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A Guide to (Safe) Rough Sex

Like most things that occur behind closed doors, rough sex can be as fun or as awkward as you and your partner make it, but finding out about how to have rough sex, and what exactly constitutes rough sex, is probably not a bad idea, no matter how much of a pornstar you think you already are.

In short, the reasons some women love rough sex are many and varied, and it is heavily reliant on individual taste. That said, many who have had a bad experience before will probably be less likely to want to try rough sex again. To tread the thin line between good advice and fantastical rhetoric, we asked two stars of the adult entertainment industry (read: actual pornstars) for their take on all things rough sex, to bring you the ultimate guide to rough sex, as told by the pros.

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Is Rough Sex Better | Image: Gustavo Medde

Is Rough Sex Better?

“I don’t think that rough sex is necessarily better. It’s different,” says Dana Vespoli, a veteran of the adult film industry, where she carved a name for herself as one of the foremost actresses of the profession in the early 2000s, before switching to the other side of the camera, becoming a director for well-known studios Sweetheart Video and Evil Angel.

“I don’t always want it rough, but I do enjoy it once in a while. For me, the benefit to having rough sex is the type of intensity that it brings. I sometimes enjoy feeling overwhelmed and surprised. I sometimes enjoy the sensations of being slapped, spanked or choked. I feel certain types of pain differently than other people.

“The sting of being slapped or caned makes me euphoric and I sleep really well after rough sex.”

Lindsey Leigh, a fellow performer, also agrees that rough sex is not necessarily ‘better’: “Better is a bit subjective. I personally enjoy passion, numerous positions, almost animalistic or ‘sport fucking'”, she confesses. “It’s a great work out, release of dopamine, and a simple back-to-basics power exchange/trust.”

Couple in bed
How to Talk About Rough Sex With Your Partner | Image: Getty

How to Talk About Rough Sex With Your Partner

As girls who love rough sex, and also as part of their impressive careers, both Vespoli and Leigh have experienced rough sex professionally, as well as off-camera, and know better than anybody the dichotomy between the two scenarios. For most men wanting to broach the topic of rough sex with their partner for the first time, however, many find the idea daunting. Both women offer sound advice on how to get started with rough sex.

“I would bring it up in bed, maybe after sex, when you’re both relaxed”, Vespoli says. “It is very important to be completely transparent about the things you want to try. And don’t be embarrassed about wanting to try new things.

“Most women love a partner who is adventurous, and after sex, most people’s guards are down; they tend to be more receptive. You might ask: ‘How would you feel about experiencing a little with rough sex?’, and then detail some of the things you’d like to try.

If she is hesitant but interested, I would start slowly, maybe with aggressive fucking and a little spanking. If this feels good to her, you can slowly ramp it up (with her consent, of course) to a little slapping.

“As with anything, you need to start slower and lighter and build it up from there”, she offers encouragingly, but also adds, importantly, that “…you also need to be prepared for the possibility that she may have zero interest in rough sex.”

Once you’ve had ‘the chat’, Leigh advises to start out slow and ramp things up as you both see fit. “Begin with light choking, soft spanking, lip biting, pussy slapping, hair pulling or tight grabbing. This physically brings the subject up and allows you to gauge if your partner wants more, less, harder or none.”

Couple's feet sticking out of end of bed
Having Rough Sex for the First Time | Image: Sergey Nivens

Having Rough Sex for the First Time

For many, both men and women, rough sex can be something that they’ve tried once and didn’t enjoy, and when it comes to rough sex, technique is just as important as consent. Dana is adamant that, for the first time, starting slowly is the most important thing, as well as paying attention to your partner’s cues: “Rough sex is as much about trust as pleasure. Communication is everything.

“I would tell her to say “STOP” if anything is uncomfortable, if she is feeling frightened, or if she just needs a break. Once she says “STOP” then everything must stop. You have to respect this, and it also builds trust and lets her know that she is ultimately in control. This is liberating and allows her to feel more inclined to keep exploring rough sex rather than abandon it altogether.

“Don’t go out the gate at 80 miles per hour—introduce things a little at a time. Maybe the first time you try it rough, just do aggressive fucking in missionary. If she likes it, then try doggy. The next time you might spank her in doggy.

“When you start out with rough sex, just see what works for you a little at a time, and let her pick and choose which things feel the best for her.”

Lindsay Leigh suggests a position where both parties still have a level of control over the action, “I personally prefer looking at my partner while they do light hair pulling, lip biting or pinning my arms above my head. This position almost makes me feel like I have some control of pressure.”

On the topic of communication, the AVN Hall of Famer is quick to restate: “I can’t reiterate this enough: You have to communicate well and often, and you have to listen and pay attention to her cues.

Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan in 'Fifty Shades of Grey'
Rough Sex in Porn vs. Reality | Image: Universal Pictures

Rough Sex in Porn vs. Reality

A common misconception is that what goes on on a porn set is how you’re supposed to have rough sex in real life. This, of course, is not the case.

“Rough sex is totally different for me at home than on set!”, says Vespoli. “Firstly, I don’t go through multiple sex positions at home like I do on set. When I’m working, my partner and I have to be conscious of camera angles and where the lights are, so our brains are constantly working. Sometimes we have to do positions that aren’t very comfortable because the director (if I’m working for someone other than myself) wants us to do something that is visually appealing, even if it’s physically awkward. I’m just generally more relaxed at home, and take my time.”

