Let's Talk About Make-Up Sex

Ronnie Spector once sang that "The best part of breakin' up / is when we're makin' up," but Ronnie Spector was also married to a guy who used to show her the golden coffin he had custom made for her if she ever tried to leave him.

May 9, 2012 at 10:00am | Leave a comment

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This was hot. But was it... DANGEROUS?

Today, I read a study about how bad it is to have make-up sex, and I wasn't quite sure whether my intial "Oh, Jesus pleasus" reaction was 100% merited.

I thought perhaps we could discuss it together, and we can suss out how we feel about it as a huge, sexy family. You know, like one of those weird 1970s cults that Joaquin Phoenix's parents made him join.

Before we get started, I think can we agree on a couple of things, re: talking about sex in general terms.

1) Many people* believe that there are "different kinds" of sex. Most commonly, we hear about the difference between "sex" and "making love," or further still, sex, making love, and "fucking." This connubial stratification is usually based on factors like tenderness, time elapsed, and the presence of vanilla column candles nestled into glass bowls of smooth river stones.

2) Most of these people agree that the non-making-love variety of sex has its place. These varieties include quickies, sex with someone you don't love, sex with somebody you don't know, sex with somebody you don't like, sex with somebody who doesn't wear color-blocked silk shirts and sex when you are crabby.

3) The term "making love" is the worst. I don't care if you're Boyz II Men or Joan Didion or a beautiful bearded man who just revenge-built me a beach house. Stop. Forever. Please.

That established, let's tackle our ass controversy of the day: Is having makeup sex bad for your relationship?

A few days ago, "Psychology Today" ran a post called Make-Up Sex Hurts: Why and How to Avoid it, by one Seth Meyers.

Disappointingly, it was this Seth Meyers

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and not this Seth Meyers.

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Dr. Meyers argues that we usually have "makeup sex" after the expression of extremely negative emotions, and it may teach the brain to associate a reward/pleasure sensation with fighting. The euphoria you feel after good yell or cry is a false one, he points out, and compares the "high" of mad-atcha sex to a hit of cocaine. "Eeeew, cocaine," said nobody who likes to get high from sex.

OK, but we're not strictly talking hate sex, here. We're talking the kind of sex you have after a huge emotional blowout about whose family to spend Thanksgiving with, what the best Squeeze album is or whether forks should go tines-up or tines-down in the dishwasher. (Mine, Argybargy, tines-up. What is so hard about this?)

But isn't kissing and making up normal?, you might be asking. Apparently not. Or rather: maybe. It depends. (Why would you ask something like that before I'm done? Maybe I address that in a paragraph or so! Jesus. Go have a cocaine or something.)

A Gawker writer's reaction was a hearty "You don't know me," and I'm inclined to agree -- it probably depends a lot on the couple. Another "Psychology Today" contributor named Rita Watson (notttttt Tom Hanks' wife. Who could fight with him?) wrote earlier that having sex after you're in emotional distress is okay. Just as long as you don't bone down while you're still having a huge meltdown. I'm pretty sure she used those exact words, and then ran off to go wake boarding.

But Dr. Seth thinks that the impulse to cap a fight in a passionate floor-bang is motivated by that same part of the brain that makes you want martinis and Pecan Sandies for dinner when you've had a crap day at work. Except, worse, because your partner is human, and the Pecan Sandies don't have needs and feelings like a person does. (But if they did, would we ever leave the house, ladies? A needy cookie would be like the woman's version of being able to give herself a blow job. "Sometimes I'm so scared of losing you, I can't breathe." "Thanks cookieMWARF CRUNCH CRUNCH CROONCH CRUNCH.")

It's not good to use food or booze as an emollient, and Dr. Seth thinks you probably shouldn't use your partner's junk that way either.

Compelling! But I think it depends on the fight and the couple. Some people just plain don't like each other! You know those couples. I know people who use "make up sex" as their excuse to touch each other, period. Other sex partners are just having a good laugh after a dumb fight. "Ha ha ha, Julieanne, you were so right about the fork tines." Star-wipe dissolve to: Pleasuretown.

Sometimes, it is nice to have a martini after a horrible day. It doesn't mean you're going to start having bad days just so you can faceplant in a birdfeeder of gin. Post-fight sex can be a way of saying, "Glad that's over," or "Glad that's over. Now let us celebrate victory like Klingons do: splashing about in the fluids of mine enemy."

I doubt there are many people among us who have never used sex to smooth things over, to just "feel better," or to punctuate an argument. Or just because you're in one of those couples that does it every day, and why should tonight be different just because his opinions are wrong.

Ronnie Spector once sang that "The best part of breakin' up / is when we're makin' up," but Ronnie Spector was also married to a guy who used to show her the golden coffin he had custom made for her if she ever tried to leave him. That Phil Spector. What a needy cookie he was.

So. If you find yourself in the throes of the BAD kind of post-fight sex, what should you do? Per Dr. Seth:

Should you find yourself in the middle of a sexual encounter and suddenly realize that you feel confused, angry or sad, gently pull back and explain to your partner that you want to stop and try again later. If your partner pushes you to explain in that moment exactly what's going on with you, simply say "I'm not sure, but I know that it'll make sense to me a little later."

Also works for jaw cramps.

OK. I'm dying to hear what you think. Let's get into it. And then bang. JK, JK Dr. Seth.




*Noted philosophers Salt-n-Pepa