You can hardly be horny NOW? Tracey Cox reveals the four unlikely scenarios that put us in the mood

You can hardly be horny NOW? Tracey Cox reveals the four unlikely scenarios that put us in the mood

Death. War. Cheating. Arguments. What’s the one thing they all have in common?

Bizarrely, the answer is sex! You wouldn’t expect any of these unlikely situations to trigger arousal but there are plenty of logical reasons why they do.

‘When my mother died unexpectedly, I went from trying to avoid sex to trying to have it as often as I possibly could,’ a married 34-year-old woman told me. 

Having sex was the only time I could escape the pain of losing my mother so soon; the only time I felt like I was in the present and not stuck back in memories of her. 

The sex was fantastic, but I did feel terrible about it afterwards. It felt disrespectful. Then I learned to enjoy what I instinctively felt I needed to do: have lots of sex.’

Meanwhile, others want ‘animalistic, intensely passionate sex’ after discovering their partner has had an affair. 

Read on to find out which unilkely situations provoke a lusty response, and how to navigate your way through them.  

Tracey Cox explains why four unexpected scenarios can put you in the mood for sex. Including death as it reminds us how fleeting our time on the planet is (stock image)

Tracey Cox explains why four unexpected scenarios can put you in the mood for sex. Including death as it reminds us how fleeting our time on the planet is (stock image)

WHY DOES DEATH TURN US ON? 

Grief and sex – they aren’t words we often put together.

Yet, here you are, someone close to you has just died and instead of (or as well as) wanting to lie in a darkened room, you have an inexplicable craving to have sex.

Lots of sex and the lustier the better.

Who knew that grief, the emotion that should be the least sexually enticing of all, often makes people, well, horny?

There are various theories as to why this happens. The first is that the death of someone close to us is a stark reminder that our time on this planet is fleeting.

Sex makes us feel alive 

And it also makes us feel young. Having wild sex connects us to our younger self, when life was less complicated and instant gratification was all that mattered.

It’s also a subliminal way of reminding ourselves that life is a cycle: people are born, people die. It’s how things have always been. There’s comfort in that.

Sex satisfies a need to get physical 

Another good reason to get horizontal if you’re sad: sex satisfies a profound need to get as physically close to another warm body as possible.

Sex provies a distraction 

It also provides distraction. Grief is exhausting and if you can carve out 20 minutes of happiness and get a desperately needed break from the relentless pain, why wouldn’t you?

Good sex releases dopamine into the brain: the feel-good hormone that makes us feel calmed and optimistic. The feeling lasts: one study found people who had sex felt higher levels of happiness the day after sex as well (regardless of how good it was).

‘Death sex’ isn’t always with our partner 

It’s not unusual for those in mourning to step outside their primary relationship and have sex with a stranger, acquaintance or someone they know.

‘You might go home from a funeral, have sex with a neighbour and never mention it again’, one clinical psychologist told me. We need to understand, she says, that wanting sex after devastation might not be out of lust but out of a need for reassurance. An affirmation of life and that we are the living. The desire for sex is so strong, it can quash any feelings of guilt or betrayal.

It’s also entirely normal, by the way, for our sex drives to grind to a shuddering halt when death happens. Lots feel guilty experiencing any kind of positive emotion; others are just too traumatised to deal with anything other the basics of life.

Everyone grieves differently: there is no ‘right’ way to handle the loss of a loved one.

How to handle it delicately

  • If you have a partner, explain to them how you’re feeling and that it’s not unusual to feel a strong drive for sex after loss.
  • Refuse to feel ashamed of your desire. It’s a human response to a tragic situation. Also be aware that it’s an intensely personal thing that some people may struggle to understand. Be careful who you share your experience with.
  • If you don’t have a partner and feel like seeking out casual sex, remember you don’t have to tell your lovers why you’re doing it. It’s your time to escape the loss. Give yourself permission to take time off from grieving and enjoy the time out. (But don’t forget to practise safe sex in all senses. If the experiences end up making you feel worse, not better, don’t go there.)
  • If it’s your partner who has experienced loss and wants lots of sex, don’t judge, even if you know that’s not how you would react.
  • If you’re in a relationship and tempted to have sex with someone random, take a breath before following through. The response isn’t unusual but you still risk losing your partner if they find out.

ONE OF YOU CHEATED

‘Our young daughter caught us at it two days after my partner confessed his affair,’ a woman in her mid 40s told me. ‘She was so angry: “What are you doing having sex with HIM after what he did to us?”. 

‘I couldn’t explain it to her but I think it was because having sex was the quickest way for me to jolt him back into remembering “us”. There was also a bit of “Do you really want to lose this?” going on. I’ve never been more exhibitionistic sexually.’

While lots of people find the thought of having sex unthinkable after the discovery of an affair (a fantasy of killing our partner is probably more appealing), others want animalistic, intensely passionate sex with the very person who hurt them. Why?

British sex expert Tracey describes how desire can be reborn when you find out that your partner is cheating on you

British sex expert Tracey describes how desire can be reborn when you find out that your partner is cheating on you

You are scared you’ll lose each other 

First up, you desperately want to connect because you’re terrified you’ll lose each other. Primal ‘mate guarding’ also kicks in: you want to lay claim to what’s yours.

An affair creates distance 

Another, less obvious reason is that the affair creates distance between you.

The closer the couple long-term, the more likely it is they experience desire issues. Merging to become one might make you feel loved, but it doesn’t make you want your partner. 

Desire is reborn

Love loves security, lust wants uncertainty. After an affair you don’t know your partner anymore.

