Little is known on how forced sex contributes to the sexual transmission of HIV in marriage. This paper describes traditional gender norms surrounding forced sex in Zimbabwean marriage. Data were collected from 4 focus group discussions and 36 in-depth interviews with married women and men in Harare. Results indicate that hegemonic masculinity characterised by a perceived entitlement to sex, male dominance and being a provider contributed to forced sex in marriage. A femininity characterised by a tolerance of marital rape, the desire to please the husband and submission contributed to women experiencing forced sex. An alternative femininity characterised by sexual pleasure-seeking contributed to women forcing their spouses to have sex. Future HIV interventions must go beyond narrowly advocating for safer sex within marriage and instead address practices that increase risk as well as promote positive marital relationship needs such as mutual respect, love and friendship.