and psychological explanations for our love of whips and spanking.
One such reason is known as the “excitation transfer theory,” says sex researcher Nicole Prause, Ph.D.
If you’re bitten, scratched, or spanked, your blood pressure goes up and your heart races in response to that pain, Prause says. If that happens during sex, “you interpret it as sexual excitement.”
Another explanation has to do with the brain’s “pain matrix.” Prause says there are areas in the human brain that respond to pain, and these areas overlap with areas that respond to sexual arousal.
This overlap “might play a little trick on your brain,” causing it to confuse pain and pleasure when you’re experiencing them at the same time, she says.
What to Know Before Trying Rough Sex
Spontaneity and surprise are fun in romance—but not in rough sex. You need to discuss things in advance to ensure you and your partner feel safe.
Foreplay—when you’re both relaxed and aroused—is a good time to talk about what rough stuff you might enjoy, says Psalm Isadora, a sex coach based in Los Angeles.
“Be open-minded,” urges Debby Herbenick, Ph.D., an associate professor at Indiana University and author of Because It Feels Good.
Understand that your partner’s desires don’t necessarily mean anything about her background or past experiences, Herbenick says. “(Rough is) just one of many ways to have sex.”
Safe words are also a good idea.
“I always recommend the ‘yellow, green, and red’ method,” says Moushumi Ghose, a licensed marriage therapist and author of Classic Sex Positions Reinvented. “You need a word for ‘no’ or ‘stop,’ of course, but it’s also good to have a word for when you like what’s happening but you just want (your partner) to take it down a notch.”
4 Ways to Try Rough Sex
If you and your partner are both interested in trying rougher sex after discussing it, here are some places to start.
Spanking (The Right Way)
“Spank with an open palm on the fleshier, lower part of her ass closest to her vagina,” Isadora says. “When you hit her in this spot, it sends vibrations through her clitoris and her whole body that lights a sexual fire.”
The ancient Tantra texts say that spanking awakens her kundalini, which is her sexual chi or energy. Start with a medium spank and work up to a harder spank if she’s into it.
Don’t be afraid to ask her to spank you, too. You might be surprised how much you like it.
Some women like having their hair pulled during sex. It’s a move that works well when she’s in reverse cowgirl or on all fours.
“It creates a surge of adrenaline and endorphins,” Isadora explains.
Just be sure to grab her hair near the scalp—as if you’re doing a scalp massage—or at the nape of her neck.
Don’t grab her hair by the ends. That’s often too painful to be pleasurable, and you’re more likely to rip her hair out.
“(Biting) definitely brings out more of our primal, animalistic side,” Ghose says. “Start with the lower lip and move down from there, biting each new body part gently at first and working up to a stronger bite (with her permission!).”
Being picked up, thrown over a man’s shoulder, and tossed on a bed can bring out the primal side in a woman.
“For women with powerful jobs, a type-A personality, or even moms who are always in control of everything, it’s nice for her not to be in charge,” Ghose says. “Sex is about losing inhibitions and surrendering, and sometimes it's easiest to surrender when somebody is totally pushing you around.”
Again, talk through this first. But if you have the green light, try pinning her down while talking raunchy to her, Ghose suggests.