The Rough Stuff: Understanding Aggressive Consensual Sex

  • Rebecca L. BurchEmail author
  • Catherine Salmon
Research Article


Research on sexual behavior often characterizes rough sex as sexual aggression and as violent or abusive in nature. In a sample of 734 male and female undergraduates, we examined the extent of rough sexual acts in romantic relationships, the triggers for those acts, and how rough sex differs from “typical” sex. Participants were asked their definition of rough sex, questions regarding sexual aggression and behaviors during rough sex, and abusive behaviors in the relationship. Findings indicate that rough sex is triggered by curiosity and a need for novelty, and that both men and women often initiate rough sexual behaviors. Consensual rough sex typically results in little violence and only superficial injuries such as scratches, bruises, and welts. Rough sex does not correlate with violence in the relationship or abuse. However, rough sexual behaviors were increased in situations that involved male sexual jealousy. Being separated from a sexual partner was the second most common trigger for rough sex, particularly for men. Aspects of rough sex, such as increased semen displacement and decreased latency for female orgasm are discussed.


Rough sex Sexual aggression Sexual jealousy Semen displacement 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Human DevelopmentState University of New York at OswegoOswegoUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of RedlandsRedlandsUSA

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