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Rough Sex: What It Means

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on June 26, 2021

It’s important to begin with what rough sex does not mean. This article is about sex between consenting adults. If not all parties are fully, even enthusiastically, consenting, that’s not rough sex. That’s assault and a very serious crime.

Rough sex is 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.

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. 

The desire for rough 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 rough sex is.

  • More than half the people surveyed had engaged in rough sex
  • Both men and women initiate it
  • Consensual rough sex does not usually result in either violence or injury

Other Names for Rough Sex

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.

How to Explore Rough Sex Safely

Communication always an important part of healthy and safe sex, but it is even more important when it comes to rough sex. It is easy to get “caught up in the moment,” making it a good idea to discuss boundaries beforehand. You might also consider establishing a safeword to make sure that anyone can 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.

If you want to try restraint or bondage, make sure you use any accessories correctly and safely.

Safety Concerns and Special Considerations

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.

Aftercare, a key BDSM practice, is important for all rough sex. Let your partner know ahead of time what you need both during and after sex.

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.

Finally, while superficial injuries such as scratches and some tenderness is normal, pay attention to anything that might require more serious treatment. In particular, rough sex can result in anal or vaginal tearing. It is not uncommon to experience a little light spotting after sex. However, if heavy bleeding occurs, you should seek medical attention.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

Allure: “How to Set Boundaries for Rough Sex.”

Cosmopolitan: “Rough sex ideas and tips.”

Evolutionary Psychological Science: “The Rough Stuff: Understanding Aggressive Consensual Sex.”

Glamour: “Here’s How to (Gently) Introduce Rough Sex in Bed.”

Men’s Health: “There’s Science That Explains Why Women Fantasize About Rough Sex.”

Sexual Medicine: “Bondage-Discipline, Dominance-Submission, and Sadomasochism (BDSM) From an Integrative Biopsychosocial Perspective: A Systematic Review.”

Women’s Health: “9 Common Sex Injuries--And How to Deal.”

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