Is there a Rough Guide to rough sex?
February 4, 2010 1:06 PM   Subscribe

She’s keen on the rough stuff – I’m new to it [NSFW]

So, I’ve met a lovely girl who is pretty much insatiable in bed. Hurrah. As she puts it, she likes rough sex. While GGG, I’m new to these waters and in need of a harbour pilot.

She’s keen on being choked while we make love which I’m happy to do. Similarly she likes being slapped on the bum, boobs and face during the same. She loves being tied up which again I’m doing – but a bit amateurishly with ribbon or one of my ties. I have been told in no uncertain terms not to buy fluffy handcuffs. Hair pulling and dominant behaviour are both well received.

So far so good but when we’re hard at it, I’m getting lots of “harder” encouragement and frankly I’m coming up a bit blank. Any suggestions on what next gratefully received.

I’m also butting up against some redlines in my own mind. Brought up by my mum, with two younger sisters and a life long respectful adorer of women, I am struggling a touch to give my friend what she’s after.

Notwithstanding that I consider myself an advocate of equality and women’s rights, I do find myself thinking “you like it when I do this to you, cool!” However slapping her in the face (while in flagrante) in particular made me feel squeamish and if you can point me at any resources that explain that I’m not a monster for giving someone who I respect hugely what she’s asking me for, again I’d be grateful.

Just so we’re quite clear on all of this, we’re both over 21, everything we do is entirely consensual, we have a safe word (which she keeps forgetting because she says she doesn’t think she’ll need it with me) and I have asked what she’s up for. In reply I get “everything – surprise me.” Beyond the odd bruise or scratches on my back we’ve not left marks on each other thus far.

We’re both recently out of long term relationships and are quite clear with each other that for the time being, neither is after an exclusive, ‘significant other’ type relationship. Neither of us are BDSM-types but I guess that we’re heading in that direction. It’s a community I know nothing about and it is slightly intimidating to an outsider who’s pressing their nose against the glass at the behest of another.

This thread was helpful but not quite what I’m after:
This too was in the same ballpark but not quite right:

Throwaway email here, valid for 24 hours from posting time: after that, leave me 'mail me' and I will reply.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (36 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

Do you feel that you can trust her to articulate her limits, either before hand or in the moment? Can you trust that she is being honest about her desires?

If the answer to those questions is yes, then I think your first step might be to keep doing what you are doing now, but more so. Not more choking, in the sense of actually turning her blue, but more force, more vigor, more assertion in your actions.

resources that explain that I’m not a monster for giving someone who I respect hugely what she’s asking me for

Well, I can say so, but why should that carry any weight? Less jokingly, there are plenty of fourth-wave feminiist writers who have written good defenses of women's rights to choose to have rough sex -- maybe some of them will have the credibility you are looking for? The way I think about it is that (within the boundaries of consensuality and love), it's the meaning of actions that matter a lot more than the actions themselves. It's not hitting that defines abuse -- it's abuse that defines abuse.

All that said, if rough sex makes you genuinely uncomfortable, that's cool. Find your boundaries, and respect yourself enough to stick within them. It's ok to tell her that you are good with the tying up and the choking, but not the slapping and the rougher stuff, for example.
posted by Forktine at 1:32 PM on February 4, 2010

The way you feel about X isn't the way she feels about X. Keep that in mind when she asks you to bite her (or whatever).

Could you get hold of some mild BDSM porn and watch that, to see what the folks there get up to, for inspiration?
posted by Solomon at 1:33 PM on February 4, 2010

with two younger sisters and a life long respectful adorer of women, I am struggling a touch to give my friend what she’s after.

Sex is not real life. While you are having sex, she is not the loving respected woman you admire: she is a filthy fuckpuppet who is there for your own use and amusement.

And don't be afraid to go just one step "too far" once or twice -- there's no other way to find out where the real line is, especially since she doesn't know either. Don't be stupid, of course (esp. with the choking) but do try to push yourself to be "meaner" than your instincts suggest.

