You've seen enough vampire movies to know that there's something very arousing about the intersection of pleasure and pain. The rise of dubious consent erotica online, along with the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon, has inspired college girls and homemakers alike to shop for ankle straps and ball gags. It's pretty clear that rough sex is something a lot of us enjoy, and many more are curious about. But rough sex not only requires a fair amount of athleticism, it also requires negotiation. "What a lot of people think about rough sex are things like spitting, hair pulling, face slapping, choking. Every one of those is what I like to call the cilantro of sex," says Danarama, the dean of Kink University, the education wing of the infamous porn site Kink.com. "You either love it, or you hate it. And nobody likes just a little bit of spitting on the face."
We sat down with Danarama—a BDSM, kink, rope, and rough-sex expert—to talk about the best way to get your partner to leave the sort of bruises you can brag about, inventive uses for pillowcases, and how objectification can be hot.
*BROADLY: When people say they like "rough sex," what do you take that to mean?*
Danarama: When you look at the statistics, one-third of people note that rough sex is their preferred mode. Is that because all these people want to get raped? No. Rough sex is not about rape. Rough sex is about consensual sex with abandon, the feeling that your partner is so overwhelmed with passion that they just want to really pounce on you. Sometimes people just want to be taken with high-exposure positions.
What are high-exposure positions?
Taking standard-issue missionary and doggy-style positions, and changing them up in a way that makes the person feel much more open and vulnerable and accessible. It's the difference between lying on your back and then being held down on your back with your legs, with your ankles, held wide. Taking the missionary position, and making it wider and more open, makes people feel more vulnerable. It's much more heightened, much more exciting, and feels a lot rougher even when it isn't physically rougher.
Is there a more high-exposure position than doggy style?
Something you can do to increase the vulnerability and power of the doggy-style position is if the person on their knees crosses their hands behind their back. And the person behind them grabs their wrists while they have sex. That way, the person on their knees is in a near total submission position while the other person has more physical leverage by pushing and pulling on the wrists.
What about props? What if leather and paddles aren't your thing?
A good and easy restraint to start with is a pillowcase. You don't even need to leave the bed or reach over your partner to pull it out of the drawer. You can tie their wrists together, or, a creative use, is for them to put their arms behind their back; slip the pillow case on so their hands are at the bottom of the case, and have them lie on their back. That way, their body weight and the case act as restraint.
Being a sexual object is fun because you don't have to work at it. You don't have to worry about how you look. You don't have to make a decision. Objectification takes out the guesswork.
How do you engage with a partner about rough sex if you're interested but don't know how to approach the topic?
Well, the first thing is to know your limits and know about safety. You have to know, and be in agreement on, what those things are that you like, and what things your partner can do. Second, you have to have an awareness of safety. If you're a young person, and you realize, Hey, I have this fantasy of getting choked out, don't just say this to a stranger. Literally, that is how people get killed. Know the safety of it and kind of coach them along.
OK, let's role-play; pretend you're me, and I'll be a strapping lover.
OK, so you're going to want to suggest things in a positive way. Like, "You know what I think would be great? I think I would love it if you just took your hand and put it over my mouth while you're fucking me, and if it gets too much, I'll just shake my head no."
Or something like, "Oh, I would love it if you just grabbed my hair and pushed me down into the bed. Spit on me, baby, spit on my face. I think that's so hot."
Also, whenever things do start to get rough, and you're enjoying it, say things like, "What you're doing is great." You make their job easier by telling them what you like and telling them they're hot. Positively reinforce what you like through compliments, rather than saying what don't like, which is a boner killer, regardless of your gender.
I would say that one of the most appealing aspects of rough sex is objectification. Just feeling like you're a sex object ready to be used. Why do you think it's so hot?
Well, for one, it's the freedom to realize that if you're an object, you don't have to work at it. You don't have to worry about how you look. You don't have to make a decision. Objectification takes out the guesswork. And another nice thing about objectification is the fact that it's a type of worship to have someone dress you and pose you. It's, these are things that were only done in the most elite circles. That's what goddesses, icons, political leaders enjoy. The reason women's fashion buttons are on the other side of men's is because in Victorian society, the wealthiest elite had a dresser to button them. It's much sexier to have someone dress you and do stuff for you and do stuff with you than it is to have to do it yourself.
The nature of humanity is to objectify things; we're pretty simpleminded creatures, and we like to categorize things, and that's very depersonalizing—dehumanizing—but it's one of the things BDSM and rough sex lets you do. It lets you experience things that you may have had an interest in—or you may have felt shame about, or you may have had a very horrible, traumatic experience with—and relive it in an environment that is done with consent, with a partner that loves you. It can transcend that into a more positive experience. Because you can say a safe word, even if you want to say no. You can work through that. And they won't stop until you say the safe word you've agreed on.