Sophie Cullinane | Features Editor | Thursday, 9 July 2015

Why Is Hate Sex So Good?

Why Is Hate Sex So Good?

The Debrief: Why is there nothing quite as destructively satisfying as amazing sex with someone you hate?

When we were children, we were told with some authority that sex is something that happens between a man and a woman, when they are very much in love and they want to have a baby. It’s not a full lie in the manner of Father Christmas or a stork – I am told some men and women (maybe in the countryside?) do indeed have sex because they are in love and would like to procreate – but if modern life has taught us anything, it’s that good sex certainly doesn’t have to involve babies, nor does is have to occur  between two people that even like, let alone love each other.

It might be because we’ve had a blazing row with our partner and any concept of ‘like’ has been temporarily thrown out of the window, or it might be that you’ve found yourself inexplicably attracted to someone whose basic personality, moral fibre and even appearance, you fundamentally despise – but there’s something to be said for sex based on a foundation of contempt. In fact, hate sex can be fucking fantastic. 

But what the hell is that about? As intelligent, self-aware young women, surely the concept of hate sex should be anathema or, at the very least, the kind of self-destructive behaviour to file away along with drinking on an empty stomach and believing it’s ever acceptable to cut your own fringe? What is hate sex’s enduring appeal?

Well, there is some science behind why ‘dark’ personality traits are sexually appealing. Nicholas Holtzman and Michael Strube of Washington University in St Louis recently conducted research looking at the relationship between physical attractiveness and people’s tendencies towards narcissism, psychopathy and Machiavellianism, and whether or not these ‘dark’ traits are associated with a greater ability to successfully enhance one’s physical appearance.

They asked 111 college students (64% women) to rate themselves and to provide email addresses for a few of their friends so that the researchers could ask them to provide ratings as well. This combination of self and peer ratings was used to calculate a final set of personality scores for each student.

The students’ ratings on narcissism, psychopathy and Machiavellianism were combined to create a composite ‘dark’ personality trait score. They found that people with dark personality traits were better at making themselves physically appealing, specifically using tools at their disposal such as fashion and grooming – which might explain why such characters are so quickly able to manipulate situations to their advantage.

The effectiveness of this manipulation depletes over time, but in the race to make a good impression on a potential sexual mate, it looks like nice guys really do finish last (or, sometimes, not at all).

Dating coach Jo Barnett also believes there’s a sociological factor at play, which makes hate sex particularly appealing to women.

‘There’s a non-emotional attachment in having sex with someone you don’t like very much,’ she tells The Debrief. ‘Women can find it hard to let go in the bedroom and under pressure to give a show, like they see in film or in porn. Hate sex allows women to let loose as she’s not looking to get anything out of it other than sheer pleasure.

‘With less concern about impressing the man or conforming to societal norms about how sex “should” be, the more they can enjoy themselves, the more they feel free.’ In other words: less attachment means, in theory, more orgasms.

While there might be some grounds to hate sex’s physical appeal, what is happening psychologically?

‘Having sex with someone you hate is actually much more complicated psychologically than we’d like to acknowledge or speak about,’ explains life coach Olga Levancuka and author of How To Be Selfish. ‘We understand it’s bad, and we only mention it if we want to demonstrate the power we have over someone or if we want to hurt a particular person.

‘Psychological complexity aside, here are a few most common reasons why we can crave it and why going for hate-sex can even benefit us. Firstly, love and hate produce an equally strong emotional reaction within the person who experiences the emotions. While at the beginning you may feel the need to hurt or run away from the person you hate, because you can’t stop thinking about the person, it’s not uncommon, given the right circumstances, that instead of “fight or flight” you’ll end up having a rather violent sex session.’

She adds: ‘There’s also a chance that you’re running away from an opportunity to be hurt in your next potential relationship. In this case, having sex with someone you hate, gives you an illusion that if you keep having sex with someone you hate, you won’t have to deal with a broken heart in the near future.

‘Of course, the classic one is when you do it to hurt someone, even if the person you want to hurt is the person you hate. This sex session may cost you a strong emotional disturbance within yourself and a big chance of you craving more of it. If sex is good, and you were somewhat sex-starved for a while, you may switch from hate to a rationalisation that you were wrong, and start to admire the original hate-sex donor.

‘And yes, you may even grow fond of the person. Just don’t expect the same in return.’

And that, really, is the issue with hate sex – while it can be thrilling and fucking hot in its immediacy, its after-effects can be as crushing a hangover as the realisation that you’ve just been intimate with someone you don’t even relate to on a human level.

Denise Knowles, Relate counsellor and sex therapist says: ‘Hate is a really strong emotion which can sometimes evoke passion and arousal. For some people in some situations this could lead to satisfying sex, but it’s important to think about what’s going on underneath the surface. Why do you feel like you hate this person? Is it them you hate or their behaviour?

‘Hate is unlikely to be the basis for a fulfilling and lasting relationship. Looking at why you’re in this situation before you go ahead with any hate-fuelled behaviour will help you evaluate whether or not it’s something you really want do.

‘If you’re doing it to get back at someone or to try and get something you want, take a step back and ask whether this is really the best thing for you in the long-run. Is it worth potentially getting hurt over?’

In other words, is hate sex really ever that good? Hmmmm…..

Olga Levancuka can be found at:

The Relate Guide to Sex and Intimacy by Cate Campbell is published by Vermilion on 6 August 2015, £9.99. Find out more about how Relate can help your relationship and sex life at  

Like this? Then you might also be interested in:

The Psychology Of Being Cheated On

In Defence Of Talking To Your Friends About Your Sex Life

Ask An Adult: What Happens If You Don’t Have Sex For Ages?

Follow Sophie on Twitter @sophiecullinane

Picture: Francesca Allen

Tags: Sex, NSFW, Sex O\'Clock, Relationships