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Sex & Relationships

Can Angry Sex Save Your Relationship?

The place of anger in sex has been widely debated. Is it a great release of tension, or just a way to avoid actual resolution?

Veronica Monet briefly surveys the instruments on the floor nearby before choosing a two-sided paddle, soft fur on one side, hard, black leather on the other. In front of her stands a middle-aged man in nothing but a leather thong, wide-stanced and back to the audience, ready to receive his punishment in front of a group of total strangers.

Veronica has worn many hats in her life. She has been an escort, porn star, self-help author, sexologist, and dominatrix, but tonight, for a group of half a dozen people, some single, some coupled, she is a workshop presenter, specializing in anger management and couples counseling. As she begins to run the paddle over her assistant’s back, ass and thighs, she gives the rest of us an impromptu lecture on the basics of dominance. “You want to make sure to ask if they have any injuries and avoid those areas, as well as the other common sense hot spots: the spine, the kidneys.” She increases the pressure and intensity of her spanking as she talks, until visible welts begin to appear on her assistant’s ass and he emits audible gasps of pain. After one particularly good wollop, she turns to the audience again and laughs heartily, “I’m already excited. I don’t want to talk to you all anymore.”

The spanking and flogging demo was the coup de grâce (both literally and figuratively) of the two-hour workshop: “Passionate Fury: Angry Sex, Kink and Sexual Pleasure” held at Good Vibrations sex toy store in San Francisco’s posh Pacific Heights neighborhood. Other workshops held at the store have included topics like “gourmet hand jobs,” the art of ecstatic sex and DIY porn. I had never been to a Good Vibes workshop, nor was I particularly angry, except perhaps at the lack of sex I’d been experiencing as of late, but I was certainly intrigued by the concept of anger’s potential to enhance one’s sex life, and resolved to find out more about it one drizzly post-work evening.

There was very little time for shyness with Veronica Monet. The first question she asked was what kind of experience levels and desire we had for BDSM play. One by one we went around the room, candidly, and with surprisingly little awkwardness, laying out our sexual resumes in front of people we had never met. “Any experience with piercings?” she asked nonchalantly of a mild-mannered couple, one of whom had taken her workshop before. When she got to me, I hesitated.

“Well,” I said. “I’m mostly here for educational purposes.” “You’re the plant!” she said. “They told me there’d be a reporter here tonight.” Feeling mildly defensive, I felt it necessary to expound on my sexual street cred, ending with, “I don’t have a ton of BDSM experience, but I’ve been to a few play parties,” adding perhaps a bit too wistfully, “I’ve also been caned once.”

After we all had a turn, Monet proceeded to tell us that Passionate Fury was not a BDSM 101 course. And indeed, it was not. The workshop mostly consisted of an x-rated Power Point presentation, hopping from anatomy lessons, to a female ejaculation video, to the differences between rough sex, angry sex, make-up sex, and BDSM. Peppered throughout were graphic depictions of a man being sexually tortured, including a close-up shot of a dozen clothespins clamped onto his testicles (that same man served as Monet's flogging assistant, we found out later). I honestly don’t remember what text accompanied said slide, since I was obviously distracted, but whatever the topic was, Monet sidetracked to give practical pointers on how to perform such a feat ourselves. “You want to make sure you’re clamping the skin, not the actual testicles. Otherwise, it’s very dangerous.”

Despite Monet's sadistic tendencies, her background in sex positivity and feminism clearly informed her presentation. She spoke passionately about the ways we are culturally conditioned to avoid conflict (women often by apologizing, men by acting out), and how repressed emotions can influence everything from erectile dysfunction to faked orgasms.

The workshop’s core revolved around therapeutic principles, some of which were a bit woo and hokey. At one point, a vagina puppet was involved, and we were also taught the basics of “I” statements, which I remembered from my elementary school group therapy lessons, where there were also puppets, though ones that were decidedly more g-rated. For the uninitiated, “I” statements teach you how to be assertive without blaming the person you’re fighting with. For instance, “I feel angry when you punch me in the face. I would prefer you not do that anymore.” Instead of, “You’re a real jerk for punching me in the face. You really piss me off when you do that.”

“If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention,” Veronica Monet said as a preface to the “myth” of sexual staleness and predictability that accompanies so many long-term relationships. The real reason men and women lose passion in their relationships and have affairs, according to Monet, is not boredom or restlessness, but from being inauthentic with our partners, by avoiding conflict, internalizing perfectly natural responses because we deem them inappropriate or messy. “When you stop telling the truth to your partner, you in effect kill your sex life.”

The place of anger in sexual scenarios has been widely debated. Those on the pro side say it’s a great release of tension and endorphins. Those on the con side say it can be used to avoid actual resolution, which can lead to further resentment and miscommunications. There’s a precarious balance between pleasure and pain, and the great takeaway from the workshop was learning how to push past conventional boundaries and inhibitions that cause us to shut down or lash out at our partners.

And that’s certainly something worth fighting for, but not fighting over.

Anna Pulley is a Social Media Sassmaster for Mother Jones magazine and a freelance writer in San Francisco. She also writes a weekly social media etiquette column for SF Weekly, and her work has appeared in AlterNet and The Rumpus.
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