Exploring one of the most popular — and dangerous — trends of our generation.
by Kelsey Lawrence
This May, a 20-year-old Texas man was charged with the 2014 death of his prom date, who didn't wake up the next morning after a night of allegedly "rough" sex. Though her death was exacerbated by the alcohol and hydrocodone in her system, Eddie Herrera choked Jacqueline Gomez while having sex, and, due to the drugs and "deep hemorrhaging" around her neck, she died in her sleep that night. Yet despite the inherent risks of engaging in increasingly physical sexual activity, our generation is clearly captivated by it.
In Pornhub's 2015 Year in Review, a comprehensive look at the search analytics of their users worldwide, one of the most interesting statistics went relatively unnoticed. Ranking just under "lesbian" and "solo male," women are searching categories like "hardcore," "rough sex," and "bondage" significantly more often than men. The "rough sex" category alone was viewed by women 106 percent more often than men last year. Under "top gaining searches" for both men and women, the term "hard rough" was searched 454 percent more often in 2015 than in 2014.
Our porn habits aren't necessarily indicative of what we want IRL, but if we're watching rougher porn, does that mean our generation, generally speaking, is having rougher sex? And, furthermore, what do we even mean when we say "rough sex"? Cosmopolitan.com spoke to six Millennials and a sex therapist to investigate whether twentysomethings are playing harder in bed — and, for the first generation to have access to porn since before we even knew what sex was, what that actually looks like. Okay, we're not knocking on apartment doors with a postcoital census poll, so we can't exactly prove whether Millennials are, in fact, getting rougher. But we can look at some common themes to examine where our boundaries tend to be and explore what seems to be the most dominant trend: a disturbing lack of education surrounding consent to these activities.
ARE WE GETTING KINKIER?
Dr. Gloria Brame, sex therapist and author of Different Loving Too: Real People, Real Lives, Real BDSM, doesn't necessarily believe people are kinkier than they've been in previous generations, because she believes those desires to be inherently genetic.
"We're all wired for different things," Dr. Brame tells Cosmopolitan.com. "Some people are always going to be more intrigued by intensity. People in BDSM communities will say it's the internet that's transformed BDSM ... I think that's because it allowed people who might previously have had a tiny fantasy to suddenly realize, 'Wow, does that mean I have the potential to be kinky?'"
In 1953, a Kinsey Institute study found that 55 percent of females and 50 percent of males had experienced an erotic response to being bitten. Clearly, desires for rougher play have always existed in some incarnation. We're also undoubtedly influenced by what we see around us. A University of Arkansas study from 2010 showed that 88 percent of the scenes from 50 top-selling porn videos contained a variety of aggressive acts, from spanking to gagging.
Whether or not these desires are innate, it's undeniable that we've experienced a culture shift of rough sex and BDSM culture permeating mainstream media. As evidenced by the success of the (arguably misinformed) Fifty Shades of Grey and even the trendiness of bondage-inspired clothing, elements of BDSM have become increasingly commonplace. Rihanna's 2010 song "S&M" featured copious whips-and-chains references. Even a recent commercial for pistachios featured a dominatrix seemingly, um, making a pistachio submit to her command. So while humans have likely always had kinky desires, there's no question those desires are more widely accepted and embraced by pop culture today. ...
...Lack of Consent and Education
Of all the themes that arose while reporting this story, this was the most disturbing. Robin, 23, described a one-night stand who tried to choke her during sex without asking first. "It was not OK with me by any means," she says. "Would it have been OK with me if, instead, they were a long-term partner? Most likely." But BDSM activity, even when consensual, can still be prosecuted under state criminal laws, according to the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom. In March, a federal court in Virginia ruled that there is "no constitutional right" to engage in even consensual BDSM.
There's a lot of interesting, valuable discussion surrounding consent and BDSM scenes on FetLife forums and through talks sponsored by the NCSF. Much of that conversation, however, may not reach young people who are experimenting without really becoming part of that community. Eddie Herrera's 25-year sentence for choking his girlfriend is proof of what can happen when these acts go wrong (and it is all too easy for something to go wrong).
We also tend to think of consent in the steps leading up to sex. But even if you're already in bed with someone, asking for consent needs to continue, particularly when playing around with anything that could potentially hurt someone. Kristin, 24, has had experiences with an ex-boyfriend who didn't seek her consent before trying things like name-calling and anal sex. Several months into the relationship, he all of a sudden started calling her a "dirty slut" and attempting anal sex — all with no warning. "It was the most unchill situation I've had with a partner I was actually dating," she says. "I most definitely stopped him and asked what the heck was up. It shifted the entire dynamic of the relationship, unfortunately." ...
... Savage has for 20 years been saying monogamy is harder than we admit and articulating a sexual ethic that he thinks honors the reality, rather than the romantic ideal, of marriage. In Savage Love, his weekly column, he inveighs against the American obsession with strict fidelity. In its place he proposes a sensibility that we might call American Gay Male, after that community’s tolerance for pornography, fetishes and a variety of partnered arrangements, from strict monogamy to wide openness.
