Women tend to feel worse about themselves after breakup sex, but men feel better
- Research has found that women typically feel better about the relationship after breakup sex, whereas men feel better about themselves.
- The paper also found that when women have breakup sex — or sex had two weeks after breaking up with a partner — they do so for vastly different reasons.
- Men tend to have breakup sex for what researchers call "hedonistic reasons" while women did so to maintain the relationship.
- Researchers attribute the difference between genders to evolutionary survival instincts, but socialization may also play a role.
- The data doesn't account for queer people or people of color, though, both sample groups used were predominantly White and almost entirely heterosexual.
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Breakups come along with a flurry of emotions packed into a small period of time, which can be pretty confusing. It's no surprise that a little breakup sex may occur in the heat of it all.
But sometimes, it can really hard to pinpoint exactly why we do it.
A team of researchers put together a paper published in Evolutionary Psychology, which includes two studies on how men and women differ in their approach to breakup sex — which they defined as sex with your ex two weeks or less after breaking up — and how it makes them feel when everything is said and done.
They found women typically felt better about the relationship after breakup sex, while men feel better about themselves, and that both genders have breakup sex for vastly different reasons.
Men and women feel differently after breakup sex and engage in it for different reasons
The first study in the paper surveyed 212 college students in the Northeast, who were predominantly white and almost entirely heterosexual, and asked how they felt after having breakup sex.
Overall, women typically felt better about their relationship but worse about themselves after breakup sex, while men felt better about themselves.
"It is due to women being more likely than men to express regret over having a one-time sexual encounter as prior research by others has documented," Dr. T. Joel Wade, Professor of Psychology at Bucknell University and co-author of the paper, told Insider.
The second study asked a group of 292 college students, predominantly white and entirely heterosexual, to choose from a list of what motivated them to engage in breakup sex and rank the reasons.
According to Wade, men typically had breakup sex for "hedonistic reasons" — like "wanting to feel good, the opportunity occurred, missed having sex, and wanting to satisfy their needs."
Women, on the other hand, tended to do so for more emotional and loving reasons.
Breakup sex might have an evolutionary function, according to the research
The research hypothesizes there is an evolutionary aspect to why men and women differ in their decisions to have breakup sex.
The evolutionary theories for breakup sex that were explored included doing so a mate-retention tool (way to entice your partner to stay) and as a mate-coping strategy (way to give the possible dissolution of your relationship).
While evolution was the main focus of this set of research, the authors said social factors like sexism could also play a role.
"It was not our main focus in this research. But, socialization may play a role also," Wade said. "Evolutionary factors and socialization factors work together."
The data doesn't really account for queer people or people of color
One limitation of the data was the sample groups used for the studies. Both groups were predominantly White and almost entirely heterosexual.
According to Wade, one of the biggest unanswered questions of the research was the motivations for breakup sex in non-white, non-Western communities.
Because LGBTQ people, in particular, blur the roles of how gender functions in a relationship, there is much to be learned about how queer dynamics play a role in break up sex.
"The data cannot speak to LGBTQ+ individuals, and relationship research with LGBTQ+ folks is an area of study that needs more investigation. It is hard to say how queer people would engage," Moran, lead author of the paper, told Insider. "I think studying this post-breakup behavior in queer folk will be a fruitful avenue of research."
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