Created By: Xzenu on June 14, 2011 Last Edited By: StrixObscuro on October 15, 2015

Romance And Sexuality Separation

The character is emotionally unable to love and have sex with the same person.

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Trope
Rolling Updates * Needs More Examples
  • Former title: Love And Lust Separation

The character is emotionally unable to love and have sex with the same person. This is often caused by a deep sexual self-loathing where they consider their own sexuality to be dirty and may be a dysfunctional way of getting over a Paralyzing Fear of Sexuality.

For a male character, it often comes with a mindset of My Girl Is Not a Slut: Either in the form of "I don't want to make my girl a slut by sleeping with her" or in the form of "she's a slut for sleeping with me, so I don't want her". This phenomenon was fomerly popularly called the Madonna–Whore Complex, back before that other Madonna's frank sexuality made the old term a bit too confusing.

For a female character, the same problem may apply through Internalized Categorism. It may also be about being overly concerned with avoiding the Sex for Services trope: If a guy does nice things for her, she might be afraid of coming across as paying for his services with her body, and thus she'd rather have sex with some random Jerk she's not even as attracted to.

Of course, for both genders, the portrayal may very well limit itself to the character being messed-up in general. Or simply portrayed as inherently incomprehensible.

Since most people are capable of being emotionally and/or sexually attached to more than one person, it's not an example when a character simply has sex with someone other than the Love Interest. For this trope to come into effect, the separation between lust and love has to become a problem. If not emotionally, so at least socially.

Compare/contrast Can't Have Sex, Ever. See also Can't Act Perverted Toward a Love Interest. For cases where a woman falls for a man other than the Protagonist-Centered Morality dictates that she ought to, see instead Dogged Nice Guy or All Girls Want Bad Boys. Chastity Couple, Sex Changes Everything, and Friends with Benefits are subtropes.


Examples

Comic Books
  • In the Swedish strip Rocky, one of the titulat character's friends fall in love with some random woman and doesn't even want to have sex with her because he considers her "too pure" for that. The whole thing is Played for Laughs, with him portrayed as delusional and her portrayed as a total skank.

Film Live Action
  • According to Roger Ebert, this Is Tony's view of women in Saturday Night Fever.
  • Implied in Shame. Brandon appears to have difficulty performing with women he is emotionally intimate with.
  • Michael's real father got himself into big trouble due to this in The Beast Within. He slept with a woman whose husband was such a prude that he refused to have sex with his own wife, and when he caught them in his bed, he killed his unfaithful wife, and chained Michael's father into his basement's wall to make him suffer a slow death.

Literature
  • In the Dresden Files, Harry's half-brother is a white court vampire who loves this woman, but BECAUSE of that love, they can't touch each other without him getting burned...
  • Victor, a sex addict, in the Chuck Palahniuk novel Choke (as well as The Film of the Book starring Sam Rockwell) can't sleep with his mother's doctor Paige, for this reason.
  • In The Millennium Trilogy, Lizbeth Salander makes a very clear delineation between the people that she has sex with and those whom she actually cares about, and is alarmed when Mikael Blomkvist manages to cross over from the first category to the second.
  • In the later Tales of the City books, Brian is happily married to Mary Ann, but carries on affairs with other women behind her back, only stopping after one of the other women informs him that she contracted HIV.

Live-Action TV
  • On an episode of Jersey Shore, The Situation points out that Angelina regularly has sex with various men while denying sex for the man who dates her, gives her gifts, etc. The guys tell her she's a whore for cheating on the guy she's dating and that she should have sex with him because he has done so much for her.
  • In Bones, we have one Ambiguous Situation episode where the titular character dating two guys while being either this trope or simply not enjoying everything about either guy - finding only one physically attractive and finding only the other to have an interesting personality. She was regularly having sex with one man while going out to museums and whatnot with the other. She enjoyed the one guy's physicality and the other's brain. The whole thing got blown when they found out about each other in a Two-Timer Date situation. Sex Guy wanted to hang out with her and Hang Out Guy wanted to have sex with her. She refused to compromise for either, so they both dumped her.
  • In True Blood, Jason Stackhouse has a lot of casual sex, but finds carrying on an actual relationship to be difficult.
  • In one exchange from Queer as Folk (UK), Vince wonders if Cameron is now his boyfriend. Alex asks him if he thinks about him when he masturbates, Vince says no, and Alex says that means he is.

