I don’t want a war, I just want a piece

8 mins read

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

When I was fourteen, my friends and I spent a lot of time rough-housing. Most of it was on my friend’s trampoline. We’d all get on, some of us shirtless, and we’d just start jumping and pushing each other around. It was visceral, vaguely homoerotic. And it was almost fun.

Except that my friends were usually older than me, and significantly more “physically fit.” The result: most brawling sessions ended with me maligned in some way or another, and my friends laughing. The worst was a jump kick that landed me with a black eye and a bag of cold peas on my head.

I was fourteen then. I’m twenty-one now. I’m harder, better, faster, stronger (courtesy of Daft Punk). I’m ready to return to rough-housing. And I might even be ready to kick it up a notch (courtesy of Emeril). Thus the subject of this week’s column: rough sex. To get my definitions straight, what I will describe overlaps with B&D (bondage and discipline), D&S (domination and submission), and S&M (sadism and masochism). And to get the record straight, I have engaged in some such activities before. Mainly simple bondage: handcuffs, blindfolds, etc.

But for this column, I wanted to engage in full-blown fighting during sex. Why is this appealing? I temporarily defer to philosopher Edmund Burke: “Whatever is fitted in any sort to excite the ideas of pain and danger…is a source of the sublime; that is, it is productive of the strongest emotion which the mind is capable of feeling.” Convinced?

To initiate this kind of thing, communication and active consent are obviously key. In the BDSM community it’s called “SSC”: safe, sane, and consensual. But because my partner and I had talked about doing this before, we didn’t explicitly initiate anything. One day, we were on my bed, and we just started to wrestle. It was the usual business: tickling, giggling, touching. But we were both unusually feisty.

Giggling turned into grunting; petting turned into pushing. I think it officially “started” when we tried to rip off each others’ shirts. Literally, rip. No button-by-button. And once shirts were removed, the fighting began. We were grabbing each other, pinning each other down. Even some hitting. But no punching, and no hits to the face. Just kicking and slapping. Kind of like Tae Kwon-do.

It quickly became clear that removing pants would be the next battle, and this battle was going to involve weapons. We started hitting each other with pillows. Lame. So middle school. What next? My partner grabbed my towel and wrapped it into a whip. That hurt. But both our pants were still on, and it seemed like some restraint was in order. So I took off my belt (putting myself at a disadvantage, pants-wise), and tried to tie my partner up. Easier said than done! One minute I was fumbling with the damn belt hole, and the next I was flipped on my back, tied to a post, butt-naked.

That’s when we had our first goof. Having tied me up, my partner lunged at me victoriously and banged her head on the wall. Ouch. She recoiled for a second, we looked at each other, smiled, laughed. “You okay?” I asked softly. “Very,” she said, with a wonderfully vicious look in her eyes. I’ll say it again, dear reader: communication.

After both pairs of pants were removed there was a calm before the storm. We both wanted to ensure safe preparations (condom, lube, etc.), and not let our fighting get in the way. And we acknowledged this with a smile. But less than 30 seconds into intercourse it started again. Now we were playing king of the hill, each stopping at nothing to get on top. It was like the final battle in Braveheart: vicious. There was swearing and slapping. The weapons came back: towels, pillows, belts. There may have even been a punch or two.

The intercourse itself was moderately clumsy, but the overall experience was fantastic. I woke up covered in bruises — kind of like after my high-school lacrosse games — so I assume some bodily damage was inflicted. But I didn’t feel much pain at the time. Only a pleasurable, visceral energy. I guess I owe that to the endorphin release, and to the overlap between brain regions processing pleasure and those processing pain. The experience was, courtesy of Edmund Burke, sublime.

Although we didn’t end up using one this time, I want to stress the importance of “safe words” in these situations. Safe words provide you and your partner with a way to say “no” or “stop” when things have gone too far and are causing distress that is no longer pleasurable. As examples, my partner and I use the safe word “armageddon,” and Michael Scott’s safe word on NBC’s The Office is “foliage.” Safe words are important because the usual sounds signaling “no” can sometimes become part of the sex, which is dangerous, especially in more serious S&M. Safe words ensure the “consensual” part of “SSC.”

Last week, a reader wanted me to expatiate more on the “phenomenology” of my experiences. I think I still do best by analogy. Fighting during sex was kind of like eating extremely spicy food. The painfully spicy kind. It’s intense and it hurts, but it’s exhilarating while it lasts. And the cool glass of milk at the end — orgasm and/or cuddling — more than makes up for it.

Enjoyed that? You’ll like this even better: The Bone Doctor is putting his sex life to the ballot! He says, “I will commit to doing whichever one of these wins by the end of the semester.”

[poll=9]

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