I am a straight 28-year-old woman. Recently I slept with a man for the third time (we met on Tinder). We had had great sex previous times but this time before he came over for dinner he asked if I liked it rough. I had never really had rough sex before but I was curious. He said he meant spanking and name calling and choking. I enjoyed the spanking on the bottom and played along by biting his lip and putting my hands on his throat as he had asked me to do. But when I was on top out of the blue he slapped me across the face, hard, three times. I was shocked by this and confused but kept going. Afterwards I felt humiliated and upset and mentioned this to him but he tried to deflect blame and said he thought I liked it. Is this behaviour normal? I feel really shit about myself but wonder if I did something to lead him to believe I wanted to be slapped in the face.

Upset Gal Hurting

Please don’t feel bad about yourself.

Something shitty happened to you or was done to you (my money is on the latter), UGH, and you aren't to blame. You shouldn't see this asshole again, obviously, and if anyone suggests a little rough sex in the future — or if you suggest a little rough sex to a future sex partner (you were enjoying it until that slap, right?) — tell the guy only those things you “rule in,” i.e. negotiate and pre-approve, are allowed. Then you'll need to have a detailed conversation that doesn't take place during foreplay: hair pulling is okay, ass slapping is hot, you can hold me down, here are the names you can call me, choking is dangerous and we're not going to do that the first time we have rough sex (and choking will be simulated/symbolic if we ever try it), my safeword is "[your safe word here]" and finally: face slapping and anything else we haven't discussed and I haven't approved ARE NOT ALLOWED." And since this is a conversation, UGH, he gets to bring up what he's interested in (things you can rule in or out), he can rule out anything you bring up in or out, and he should give you his safeword if the roughness is going to be mutual. If that's not a conversation you can have, you shouldn't have rough sex. If it not a conversation your future hypothetical sex partner can have (or if it's one he refuses to have), you shouldn't have rough sex with him.

As for whether the behavior you describe from the asshole from Tinder normal...

Variance is the norm when it comes to human sexuality, UGH, so "Is this normal?" is almost always the wrong question. Here are some much better ones: Is this consensual? Is it safe? Is it mutually pleasurable? (Something can be consensual but unsafe as well as consensual but un-pleasurable for one or more participants.) This Tinder asshole may have told himself slapping was less extreme (and less risky) than choking, so.... slapping was probably okay. That was a self-serving rationalization on his part. He may have also figured it was “easier to ask for forgiveness than permission,” as the saying goes, but that shit is never okay during sex. Doing something you may need to seek forgiveness for afterwards means doing something that could leave a sex partner feeling traumatized. It's an asshole move and, since it amounts to creating a bullshit, after-the-fact claim to consent where none existed, it's a disqualifying move. That's why he doesn't get to see you again.

So what do you do with an experience like this? You shake it off without stuffing it down the memory hole. You want to come away from an experience like this a little wiser and a little likelier to advocate for yourself in the moment. What you don't want is for sex-negativity and/or kink-shame to leave you feeling like this was your fault (it wasn't) or like you can't have this kind of sex again (you can) if you enjoy this kind of sex (do you?).

I don't share too many personal stories but I'm going to make an exception for you, UGH, because I think you'll feel a little less shit about yourself if I share...

The first guy I dated who was into rough sex slapped me once during sex, hard. I suffered a head injury in childhood — I drove a nail into my head in 4th grade (true story! still have the hole in my head to prove it!) — and ever since I've been susceptible to terrible headaches. And a sharp blow to the head or face is a sure-fire way to bring one on. The first time my then-boyfriend slapped me, UGH, I didn't say anything. I remember thinking, "I hope he doesn't do that again." And he didn't — that night. When he did do it again a few days later, I said, "I'm sorry. Don't do that. Don't slap me. I'm so sorry. I don't like it." And he said, "Stop apologizing. I won't do it again," and moved on to other things he knew we both enjoyed. We talked later: I felt bad for not speaking up the first time, and he just felt bad — he didn't know about the injury, I didn't say anything about it because I didn't anticipate he would slap me.

Tell yourself what I told myself after that experience, UGH: The next time something happens during sex that you don't enjoy — and it's almost inevitable something will happen again during sex in the future that you don't enjoy — you will speak up right away even if it means having stop whatever's going on and even if means bruising a man's ego and possibly murdering his erection. If he can have a conversation right away — in the moment — about what just happened, why it wasn’t okay, and what needs to happen next if you want to continue (with this fuck, with seeing each other at all), maybe he's not disqualified. If he reacts with anger or guilt or acts like he's the wronged party (because you murdered the last erection he'll ever have), he's definitely disqualified.

Listen to my podcast, the Savage Lovecast, at www.savagelovecast.com.

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