It's playing. Play and learn.
posted by rokusan at 1:33 PM on February 4, 2010 [8 favorites]

we have a safe word (which she keeps forgetting because she says she doesn’t think she’ll need it with me) and I have asked what she’s up for. In reply I get “everything – surprise me.”

this jumped out immediately at me. this is a girl who isn't taking her safety into concern and is fine with letting an amateur hit her around. you are fully justified in feeling a little scared by all that.

do your research - two terms you might want to read up on and figure out where you and her sit are "safe, sane, consensual" and "risk aware consensual kink

not very many people into the rough sex/bdsm actually have an "anything goes" sort of relationship. having a no limit power exchange relationship between amateurs is a recipe for disaster. for instance - do you know how many pounds of pressure it takes to break the hyoid bone (dip into the archives for more on this particular topic)? for more mefite discussions on extreme s&m - check the is extreme but consensual sadism immoral and the FFP on the craigslist rapist

i don't want to give the impression that i'm opposed to rough sex or choking or total power exchange - quite the opposite, really - but what i am against is the uninformed rushing into this sort of thing because it sounds sexy without doing the research necessary.

now - with the gloom and doom over with - AFTER you read up a LOT on the topics - download some stuff from for ideas of what to say and what to do.
posted by nadawi at 1:34 PM on February 4, 2010 [11 favorites]

Roughness and/or degradation during sex has to be good for you too; if you're completely uncomfortable slapping someone in the face, it's well within your rights to be so and say so.

It's wonderful to explore new territory at the behest of a partner, but do so because you both want to, not because one partner wants to. If you're against your redlines, tell her so and that you want to move slowly past this point. Any partner worth their salt will oblige.
posted by Hiker at 1:34 PM on February 4, 2010 [4 favorites]

She’s keen on being choked while we make love which I’m happy to do

It's great that you want to be GGG for her, but be VERY sure you know what you're doing or knock this one off immediately. Breath play has surprisingly small margin for error. Find local BDSM resources in your community. A local dungeon or group likely can hook you up with classes

She loves being tied up which again I’m doing – but a bit amateurishly with ribbon or one of my ties.

These are both usually slick. Not good materials for safe bondage, especially with under-informed knot tying, they can slip at a wrong moment and do nerve entrapment or worse. Rope class, my friend!

we have a safe word (which she keeps forgetting because she says she doesn’t think she’ll need it with me)

Her faith in you is sweet. But misse the point of safewording. Even expert doms misread signals now and then, and you're not expert. You also can't be expected to know the difference between the "Owwwww! " that means "Do it again, quick!" and the one that means she's reached her limit. Test her memory of it during play. Pause and ask her what her safeword is. If she can't tell you immediately, play OVER. Believe me, she'll learn to remember it. That's also about your comfort level as much as anything. You're already wary, and if something goes seriously wrong remember that you're the one hospital workers will be turning over to the authorities. Playing safe is about making sure the play is safe for both of you.

Neither of us are BDSM-types

She is. Choking is in fact edge play, i.e. extreme enough that even self-identified BDSMers don't necessarily roll that way.

Some good intro books: Screw The Roses, I'll Take The Thorns; The New Topping Book; The Bottoming Book; S/M 101.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 1:38 PM on February 4, 2010 [12 favorites]

we have a safe word (which she keeps forgetting because she says she doesn’t think she’ll need it with me)

Yeah, no.

That's not how it works. The safe word isn't there just to protect her, it's there to protect both of you. How can you be comfortable in the dominant role if you can't be 100% sure she's enjoying yourself? She needs to be as respectful of your limits as you are of hers. That involves remembering the damn safeword.

Being GGG does not mean you have to forgo a slow period of acclimation. You may be willing to try anything once, and that's a lovely thing to find in a lover, but that doesn't mean you can't pace yourself and get comfortable with each separate action (spanking, slapping, choking, etc.) as you go along.

Talk to her, that's the main thing. Be sure to stress that you need to be sure you can trust her to tell you if things are getting uncomfortable for her. That's the least she can do, to make things easier for you.
posted by lydhre at 1:46 PM on February 4, 2010 [3 favorites]

Brought up by my mum, with two younger sisters and a life long respectful adorer of women

1. Family members should be left out of sexual situations. They're not important here.

2. Respect the woman enough to give her what she's asking for, not what you think your mom or sis would want. They're not important here.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:50 PM on February 4, 2010

Roughness and/or degradation during sex has to be good for you too; if you're completely uncomfortable slapping someone in the face, it's well within your rights to be so and say so.

Seconding this. I once ran in a circle which included a woman who had a mistress/slave relationship with someone, and she brought him along once to a party; at some point in the party, she was idly flogging him, and when she caught me glancing over at them, she offered me a turn. I just politely declined.

