining your desires, or you could learn to safely integrate them into the bedroom.

In the movie Secretary some crazy things went down between Maggie Gylenhaal and her man including peeing her wedding dress, crawling like a stuffed pig, and more. This seemed messed up to a big chunk of viewers, but it was consenting sex between two partners. Key word, once again, “consenting.”

Do you like the missionary sex you have been having? Is this pornographic roughness something you desire in real life? Or is it just a fantasy? It sounds to me like you are repressed in the bedroom, perhaps terrified of SEEMING like a rapist, an abuser, or some sort of harmful agent. This is the only thing I see as needing examination. Why do you feel that sex must be gentle if you might enjoy it more rough? Are you afraid of emulating some figure that was forceful and abusive to women in your past? Do you see women as fragile puppies? They aren’t.

If you like it in the ass, do it in the ass. If you like it with a rough edge, a pinch, punch or slap, go for it. Just make sure she/he is along for the ride, enjoying it, and not drugged or checked out like some women in the porn you have been watching. (Which, btw, is disturbing to many-a-viewer who likes the idea of roughness, but not the reality. Few trustworthy people want to orgasm while willingly witnessing a teenager being taken actual advantage of.)

As you step off the vanilla sex circuit, perhaps take a few hints from the BDSM community. BDSM stands for Bondage Discipline Sado Mashochism. “For most people who engage in sadomasochism, sensations which normally cause pain, actually evoke sexual pleasure” writes Jessica Burge in According to Sexual Sadomasochism: Abuse or Harmless Play. The difference between rape and desirable roughness is the ability to consent to and control the sexual activity. This community has integrated a whole complex set of rules to keep sex, in any form, safe for the participants.

Safe Words are a big part of naughty role play. These are basically new words for “no” and have to do with upping your bedroom communication skills. For other BDSM terms and concepts, click here, but beware, not for the faint of heart.

Communication is the key ingredient to good, safe sex. TALK to your sexual partner; state your needs, your fears, your secret so-called “sick” desires. Listen back. She also needs to be more honest. If she wants it rough, she should be able to tell you. See if you two can navigate the dirty space you seek on the interweb, bringing all your most intricate fantasies to life. You never know what your partner wants until you begin to ask.

For more on creating a safe space for rough sex, an expert on S&M communities in major cities writes, “I would suggest just finding the BDSM organization based in the person’s city or in the nearest large city. In DC I think the biggest organization (although I’m not certain, I’m not really involved) is Black Rose (, and the website has a lot of great resources for beginners. I’d guess that most organizations like that would be the same.” Black Rose hosts free meetings with a tutorial on how to navigate the space of role-play and sexy violence.

Also, check out these books:

Consensual Sadomasochism: How to Talk About and How To Do It Safely
by William A. Henkin and Sybil Holiday

SM 101: A Realistic Introduction by Jay Wiseman

Leatherfolk: Radical Sex, People, Politics, and Practice, edited by Mark Thompson

The Loving Dominant by John and Libby Warren

For more on the ethics of the whole sexual expression business, check out Women’s Studies course listings. I took an amazing class with the brilliant Professor Rebecca Lester at Washington University in St. Louis called Gender, Culture and Madness.

Have more questions? Send me an anonymous e-mail to merissag[at]gmail[dot]com via

  1. […] those unaware, lets define these terms. (Also, see “Doing it Rough, Safe”) defines S & M as: “Sadomasochism. When sexual gratification is […]

  2. […] seen in “Doing it Rough, Safe” and “He Ignores My Safe Word,” there is a complex art of setting a sexual code so that rough […]

  3. […] Is Rough Too Rough?.”   On setting safe rules for rough play in the bedroom read “Doing It Rough, Safe,” or “He Ignores My Safe […]

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