On hate sex

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“Never kiss a Tory!”

That’s right, isn’t it? Never kiss a Tory, not in this political climate, and especially not when they’ve just helped to re-elect (albeit narrowly) a government that has so little regard for the poor, the disabled, the queer, and pretty much anyone who doesn’t look like a cishet, white…Tory.

You can even buy t-shirts proclaiming your purity in that regard. It’s a statement worn as a badge of honour: not only am I very much NOT a Tory, I wouldn’t even consider dirtying my lips with one of the fuckers. That’s how evil they are – they don’t deserve the gift of my body.

And I get it. Physical attraction is great, but most of us want to kiss – or fool around with, or fuck – people we also like and respect, at least on some level. Anyone who identifies as a Tory clearly has a set of priorities and concerns so far removed from those held by most of you reading this post that it can be hard to get your head around why you might want to kiss them, never mind why you would actually go ahead and do it.

Bestow your kisses instead on someone who doesn’t want to slash benefits and gut the NHS; who thinks we should take in more refugees, rather than vilifying those already here; who cares more about funding DV shelters and protecting trans rights, than giving tax breaks to the super-rich. Someone who has a soul, basically.

Except. Except…well, I have kissed Tories. Several of them. One or two were even decent people, despite their political leanings. Misguided, for sure, but in a well-meaning way. They voted Tory because their parents did, or because their MP was a nice man and hey, it’s a safe seat anyway. None of them had horns. They just didn’t really care about ‘politics’.

The others? Mm, some of them were less decent. Less well-meaning. Actively unpleasant in her views, in one particular case. But I kissed – and fucked – her anyway, and continued the stand-up row afterwards, naked and sweaty in her impeccably furnished living room.

God, she was an awful person. Charming, well-read, razor-sharp, and fucking hot, but still awful. I loathed and lusted over her in equal measure, even while we were in bed together, and the feeling was definitely mutual. We had amazing sex – intense, and wild in all the best ways – but I suspect that was mainly because we were both determined to find out whether it could ever be good enough to compensate for how much we hated each other.

And it couldn’t. Not in the end. Or rather, we reached the point where something more than sex was required to justify further investment in whatever it was we were doing together, and we both failed to unearth anything that remotely fit the bill. When the Venn diagram of your personalities and interests converges only on highly-charged, aggressive fucking, there’s not much value to staying the course once that edge has been rubbed away and replaced by something more…comfortable. You can’t be friends with benefits if there’s no friendliness, and you can’t be fuckbuddies if, y’know, you’re not buddies. At that stage you just need to shake hands and move on.

However, the whole thing did teach me a valuable lesson. Not about kissing Tories specifically, though I suppose I became more amenable to that as well, but about what you can and can’t – should and shouldn’t – do with someone you well and truly despise in every single way…bar one.

I know the idea of hate sex makes some people uncomfortable, and I know that it leaves others entirely cold. I know that, and I understand why it’s not for everyone, but I remain fascinated by the psychology behind it – by the things that do make it work. For some people, at least.

I suspect a large chunk of it is wrapped up in that edge I eventually lost with my awful Tory-lover(/lover!). There’s a reason why sex is such an effective way of settling – or at least postponing – an argument. Most of us are wired to pour our energy and emotions into that physical connection, for however long it lasts, and by doing so we often succeed in purging the bad stuff from our systems. It’s cathartic, I guess, and catharsis tends to bring with it a certain giddy, shuddering high.

Or it can do, anyway. Even at a recreational level, hate sex is not without its risks and downsides, but that’s equally true of many things that we think of as exciting – and viable – leisure activities. I don’t just mean the really out-there stuff like jumping out of a plane, where the danger is immediate, obvious, and visceral. I’m thinking more of the everyday trade-offs we make in pursuit of pleasure: the thrill of driving way too fast on the motorway, accompanied by the twin threats of criminal prosecution and fiery death; the pleasure some of us get from drinking more wine than is medically advisable, and the damage we’re inflicting on several vital organs as we do so; the cocktail of drugs people take to achieve heightened or altered states of consciousness, many of which come complete with nasty comedowns, psychological and physiological damage, and, yes, criminal prosecution.

The point is that we’re adults. We get to make these decisions; to weigh up the pros and cons, the benefits and costs, and to act accordingly. Very few of the things that make life worth living are pure and complete in their virtue – there’s almost always a catch.

So yes, when you fuck someone you hate – whether in the moment or with the eternal fire of a thousand suns – it’s important to acknowledge that you might emerge from the whole sordid encounter hating yourself just a little bit too. Even for people who get hate sex, that risk alone can make it an automatic no-no, and I can absolutely understand why. Loving oneself doesn’t always come easily, and anything that jeopardises our self-esteem shouldn’t be taken on lightly.

For those of us who are willing to risk that emotional cost, in exchange for the high it brings, the logic behind hate sex is no more complex than the logic behind, say, one-night stands. It relies on the notion that you don’t need a strong emotional bond with someone in order to enjoy their body; that the physical connection itself is enough. Chemistry isn’t dependent on a shared appreciation of silent cinema or Victorian literature, and finding someone who loves death metal or lindy hop as much as you do is no guarantee of orgasms. So much of human sexual attraction is rooted in primitive, primal urges that it ought to come as no surprise that it occasionally co-exists with a visceral hatred of the other person’s political views, or personal ethics, or friendship choices.

I’d argue that visceral hatred can actually elevate sexual attraction in the short term, but even if you find that notion absurd or repellent (or both), the existence of the attraction itself is undeniable. We’re drawn to people because of how they look or smell, and we’re drawn to people because how they carry themselves, but sometimes we’re drawn to them simply because they excite us in ways we can’t even begin to describe. I’m not saying we should always give in to that desire, however powerfully it pulls at us, but I’m not sure we should always deny it either – and I don’t think the key to making that decision necessarily lies in what we think of them as a person. It’s more complicated than that.

As with any kind of sex, the key is to be honest with yourself and your partner about what you’re doing and why, and to retain realistic expectations of where it might all end up. Fuck the person you hate, by all means, but don’t lie to them about that, and for god’s sake don’t marry them. Instead, treat the whole thing as you would a game of tennis or pub-table debate with your arch-enemy: use that strength of feeling to sharpen your performance, and to lend extra intensity to whatever you do together. Make it combative if you have to – and if they’re ok with it, of course. Fuck the living shit out of each other, and retreat to a safe distance afterwards, once the flag of truce has been stashed back under the bed.

Enjoy it for what it is – or what it should be. Safe, consensual, fucking incredible sex, with someone who just happens to be a total arsehole.

And/or a Tory.

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