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When Sexual Boundaries Are Ignored Because Men Enjoy Our Pain

I thought I didn’t like sex, but really, I just didn’t like feeling like shit afterwards.

This essay discusses coercive and violating forms of sex in detail.

I tried to enjoy sex with men—cis and otherwise—for several years before I began seriously questioning my sexuality and gender. I hated a lot of things about sex with men, the things surrounding it, and the language used to describe it, but I tolerated the things that I didn’t like about it so I could enjoy the few things that I did like, and later I learned that I could get those things elsewhere and in more healthy ways. Finally, I came to the realization that I just didn’t like the kind of sex that I’d been having, the only kind that I had ever experienced, since the very first guy I ever had sex with coerced me into it. The kind of sex that I was conditioned to believe was normal, that I was expected to accept as standard, natural, and unchanging, as something not shaped by environmental and social factors, and gender cultivation.

I know now that I could enjoy sex with men more if they were at all interested in making it comfortable for the people they fuck. Instead, they seem to get off on making the experience uncomfortable and painful for their partners, regardless of whether or not that’s what we want. I’m not talking about BDSM, kink, power play, power exchange, or the things related to them. These are all valid forms of sexual expression and engagement, and can absolutely be fulfilling and rewarding when all people involved are consenting to all agreed upon aspects, communicate desires and boundaries effectively, and commit to practicing these forms of sex ethically. This is about men who are interested in nothing more than reproducing the things that they see in pornography or hear in mundane social conversations and colloquialisms about sex, because they think this is all that sex is and should be.

This is about men who are never interested in talking to me about what I want or need from sex. Men whose idea of sex is nothing more than a sum of various fantasies produced by a paternal and misogynistic society which amount to degradation and subjugation that I am expected to accept as not only normal, but necessary parts of sex with them. A normalcy in which I am supposed to accept being in agonizing positions, and subject to being tossed around and repositioned at their will, regardless of how I feel, because they believe that’s how sex is “supposed” to look.

A normalcy in which the prospect of making me orgasm is always about their ego and never about my ecstasy. And they push harder against me or pull me back to them when I adjust or pull away because something feels uncomfortable or painful or overwhelming. And they say, “Come back here” and “Stop running” and “Don’t fucking move” because I’m not allowed to react to what’s happening instinctively, because they don’t care that this position hurts me. In fact, it’s supposed to hurt me, and I’m supposed to just stay here and take it, because that’s what they really get off on. They’ve been conditioned to be aroused by women in pain. Because it makes them feel good about the size of their dick or the stroke of their strap-on. Because they think that fucking hard and rough without nuance or sensitivity constitutes good sex.


They don’t care that it would actually be more satisfying for me and I could find my way to orgasm comfortably if I moved a little this way. No, I’m supposed to stay here and arch my back, or lift my legs, or straddle them just so, or fold myself into a pretzel, because they said so. I’m supposed to let them pull my hair and pin arms back and push my head down and choke me, without them ever asking if these things are okay with me, or if my body is able to handle them, or whether they’re things attached to past or present traumas. I’m supposed to move when they say move. I’m supposed to perform for them. I’m supposed to let them ejaculate wherever they please. And the sex is over when they are done.

And the sex that I’m having with them is never for or about myself, but I feel like I’m supposed to keep doing it anyway. I feel like I have to keep saying “Yes” to them. And it doesn’t matter what I want or need from sex, or if I want sex at all, because it will never outweigh their need to recreate what they’ve been hearing in music and seeing in porn since they were twelve. It feels like they’re playing out a rape fantasy that I never agreed to be a part of, which I guess is kind of the point. They see me as nothing more than a receptacle — literally and figuratively. I’m the canvas upon which they can paint their (sub)conscious hatred for my gender (or my race, or my fatness) in socially acceptable and prescribed ways. It’s violent, degrading, and dehumanizing, even if they refuse to see it that way, even if they refuse to admit it, and I know too many people who have had these same experiences with men. Sex without intimacy, or warmth, or relief, or safety, or personhood.

I spent years having sex that felt like this, never having the language to describe it as such and never able challenge my partners to interrogate their sexual desires, habits, and practices, and how they are informed by the world we exist in. I never asked this of them because I didn’t yet understand that the everyday misogyny that non-men experience, and that men are complicit in and benefit greatly from, extends to our sexual interactions with them. I didn’t yet understand that my consenting to sex with them, even under coercion and pressure, did not mean that I consented to all sex acts and types of sex with them. And later when I found the correct language and tried to establish sexual boundaries, they were often ignored, sometimes intentionally, because one of the things that misogyny does is configure non-men’s boundaries as structures that can easily be broken.


As we keep pushing forward with social discussions about sexual health and sexual violence, it is imperative that we also acknowledge that even things that happen during consensual sex can be violations when our boundaries are not respected, especially when they are intentionally disregarded by people who care more about their pleasure than they do about our comfort. I thought I didn’t like sex, but really, I just didn’t like feeling like shit afterwards. It took me too long to understand that the vast majority of my sexual experiences had been with men who hadn’t done any work to unpack their misogyny/misogynoir and how it showed up in sexual interactions with me.

I understand now that I’m just tired of sex with cis men who don’t know shit about anatomy other than their own and, therefore, know nothing about how anyone else arrives at sexual pleasure or orgasm, and many of them don’t care whether or not we arrive there anyway. Men who can’t conceive of sex as feeding anything beyond their own ego. I’m done having sex with men who are just as bad at receiving oral as they are at giving it. Men who need to prove their masculinity and prowess through aggression because that’s all they’ve ever been taught. Men who fear appearing “feminine” by moaning, or being vulnerable, or relinquishing control.

I’m sick of men who don’t care about the comfort or safety of the people they fuck and, in fact, get pleasure from us being in pain and discomfort during sex. Mainstream pornography bears a lot of responsibility in this, but the simple and unfortunate truth at the core of this is how toxic masculinity and misogyny must dehumanize non-men in order to survive. As long as we exist in a patriarchal, misogynistic society, the porn that is produced will largely be along these patriarchal and misogynistic lines, just like every other media text. But it’s not just porn. It’s “You look so cute when you’re mad”, and “Kiss her mid-argument”, and “Rip her ass into”, and “Beat it up”, and “Murder the pussy”. The reality is that men tend to get off on the mental, emotional, physical, and sexual pain and discomfort of non-men. Using pornography as a means to analyze this is accurate and necessary, but we also need to acknowledge and contend with the fact that it begins in the very concept of misogyny. People often have a desire to dominate those who they hate, and that desire extends to the sexual realm.


Having to name your past sexual experiences as violations is fucking hard and traumatizing. I know because I’ve had to do it myself, but it was a necessary part of my journey towards sexual health and an ethical pleasure praxis. I want sex without the things that feel violent, degrading, and dehumanizing to me, even if all those acts are considered societal norms. If that makes me “boring” or “vanilla”, then so be it. I have every right to ask for and, yes, even demand better sex for myself. I have every right to require my sexual partner(s) to respect my boundaries, make me feel comfortable, safe, and desired, and see me as fully human.



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Sherronda (she/they) is an essayist, editor, and storyteller writing pop culture and media analysis through a Black feminist lens with historical and cultural context. They often find themselves transfixed by Black monstrosity, survival, and resistance in the horror genre and its many fantastical narratives, especially zombie lore. Read more of their work at Black Youth Project.

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