The Good Girl’s Guide To Rough Sex

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Good Girls Should Try Having Rough But Passionate Sex

There's a popular meme circulating the internet that says: Every woman wants a bad boy who is good just for her, and every man wants a good girl that's bad only for him. But when you're the good girl, "being bad" is often easier said than done.  

Many of my female patients are "good girls" curious about what society considers "taboo sex." They find themselves embarrassed to admit they want sex a little bit rough.

If you're a good girl curious about aggressive sex, but don't want things to get out of hand ... here's what you need to know to lean into experimenting while staying emotionally and physically safe.

It's important to understand what drives our desire for sexual aggression

According to psychologist, psychobiologist, and neuroscientist, Jaak Panksepp, author of "The Archaeology of Mind," lovemaking — in a biological sense — must have some aggression in it. There are two types of aggression which typically play out sexually: predatory aggression and rage aggression.

Panskepp explains that when a lion kills and eats an antelope it uses what scientists call "soft chewing." This is predatory aggression. However, if the antelope fights back and threatens to get away, the lion switches to rage aggression. 

Obviously true harm is not acceptable in sexual experiences (nor is any act you have not enthusiastically consented to). But during sex, we can feel compelled to conquer our partner or to feel conquered. Predatory aggression in human sexual interactions often feels like, "I want to eat you up" soft chewing.

Though the term sounds a bit scary ("predatory aggression"), it's actually the healthy form of aggression in sex. A man might feel so aroused by you that he wants to squeeze you and have his energy engulf you in a way that leaves you purring like a happy lioness after.  

Rage aggression is something else entirely: It's wanting a living thing to die or experience harmful pain. When we see rage aggression in others or ourselves, it's extremely volatile and scary.   

There's a logical reason you're afraid to try rough sex. 

Each of us has a deep driving instinct to stay safe. Openly inviting someone to dominate us reduces our control over our own safety. Thus the thrill and fear of such behavior.

But also, if you've experienced sexual abuse, you likely fear rage aggression from your partner or yourself. It is scary enough to notice your man's desire to gobble you up. Not wanting that more innocent predatory energy to ever cross the line into rage aggression might cause you to hide your true sexual nature and desires from your partner.  

Breathe and relax into the moment when these feelings appear. If you have a thoughtful lover, he or she will notice the micro-expression of you decreasing the ferociousness and engage more tenderly. That said — while your warm, loving and nurturing self is always guiding you, it is equally important to involve your Shadow side. 

You and your partner are learning a unique dance of playing with instincts for nurturing and survival.

Being influenced by your more basic instincts lets you experience an innocent viciousness. It lets you explore a different spectrum of equally valid feelings and emotions. You can fuel intense passion with your partner by nudging each other up to the edge of your comfort zones.

Behavior that comes out of innocent vicious may seem too aggressive to you. That's why easing into experimenting (and letting enthusiastic consent be your guide) helps you and your partner act within your respective value systems.

Sex urges and primal lust are about survival of the species. (Rage aggression, however, is more primitive than lust. It is about self-survival.)

More complex than lust is our need to nurture and enjoy social play. If you can wisely trust your biological impulse to ‘gobble up’ your partner (and trust him to "gobble" you up), you can both relax into that energy and feel more fully present during lovemaking. 

Rough sex allows you to explore being both predator and prey. 

Psychoanalyst Jessica Benjamin says, in her book "Like Subjects, Love Objects," this process feels so dangerous because you are flirting with your death/murder instinct.

We all have a hidden potential to murder and a powerful fear of death, and none of us wants to admit it. Socially we've figured out how to keep these forces corralled. Intimacy is where we can let them peek out. All mammals raising young know this push and pull of energy well. Their bodies release chemicals to ensure they don't hurt their offspring, yet a deep primal violence exists within them to lash out and defend their young to the death if necessary.

You also have both sides of that energy chemically wired inside you. During sex, you and your partner dance between dominance and submission, predator and prey. 

We explore predatory aggression sexually via dominance. Who is controlling the action, who is submitting to the other, who begs, who demands.

Here are some guidelines to follow as you explore healthy rough sex: 

  • Respect each other at all times
    You can start with slightly risky behaviors and build on those as you cultivate trust with each other. If you both get the warm purring feeling after rough-housing, good! Practice what you did a few more times with the same intensity. If you felt bad or closed off after the act, not good. Discuss what felt "off" and why. 
    Experiment and let your healthy, natural instincts lead the way. There is no rush. If either of you hurts the other's feelings, listen to each other, apologize, learn that particular boundary and get back to being as risky as you can. There is a perfect balance of aggression and tenderness for you. Your job is to find it. 
  • Take a few chances
    While respect and consent are critical, so is courage. You'll need to push your comfort zone a little. Tell your partner things like,  “I want to eat you up”. Let him tell you when he's feeling aggressive. Let your shared fantasies of finding perfect aggression balance spark between you. 
  • Let go and trust yourself
    After a few experiences of safely talking about what you want, give it a try, act rough! Tell him, "Pull me over on top fo you!", or "Grab my hip harder!" Trust that you know what you want and then speak up and ask for it. 
  • Increase your tenderness and mercy as well
    Mercy and tenderness may seem contradictory to you when rough sex is on the table, yet that balance and connection is what amazing, fully aware sex is all about! Sometimes you're the huntress and sometimes you're the hunted. 
    Also, if you haven't practiced being aggressive, you will almost certainly feel a little awkward at first. Be careful with each other. Honest conversation is vital. But no criticizing or shaming allowed. 

The goal is to take turns. Trade roles. Practice yielding to your partner's aggressive dominance, and then lead with your own. Create a safe word and clear boundaries to keep the experience positive. And be sure to speak up if your partner over-steps the bounds. Likewise soothe your partner if he lets you know you've gone too far. You can always return to aggressive play again in your next sex act.

Bill Maier practices Applied Psychoanalytic Human Physiology in downtown Portland. Visit his blog at

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