Sex for Solace

Lauren: It's just that the doctor part of me never shuts off, and I know that I’m merely acting out of transference of grief onto you. Wanting to have sex is a very common response to grief. Biologically speaking, the transference often helps move the pain. Sort of use it as something else. Turn it into something different. Something better…
Bo: Yeah, I, um… I can see how… intimacy could do that.
Lauren: It's in much the same way that a person who's having a heart attack often feels a sharp pain in the left arm? It's the brain's way of redistributing the pain so that it's not all...concentrated in one area.
Bo: I love it when you totally geek out.
Lauren: Can I sleep with you?
Bo: Yes.

When a character has sex, possibly while drunk, in order to help them cope with (emotional) trauma from a recent tragedy.

Alice and Bob are two characters in a series that are extremely close, maybe they are in love or maybe they are just close friends, but they are happy together… until Bob dies. Or leaves. Or is revealed to be lying the whole time. Regardless of the exact circumstances the relationship is over and Alice is emotionally crushed. Does she begin to drink heavily or gorge herself on ice cream to wipe away the feelings or seek to end the pain? Nope, she goes out and finds somebody to spend the night with, and then finds somebody else the next night, and then finds somebody else the night after that. These are not emotionally healthy relationships, nor do they count as "relationships" by any definition of the term; they are just a string of one night stands as she tries to cope with the loss.

Sex For Solace deals with any situation where a character, suffering from a severe emotional trauma, acts out their own internal turmoil through repeated sexual experiences. The trope does not only limit itself to ended romantic or sexual relationships, but can also deal with the death or loss of a parent/child, the defeat of an ideal, or other such crippling events. The trope can be played alternately for laughs or for drama, depending on the general tone of the work and how Alice's attempts to gain a new sexual partner are portrayed.

Related to, and often the result of, Drowning My Sorrows. Might indicate that somebody is Off the Wagon in a different area. Contrast Ethical Slut, For Happiness and Sex Is Good. Compare or contrast Sex Is Evil and I Am Horny, depending on how the story deals with sexuality. Also compare Comforting the Widow, wherein someone takes advantage of an emotionally vulnerable person grieving the loss of their partner. Also compare On the Rebound where someone begins an ill-advised relationship after splitting up with their partner.

In Real Life, this is a common way of dealing with emotional trauma and PTSD. Needless to say, it can be a bad idea (though at the very least, it's better than drugs or alcohol or the like… maybe). That said, it's a somewhat commonplace reaction to mass casualty disasters, perhaps as evolution's way to encourage repopulation. Now that that's out of the way…


Examples

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    Anime and Manga 
  • After Guts leaves the Hawks in Berserk, Griffith, devastated by this, seeks out some sexual solace with Princess Charlotte. And the countdown to The Eclipse starts the second her father finds out.
  • Subverted in Code Geass. Lelouch is depressed and going through a 10-Minute Retirement and propositions this to Kallen. She gives him an Armor-Piercing Slap coupled with a Get Ahold Of Yourself Man instead.
  • Similarly subverted like the Code Geass example above, Ryo from the FAKE series tells Dee he can "go ahead and do it" to him while in a depressed state. Dee answers with an Armor-Piercing Slap with a Get a Hold of Yourself, Man! out of anger, as he is Above the Influence and would never take advantage of someone who's head isn't on straight and vulnerable.
  • Almost happens between Yota and Moemi in Video Girl Ai, after she goes through a Near-Rape Experience and almost crosses the Despair Event Horizon. They end up hugging naked and crying.
  • Subverted in Mobile Suit Gundam SEED by Flay, who takes advantage of a distraught Kira in order to allegedly comfort him with her body. It's actually a ploy to manipulate him in revenge for him not being able to save her father.
  • Kurumi from Haou Airen engages once in this with her Bastard Boyfriend's Number Two, Fuuron. Doubles as Intimate Psychotherapy since it takes place right after she explains her most recent troubles to him.
  • Implied to be a heavy basis for Misato and Kaji's relationship in Neon Genesis Evangelion; most sources show that Misato underwent a lot of psychological trauma after Second Impact, and the manga also illuminates that Kaji went through similarly difficult losses, so they both used intimacy as a means of coping with their pain.
  • Jeremy from A Cruel God Reigns does this so often that he becomes a teenaged prostitute. Even after quitting this, Jeremy still tries to seduce Ian when is extremely upset or having a rough time coping. Lindon is the first to realize that Jeremy's actions are a poor method of coping with his issues.
  • Myung and Guld go through this once in Macross Plus, after she cries in front of him during a chat and begs him not to leave her alone that night, since she had been almost murdered and he was the one who saved her.
  • Haruki does this with Chiaki during Chiaki's route in White Album 2. Angry and frustrated, he accepts Chiaki's teasing offer during Christmas. They end up having sex at his apartment for a whole week after.
  • In Ayashi no Ceres, Aya offers herself to Yuuhi, looking for Sex for Solace for losing Toya. Yuuhi gives in at first, to the point of making out and both getting naked. However, right before going too far, Yuuhi snaps out of it after seeing Aya being clearly on the brink of tears. He then kindly rejects her, claiming that he loves her too much to take advantage of the situation.
  • It's implied a lot that Shizuma did this with majority of the girls at her school in Strawberry Panic!, as a way to cope with the death of Koari, her first true love.
  • In Inubaka Crazy For Dogs, Kanako began to go out late every night and bring strange men to her home to cope with her dog's death.
  • High School Dx D: Akeno comes to Issei with this intent in the seventh volume, due to having a lot on her plate to deal with, emotionally speaking. Issei is at first overjoyed at his good luck… but turns her down, saying that while he wants to have sex with her very much, he wants that occasion to be a happy one, not when Akeno is obviously feeling sad.

    Comicbooks 
  • Renee Montoya begins the series 52 drinking heavily and picking up random women after the events of Gotham Central, where her partner Crisupus Allen was murdered and her girlfriend Daria Hernandez left her after she began to descend into alcoholism and violence. With the help of The Question, she manages to regain her emotional equilibrium, but when she needs to kill a young girl that Intergang had brainwashed into being a suicide bomber she is found drunk again and in bed with another woman. She herself admits that this is a pattern, and after every emotional trauma she either runs back to the bottle or into the nearest bed.
  • Anna, whom Katherine "Kate" Kane is dating in the first issue of her run on Detective Comics, claims Kate is using her as a rebound relationship. She also accuses Kate of "tomcatting around" due to her obvious lack of sleep and, even though she is mistaken as to Kate's evening activities, Kate never does deny that their relationship is a classic rebound.
  • In Runaways, Nico has a self-admitted tendency to throw herself at the nearest male in the aftermath of any stressful or traumatic scenario, although she does not progress to actual sex until well into the second volume of the series. She knows it is not healthy and is not fair to herself or whomever she throws herself at, but she cannot seem to break the pattern.
    • She finally does break the pattern after Victor cheats on her with Lillie, deciding to let him go in the hopes that Lillie will make him happier.
  • Norman Osborn has sex with Gwen Stacy—yes, that Gwen Stacy—soon after his son Harry is hospitalized for OD'ing on LSD. Gwen herself was traumatized by her father's death and Peter's apparent aloofness.
  • One Alternate Character Interpretation of Starfire's behavior in Red Hood and the Outlaws is that she's doing this when she propositions Roy Harper barely hours after they first meet. Apparently she was supposed to come off as an Ethical Slut, but instead it came off as this.

    Fan Works 
  • Kalash93's Relax is all about this trope. The conclusion is absolutely heartwarming. (Sturgeon's Law is in full effect here. You have been warned.)
    • There's also related stories by the same author. In both, it's a case of a prostitute using her body to comfort her soldier client, but each one is told with an interesting twist which makes them both really good quick reads.
  • In The Life And Times Of A Winning Pony, Cloud Kicker finally gives in to Blossomforth's advances in the wake of finding her mother dead and personally killing the Changeling Infiltrator responsible.
  • The Supernatural fanfic Down to Agincourt explains that Castiel has so much sex because it's basically the only thing about being human—other than heavy drug use—that he doesn't actively loathe.
  • In Mass Effect's fic Crucible's alternative future, Alt!Garrus slept with Perdita to forget about Shepard's apparent death. He ended up getting her pregnant, forced to marry her only for the survived Alt!Shepard to show up with her own big stomach. And this was just the first in a serial of disastrous events that came later, all because Alt.Garrus decided to seek this trope with the wrong person (despite knowing said person has a ulterior motive).

    Film 
  • Forgetting Sarah Marshall has the protagonist, Peter, have a string of unemotional flings with random women on the advice of his doctor after he becomes despondent and mildly obsessed with his ex-girlfriend, the eponymous Sarah Marshall, after she dumps him.
  • In When Harry Met Sally..., Harry sleeps with woman after woman to try to forget his ex-wife, Helen (while he's in love with Sally, his best friend, of course, and neither realizes it yet). This prompts the following exchange:
    Harry: If you're so over Joe, why aren't you seeing anyone?
    Sally: I see people.
    Harry: See people? Have you slept with one person since you broke up with Joe?
    Sally: What the hell does that have to do with anything? That will prove I'm over Joe? Because I fuck somebody? Harry, you're gonna have to move back to New Jersey because you've slept with everybody in New York and I don't see that turning Helen into a faint memory for you. Besides, I will make love to somebody when it is making love. Not the way you do it like you're out for revenge or something.
  • In Monster's Ball, Leticia has sex with Hank after the deaths of her husband and son.
  • Cabin Fever: "It's like being on a plane, when you know it's gonna crash—everyone around you is screaming, yelling 'We're going down! We're going down!' And all you really wanna do is grab the person next to you and fuck the shit out of them, 'cuz you know you're gonna be dead soon, anyway."
  • In The Terminator, Sarah Connor ends up having sex with Kyle Reese while they're on the run from a killer robot, and she had witnessed it murder multiple people that she knew. This ends up being the encounter that produces John Connor, the savior of the human race in Kyle's timeline.
  • In Alien³, Ripley and Clemens make love for this reason. Ripley has lost two people who meant a lot to her, and Clemens has spent a large part of his life on a bleak prison planet to atone for his past mistakes. Ripley also does it to deflect a question that Clemens asked her, but why she chose this way to deflect it is this trope ("I've been out here a long time", she says).
  • He Died with a Felafel in His Hand: Sam and Anya get together at the end of the Brisbane segment, and break up around the time when the Melbourne segment starts. Incredibly upset by the breakup, she asks Danny to sleep with her, saying that she needs to feel loved. When he turns her down, she tries and fails to commit suicide. After all that, Danny decides that his previous arguments are no longer valid and sleeps with her anyway.
  • Cheryl Strayed in Wild does this after the death of her mother, in addition to drugs. She even says the only times she's happy are when she's having sex or on drugs.
  • Implied (but averted) in Star Trek. After the destruction of Spock's home planet, Uhura gets Spock somewhere private, kisses him and offers whatever he needs to cope. Spock's reaction is Not So Stoic, but makes it clear that he needs everyone to keep a professional distance right now. Uhura accepts this.
  • Spectre: Defied. When Bond and Madeline investigate the hidden clue in Mr. White's old honeymoon hotel room, she tells him that she won't fall into his arms just because she learned that her father recently killed himself. The following night, they have Glad-to-Be-Alive Sex instead.

