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Why Do We Think ‘Hard Sex’ Is an Orgasm Highway?

People have a tendency to conflate hard sex with good sex. But in bed, does ‘harder sex’ actually mean anything? Or is it just hot to hear?

Thirty-year-old Lina, from Vilnius in Lithuania, likes her sex to be hard. “I tend to imagine dogs fucking while I’m doing it,” she tells me. “I get turned on by the animalism of it; the feeling that the man who is fucking me has lost all sanity, and is driven only by the urge to inseminate me.”

On Reddit, where I meet Lina, she is one of many “hard sex” enthusiasts, regularly diving into discussions on the allure of a rough pounding. The general consensus? If you’re not fucking fast and feverishly, you’re not fucking at all.

Of course, in 2020, this isn’t exactly a radical viewpoint. So-called “hard sex” is everywhere, from the early jackhammerings of your first love affair, to the vacant pummeling of most modern studio porn releases. The term “fuck me harder” — or even just the word “harder” — is now an established and widely-used part of the dirty-talk lexicon. If you haven’t let the words slip yourself, you’ve no doubt heard them gasped somewhere (like, say, in this thinly-veiled track from The Weeknd and Ariana Grande).

It’s not only the receiver who says it, either. Fucking “hard” is often considered shorthand for fucking “well,” with many men (some who are Doms, or at least claim to be) boasting about their powerhouse performances. One notorious example is Christian Grey from 50 Shades of Grey telling his love interest Anastasia Steele: “I don’t make love. I fuck… hard.” (It’s a line that somehow manages to become even more horrifying in the 2015 film adaptation; if you’re brave enough to watch it, hold onto your soul, lest it leave your body entirely).

For such men, it seems, sex isn’t really about intimacy, it’s about pummeling away at a warm, sentient receptacle with speed and force. So where did this kind of sex come from? And why are so many people obsessed with it? 

“Hard fucking usually means performing with gusto — going deeper, stronger, faster and sparking primal sensations that trigger more pleasure,” clarifies author and sexologist Gloria Brame. “For many people, what they mean by ‘hard’ is really what others would call ‘passionate.’” 

And this “passionate” type of sex is undeniably popular, particularly among women and gay men. According to stats from Pornhub, “rough sex” — which, although difficult to define, generally refers to hard and fast pounding — is the site’s 35th most viewed category, with women (and particularly millennial women) 63 percent more likely to search for the term. On Pornhub Gay, it’s even more popular, rising to the seventh most-viewed category

“Saying ‘fuck me harder’ is like giving consent to have rougher sex,” says Jeannie, 35, from Ontario. “I classify rough sex as more physical than normal sex, and there’s a small element of pain that comes with it. I personally like it rough; it’s like raw, ‘I want you now’ kind of sex.” (Though, it should probably be said that Jeannie’s version of “fuck me harder” isn’t universal — everyone has a different interpretation of what “hard” is, so I wouldn’t assume it automatically grants consent for anything else.)

For the majority of hard sex enthusiasts, the appeal seems to be psychological. As both Jeannie and Lina say, it can make you feel more wanted — as if your sexual magnetism is causing your partner to quite literally go mad with desire. The vigor of such sex can also cause surges of adrenaline, which may increase feelings of attraction for both parties and lead to a quicker climax.

“I definitely do say ‘fuck me harder’ during sex, probably because I like the out-of-control feeling of being physically overpowered,” says Sarah, 30, from New York. “For whatever reason, when I get to a certain point during sex, I physically want it to get harder and more intense. That’s what feels good to me.”

On a more practical level, hard sex could also help with stress relief. One scientific review published earlier this year found that adding mild pain, or “rough play,” to your sex life can help “focus attention on the present moment” and offer a “temporary reprieve” from the burdensome responsibilities of adulthood. It’s a belief shared by 22-year-old Josh, from New York: “Hard sex is like a release,” he tells me. “It’s like everything that’s pent up is being let out. I always feel really relaxed once it’s over.”

