As I’ve written about many times before, I grew up in a fairly conservative large Catholic family in the Maine woods. We didn’t talk about sex openly. When it was addressed, it was always uncomfortably and framed as something bad that I as a woman would go through in order to have what I as a woman should really want — children. There was certainly no rational discussion about different forms of sex. Or the idea that it could be a way to really bond with your partner.
I did come of age knowing what rough sex was. But it was primarily something that was talked about as something that bad men would basically test a woman with. To see if she really respected herself. And if that woman consented to rough sex, then he would know he basically had a puppet he could mistreat and abuse.
My entire sexual education was largely informal. A muddle, really. Mostly, I just talked to other people, listened, and qualified their opinions based on how they seemed as a person otherwise. When I became sexually active, I also learned a lot from my own experiences. From my first sex partners.
I participated in rough sex long before I was really a kinkster. And in spite of what I’d been told, it did seem to be a fairly common behavior and more recreational and fun than anything world-shatteringly degrading.
Anyway, it’s funny to me with the start I had that I would later go on as I approached 30 to discover the kink community. To experiment with sadomasochism. And to find that it didn’t seem to have much of a compelling relationship with abuse.
This is not to say that there aren’t abusive kinksters. There are. But there are also lots of abusive vanilla people. And from my own anecdotal life experience, it seems to be about the same. There is always some risk of abuse any time you get close to another person, no matter what their stripes are.
Anyway, I recently encountered a study that would have surprised me back before I honestly explored the kink community but really doesn’t surprise me now.
Rough Sex Has No Link With Abuse, Is Initiated About as Often by Women as By Men & Typically Isn’t Very Rough
In a study of over 700 people, participants were asked about their habits surrounding rough sex. Here’s what they found:
The average person participated in aggressive consensual sex about 28 times per year.
Rather than being a behavior limited to men, both men and women both reported initiating rough sex.
The study also found that rough sex acts resulted in very few injuries and the ones sustained were typically minor — for example, scratches or bruises.
No correlation was found between rough sex and abusive relationship behaviors.
Common rough sex behaviors identified in the study were spanking, clawing, calling a sex partner names, and tearing off clothes.
It was also very interesting to me that this study was a survey, so it all hinged on self-report. This means that this is the amount of rough sex that people would admit to having. That, too, was quite fascinating.
It does lead me to wonder about if the results were varied if it would have been conducted at a different time, before such major cultural phenomena as Internet porn and the increased public awareness of BDSM. Some of the studies cited in this one do talk about similar themes (and some were conducted in the 1980s), so I figure I might dive into those and see what they say, even if it means risking falling into a research rabbit hole and getting lost there for a while.
This post is part of an ongoing Poly Land feature called Psyched for the Weekend, in which I geek out with brief takes about some of my favorite psychological studies and concepts. For the entire series, please see this link.