My friends, who'd watched the whole scene unfold, teased me (I had something of a "wide-eyed innocent" reputation) and asked why I hadn't taken her up on it; I said that I wasn't into inflicting pain. "But he wouldn't mind if you hurt him!" they argued.

"I know," I said, "but I would mind." Nearly everyone nodded understandingly.

BSDM, like any sexual practice whatsoever, only works if both parties are comfortable. It's great you want to expand your horizons a bit, but trying to go too fast may be getting you a little unnerved. If it's your girlfriend who's pressuring you to speed things up, have a talk with her about how you're trying, but you need to do this at your own pace, I'd say; if it's you who's trying to push yourself, take a deep breath and slow yourself down. But I'd still have a talk with your girlfriend about "just so you know, I'm working on this;" I have a feeling that her even knowing that you're working on making an effort to work with this will please her.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:51 PM on February 4, 2010 [4 favorites]

Seconding SM 101 by Jay Wiseman. I read it just because I was curious (as it turns out, I don't think BDSM is for me), but I'm really glad I did because a lot of it applies to any sexual relationship.

If you only read one part of this book, read the part about having a conversation (and taking notes) about what you're going to do in bed, safe words (or gestures) etc. It doesn't matter whether you use the long list of questions (which gets into a lot of detail) or the short one (which covers the basics), so long as you find out what your lover wants, expects, and can't abide. Having that conversation—and having it in a non-sexual context, i.e. at a coffee shop, fully clothed—is an excellent idea in any relationship, and is absolutely necessary in relationships involving playing with boundaries like this.

Hashing out these details is absolutely part of respecting this woman, even if she is reluctant to. If she won't lay down ground rules, she is being disrespectful to herself, because she is putting her safety—and yours—at risk.
posted by ocherdraco at 1:59 PM on February 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

On the safe word thing.

Pause and ask her what her safeword is. If she can't tell you immediately, play OVER.

It is absolutely vital that she remembers and is willing to use her safeword. 'Forgetting' it is actually disrespectful of you.

Also, develop a 'safe action' as well as a safe word. If she is in a position where her voice may be muffled or unheard, develop an action for those times. For example, have her hold the vibrator you are going to use on her later. To indicate 'stop', she drops the thing she is holding.
posted by Kerasia at 2:09 PM on February 4, 2010 [5 favorites]

Choking is not casual.

I would seriously put a stop to this until you are more up to speed on the details and dangers of air play.

also BDSM consent issues cut both ways, be careful you're not doing things you don't find sexy just because a sexy person wants you to do them.

also 'no limits' is an insane-giant-standing-naked-on-a-mountain-top red flag to me. She is imagining you to be so much more vanilla than her that nothing you'll think of could be scary to her, that is a naive and dangerous concept. you need to have a serious discussion about things that are in and out. burning? cutting? etc? there is always a bridge too far.

also buy some rope.
posted by French Fry at 2:10 PM on February 4, 2010 [8 favorites]

So, I don't know where you live, obviously, but there in fact is a fairly well organized world of BDSM demonstrations and classes out there, and I encourage you to try some out. Books are great - and I do recommend those as well, but for some things I think it's just easier to learn when there's someone actually demonstrating them and explaining the finer points of what's safe and what isn't. There used to be an even called Black Rose - I think that was the name? Forgive me for not Googling it while at work! It was a weekend of demos and "play parties" for pansexual kinky folks. I think it happened in the Washington DC area every year? Not sur if it still does. But there are other things like that and if you can get to one it's a good idea.

(And you don't necessarily have to join in to the whole "community" aspect of all that - trust me, it can be really annoying and sometimes takes the fun and sexiness out of it - but don't discard the whole thing, because there are people out there with lots of experience in how to do things like this safely, and make it even more fun and exciting than you can imagine. )
posted by dnash at 2:24 PM on February 4, 2010

@dnash, you're probably thinking of Dark Odyssey. The DC event is coming up in a few weeks. There's also a camp out in the summer.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 2:29 PM on February 4, 2010

he's described himself as an amateur - she is refusing to participate in the barest minimum of safety protocol. they are already participating in breath play and bondage with unsafe materials. so - yeah - i don't feel retarded, borderline or otherwise, for suggesting that neither of these guys know what is safe play and what isn't and that she as the one who is at least stated to have more experience isn't taking her safety into consideration and that since she knows he's new to all this she's fine with having an amateur hit her around.
posted by nadawi at 2:32 PM on February 4, 2010 [8 favorites]

Sorry, but the not-bothering-with-the-safeword ("forgets" it? all the time? how's about using "safeword" as the safeword, then?) and the choking do give me red flags of "uh, maybe you two need to brush up on your safety a bit."
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:35 PM on February 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

After reading the replies here, it makes me think that you should be VERY clear on the terminology you two are using. When a girl tells me she likes being choked, she usually means "hand on throat with very slight pressure", not "life threatening breath play".

