For Marie, a 26-year-old administrator based in Auckland, New Zealand, jackrabbit sex is the bane of her existence. “It’s the absolute worst thing in the world if you have endometriosis, which I do,” she tells me. “You might as well just stab me in the fucking gut.” She says that since she had surgery to treat the condition and sex has become less painful, she understands the vaguely uncomfortable, amused or bored facial expressions of female porn performers while they’re being jackhammered. “I always thought these women were gods, or that I was a total wimp, because it was seriously unbearable before the surgery,” she explains. “Nicer boys would ask if I was okay when they saw my face screwed up in pain, but many would say nothing or not notice my face at all.”
Jackrabbit or jackhammer sex — the two terms tend to be used synonymously — describes intercourse in which the penis-having partner pounds away frantically at their partner, with little to no variation in speed, depth and intensity. Women often describe feeling like they are being used as little more than masturbatory tools during this type of sex, and say it seems like the small matter of their own pleasure has not so much as occurred to their partners. “In my experience, it’s a type of sex you get from men that are not that bothered about your pleasure and are essentially using you as a glorified Fleshlight,” says Charlotte, a 31-year-old administrator from the U.K. “Younger men seem to think ‘the faster the better’ when it comes to sex, so they may not even realize there’s anything wrong with it.”
As with so many pop-cultural sex references, Sex and the City brought the term “jackrabbit sex” to mainstream audiences in 2003. On “The Catch” (season six, episode eight), Carrie beds Howie, Harry’s best man, who’s in town for the wedding. During a headboard-rocking sex scene in which Carrie’s face is screwed up in discomfort, her voiceover narrates the following: “That night, Howie and I had sex like we were teenagers again… meaning, he had no idea what he was doing, and I didn’t say anything.” Later, she describes the encounter to her friend Stanford as “jackrabbit sex — y’know, pow pow pow pow pow pow pow pow.” When Stanford asks if straight men are still allowed to do that, Carrie replies, “No, they aren’t. It’s bad! It’s basically masturbating with a woman instead of your hand.”
Is jackrabbit sex universally bad, though? Plenty of cis women and nonbinary people who sleep with men told me they thought so. The following comments (and similar variations) are common: “It hurts my cervix,” “It’s always unpleasant,” “I hate it!” and “I have never once enjoyed it.” However, others feel it can be good in certain contexts. “If there’s been a lot of foreplay and the mood is right, it can be fun,” says Sage, a 23-year-old server in Colorado. “It’s also good if you’re drunk and just trying to get one in real quick.” Sarah, a 29-year-old New Zealander working in media, concurs. “When I want to feel desired and sexy and have that kind of shallow sex, the jackhammer is almost proof of male energy or virility or something, and I’m into it,” she says. “If I want to actually have an orgasm, though, I’m less into it.”
Kate Sloan, a sex educator and journalist, says that like many sexual acts, jackrabbit sex is appropriate in some contexts and not others. “I don’t want to be jackhammered when I’m not turned on enough, not wet enough, or both,” she explains. “But I’ve met lots of men who seem to think jackhammering is the default standard for good sex, which is like if I thought aggressive porn-y head-bobbing was the only correct setting for all stages of a blowjob.” She says it’s the technique that’s often recommended in guides for giving G-spot orgasms or making someone squirt, but not everyone wants or is able to achieve that.
Some of the women I speak to say that jackrabbit sex is a straight-male problem pretty much by definition, but Price, a 28-year-old musician from Mississippi who sleeps with men, says that’s not quite correct. “In my experience, it’s a specific kind of top and bottom that’s into that, more of a dom/sub dynamic,” they tell me. “I’ve never had a top just go for it like that unless there was the dynamic already in place where that was encouraged.”
I get the sense, speaking to Price, other men and non-binary people who sleep with men, that while jackrabbit sex isn’t a phenomenon exclusive to straight men, it tends to be explicitly negotiated in queer contexts — partly, Price says, because of the realities of anal sex. “Anal sex requires a lot of pre-planning on the bottom’s part,” they explain. “If the muscles aren’t ready or loose enough, jackhammering is just is not possible, or at the very least painful in a way that’s not sustainable.”
Given that so many cis women and nonbinary people who sleep with men loathe jackrabbit fucking, I wondered why so many straight men were engaging in it. Jane, a 30-year-old lawyer based in New Zealand, tells me that her ex could only orgasm through a solid 10 to 15 minutes of jackhammer sex. “I think he definitely grew up watching porn, death-grip jerking off, and not always understanding that long, hard, repetitive fucking might not be the goal,” she says.
Multiple people cited some combination of porn and monotonous masturbation as causes, including James, a 28-year-old server in Florida. “When I was younger and first started having sex, I thought jackhammering was basically just what you do, probably, knowing my teenage self, because of porn,” he tells me. “Then one partner told me to stop while we were fucking because it hurt her.” Since then, he says, he’s always spoken to his partners about what they want. “‘Rapid pounding,’ or something like that, has never been expressed,” he adds.
Jane thinks porn is not only responsible for the prevalence of jackrabbit fucking, but for giving the impression that it’s something most women crave or enjoy. “There are often parts of sex that people more readily acknowledge as being primarily for one partner’s pleasure, like oral sex or a hand job, and maybe that’s particularly the case for queer people, in that ‘sex’ might mean I go down on my girlfriend and then afterwards she fingers me,” she explains. “In contrast, heterosexual penetrative sex is usually seen as a mutual thing, and the cultural myth is that it’s supposed to be something that both people will come from and, particularly if you watch heterosexual porn and sex scenes, both at the same time.” She says that because porn contains the message that jackhammer sex is something that guys should do to get women off, a lot of straight men might not realize that it’s actually more the equivalent of a blowjob than of mutually satisfying sex.
So, the $64,000 question is, what is a guy to do instead? For Jen, a 32-year-old writer in Canada, the answer is to slow down. “I’d prefer finger play, followed by mindful, powerful rhythmic thrusts,” she says. “Take your time, feel it, enjoy it in slow motion. Build excitement, instead of letting excitement completely take over.”
But, of course, it’s reductive to assume all women want it slow all the time. “For most people, good sex involves hills and valleys of sensation, not maximum intensity at maximum speed for the maximum amount of time,” Sloan tells me. “Ask your partner what they want instead of assuming you already know.”