Written by Taylor Ritchey
Do these rebound and revenge motives for sex actually help people feel better about their break ups?
A study conducted by social psychologists Lindsay L. Barber and M. Lynne Cooper at the University of Missouri included 170 undergraduate students whose romantic relationships had ended four months prior to participating in the study. The students were asked to complete an initial survey that asked questions about who ended the romantic relationship, themselves or their partner (Barber & Cooper, 2014). The students also completed weekly surveys that asked questions about their distress levels, self-esteem, sexual behavior, and reasons for engaging in sexual activity (Barber & Cooper, 2014). The researchers coded the students’ motives for engaging in sexual activity as ‘rebound’ (to make themselves feel better) or ‘revenge’ (to get back at their ex).
Regarding the 170 students who participated in the study, 35% reported having rebound sex, and 23% reported having revenge sex within the first month following their break up (Barber & Cooper, 2014). The occurrence of rebound or revenge sex was highest immediately following the termination of the relationship and diminished over time (Barber & Cooper, 2014). People were more likely to engage in sexual activity or “hook-up” with new sexual partners in the days following the break up, rather than months later. “Findings generally supported widely held beliefs about the effects of being left by one’s partner, indicating that those who were ‘‘dumped’ ’were more distressed, angrier, and more likely to use sex as a way to deal with the loss” (Barber & Cooper, 2014, p. 262).
Do these motives for sex actually help us?
Therefore, having sex with new partners can boost your self-esteem and re-establish the confidence that is lost after a break up. However, people who have sex for these reasons are more likely to continue having sex with new partners, which suggests that they may be slower to recover from the break up (Barber & Cooper, 2014). In sum, while rebound or revenge sex may be fun, these types of sex do not seem to help or hurt us in the process of recovery. With this knowledge, you could go ahead and swipe right on that cute guy’s picture or buy that girl a drink at the bar, but keep in mind that although rebound or revenge sex may take your mind off of the break up, only time and possibly ice cream can help to heal the blues of a break up.
Barber, L. L., & Cooper, M. L. (2014). Rebound sex: Sexual motives and behaviors following a relationship breakup. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 43, 251-265.
Dr. H. Colleen Sinclair
Social Psychologist, Relationships Researcher,
Ms. Jessica Utley
Lab Manager of the Social Relations Collaborative and Blog Editor