That said, one other thing: I've often found that asking for reciprocation to see how something feels can be really helpful. Eg, knowing how hard to slap someone is much easier when you've experienced it yourself. It can also be a fun way to warm up to new things if the situation is feeling a little awkward or stilted.
posted by skintension at 2:37 PM on February 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

If you have trouble finding local resources easily, try also googling for "leather community" and similar variants. When I was starting out, that one threw me. I thought leather==biker.

Also, there's a lot more class/party/conference events posted to FetLife than to the general public. It's a good place to ferret out what's going on in your area. If you're in or near an urban area, chances are there's a lot.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 3:03 PM on February 4, 2010

Mod note: few comments removed - we don't call people retarded here. My safe word is METATALK. Thanks.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:06 PM on February 4, 2010 [30 favorites]

I dunno guys, I think there's a middle way here. Yes, it's true that really choking someone is very dangerous (and possibly in a class by itself depending on what the OP means), and that you can hurt someone by slapping them in the face or tying them up wrong, but really, many, many people have nasty rough sex without taking a class or killing each other, they just do. I think the extreme caution around a lot of stuff that falls under SM is because of stigma and the historical oppression of certain identities (as is the development of an SM "community", but that's another discussion).

What I'm trying to say is that it's entirely possible to hurt your hip doing the wrong sex position too hard, or hurt someone by putting your fingers inside them wrong, but we don't tell people to STOP until they take a class, we tell them to be cautious, think about what something might feel like to the other person, and accept that all life is a risk.

I think the OP is much better served by doing some reading and thinking and using some common sense (which I bet he is already doing) than by the whole BACK AWAY FROM THE GIRL YOU AMATEUR! approach. Here are some of my suggestions on specific stuff:

- You really need to watch the choking, and read as much as you can on it. Figure out what about it she likes, is it the control aspect or it is something more physical about her air supply or blood flow? If it's the air or blood you are getting somewhere dangerous, and you need to think, read, and talk about it, and then think about if you really want to do it, but if it's another control thing, just having your hand there firmly is likely enough, and you just need to make sure you can see her face at all times, and you're staying acutely aware of how hard you're pressing. Don't press hard on the neck, and don't obstruct her breathing with anything that isn't your hard.

- On the tying up, please, please don't use a tie! Every time I think about a tie being abused like that I wince. Ribbons don't work well either. If we're just talking about wrists, go to a good sex shop and buy yourselves a good pair of leather cuffs -- they buckle so you can get them snug with no skills at all, but they don't cut in, and you can release them quickly, but in most positions she can't reach them. Easy solution! You can get similar set ups for ankles, if you're going beyond that (like tying her into different positions), then yes, you need real ropes and a better idea of what you're doing.

- On the squeamishness, I think you're feeling like that because it's new to you and you don't feel confident. It's pressure, and it can be kind of embarrassing to be put on the spot by taking on that level of control. Whoever said that making it more mutual might help is spot on IMO. You'll get a better sense of what she likes, what things feel like, and if this kind of sex isn't your thing already, you might just flat out like it more and the dynamic might flow better. It's also a good check on your girl's fantasies -- if she balks at doing it to you, she shouldn't be asking you to do it to her.

- On the safewords - she's not an idiot to say she doesn't think she'd ever use it with you. She might be wrong, but she's not an idiot, she's in a new, fun relationship with someone whose tastes and experiences don't push her boundaries. When she says she forgets it she probably means she's so into what's going on she can't think straight. She's probably trying to reassure and flatter you. Regardless, the safeword is still very important, and you need to insist on it so that you can feel safe and comfortable too. Please talk to her about it, it matters! Just make it "safeword", no one can forget that!

- On more info, do buy a book. It will give you some space to think about this by yourself, give you more safety and technique info, and talk though why people do what they do and what they get out of it. It might give you some ideas your girlfriend hasn't though of yet. I thought "Screw the Roses..." was annoying and boring, but I liked "The Topping Book" and "The Bottoming Book" (they do together, although they overlap) and (gay focused but still great) "Leathersex".