Considering how individual and personal rough sex is as a concept, it can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. While some light slapping and sensual biting is enough for some, others might conflate the act with bondage of some form. Though some prefer restraint during rough sex, Dana is quick to point out that they are not exactly the same thing.

“I generally think of BDSM and rough sex as two sides of the same coin”, says Vespoli. “Being restrained in some fashion during rough sex is common—but if you’re introducing rope, handcuffs, or other implements then you’re definitely into BDSM territory.

“Bondage can definitely enhance rough sex, but again, you need to establish a safe word that is respected.”

Leigh recommends the use of toys to enhance rough sex, and offers a fair reminder that there’s no harm in trying, even if it doesn’t work out for you both.

“Toys make everything better, and play with the power exchange. Consider each other’s limits, have fun, bring lube/toys. You can always say, ‘Okay, no”, and go back to your vanilla sex with nothing lost.”

Woman in red underwear tied up in bed
How Rough Sex in Porn Differs | Image: Lovehoney

How Rough Sex in Porn Differs

For many men, their first experience of rough sex will have been its portrayal in a pornographic film on PornHub, RedTube or the like. Though everybody of all genders had a different opinion on personal tastes and its popular portrayal, it’s important to draw the very real distinction between what is fantasy and what is reality. Another important thing to consider is how pornography has evolved. “When I started performing in 2003, 90 per cent of the scenes I performed in were rough sex scenes”, says Vespoli.

“I worked almost every day, and most of the days were scenes with aggressive slapping, spanking, choking and spitting. Today that is not the case. There are more vignettes being shot–plot-driven scenes–, and features with toned down sex scenes.

“Nowadays the trend is age play and faux incest, like stepdads and stepdaughters, and stepmoms and stepsons, etc. Rough sex scenes are still being shot for certain sites and studios, but the bulk of the product I’m seeing is less rough and more age play.

What happens on a set is completely driven by a director, who needs to tread carefully when filming rough sex scenes to make sure the comfort of the talent comes first (heh). Dana, who has directed countless films in her time, says: “Communication between everyone is extremely important. I manage talent before we ever step foot on set by carefully casting the scene. Pairing partners well is everything. It’s the most important thing a director can do, in my opinion.

I would never book a girl with zero experience with rough sex for a rough sex scene. I’m not interested in male talent who are not sensual in any way, so the male talent I shoot for rough sex are guys who are also capable of being gentle. This helps if the scene needs to be toned down for the girl’s comfort. Once I’ve put together a pairing that I believe works well, we all talk on set about boundaries, and then I make it clear that if they are in any way uncomfortable, she can stop the scene and we can make adjustments.

“I also tell the talent that I cannot always tell if something isn’t working for them in the scene (sometimes pain looks like pleasure), so I need for them to speak up. I also try to create a comfortable environment for them by keeping a small crew.”

Shirtless man on top of a woman pulling on her leather collar
Is Rough Sex in Pornography a Negative Portrayal | Image: Rod Meier

Is Rough Sex in Pornography a Negative Portrayal?

In short, not at all. As a whole generation of young men come of age, whose first experience with sex, and specifically rough sex, has been through internet pornography, many might find the concept of actual rough sex confusing. Dana is quick to remind anybody who fails to make the distinction already that porn, while fun, simply isn’t reality.

“Keep in mind that pornography is a fantasy. It shows you possibilities for different kinds of sex, and also plays on fantasies you have. I used to have a fantasy that on long flights the flight attendants would come out and offer head to the passengers. I ended up seeing it in a porno called “The Opening of Misty Beethoven” and I was thrilled.

“I would never expect that in real life. I mean, it would be awesome, but then a lot of flight attendants would lose their jobs. I don’t think that most porn depicts realistic sex, but then I don’t think that all porn should do that.

I do think that rough sex between couples is more common than people realise, albeit maybe not as ‘rough’ as what we see at Kink or Legalporno.

That said, the legend of the craft stands by her industry.

“I think pornography is great. Of course, I’m a pornographer so I am a little biased. I think it’s great as a tool to help bring couples closer together. I know that my boyfriend and I enjoy watching stuff together and talking about the specific things we like, or the girls we think are hot and then we turn off the porn and get down.

“Look, I discovered porn at an early age and loved it for a lot of reasons. I like freedom and feeling uninhibited and the porn I watched made me feel like there was a world of endless possibilities with regard to sex and intimacy.”

Dana Vespoli is an adult actress and pornographic film director, who has worked in the industry since 2003. She has won numerous awards for her work, and is an AVN Hall of Fame inductee. You can follow her on Twitter here.

Lindsey Leigh is an adult entertainer and webcam model who has worked in the adult film industry for over a decade. You can follow her on Instagram here, and on Twitter here.

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General FAQ

What is rough sex?

Rough sex is sex that involves anything from light slapping to choking and beyond. Rough sex is done to further the pleasure and excitement of those involved.

Is it safe to have rough sex?

Rough sex can be a safe, enjoyable experience, as long as you know your partners boundaries and listen to how they respond to your actions. Protection also helps to make sex safe.

How do I suggest rough sex?

It is best to ask your partner, short or long term, about rough sex before you start the act. Make sure you are both relaxed and consenting to the sex before you try anything.