How to Safely Pull Hair During Sex

Want to experiment with some hair tugging? Here’s how to try it out without hurting your partner.

How to Safely Pull Hair During Sex

How to Safely Pull Hair During Sex

How to Safely Pull Hair During Sex

March 11, 2020
— Updated
Medically Reviewed by
7 minute read

Sexual preferences are as diverse as the people who have them, but at the core of every predilection is the need (and right!) to feel supported, safe, and respected. So if you've tried some light hair-pulling in the past, and want to kick it up a notch but are unsure as to how to do so in a way that's safe and that will feel good for you and your partner, know that you’re not alone. We talked to sex educators to find out a bit more about hair--pulling and how to do it safely during sex so that everyone feels great in the process.

Madeline Cooper, a psychotherapist and sex therapist based in New York, tells that when it comes to pulling hair, communication is key. "You want to make sure that what you are doing feels good for both partners and is not putting someone in a position where they do not have the ability to fully consent,” she says. So before you even attempt to try this move, make sure you discuss this desire with your partner. 

These conversations are also important to have prior to sex, so that all parties can be aware of the physical limitations of their partners. “Our necks are pretty fragile and our heads are pretty sensitive and our hair can be pulled out pretty easily,” Marina Voron, certified sex therapist and cohost of the Simply Great relationship podcast, says. That’s why it’s so important to understand your partner’s “physical limitations” before you incorporate the act in the bedroom, she explains. For example, if your partner has any trauma in their neck, shoulders, or head, they might not enjoy hair pulling unless done a certain way. “You don’t want to be testing it out while you’re doing it,” Voron stresses, so talk about it first. 

How to pull hair pleasurably

Once you’ve established boundaries, gained consent, and feel confident that you can start pulling without causing any harm, Voron says there are a few specifics to keep in mind. 

“Basically, you have to take whichever hand you’re going to do it with and spread your fingers as wide as you can,” she explains. “You start at the very bottom, at the nape of the neck, and as you go up you want to be as close to the scalp as possible, [essentially] rubbing against the scalp with some tension.”


It’s helpful to think of your hand like a very wide comb, Voron says, so that when you grab the hair and close your fingers you can have a solid amount of hair in your hands. “I know that’s a little bit harder on guys or anyone with shorter hair,” she says, “but you want to really grab as much hair as you can.” 

Here’s what not to do when pulling hair

Ideally, you should only grab hair located at the back of the head or the crown — never on the hair growing from the sides or the front — unless those areas have been pre-approved by your partner or partners. As Vorno explains, the hair growing from the sides and front of our heads is “not usually where people derive much pleasure.”


“It’s usually the back and the crown — the back first, and then the crown — that produce the nicest sensation,” Cooper says. 

What you shouldn’t do, Voron warns, is tug a minimal amount of hair — much like a small child would tug on their mom’s or dad’s hair. “If you tug a few hairs [you’re] actually pulling out hair,” she says. “Most people find it more comfortable to have their hair pulled closer to the root, and also have a handful of hair pulled. For example, if they have longer hair, to grab it like you would a ‘pony tail’ rather than individual hairs or small groups of hairs. It’s also typically safer to pull hair in a smooth, consistent motion rather than a quick jerky motion.” 

“You want to grab as much hair as you can and evenly pull it,” she continues.

How to talk about hair pulling in bed with your partner

While boundaries and the “dos” and “do nots” of having your hair or your partner’s hair pulled would’ve been, ideally, established beforehand, if something does go wrong during sex, Cooper says it’s best to be direct with your partner. Establishing a safe word, for example, can be extremely beneficial, especially when “boundaries are likely to be pushed and vulnerability is high.” 

“I encourage them to say something along the lines of, ‘I want [sex] to be a great part of our relationship. I’d like to talk about how we can make it better for the two of us.’” If you address your hair pulling desires in this way, Cooper explains, then “you are not blaming or shaming your partner, but encouraging conversation [and]making fulfilling sex a joint effort.” 

When one’s hair is pulled safely during sex, it can be a truly pleasurable experience. “There are a lot of nerve endings in our heads, … [which] are not touched very often,” Voron explains. And Cooper says that common arousing actions include a tug on a part of the body, including one’s hair. “For many people, a little bit of pain can be pleasurable during a sexual experience, and this can be achieved for some when their hair is pulled.

Reviewed for Medical Accuracy

Danielle Campoamor is a reproductive justice and abortion rights advocate and freelance writer published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, CNN, NBC, Newsweek, Teen Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, InStyle, Marie Claire, and others.

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