Video Games
  • Zevran in Dragon Age: Origins is a Professional Killer who views sex mainly as means to get close to his marks or to just blow off stress. As such, it is very easy to bed him... yet, if he really falls for you, he will go full-on Celibate Hero until he can figure out his feelings. It takes a long time for him to reconcile the idea of loving a person with that of having sex with them.

Western Animation:
  • In Family Guy, Spooner Street's resident pervert Quagmire is perfectly capable of having emotion-free impersonal sex with just about anything that moves and quite a few things which normally do not. He has a long-standing desire for the one woman who is unattainable to him - Lois Griffin. His infatuation for her includes passive stalking and building a shrine in her honor. On the one occasion where Lois becomes attainable - she has tired of Peter's stupid antics - she indicates her availability to Quagmire. However, his long-standing romantic infatuation combined with performance anxiety and guilt that he is somehow betraying Peter - and above all the realization he is in love with her - all combine to devastate his libido. While Peter has a last-ditch play to get her back, he is seen escalating a Viagra overdose, electric shock therapy, direct injections into his penis, and finally hitting himself very hard with a hammer. All to no avail.

Community Feedback Replies: 45
  • June 14, 2011
    Xzenu
    (This is a recreation of one of my old drafts that expired and was lost. If you had any example that time, please add it again.)
  • June 14, 2011
    randomsurfer
    Compare/contrast Cant Have Sex Ever.
  • June 14, 2011
    TippyToeZombie
    Would examples of people having an emotional connection with one person while they're having sex with someone else count because I think I've seen that happen on Bones and Two and a Half Men.
  • June 14, 2011
    OmarKarindu
    Film

    Fomerly popularly called the Madonna-Whore Complex, back before that other Madonna's frank sexuality made the old term a bit too confusing.
  • June 15, 2011
    Xzenu
    @Tippy Toe Zombie: Nope, having connections to multiple people is not automatically an example. But it should be mentioned. Adding a line about it.

    As for Bones and Two and a Half Men, they may or may not be examples. Could you tell a bit more about them?

    If they simply have "friends with benefits" while developing a Love Interest, it's not an example. If they avoid sleeping with the Love Interest, prefering the friend because it's "less complicated" or something, it's definitely an example. Sounds to me like something Bones would do, lol. But I don't think I have seen those particular episodes.
  • June 15, 2011
    randomsurfer
    ^In one episode of Bones she was regularly having sex with one man while going out to museums and whatnot with another. She enjoyed the one guy's physicality and the other's brain. The whole thing got blown when they found out about each other in a Two Timer Date situation. Sex Guy wanted to hang out with her and Hang Out Guy wanted to have sex with her. She refused to comprimise for either, so they both dumped her.
  • June 16, 2011
    halfmillennium
    I'm going to say two things, and that's it. The title doesn't match the description, and it might help to chop any links which aren't directly relevant.
  • June 16, 2011
    MidasMint
    Television
    • On an episode of The Jersey Shore, The Situation points out that Angelina regularly has sex with various men while denying sex for the man who dates her, gives her gifts, etc. The guys tell her she's a whore for cheating on the guy she's dating and that she should have sex with him because he has done so much for her.
  • June 17, 2011
    Xzenu
    It's not really helpful to claim that there's something unspecified wrong with the description/title. In what way would they not match? The title, the laconic and the description are all about a character who separates love and lust, incapavle of combining romantic feelings with sexuality.

    Granted, the title could also indicate a much wider "trope": Any character who have romantic feelings without having sex, or have sex without having romantic feelings. However, that's People Sit On Chairs rather than a trope or two. If we make love+lust, love>lust and love<lust into three separate tropes, yay, then we have three omnipresent tropes...

    Actually, that might be a good idea! But lets narrow it down to one trope, calling it "Love And Lust"...

    There! Started it.

