Rough Sex: How to Practice It Safely

Medically Reviewed by Jabeen Begum, MD on November 23, 2023
7 min read

In general, rough sex refers to sexual activity that includes some form of aggressive behavior. There is often a certain amount of pleasurable pain involved as well as fast and vigorous movement. 

It's hard to define because the practice can cover a wide spectrum, from hard kissing to the incorporation of BDSM (bondage-discipline, dominance-submission, sadism-masochism) elements. One person might consider a certain sex act rough that another person does not.

It's also crucial to note that it involves consenting adults. If not all parties are fully, even enthusiastically, consenting, that’s not rough sex. That’s assault and a very serious crime.

The desire for aggressive sex is both normal and common. Many people have BDSM-related fantasies or have experimented with some form of BDSM play. A survey of more than 700 young people discovered just how prevalent it is.

  • More than half the people surveyed had engaged in rough sex.
  • People of all genders initiate it.
  • Consensual rough sex does not usually result in either violence or injury.

Sexual consent

Consent means agreement to have sexual activity. Enthusiastic consent is saying "yes" to something vs. not saying "no." You can communicate what you want with body language, but it's best to say it out loud, so there's no room for confusion. 

With rough sex, it's especially important to give and get consent for specific acts. Before you take it up a notch, ask, "Is this OK?" and be sure to get a "yes" or other spoken approval. Keep checking in to make sure you're still on the same page, and make it clear that it's OK to dial it back or stop at any time. And remember that just because you've done something once, doesn't mean you automatically agree to do it again.

Legally, states have different rules about what consent looks like and what activities are out of bounds. But in general, you can't give consent if: 

  • You're underage.
  • You're under the influence of drugs or alcohol. 
  • You're passed out or asleep.
  • You're being intimidated or threatened.
  • There's an uneven power balance, like between a teacher and a student.   

There are several other adjectives that people might use to talk about rough sex. These include:

  • Aggressive sex
  • Forceful sex
  • Hardcore sex
  • Kinky sex
  • Passionate sex
  • Violent sex

Because these terms can mean different things to different people, it’s extra important to check in with prospective partners to make sure that you’re on the same page about what kinds of activities are OK.

Also, even though some people use the words “violent” and “forceful,” remember that consent is absolutely necessary and should never be assumed.

Don't be surprised if you tell your partner you want to get kinky and they aren't into it. For a lot of people, it's a taboo activity, and researchers have found that many people who take part in BDSM have experienced shaming and judgment. 

But there's a whole community out there of people who like the same things you do, and there are plenty of safe spaces to explore your interests. A quick internet search will turn up BDSM websites, podcasts and other media, and groups that interact both in person and online. Try terms like "kink community," "fetish community," or "erotic community."

There are social media platforms that cater to the BDSM community, including and FetLife. Joining one of them can put you in touch with like-minded people and give you access to gatherings and other events in your area. 

Communication about sex is always an important part of a healthy relationship, but it's even more important when it comes to rough sex. It's easy to get “caught up in the moment,” making it a good idea to discuss boundaries beforehand. You should come up with a safe word that anyone can say to stop the action at any time.

Letting your partner know what you want can be arousing both before and during sex play. Dirty talk can be a safe way of pushing boundaries and inviting others into your fantasies.

How to talk about sex

Not everyone is comfortable talking about sex, but like many things, it gets easier with practice. Here are some tips:

Write it down. Making a "script" can help you organize your thoughts and let you practice saying what you want out loud. Or you can make a list of things you'd like to try, things you'd consider, and things you definitely don't want. Show it to your partner -- they may surprise you with a list of their own! 

Pick the right time. This isn't the kind of talk you want to spring on your partner, especially if you aren't sure how they'll react. It's also not a good idea to introduce the idea when you're already having sex. Tell your partner you'd like to have a conversation about your sex life, and schedule it. 

Be clear. For everyone's comfort and safety, be specific about what you do and don't want. Make sure you have the same understanding of what certain terms mean and what certain acts involve. 

Keep talking. Communicating about sex should be ongoing, both during the act and throughout your relationship. Let your partner know how they're making you feel, and speak up right away if you become uncomfortable or want to stop. As time goes on, what you like and how you feel are likely to change, so keep talking to keep you and your partner on the same page.

Much of the rough sex depicted in pornography can be emotionally or physically dangerous if you do it incorrectly. Make sure that whatever you try isn’t putting you in danger of mental distress or physical injury.

Start slow. See how you and your partner feel about the new things you're trying before you add more. 

Using accessories. If you want to try restraint or bondage, make sure you understand how any accessories you're including work, so you can use them correctly and safely. Clean any sex toys thoroughly afterward to lower your risk of infections.

Have backup. When you're planning an encounter with someone you haven't met before or don't know well, let a friend know where you are and make a plan to contact them if something goes wrong. 

Trust your gut. If a partner doesn't want to use a safe word, doesn't share your views on STI prevention, or tries to push you beyond what you've agreed to or what you're comfortable with, those are red flags that you should get yourself out of that situation.

Stay sober. While alcohol and drugs can lower your inhibitions, they can also affect your judgment and lead to decisions you'll regret. Some people deliberately use certain drugs to enhance their sexual experience, a practice known as "chemsex." But those drugs shouldn't be mixed with alcohol or other street drugs.

STI prevention. Be aware that rough sex may put additional stress on condoms. It’s a good idea to opt for a thicker, stronger condom when engaging in more vigorous sexual activity.


This is a key BDSM practice that's important for all rough sex. It's a way to emotionally reconnect and reset after you've been interacting in a way that isn't normal in your relationship. And it gives you both time to process the experience and talk about it. Aftercare can include things like kissing, snuggling, and talking kindly to each other. It can also be literal care -- bringing your partner water, bathing together, or treating any injuries. 

Superficial injuries like scratches and some tenderness is normal. It's a good idea to have a first aid kit handy with things like: 

  • Ice 
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • Adhesive bandages

Pay attention to anything that might need more serious treatment. In particular, rough sex can result in anal or vaginal tearing. It's not uncommon to experience a little light spotting after sex. However, if bleeding is heavy, you should seek medical attention.

Good communication is vital to making rough sex safe and enjoyable. Part of your aftercare routine should involve discussing what you did and didn't like about your experience. It's especially important if you think your partner has crossed the line of what's acceptable. For example:

  • You felt pressured into doing something you didn't want to do.
  • The encounter went beyond the boundaries you set up ahead of time.
  • Your partner ignored your safe word.
  • You were hurt physically or emotionally.

Remember that consent is ongoing. You should agree each time, and you can always change your mind. Just because you've done something once doesn't mean you have to do it every time. 

If you're unhappy with anything that happened, It's important to clear the air before you have sex again. You may even need to talk to a therapist to understand what you're feeling before you discuss it with your partner.

Schedule a conversation with your partner for a calm moment. Explain how you feel and pay close attention to how they react. Are they apologetic? Defensive? Dismissive? In a healthy relationship, BDSM activities are based on respect and pleasure is mutual. 

If a rough sex encounter crossed the line into assault or if you recognize a pattern of abuse in your relationship, here are some places to get help: