The Relationship Among Online Sexually Explicit Material Exposure to, Desire for, and Participation in Rough Sex

Arch Sex Behav. 2019 Feb;48(2):653-665. doi: 10.1007/s10508-018-1290-8. Epub 2018 Sep 18.


The broad accessibility of online sexually explicit material (SEM) exposes viewers to a wide scope of sexual behaviors. Social concern tends to be heightened over SEM that incorporates highly graphic, "rough" sex. This study assessed the associations among exposure to rough sex in SEM, desire for rough sex, and participation in rough sex while accounting for gender, sexual orientation, and perceived realism of SEM. Young adults (N = 327; ages 19-30; 50.8% men) were recruited through a crowdsourcing website. They completed an anonymous online survey that assessed viewing frequency for a range of sexual behaviors in SEM, the perceived realism of SEM, desire to participate in the behaviors viewed, and if they had ever participated in those behaviors. Hair pulling, spanking, scratching, biting, bondage, fisting, and double penetration were used to create the variable of rough sex. Rough sex desire and participation were common among individuals who have been exposed to rough sex in SEM, with 91.4% desiring to engage in 1 + behaviors at least to a small degree and 81.7% having engaged in 1 + behaviors. Exposure to rough sex in SEM was positively associated with desire for and participation in rough sex, emphasizing the need to ensure that individuals can distinguish between consensual rough sex and sexual violence. This study did not parse out causal effects or directionality, but did provide some insights into the interrelatedness of viewing, desiring, and participating in rough sex.

Keywords: Gender; Perceived realism; Rough sex; Sexually explicit material; Young adults.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Erotica*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Paraphilic Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Sexual Behavior / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult