Humiliation and Degrading Sex
This topic has been up lately, as we recently got a message from a man who wanted to understand a desire his partner was expressing. Basically, it boiled down to “what’s up with degradation, rough sex, or rape scenarios?” We also had a letter from a woman, who was feeling badly about how turned on she got from degrading sex. First off, science has not yet discovered why certain stimuli, over others, light up the arousal center in the brain. People are turned on by all kinds of things. So we tell our clients that no source of turn-on is shameful. If you can allow yourself to feel the arousal, then you can decide if you want to leave it in the realm of imagination, or act on it. There are a few underlying reasons that are commonly found, but the truth is, it’s just is a part of your make-up, and the more you try to repress it, the more persistent and taboo it becomes.
So taboo is part of the appeal of humiliation and degradation. It feeds a part of us that wants to break rules, rebel, and be “dirty.” Another aspect of the appeal is permission. When I was a teenager, I had a fantasy that someone was kidnapping all these famous rock stars and heart throbs, and then they kidnapped me, and I had to clean the house in a yellow bikini and “service” all the men. In a culture that still shames women for being open about their sexual appetites, forced or rough sex gives them permission to enjoy the act.
Another reason some women may enjoy being forced or degraded, is that the act of submission gives them a break from having to be in charge. It’s important to note that not all submissive individuals want to be degraded. This is a particular type of play, and needs to be negotiated. In both men and women who enjoy submission, it is often the case that they are very dominant in their outside lives. Most Pro-Dommes will tell you that their clients are usually CEO’s, firemen and cops. There is a pleasure and a balance created when the person being bossed around gets to stop taking responsibility. Being submissive in the bedroom provides a balance to how masculine some women feel in their work lives. It is an opportunity to only feel and not think. Being degraded or humiliated adds an extra nuance, that they are actually lowly or invisible. It may sound odd, but there is a lot of self-esteem that can be gotten from surviving an ordeal like degradation.
A third reason we see, is that people are trying to work something out psychologically or seeking catharsis. I had a male client who enjoyed degradation and humiliation. He was a Vietnam vet, and that had caused him to be hyper-vigilant and quite disconnected from his emotions. He wanted to be made to cry. He also had an abusive mother. In our therapeutic scenes, he wanted to act out being abused and humiliated by someone who didn’t believe he was worthless, perhaps to rewire the part of him that felt unloved as a child. After such scenes, it was always important to provide affectionate and loving aftercare.
The last reason I want to talk about is Belonging. I am not submissive personally. In fact, I am the Dominant in some of my relationships. I do however enjoy rough sex because it makes me feel desired. When a man I trust claims me roughly, it makes me feel like he wants me so badly he can’t control himself. And that is actually a powerful feeling. I am the source of his raging lust. All people want to feel loved and like we belong to someone. Being ravished by a woman is one of the most common fantasies we hear from male clients. Being taken against our will enforces this feeling.
Some people enjoy mutually rough play and we call that being Primal. The rush of adrenaline that accompanies fighting or wrestling as if for our lives, is a powerful aphrodisiac. Fear and arousal share thirteen physiological markers like elevated heart rate, breathing, dilated pupils, decreased digestive activity and others.
How to introduce degradation play?
It’s important to know that this is “Consensual non-consent.” That means it is thoroughly negotiated beforehand as to what is acceptable and what isn’t. Some words may be great, and others will take you right out of the scene. Spanking may be okay, but face slapping is out. In fact, both people need to have a means to stop what they don’t like by using a safeword. This is good for both partners. Many men have a hard time hurting a woman that they love. They are afraid of letting out “the beast” that society has asked them to keep chained up. Knowing that a safeword exists, lets the man know he can let out the animal, within limits.
Questions to be considered. What words will be used? Are there any that are a particular turn-on or turn off? Is there anything the dominant partner needs to be aware of, like an old injury or surgery that could be triggered by rough play? If you want this only in the bedroom, that is part of the negotiation. For example, “outside of sex, we are full equals again, and never call me whore.” We also recommend debriefing afterward, and treating the session like an experiment. Rather than taking it badly if it didn’t go exactly right, ask yourselves, what worked? What didn’t? What do we want to do differently next time? And congratulate yourselves for being willing to try something new.
Curious about more BDSM basics? Register for our webinar on Getting Kinky, taking place live on Thursday 2/9 at 8 pm EST, and available in the archives for sale thereafter.