Ok. I also don't buy this idea that there is a community out there of people doing this stuff perfectly and safely and by the book. I learned a huge amount from being around and part of organized SM scenes, but actually, most of the useful stuff was either hugely technical in areas it doesn't sound like the OP and his girl are into, or it was negotiation and communication skills which are so useful in any relationship that they should be taught in high school. I also saw a lot of people who did stuff that wasn't safe, some of them because they didn't know, some of them because they didn't care (I saw some insanely risky breath play taught in a class once...), and some of them because they'd given it a lot of thought and decided it was worth it to them.

Depending on who they ran into, the OP and his girl could get a lot of information and fun out of being part of a scene, or they might be bored and misinformed -- it's not all experts out there by any means, let's not idealize it, and much of the really helpful stuff can be found in a good book like the Topping or Bottoming books (queer guides are usually much better than straight, the OP shouldn't stick to hetro focused stuff).

Good luck!
posted by crabintheocean at 3:34 PM on February 4, 2010 [12 favorites]

OK, well, I was writing an impassioned response, but after reading all the answers, I see I don't need to. Pay special attention to nadawi's and nakedcodemonkey's responses.

The only thing I have to add is this: to disabuse* yourself of the notion that you're some kind of monster, just watch the movie Hostel. People who are turned on by nonconsensual sadism are monsters. Not you. Or me. I've been doing this stuff for years, and I'm pretty normal.

*see what I did there
posted by desjardins at 4:12 PM on February 4, 2010 [3 favorites]

Bad typos in my response -- I'm sorry and blame the migraine medication! I should have said "hand" instead of "hard" for example, although of course... (har har).
posted by crabintheocean at 4:40 PM on February 4, 2010

When she says she forgets it she probably means she's so into what's going on she can't think straight. She's probably trying to reassure and flatter you.

Either that, or she's implying that you are so far away from crossing her boundaries that remembering the safe word is the least of her worries.
posted by bingo at 4:48 PM on February 4, 2010

OP - can you mail me? I have some other stuff for you and I'd rather not deal with outside email.
posted by crabintheocean at 4:51 PM on February 4, 2010

This sort of thing needs to be handled in the same way that learning to drive quickly on a racetrack is handled.

That is, you start at a reasonable pace that you are comfortable with, and as you progress lap after lap, session after session, day after day, you slowly increase your pace so that you start bumping up against your limits and the limits of your car in a way that can be safely explored and controlled.

If you're going too fast for your own comfort level, it's up to you and your discipline to slow down and show proper respect to what you're doing, even if the car can go faster and you know that others can drive the track faster than you.

It is wonderful that you have a willing partner and a desire to learn, but you need to take your time and ramp up in a respectful, knowledgeable and safe way -- and that includes a safe word that both partners are willing and able to use, as it is for all intents and purposes your helmet, roll cage and brakes all rolled into one.

It is absolutely possible that you're so far away from her limits that she considers a safe word unnecessary, but it is necessary for you as it is the only "slow down" feedback you can have the confidence to truly trust. So, every time you're about to try something new, or you're about to escalate the intensity of what you're doing beyond what you've done in the past, ask her the safe word (but don't stop what you were already doing, just ease up a bit.) In the short term it will allow you to feel confident that she can stop you if she wants to, and in the long term she'll realize you're asking because you're about to do something new and exciting and she'll be eager to confirm she remembers the word so you'll get on with it.

If you're worried about asking her every two minutes, then don't try so many new things/increases in intensity at once. Pace yourself.

Finally: Sport Sheet Sportcuffs are a good, inexpensive, non-fluffy, comfortable and easy-to-use non-leather starter cuff.
posted by davejay at 6:40 PM on February 4, 2010 [3 favorites]

Hey, mail me too.

I feel like she's pushing your limits too hard and too will be easier for you both if you ease into it by doing things that YOU like and if you're firm about telling her no it could give her a good taste of the dominance she's craving.

From what you've said she seems to be exaggerating her experience level a little--which is fine--but be careful. You can always get kinkier, as long as you're both enjoying there's no need to push past your comfort level.
I'm not a fan of limit pushing while you're playing. As you gain experience and trust you can always ask again. But to break an agreed upon limit to see how much you can get away with is playing with fire (and not in the fun way)

FetLife can be helpful but take everything there with aa grain of salt. There are plenty of people there who post with wishful thinking.