Who is this person? You thought you could predict their every move. This might make for a mighty uncomfortable heart – but it makes other parts stand to attention.

You’re effectively sleeping with a new person and our bodies love novelty. If someone else wants your partner, they become far more attractive. You see them differently than you did before.

Were his shoulders always so broad? Did she always walk in that sexy way?

You see your partner through the other person’s eyes and appreciate what you didn’t before. Even if you hate yourself for having wild, fantastic sex – you don’t want your partner to think you’ve forgiven them – it happens.

How to handle it delicately

  • It was you who cheated? Let your partner be the one to initiate sex to start with. You might be overcome with a rush of lust, they might be seething in a pit of anger.
  • Having great sex will certainly help you rebuild the relationship but it’s not a shortcut to repairing trust. You still need to have those painful conversations: work out why the affair happened and how to prevent another.
  • Even if the affair wasn’t about sex, use this as an opportunity to have brutally honest conversations about what you both want sexually.
  • Don’t assume sex means forgiveness. Some people who experience the strong drive to have post affair sex, still end up leaving the relationship.

YOU’VE JUST HAD A BLAZING ROW

‘My girlfriend and I never argue – we’re just not those people,’ a 23-year-old man told me. ‘But we’re both feeling the strain of working from home in a small flat. We recently had a fight about something stupid that ended with us shouting at each other. We stopped suddenly, shocked, and looked at each other. Next minute we’re having sex, right there on the floor. It was the worst argument and the best sex we’ve ever had.’

It seems illogical that screaming awful things at someone you love can turn us on but, physiologically, there are lots of reasons why ‘make-up sex’ is appealing.

When we fight with our partner, our blood pressure rises, testosterone releases and we feel on full alert. Our temperature increases, our palms sweat and all our muscles tense.

Sounding familiar? You’re right: it’s not dissimilar to how we feel when we’re ready for sex.

Arousal is a sister sensation of anxiety

Your brain recognises the physical hallmarks and can very quickly flip the switch and turn anger into desire.

Because the adrenaline is pumping and everything is firing, make-up sex feels heightened and potent.

Make-up sex does what it says on the tin

It helps you repair the damage the argument caused. In the same way cheating makes us feel like sex, having a humdinger argument also leaves us feeling insecure.

Having sex is a fast, physical way of saying, ‘Hey, I might hate what you said or did, but I still love you’.

It helps rid the body of all that horrid cortisol, the hormone we release when stressed, and encourages our bodies to produce some comforting oxytocin.

How to handle it delicately

  • For every person that loves make-up sex, there’s another who can’t think of anything worse. If your partner needs to reconnect emotionally before getting physical, respect that.
  • Having sex might make you friends again but if the argument isn’t resolved, it won’t solve it. Make-up sex temporarily glues you together, but you’ll come unstuck rapidly if you haven’t talked things through properly.
  • If you find you’re starting arguments to get the hot sex at the end, stop now. Instead talk about some healthier ways to evoke the excitement and drama you’re craving. A power play tie-up game, anyone?
She says that when we fight with our partner, our blood pressure rises, testosterone releases and we feel on full alert

She says that when we fight with our partner, our blood pressure rises, testosterone releases and we feel on full alert

THE THREAT OF WAR

‘The Ukraine situation has had a profound effect on my sex life,’ a 26-year-old man confessed to me. ‘As a child, my father used to lie in bed terrified someone would set off a nuclear bomb. Suddenly, I’m the one doing that – I’m extremely worried about what will happen in the future. My girlfriend and I usually have sex during the day on the weekends. Now I find myself reaching for her in the middle of the night. It’s tender, intimate sex and an unexpected upside to what’s going on.’

We’ve all heard reports about foreign correspondents (supposedly) clocking up a high number of lovers.

It’s not just because they tick the ‘opportunity’ and ‘temptation’ boxes. It’s also because, if they’re in a war situation, their lives are on the line.

What would YOU do if you knew you might be wiped out at any minute? A lot of people, if honest, would find someone to have sex with and go for it. The answer to ‘What would you like to be doing when you die?’ is very often, ‘Having sex or having an orgasm’.

Disasters are exciting

Disasters and tragedies stimulate desire because they provoke the ‘fight or flight response’ (an evolutionary response that tells us to either fight the wild beasts or run away from them).

They might be horrendous but they’re also exciting. They induce novelty, fear and danger: emotions you don’t often get to experience in our (generally safe) society and if you’re in a long-term relationship.

This is why the threat of war or another calamitous event is highly effective for kicking couples out of dull, awkward ‘sibling effect’ sex – when you almost feel like you’re brother and sister. Miraculously, you’re back to what sex was like at the start: fiery, urgent and exhilarating.

Lots of couples experienced this when Covid first hit and there was a very real worldwide fear that the virus could actually wipe out the human race. Another reason why war makes us want to have sex: on an instinctive level, you want to ensure the survival of the species.

How to deal with it delicately

  • If having sex relieves anxiety and makes you feel calmer afterwards, why would you fight it? You aren’t weird, sex has long been known to relieve stress.
  • Be aware that some people move in the opposite direction: they withdraw into themselves when they feel in danger. As with grief, there’s no ‘right’ way to respond when you’re feeling threatened.
  • Disasters make us appreciate what we often take for granted. When the threat is over, stoke the flames of your renewed desire by trying new things and continuing to push each other out of your comfort zones.

Search ‘Tracey Cox’ to find her sex toy ranges on lovehoney.co.uk. You’ll find Tracey’s blog, podcast and other great advice on traceycox.com.

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