Booty-callers, hold the phone: A new study suggests you can totally go bone your ex again after calling it quits — and everything will be okay. Great, even. Yes, this flies in the face of conventional wisdom, common sense and what actual therapists say when it comes to moving on after a breakup with your sense of dignity and personhood intact — but hey, it’s a new study!
First, we know what they say about screwing an ex. Breakup experts outline stringent rules of no contact to move on — with entire recovery processes organized around counting the days until you’ve finally, god willing, woken up one morning and somehow forgotten to sob. If you break contact by so much as a text saying sup?, you’re back to day one, sucker. Trying to win her back will backfire faster than a Dodge Dart. Tempted to dip back into that familiar sex well? May as well napalm your genitals and your heart, buddy.
But today’s go-get-’em-tiger news says that might all be bunk. The research, published in Archives of Sexual Behavior, was conducted by Stephanie Spielmann at Wayne State University and has the temerity to claim that it’s all good if you dare to Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo your ex.
The work consisted of two studies. The first asked 113 participants who’d just gone through a breakup to keep a journal of their emotional wellbeing and contact with the ex, then followed up two months later. In the follow-up, they answered questions about their daily feelings and emotional attachment toward the ex, as well as what attempts if any they’d made to get it on again. A second study of 327 people looked at attempts to do the sex with their ex, as well as the success rate of those attempts, in addition to their feelings of emotional attachment toward the ex.
Anyone who is looking to knock da boots again with that ex will be heartened by the findings: Most of the people who tried to get laid again were successful, and predictably, the pining types were more likely to try (duh). But in both cases, Spielmann says in the study release, hooking up didn’t leave them feeling depressed or in distress, but actually “more positive in everyday life.”
“The fact that sex with an ex is found to be most eagerly pursued by those having difficulty moving on, suggests that we should perhaps instead more critically evaluate people’s motivations behind pursuing sex with an ex,” Spielmann says.
My first thought: Had they accounted for who broke up with whom, how long it’s been, whether or not they wanted to get back together or had accepted the breakup, or whether they’d moved on? You know, all the messy emotional shit that complicates every post-breakup encounter, physical or not.
And yes, the study did account for that. The research accounted for the following caveats:
- How they felt the day after the boning (no shame spiral)
- How they felt two months after the breakup
- Whether they were the dumper or the dumpee
- Whether they were still in love with the ex or not
- Whether they talked on the phone or in person
- Whether or not they were now in a new relationship that had already outlasted the length of time since the breakup
In all those scenarios, people still reported that doing it again was a globally positive experience — at least up to two months past the breakup.
So why am I still skeptical? Should we really be screwing our old partners guilt-free rather than seek casual sex with someone new?
This is one of those studies that proves that for some people, anything is possible. As best as the researchers could conclude, some people still want ex sex for the connection, for the closure or for both. And for some people, that works, and there’s no harm in trying.
But of course, for others, there is harm. For some people, having sex again rekindles all the feels in the worst possible way and amounts to a drug relapse. It feels like you got back together, or should; but you haven’t, and you won’t. Long, drawn-out breakups are, for many people, a complete shame spiral of depression and misery: It’s like you keep breaking up a thousand times until one of you ends up with a restraining order.
Then there are other factors the researchers don’t mention that might affect your personal outcome: Why you broke up, or what role sex might’ve played in your relationship in spite of why it ended. If it’s not a horrible, toxic garbage fire and you always fucked pretty good, maybe you’re fine.
That said, it’s clear some couples are just more evolved sex people who can have the sex with anyone and be great, no matter the relationship status. Well, fuck them. And if this study is to be believed: literally.