Kink dot com is good. Their videos are good and (apparently) ethically produced.
posted by kathrineg at 6:45 PM on February 4, 2010

I was in a relationship like this for two years. I was never comfortable with it. In the end, you have to ask yourself, "Am I comfortable with the role that she's cast me into?" Don't lie to yourself (as I did). Are you OK with this? If not, then stop.
posted by SPrintF at 8:40 PM on February 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have not seen the recommendation in-thread yet for John Warren's The Loving Dominant. While the writing style's uneven, it deals with a number of the flags thrown above.

First: I would ensure your partner will say her safeword. A very experienced dominant friend of mine says she will -not- play further with someone who she cannot get to safeword by the third play session, and I took her guidance. I'd find something your partner really doesn't like (if she's into hand/fist action then try clamps or painful bondage) to see if you can get her there. Writing the safeword on her forearm with a thick Sharpie may help here if you make sure her forearm is visible to her during the scene. She can figure out how to get the ink off, maybe.

Second: breath play + new scene member != all live happily ever after. The man who wrote SM101 is quite a crusader against most forms of breath play: The Medical Realities of Breath Control Play. His is -one- opinion. Jay is an EMT and he does not toss around medical terms without knowing what they mean. Alternative opinions exist: Kathrin Passig's. Knowing the risks I engage in breath control play, both top and bottom.

Third: new games can be difficult to learn to play. Do not allow yourself to be pushed beyond your own limits. If you have to confess them then do so. "Top drop" is real and you deserve aftercare just as your partner does.

Email if you like.
posted by jet_silver at 8:48 PM on February 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

Sorry, jet silver, but I think your second paragraph is terrible advice. If your friend is doing the kind of thing that is about pushing someone to their limits, and is therefore concerned when despite her skill she apparently can't reach them, that's fine and understandable. However, I don't think it's at all the type of play the poster and his partner are doing.

Lots of people don't play to try to reach the other person's safe word, and use it as an "eject button" for when things go wrong. And "wrong" isn't about too much pain for lots of people, it's about the dynamic getting weird, feeling detached or sad, or about accidents like an ankle getting twisted. It's not clear the poster's play is using pain at all -- slapping is often just intense sensation during sex.

So as a counter data point I'll just say that if I had a rough-sex-FWB (especially one who wasn't that experienced), and he brought new equipment to bed or did something I hadn't said I was in to, deliberately in order to make me safe-word, I would never speak to him again and I would probably warn my friends about him! I would read it as a controlling, sadistic, non-consensual power trip.

I'm sure the OP wasn't about to do what you suggest anyway, but wanted to put that out there. Not all play or sex that uses intense sensations is about pain or is played by the same rules or dynamics. God, we're just talking about how to fuck someone and be a little rough with them here, not stun guns and electric scalpels!
posted by crabintheocean at 9:53 PM on February 4, 2010

So far so good but when we’re hard at it, I’m getting lots of “harder” encouragement and frankly I’m coming up a bit blank. Any suggestions on what next gratefully received.

You shouldn't be asking us for suggestions, you should be asking her. Or more accurately, she should be providing them. She knows you're less experienced, and it seems like she thinks that giving you space to explore is the way to go - but you're obviously looking for more guidance. It's okay to ask her "How so?" or "Like this?"

Also, she may not have anything specific in mind when she says "harder" (as evidenced by the "surprise me!" comment). Perhaps you guys can watch some kinky porn together to both get ideas and establish boundaries, or just look through some photo sets on ("oooh, that looks exciting ... wow, we're NEVER doing that!"). Whether you decide to look at anything for your inspiration or not, some discussion is clearly in order; while safety's an obvious priority, this question of where to go next should also be brought up with her. You guys should brainstorm together - it's a lot of pressure for the partner who's inexperienced in rough play to come up with the next step! Kudos to you for being GGG and willing to explore something somewhat outside your comfort level.

... any resources that explain that I’m not a monster for giving someone who I respect hugely what she’s asking me for, again I’d be grateful.

I think the best resource for you to realize an idea you're clearly able to articulate and rationally understand is experience. Seeing how much she enjoys having things done to her that you and most of the rest of society are conditioned to consider degrading, talking to her about it afterwards - in fact, I think one of the best things would be constant reassurance from her about how much she's enjoying it. After about the 100th time of you saying "Really?" it may start to sink in, and you'll realize that you're not a monster to this woman, but an angel.

