Maybe you just discovered your partner had sex with someone and in a wave of emotions you swiped yourself into the bedroom of a stranger to get back at them. Or, your relationship ended on rocky terms and now all you can think about is getting into the pants of their best friend.
There’s no exact definition for revenge sex and people choose to do it for many different reasons. But one thing is clear, having sex with the intent of getting revenge appears to be pretty common. In a 2015 survey of 170 college students, 25 percent said they’d had sex as a form of revenge in the previous 8 months.
Whatever the reason, this particular genre of sex is complicated — there’s likely a lot of thoughts and feelings attached to it. So, take a deep breath and consider the following before you make any hasty decisions.
The pros and cons of revenge sex
Weighing the pros and cons of revenge sex isn’t like deciding to get bangs — the decision is going to ripple out into the lives of others and the consequences could affect you for a long time. Here are some possible pros and cons to your decision.
Note: Since everyone’s specific set of circumstances is unique, we recommend making your own pros and cons list, writing down all the good that might come from it and all the bad.
Can revenge sex be healthy?
Yes and no. Let’s start with the obvious: Sex can be a very healthy thing. Sex — in all its various forms, including with yourself — has been linked to a host of emotional, mental, and physical benefits.
For example, having partnered sex sends a cascade of feel-good chemicals — hormone superstars like dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, and oxytocin — through your body. These hormones are natural antidotes to mental health stressors like anxiety and depression.
But when you attach the motivation of revenge to sex, assessing the health benefits gets more murky. Remember, the sex itself won’t last long, but the consequences — including how it affects your emotional health — might last days, even months.
This brings us to our next point: whether or not you’ll regret it.
Will I regret doing it?
It’s very possible. Since revenge sex means something different to everyone, at the end of the day you’re in the best position to decide whether you’re going to regret it or not. But there’s evidence that getting revenge might actually make you feel worse in the long run.
A review of three studies on the effects of revenge found people who enacted revenge ended up dwelling more — in other words, feeling worse — on the experience, than those who didn’t. The folks who decided not to get retribution were able to “move on” and feel better quicker.
Although depending on the scenario, it’s also possible to feel some satisfaction. According to a different study, many people who enacted revenge on an offender were able to find satisfaction, but only if the offender understood why they were being punished.
Tips that will help you feel less regret about revenge sex
The only way not to ensure you won’t regret having revenge sex is by not doing it. However, if you do go for it the following tips could help avoid more hurt.
- Wait at least 24 hours to decide. Acting on impulse may feel like the right call in the moment but it can create more regret down the road. Try your best to wait until you’re in a clear headspace to decide.
- Make the decision while sober. Although you may be struggling and feeling tempted to take action, a sober mind has a much better ability to weigh the pros and cons of a situation.
- Ask a friend for advice. Go find your most rational, thoughtful friend (someone who knows you well) and lay out the facts for them.
- Be honest with the person you’re having sex with. You should let them know about your motives — before you get in bed — so they can decide if they want to be part of this story.
- Don’t post about it on social media. You may feel differently about this whole ordeal down the road and it’s not going to make anything easier if everyone you know has the scoop.
Consider opening up communication instead
Anger can feel like a hurricane raging inside you and inflicting pain might sound like the only way to deal with the tumult. But you can also take the communication route. In fact, being up front with the person or people who’ve caused you this pain might have the strongest impact yet.
Generally speaking, people don’t want to cause pain and knowing they have might be a serious reckoning for them. You don’t have to hide your anger or even be particularly polite when you talk to them. And if speaking about it sounds too hard right now, write a letter or start a text thread. But remember, honestly should be the goal.
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