Men, relationships and hate sex

*Revised from 2017. -eds.

Hate sex. Those two words appearing together come across as awkward, even oxymoronic, for who in their right mind hates sex? Its true that we might hate sex with the wrong person according to our criteria of what’s hot, but very few people in this world hate sex altogether.

The phrase hate sex however isn’t intended to suggest a person hates sex, but rather that they desire it with a person they are currently fighting with or alienated from.

Other variations on the phrase include rage sex, grudge sex, and angry sex, each offering slightly different meanings but often tied together in the act of having sex with someone you don’t feel so good about.

Sex of this kind is widely believed to be more intense than normal sex, and for that reason “We love having make-up sex” is a common euphemism for angry grinding.

The begging question is why would a couple want to have sex if they are experiencing serious resentment or alienation?

One school of psychology provides some answers.

British Object Relations psychologists claim that if relationship bonds are constantly rendered insecure then the desire for sex is harnessed as a way to reinstate vanishing relationship security. When relationships become fragmented, weak or broken, we desire to be more in synch again, more loved, more on the same page. We want to reaffirm that our future together is secure, that we can still walk into the sunset hand in hand, worldview intact.

Instead of that security, we feel the relationship has become tenuous, hanging by a thread, on the verge of dissolving into….. the unknown. Insecurity and anxiety reign. In this scenario hate sex is utilized in the service of fixing weak intimate bonds, an instinctual attempt to repair those bonds through the complex release of hormones that ultimately serve to re-establish love and connection.

The theory that sex repairs a failing relationship bond was first proposed back in 1941 by psychologist Ronald Fairbairn, who announced a deviation from the traditional Freudian formula that humans are primarily pleasure-seekers. For Fairbairn we are first and foremost “object seekers” by which phrase he means seekers of other people to have relationships with:

“Freud spoke of libidinal aims and defined these aims in terms of erotogenic zones – as oral aims, anal aims and so on. What he described however are not really aims but modes of dealing with objects; and the zones in question should properly be regarded, not as the dictators of aims, but as the servants of aims… The real libidinal aim is the establishment of satisfactory relationships with objects; and it is, accordingly, the object that constitutes the true libidinal goal.”1

Fairbairn’s position is summarized, in the words of GoodTherapy.org, by stating that the primary motivational factors in one’s life are based on human relationships, rather than sexual or aggressive triggers. Object relations is a variation of psychoanalytic theory which diverges from Freud’s belief that we are pleasure seeking beings; instead it suggests that humans seek relationships.

The Object Relations theorists view hate-sex as a way to potentially relieve tension over failed or failing relationships, and also as a vehicle by which that relationship might be re-established. The theory is summarized perfectly by Fairbairn who says, “Explicit pleasure-seeking is thus not a means of achieving libidinal aims, but a means of mitigating the failure of these aims.”

“Pleasure-seeking is not a means of achieving libidinal aims,
but a means of mitigating failure of these aims.”

Is it true that sexual pleasure is a way to mitigate and repair failing relationships? The urgency of hate-fucking as it arises on top of a fierce argument appears to support this hypothesis, and if we accept it we are faced with a revision to the goals of our pleasure-seeking culture – no longer is sex an act of pleasure alone but a psychobiological reflex intended to repair relationship damage and foster attachment.

That such damage is rife in modern relationships is undeniable. The misandry, misogyny, gynocentrism and the growth of cultural narcissism are enough to make any intimate bond unravel, including those of biological family. As mentioned in another article the toying with relationship bonds to extract compliance from a partner is a particular cause for weakness.

As cruel as it sounds, withholding affection, sex, approval and love have become part of women’s repertoire employed to coerce men into compliance and servitude (eg. “If you don’t earn more money, I’ll stop loving you”) – a coercion that men often acquiesce to in order to salvage what feels like an increasingly fragile relationship bond. Indeed, one of the core strategies of romantic love is to keep the relationship bond in the realm of tantalizing denial, a formula that emulates the techniques of animal behaviorism, but instead of the model being learned from Skinner or Pavlov, it is taught by grassroots dating culture; the message being to keep your man in a position of uncertainty. Aside from other relationship tensions, this approach to relationships is one that potentially elicits the insecure grudge fuck.

The obsession some men have with sex, porn, prostitutes, sexbots, sex toys etc. raises a question of whether the intensity is partly driven by frustrated opportunities for human attachment, with hate-sex themes arising from unconscious aims of mitigating relationship frustrations. Whatever the case, it’s an open question as to why some men indulge in hate fucking and fantasizing about same. More broadly, we might ask why any securely-attached couple would bother nursing regular grudges and hate in the first place? The answer is, securely attached couples probably wouldn’t!

Next time you hear someone talk about hate sex as if it were fun, just a little “make up” sex as they like to call it, consider how much fun is really involved in a big picture of that relationship. If hate sex is an attempt to repair relationships damaged by emotional manipulation, alienation and abuse — especially if happening on a regular basis — then it’s about as far away from fun as you can possibly get.

References:

[1] Ronald Fairbairn, Psychoanalytic Studies of the Personality, pp. 82-83

Further reading:

Don’t Make Love, Make Hate: Have You Ever Hate-F*cked?
Why You Should be Having Sex With the Man You Hate

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