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My partner wants me to punch her and engage in other rough play. How can I do this for her without causing harm?

Q:

My significant other and I have been together for five years and she has always enjoyed rough sex, which I have no problem giving her. My question regarding punching is whether you know of a safer alternative. She doesn't like being slapped in the face, only punched. I pull my punches and usually stick to the safer spots, avoiding jawbone etc., but she only enjoys it if it's hard, and it's quite difficult to do that and not leave a mark. Secondly, she has recently been talking about how much the idea of a forced sex/rape scenario turns her on. However, she isn't into bondage, and doesn't know how we would be able to simulate it, because she says she doesn't think it will work because she feels safe with me. My thought was a blindfold for her, but I was curious if you had any other tips/suggestions.

A:

These are two very big questions, and I’ll do my best to give them both complete answers. First, let me applaud you for being concerned about the safety of these activities. Safety is essential when engaging in kink or rough sex, and these edgier forms of play come with additional safety concerns.

Doing anything with the head/face/neck is edge play. These are sensitive areas and there’s a lot that can go wrong. Even face slapping is risky (as well as taboo) and punching carries additional risks. Any impact to the head or face carries the risk of both concussion and whiplash. To help prevent whiplash, you can support the head. And, as you mention in your question, you’ve got to look out for the jawbone and cheekbone as well. These are easy to fracture or knock out of alignment. The chance of a black eye is high as well, and that’s a difficult bruise to hide.

In addition to physical safety you’ve got to consider emotional safety. The edgier and riskier the activities, the more deeply I’d suggest you consider your motivations. Not only that, but be sure to negotiate for adequate aftercare. This can include snuggling and reconnecting after the play, as well as debriefing a day or two later about how everyone is feeling, what worked well, and what needs improvement.

And remember, it’s not just the bottom whose needs should be accounted for. The Top’s needs and feelings matter just as much. You’re allowed to say no if something feels uncomfortable or is too much for you.

For one example of a Top drawing the line, sex-positive consultant Leland Carina recounts the following experience:

I attended a class once about punching people in the face with consent. My partner at the time wanted me to try it on her. I followed the instructions, which were to do it directly on the cheek under the eye, but avoiding hitting the eye. The teacher directed us to start with light punches, building up intensity slightly, but never hitting super hard. I tried, but I must have been doing it too lightly. She never ended up with a bruise and I didn't want to keep trying. It didn't feel right to me, despite my bottom's eagerness.

There are a lot of things I enjoy doing as a top that would make many folks squirm, but face punching (at least in that circumstance) rubbed up against my boundaries. The practice falls outside of many people's comfort zones, likely due to the resemblance to domestic abuse.

I also asked for the perspective of a Top who has engaged in regular face punching. Here's what they said:

Much like face slapping, you should support the head if you can. And remember you can dislocate a jaw easier than you think. Punching is one of those things that I do, that I don't think there is a safe way to do regardless. There are ways you can mitigate the risk but I believe you are always putting the bottom at risk. The bones in the face and jaw are particularly fragile, the head is connected to the neck, which is susceptible to whiplash. Some of the danger can be lessened through supporting the head firmly while striking it: grab a hand full of hair on the back of their head while also cradling their head in the crook of your elbow. In this way, it seems to them that you are just holding them firmly in your control when in fact you are supporting their head and neck.

So, if you decide to go ahead with the punching, please be sure you’re both risk-aware. That’s a term used in kink to mean that as part of consent and negotiation, both parties are fully aware of the risks of the activities they want to do, and are choosing to proceed anyway.

Rape play is another huge and controversial topic. It’s also a fairly common fantasy. But when you start to ask questions you find out what’s at the root of that fantasy for each person. Many people like the idea of playing with power and control. Others like the idea of an encounter with a partner who knows exactly what they want, without them having to ask for it. So, the first thing I’d suggest is having a long talk with your partner about what parts of this fantasy are the most appealing. There may be ways to get to those elements that aren’t so logistically challenging.

As for concrete suggestions, I think you’re on the right track with the idea of a blindfold. Taking someone’s senses away makes them feel more vulnerable, and tends to make all sensations more intense. You could also try changing up your location - even if it’s just a matter of blindfolding her and then leading her to another room, like the bathroom or kitchen. Leading someone around when they’re blindfolded tends to make people feel unsettled, and that might help reach the sensations she’s looking for.

As mentioned above for punching, make sure you plan for aftercare. You can’t always know in advance what feelings are going to come up, so you want to make sure you’ve got adequate time for reconnecting, and talking about how you both feel.

It’s not all about physical risk, either. You need to look out for psychological risks, too. Angie Gunn, a licensed social worker who specializes in sexual trauma counseling, offered the following advice:

When you're considering venturing into rape play fantasies, it's important to understand the possible psychological implications of such play on you and your partner. First, if you have experienced any sexual trauma, non-consensual sexual touch, or rape, have you had time to work through the emotions, thoughts and physical responses, and long term beliefs and values created in response to these violations? Addressing this first is necessary to prevent re-traumatization, dissociation, or other symptoms from emerging. If you have not experienced this in the past, explore the fantasy on your own first through the use of porn or visualization, and identify any hotspots that are important to you, or things to avoid. Talk with your partner about these and specify what kind of support you may need before or after. Ideally, support afterwards would include grounding, understanding that you are safe, and re-assertion of your personal sense of agency. Have a clear safeword to allow you to feel in control, and able to stop the play at any point as well.

One last thought: When people have fantasies that are difficult to fulfill safely in real life, sometimes incorporating the fantasy into dirty talk, or reading erotica on the subject, can become a part of foreplay.

As with all the sex and kink advice I give, it comes down to good communication. So do what you can to discuss what both of you find sexy and hot, and feel free to get creative when it comes to enacting those fantasies.

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Written by Stella Harris
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Stella Harris is an erotica writer, BDSM educator, and sex & intimacy coach. She teaches for a variety of sex-positive organizations in Portland, Oregon in addition to leading and organizing her own public classes and offering private instruction. Publication highlights include several anthologies by Cleis Press and a series of tantalizing and informative articles on kinkly.com. Through her writing and teaching she explores the complex world of love and lust and strives to help people explore their kinks safely and free of shame.

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