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Sex - Overview | March 5, 2021, 9:36 CST

Science Explains Why You Bite Your Partner in Bed
Biting during heightened periods of arousal isn’t only normal: it’s an innate, natural reaction.

Written by

Nicole Teitler
A woman biting during sex.

You know that feeling when you just want to squeeze your cuddly dog to death? That’s called “cute aggression,” a term coined by Yale researchers in 2015 to explain humans’ aggressive desire to squeeze or bite an overwhelmingly cute puppy or baby. It’s a neurological impulse—basically, it’s how our brains cope with the heightened sensations brought on by positive stimuli (i.e., said puppy) so that we don’t become disabled by them. After all, no one actually wants to smother a puppy.

On that note, it’s also unlikely that people who bite during sex actually want to eat their partners (although the jury’s still out on Armie Hammer). But that brain-driven aggression can absolutely translate to the bedroom. Biting our partners out of playful desire is actually called pseudo-biting, according to Megan Fleming, Ph.D., a sex and relationship therapist. This behavior, Fleming noted, is rooted in trust and can have a stabilizing effect on people’s moods by neutralizing, or grounding, an overwhelmingly positive experience.

Primal instincts

In the animal kingdom, Fleming explained, pseudo-biting is an expression of affection. "The hypothesis is that it’s discharging some of the intensity of the energy. The intention is not to hurt or wound, it’s playful,” she said. “A lot of desire is about a sort of aggression—there’s a primal component. For some people there’s a mindfulness perspective that brings you to the present moment,” drawing a wandering mind back to what’s in front of (or underneath) us.

Biting is an instinctual reaction to pleasure, akin to grabbing the sheets, curling your toes or squeezing a pillow. “There’s a part about sex that we’re inherently selfish,” said Fleming. “It’s the permission to go with what’s turning you on in the arousal.”


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Just keep it consensual

While you might be acting on impulse, don’t forget that sensual biting requires consent by all parties involved (unless you’re sticking to that pillow). “In a sexual relationship, there has to be a discussion about boundaries when it comes to any kind of assertive behavior,” explained Sharna Striar, Ph.D., a certified sex therapist.

Before you explore biting in the bedroom, have an open conversation with your partner(s). Ask key questions: Are they open to it? Where would a nibble turn them on? How much pressure is too much and should you aim to avoid leaving marks? Does this desire come from a recent bingeing of "Vampire Diaries," and would you like to discuss your favorite episodes? Try starting with a soft, grazing touch and adding pressure as you go versus sinking your teeth in too soon.

Not sure where to start? The highest ranked erogenous zones among both sexes, according to a 2013 paper in the journal Cortex, are the mouth and lips, nape of the neck, inner thigh, pubic hairline and back of the neck. But, since no two bodies are the same, enjoy some of the guesswork that comes with exploring your partner’s skin. Whether you start with a light snack or a whole meal is completely up to you two.

Written by

Nicole Teitler

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