And yet, talk to most women (or receivers) about their worst sexual experience, and “jackhammering” is likely to get a mention. After all, while there may be psychological benefits to a quick, primal bang, it can also be physically overwhelming. “I’ve had so many men go at me, as fast and hard as possible, and it’s been so terrible,” says Stephanie, 31, from London. “It’s like they don’t care what my body is feeling. They’re just using me to masturbate with. Just use your hand if you really don’t care what I want.”

She adds that this kind of sex is like a “plague” on society, causing men to believe that there’s only one way to “fuck properly.” As a result, it makes them less sensitive to each individual woman’s needs. “Not everyone wants to be hammered away at — everyone is different. Everyone’s body is different. It very rarely feels good!”

There may not even be that much difference for men physically, either. A 28-year-old from the U.K. tells me that, while he enjoys the passion and performance of “hard” sex, it doesn’t actually feel better. “It doesn’t feel any different, physically speaking,” he explains. “There’s definitely times when I want to fuck hard and fast, but this illusion that men love it all the time is a myth. I guess it plays into this idea that men need to be more dominant and assert their masculine power, so you ‘fuck hard.’ Even though I actually find the inverse to be more sexy most of the time, I still feel pressured to play up to it.”

The stats, however, tell another story. And what’s most interesting about the “hard sex” phenomenon is the age skew. As Pornhub discovered with its research, the majority of users looking for rougher sex content are young, typically between 18 and 30 years of age. There’s plenty of speculation over why this might be, but it’s likely that the internet — by making fringe and kink communities more accessible — has played some kind of role. 

“The internet lets people make choices their parents’ and grandparents’ generations didn’t have the nerve to make,” explains Brame. “We aren’t seeing a rise in the actual percentage of people who fantasize about hard sex — we’re just seeing a rise in the number of people who don’t feel ashamed to admit they love it.”

It’s possible, then, that jackhammering may have always been a part of human nature. In fact, most of the people I talk to use variations of the words “animalistic” and “primal” when explaining their obsession with it. Some even admit to being inspired by horse sex — or, like Lina, dog sex — which suggests it could all be down to some instinctual mammalian urge. 

Of course, many disagree, and believe that this behavior has — at least to some degree — been learned. Mostly it’s porn that takes the blame, which could explain why hard sex is so popular with the generations who grew up with the most exposure to it. It makes sense: The more people watch porn, the more its performances — and “fuck me harder”-style soundbites — become normalized and replicated (one study found that 57 percent of men who engaged in rough sex felt influenced by porn). And, as sex educator Lola Jean points out, people just want to look like they know what they’re doing.

“There’s a lot of insecurity around what to say during sex,” she explains, adding that the main words we’re taught are “harder,”‘ “deeper” and “classic corny dirty talk.” “We say it without meaning, because we think it will turn our partner on.”

Jean argues that this kind of pressure may cause people to play up to certain roles or perform in a certain way, while neglecting their own pleasure in the process. Saying you enjoy faster or rougher sex can also seem “cooler,” “hotter” and more aspirational than a slower alternative. Because in the end, “people want to feel desirable, and to know they’re doing a good job at sex.”

Brame, though, is reluctant to place the blame on porn, and stresses that there is simply a “normal, primal urge” (there’s that word again — primal) in human beings to “bang their balls off.” And while it could be argued that “fucking hard” is performative, sex has always been about putting on a show. “Bland missionary sex may even be the most performative and least natural of all,” she says. “We are primates, after all.”

For someone like Sarah, who embraced hard sex later in life, this theory also rings true. It wasn’t mainstream porn that taught her about the joy of being “fucked harder” — in fact, it was her rejection of it. “Porn seems like a nice, neat explanation for why people enjoy this kind of sex, but it’s so incredibly counter to my personal experience,” she says. “I think the idea that this is an organic interest makes people uncomfortable.”

After feeling unrepresented and uninspired by porn — “it never interested me” — Sarah began exploring alternative kink communities online, following her instincts about what gave her the most pleasure. Eventually, she found herself reading about BDSM, and began practicing rougher, harder sex. Like so many others, she found the pleasure to be distinctly personal, but also undeniable.

“Hard sex just feels like something I want on a deep, fundamental level,” she says. “If I say, ‘fuck me harder,’ I’m really asking for it. Because I really do want it.”

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