  • June 17, 2011
    Xzenu
    Widened this trope to be about when separation of lust and love becomes a problem: In the previous version it was restricted to emotional problem, not it include social problems and such as well.
  • June 18, 2011
    genewitch
    In the heir to Trial by Jury, Conviction, ADA Brian Peluso loves ADA Christina Finn, as he admits in the final episode, but goes out of his way to be a man-whore with every other female that catches his eye.
  • June 18, 2011
    halfmillennium
    The problem is that the word 'lust' is ambiguous, and often means 'unacceptable want'. In that context, it's another trope: characters making the distinction between acceptable and unacceptable based on whether something is founded on love ot lust.

    All it needs is for the word 'lust' to be removed for something less ambiguous.
  • June 18, 2011
    JoshCaleb12
    In the Dresden Files, Harry's half-brother is a white court vampire who loves this woman, but BECAUSE of that love, they can't touch each other without him getting burned...
  • June 19, 2011
    Xzenu
    Aha. So, Romance And Sexuality Separation perhaps? Since love is also ambiguous - it can mean parental love or whatever as well as romantic love.
  • June 19, 2011
    ChimbleySweep
    Victor, a sex addict, in the Chuck Palahniuk novel Choke (as well as The Film Of The Book starring Sam Rockwell) can't sleep with his mother's doctor Paige, for this reason.
  • June 20, 2011
    MidasMint
    I like Romance and Sexuality Separation better.
  • June 20, 2011
    randomsurfer
    Back to the Bones example: she never really gave either guy a chance to be the other guy. She had never gone all the way with Hang Out guy and never went out to cultural events with Sex guy.
  • June 22, 2011
    Ninjat126
    In the Night Angel Trilogy, Kylar falls in love with Elene. However, he is magically bonded to Vi by a pair of compulsive wedding rings. Kylar cannot have sex with Elene and can barely kiss her without feeling sick. In a possible subversion, Vi and Kylar do not have a sexual or romantic relationship, although there is obviously some major Unresolved Sexual Tension there.

    Sorry about the giant spoiler, but it really is plot important.
  • June 22, 2011
    tropelion
    • 'Esther Vilar wrote that women are incapable or romantic love making all "romantic" engagements a product of eros or trade. Would that be an aversion?'

    I would say it as "Referenced in Esther Vilar's book 'The Manipulated Man'. In her book Vilar asserts that women are incapable of romantic love making all "romantic" engagements a product of eros or trade.' Be careful with adding this please; the book is considered highly controversial and copies today are hard to find.

  • June 22, 2011
    TippyToeZombie
    Someone already explained the Bones example and the Two and a Half Men example is basically the same but I don't know how it worked out because I only saw a part of it because I don't really watch Two and a Half Men.
  • June 25, 2011
    Xzenu
    Night Angel Trilogy example (as well as Angel in Buffy The Vampire Slayer) is not this trope: They are emotionally capable of being intimate with the women they love, that they can't do it anyway is for other reasons. IE, they are both cursed.
  • August 22, 2011
    kjnoren
    Isn't this the Madonna Whore Complex turned Up To Eleven?
  • November 4, 2011
    Xzenu
    It's not always connected at all to Madonna Whore Complex: For example, The Rocky example is fueled by that complex, while the Bones example is not.
  • November 4, 2011
    cityofmist
    Barney in How I Met Your Mother.
    Lily: How can you be in love with Robin but still be sleeping with everything that moves?
    Barney: What, that's like saying 'How can an ant carry a hundred times its own weight, but...cornflakes are delicious.' Are the two even related?
  • September 4, 2015
    tropelion
    I think it would be an aversion. Also, who is Esther Vilar? The name sounds familiar. Didn't she have something to do with a book called 'The Manipulated Man?'
  • September 4, 2015
    Folamh3
    • Implied in Shame. Brandon appears to have difficulty performing with women he is emotionally intimate with.
  • September 4, 2015
    lakingsif
    Isn't Love and Lust Separation a better title? This current one implies that somebody is a homoromantic heterosexual or heteromantic homosexual (or of other conflicting varieties)
  • September 4, 2015
    Koveras
    • Zevran in Dragon Age Origins is a Professional Killer who views sex mainly as means to get close to his marks or to just blow off stress. As such, it is very easy to bed him... yet, if he really falls for you, he will go full-on Celibate Hero until he can figure out his feelings. It takes a long time for him to reconcile the idea of loving a person with that of having sex with them.
  • September 4, 2015
    StrixObscuro
    Literature
    • In The Millennium Trilogy, Lizbeth Salander makes a very clear delineation between the people that she has sex with and those whom she actually cares about, and is alarmed when Mikael Blomkvist manages to cross over from the first category to the second.
  • September 10, 2015
    SvartiKotturinn
    • In one exchange from Queer As Folk (UK), Vince wonders if Cameron is now his boyfriend. Alex asks him if he thinks about him when he masturbates, Vince says no, and Alex says that means he is.
  • September 26, 2015
    DAN004
    Redirect idea: Sex Detains Romance, True Romance Lacks Sex