Savage believes monogamy is right for many couples. But he believes that our discourse about it, and about sexuality more generally, is dishonest. Some people need more than one partner, he writes, just as some people need flirting, others need to be whipped, others need lovers of both sexes. We can’t help our urges, and we should not lie to our partners about them. In some marriages, talking honestly about our needs will forestall or obviate affairs; in other marriages, the conversation may lead to an affair, but with permission. In both cases, honesty is the best policy.
“I acknowledge the advantages of monogamy,” Savage told me, “when it comes to sexual safety, infections, emotional safety, paternity assurances. But people in monogamous relationships have to be willing to meet me a quarter of the way and acknowledge the drawbacks of monogamy around boredom, despair, lack of variety, sexual death and being taken for granted.”
What better way to celebrate and enjoy a beautiful, sunny Father's Day than to trek over to the Folsom Street East festival? The 15th annual event was held this past Sunday in the urban valley of West 28th Street, between 10th and 11th avenues, under the watchful eye of the newly opened section of the High Line park. After all, hanging out during daylight with lots of sexy guys wearing nothing but skimpy scraps of leather, a healthy sprinkling of freaks, a little BDSM in the open air and some beer on tap was lots better than buying Daddy a tie and taking New Jersey transit out for a tedious day with dysfunctional family members. Instead, this celebration of sexual freedom offers what daddies really want: some rubber puppy paws, a plastic tail plug and a rubber dog hood for puppy play sessions.
Although you might think the event caters only to a fringe group, I bumped into a lot of my friends there. "I love leather, and I think this event is one of the sexiest of the year," photographer Rob Ordonez told me. He and his friend, fashion designer Geary Marcello, are regulars and were dressed in typical Folsom Street attire, with matching spiked dog collars, leather straps, face piercings and tattoos.
When I arrived around 3 p.m., the block was crammed with mostly men, a few women (some in leather) and drag queens. And one living blow-up doll: A person encased in a latex mask covering his entire face, who was also wearing black latex—with balloons for tits. I pushed my way through the crowd looking for the press table on the other side of the block and thought about getting a beer ticket for $5 because it was starting to get hot (in more ways than one).
As I expected from photos I'd seen from previous Folsoms, some men were semi-nude and consisted of all different body types, ages and colors. Some wore leather chaps with ample ass hanging out, some wore other bondagetype fashion (harnesses being the most common) and some were just wearing average, everyday clothing. What made the day fun was the sense of adventure and friendliness of the crowd.
The stage shows were emceed by porn star personalities Mike Dreyden (who later participated in the most unique pie-eating contest ever conceived) and Will Clark. Sassy drag queen Peppermint performed and—although there were some wellplaced taunts from the average-looking gawkers on the High Line—it was a feelgood day.
My friend, nightlife photographer Teague Clements, seemed to have a great time. "It was a veritable cornucopia of sexual freedom: leather daddies with their lovers, lesbian doms with their boi slaves, muscular bears walking hand-in-hand," he said. "And every now and then, people just... kissing. And yes, there were straight folks, too."
I was scared when she first suggested it. But as we found out what we could handle, I saw how much trust we shared
I got up around seven on my wife's birthday and made her breakfast, as usual. I do all of the cooking, the cleaning, the laundry, buy groceries and run all errands, even for those embarrassing feminine hygiene products. My wife never asked me to shoulder all household chores; I insisted. The arrangement suited both of us perfectly. I always wanted someone to take care of, just as she always wanted someone to take care of her.
While we eat breakfast, it's tradition that we watch "Law & Order: SVU" on Netflix. "Do you want to watch cop-who-rapes-his-wife or little-girl-in-a-coma?" I asked.
My wife chose "cop-who-rapes-his-wife," while I, the sentimental one, opted for "little-girl-in-a-coma." We broke this impasse the same way we make other minor decisions: With a wrestling match.
I know many couples enjoy a bedroom tussle, but when my wife and I grapple, we're out for blood. We bite, scratch, punch and twist each other's limbs into painful pretzels. I am proud to say I am married to a woman who can kick my ass. This is how we are in the bedroom, too, where it's a constant shifting of dominance, rough and wild, neither of us on top for long.
My wife won, finishing me off with a move that would be illegal even in a street fight. I let her get her licks in while she could. Later that day, we were headed to the dungeon. There, I would show her no mercy.
After revealing her identity in an RFT feature and on her blog, Kendra Holliday expected fallout. After all, the blog she'd maintained anonymously for years, www.thebeautifulkind.com, features an explicit peek into her sex-positive world filled with lovers, sex toys and BDSM.
Right away she found a great deal of support and criticism, both online and in real life -- commenters on our story called her everything from a hero to a whore. Some parents of her child's classmates shunned her. ...
Members of the leather, fetish and BDSM community from across the country visited Houston this weekend to share their wares and offer workshops on the fetish and BDSM lifestyle in a convention at the Sheraton Brookhollow Hotel. We sent a photographer to check out the booths and the most interesting items for sale. Text in some images may be semi-NSFW. PHOTOS BY GROOVEHOUSE