Also, while I commend you for your GGG disposition, you shouldn't have to do anything that makes you hugely uncomfortable. Pushing your boundaries in the service of your friend's pleasure is admirable, but pay attention to your own discomfort. Discuss it with her and work through it if that's what you feel is necessary, but always feel free to stop playing if you're not okay with what's going on.
posted by Devika at 10:00 PM on February 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

Yeah, please don't try to get her to safeword by doing things she doesn't like unless she agrees to it beforehand. Safewords are necessary, yes, but that is really pushing the limits of consent. Some people like that, but springing it on someone is not cool.

If you want to test her use of the safeword just ask her to safeword whenever she feels like it, but sometime during the next time you have sex.

Seat belts are awesome but you don't drive into a pole to make sure your passenger is wearing her seat belt.
posted by kathrineg at 6:30 AM on February 5, 2010

I think sometimes people fetishize safewords a bit too much. Safewords aren't a bad idea -- they allow for someone to say "no! no!" without stopping the action, and offer an instant eject button for any reason, from too much pain to needing to pee.

But a safeword is no substitute for communication and empathy. I think too often the thought is, "well, we have a safeword, so I can do whatever I want and if they don't like it they can use the safeword." Or conversely, "we have a safeword, so it's up to them to figure out what I want and do it the right amount." And I especially don't like the suggestion above of doing something deliberately unpleasant (nasty pain, not nice pain) to force the person to use their safeword. That's a way to destroy trust, not create it.

Honestly, I think that you are far, far more successful if the person never even want to use their safeword, rather than using it to learn where the boundaries are. If you have any sensitivity at all to body language and tone of voice, you can find boundaries really easy. The safeword is there as insurance, not something that you plan on using regularly.

My point here is that there are a lot of people, especially on the internet, who are really into the language and paraphernalia of S&M. They can tell you all about safewords and know all the acronyms, and have very impressive vocabularies for techniques and implements. And there's some value in that, especially around issues of safety. But at the end of the day, there's no way to substitute technique and vocabulary for actual sensitivity and communication.

Either your friend needs to learn how to articulate her needs and limits verbally, or you need to learn how to read her body language while you experiment. Without either form (or ideally, both forms) of communication, things aren't going to work well.
posted by Forktine at 7:11 AM on February 5, 2010 [6 favorites]

If she likes dominance, and wants it harder but you don't know what to do, then MAKE her tell you. A gentle "how" or "like this" probably isn't going to do it for her...she's going to feel too in control and not really at your mercy. "Oh you want it harder slut? Do you want me to X? Or you want me to X? You're a dirty little slut tell me what you want me to do to you. What's that? I can't hear you. Say it again. Louder." Along those lines.

Another nice activity that could both give you some ideas and help you feel completely comfortable and un-monsterish is making a list together of all the rough sexual activities you can think of. Get graphic and extreme (scat play), and also include the little things (hair pulling). Then you can make a few columns, along the lines of "I really want this done to me" "Maybe someday" and "Never" (and three more for you: "I would really like to do this" That would make me feel uncomfortable") get the picture. Then you've got a clear idea of what both of you is looking for, comfortable with, and she gets to give you some input about what she maybe really wants without having it seem like she's telling you what to do to her. You also get to feel confident that while it's happening, even if she's acting degraded, scared, etc., you know that she really really wants it.

And safewords. Important. You have to feel confident that she'll say the safeword or you're not going to feel confident getting more rough. Have a nice long talk about this.

Have fun!
posted by whalebreath at 7:39 AM on February 5, 2010 [3 favorites]

making a list together of all the rough sexual activities you can think of (whalebreath)

This is a really good idea. If you need someplace to start (albeit from a less rough [but still kinky] perspective) Babeland's new book Moregasm has a good list of things to discuss with your partner.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:30 AM on February 5, 2010

Dude. You need a rope class, and a lesson in human anatomy for bdsm.

And she needs to have a safe word and action that she respects.

"Playing rough" is a few steps before "breath play."

I'm all for you watching some bondage porn to get a better idea of what gets her hot, but I'm more concerned about your safety in the long and short term. You might want a mentor. The internet is probably not well filtered enough to serve that role for you at this stage in your experience.
posted by bilabial at 2:27 PM on February 5, 2010

You know, you can always make it easy, and make your safe word "safe word." Kinda hard to misremember/forget.
posted by Slinga at 1:21 PM on February 9, 2010

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