    Btw what's the difference of this and Chastity Couple? (and Friends With Benefits for that matter)
  • September 26, 2015
    Koveras
    ^ I think this is the Missing Supertrope for those two.
  • September 26, 2015
    AgProv
    Western Animation:
    • In Family Guy, Spooner Street's resident pervert Quagmire is perfectly capable of having emotion-free impersonal sex with just about anything that moves and quite a few things which normally do not. He has a long-standing desire for the one woman who is unattainable to him - Lois Griffin. His infatuation for her includes passive stalking and building a shrine in her honour.

    On the one occassion where Lois becomes attainable - she has tired of Peter's stupid antics - she indicates her availability to Quagmire. However, his long-standing romantic infatuation combined with performance anxiety and guilt that he is somehow betraying Peter - and above all the realisation he is in love with her - all combine to devastate his libido. While Peter has a last-ditch play to get her back, he is seen escalating a Viagra overdose, electric shock therapy, direct injections into his penis, and finally hitting himself very hard with a hammer. All to no avail.
  • October 3, 2015
    tropelion
    Compare/contrast Can't Have Sex, Ever. For cases where a woman falls for a man other than the Protagonist-Centered Morality dictates that she ought to, see instead Dogged Nice Guy or All Girls Want Bad Boys. ^ I also think you could add "Compare/contrast Cant Have Sex Ever and Cant Act Perverted Toward A Love Interest"
  • October 3, 2015
    DAN004
    And again, plz add Chastity Couple with Friends With Benefits as a corollary.
  • October 11, 2015
    AgProv
    with respect, why four hats? So many examples have been offered to build this YKTTW but they haven't yet been copied over to the draft. If Xzenu is around and can update the draft, then it should have four hats? If I were forced to say, my opinion right now is that this YKTTW only merits perhaps two hats. Lots of work to be done yet but it is a promising idea!
  • October 11, 2015
    lakingsif
    I still think it needs a different title, too.
  • October 11, 2015
    DAN004
    Who wanna grab this?
  • October 13, 2015
    StrixObscuro
    I'll take it.
  • October 13, 2015
    DAN004
    Then plz add Chastity Couple and Friends With Benefits as subtropes. And Cant Act Perverted Toward A Love Interest as a related trope. We also have Madonna Whore Complex so the link can be replaced by that.
  • October 13, 2015
    StrixObscuro
    Which "link can be replaced by that"?
  • October 14, 2015
    DAN004
    Madonna Whore Complex has an external link. We already have a trope called just that. Get it?

    And again, Cant Act Perverted Toward A Love Interest should be mentioned.
  • October 14, 2015
    erforce
    Film
    • Michael's real father got himself into big trouble due to this in The Beast Within. He slept with a woman whose husband was such a prude that he refused to have sex with his own wife, and when he caught them in his bed, he killed his unfaithful wife, and chained Michael's father into his basement's wall to make him suffer a slow death.

    Things get weirder and ickier from there, but I don't think that's relevant to the trope.
  • October 15, 2015
    DAN004
    How would this relate to Sex Equals Love?
  • October 15, 2015
    DAN004
    Btw another subtrope is Sex Changes Everything: before the deed, there was love. After, the love changes to hate and irritation.
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