    Literature 
  • In Jennifer Government Buy Mitsui blames himself for the death of a young girl because he gave her the money to buy the shoes she was killed for. When he goes out drinking to try and deal with the guilt he winds up going home with Sandy John-Hancock, but recognizes the next day that he will probably never call her (Which is a pity, because she actually seemed like a nice woman).
  • In The Aeneid, recently widowed Dido pretty much leaps into Aeneas's arms at top speed. Unfortunately for the poor girl, she was just a pawn in Juno's revenge quest against Aeneas, so it ended badly.
  • In The Will of the Empress, Briar tries to have someone in his bed every night to ward off PTSD-induced nightmares.
  • In Wedge's Gamble, Erisi Dlarit tries to sleep with Corran Horn on this pretense; to ease his angst. He refrains and wanders an enemy-controlled city without watching where he's going instead. Probably just as well—rather than getting him captured or killed this leads to unexpected discoveries. Anyway, Erisi is a traitor to the cause.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Littlefinger sleeps with Lysa Tully after he gets drunk at the feast in which her sister Catelyn's engagement to Brandon Stark is announced.
    • King Robb Stark sleeps with Jeyne Westerling after finding out that his little brothers have supposedly been murdered. The next day he marries her to protect her honor. As his hand has already been promised as part of a political alliance, this doesn't end well for anyone.
  • In the Gears of War novels, this was how Marcus Fenix and Anya Stroud first hooked up some sixteen years prior to the first game. Both were already attracted to each other, but mutual hesitancy about a relationship(due to regs against an officer and an enlisted man being romantically involved) kept them from acting on it until after the battle of Aspho Fields. Marcus' best friend/surrogate brother Carlos and Anya's mother Helena were both killed in action, and after an awards ceremony a month later, Marcus and Anya were drunk and grief-stricken enough to say "the hell with it". They managed to stay together afterwards due to most of those who knew about it looking the other way(since Marcus was a war hero and Anya the daughter of one).
  • At the end Changes, book ten of The Dresden Files, newly-fired cop Karrin Murphy plans to go out and find a "reasonably attractive" male to spend the night with. When Harry Dresden tentatively suggests that he join her, since they have been almost a couple several times over the past several years but have always been kept apart by various circumstances, she hesitantly agrees, with a plan to meet up in an hour. Harry is, of course, shot dead by a sniper in that intervening hour.
  • James Bond
    • It's hinted, implied and occasionally flat-out stated to be a big part of Bond's relationships with the Bond girls. His few meaningful relationships have ended in betrayal and/or death, hence his cavalier attitude towards women and his pursuit of sex as a pleasurable distraction (much like his drinking habit) or a means to an end.
    • In Death Is Forever, Bond agrees to provide sexual comfort for a female spy who just became the sole living member of her network of thirty agents.
  • In High Fidelity, the narrator's ex-girlfriend wants this after her father suddenly dies. It's how she and the narrator get back together.
  • Brett from The Sun Also Rises is known for drinking, partying, and sleeping around (despite being 34 and engaged) to cope with the fact that she's been through two failed marriages, getting older (and, she fears, less desirable), questioning her engagement to Mike, and her tumultuous relationship with Jake.
  • In the Stephen King short story "The Raft," filmed as part of Creepshow 2, the protagonist has sex with his girlfriend. On a raft. In October in New England. While a man-eating blob, that has already eaten their friends, waits for them to drop a hair or a finger in the water. It being a King story, guess what happens.
  • In It, another work by Stephen King, the Losers become lost in the sewers after beating It for the first time and start to panic. Beverly calms the boys down and establishes a physical bond with them by having sex with them.
  • In the Warchild Series, it's stated that jets do this to handle the trauma of battle. Evan, who is not a jet, sleeps around as a way of coping with his PTSD.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Thirteen from House slid into a downward spiral of partying and drunken one night stands with random chicks due to being unable to deal with her Huntington's disease.
  • On Boston Legal, Denise is in a relationship with a guy with cancer who subsequently dies. Afterwards, she confesses to Shirley that ever since then she's been feeling constantly horny. She ends up starting Friends with Benefits relationships with two guys simultaneously.
  • Gossip Girl's Chuck Bass. Blair does this as well. So far she has had sex for comfort at least four times.
  • Battlestar Galactica. Strongly implied with Kara Thrace.
  • New Girl: Jess's new roommates decide that the first order of business is to help her find a man to use for a rebound, for which they give her extensive coaching.
  • In the German soap opera Hand aufs Herz, Jenny assumes that her and Emma have broken up after having a fight, and Jenny sleeps with Ben for solace.
    • Ben's also miserable about his love life at the time, making it a mutual thing.
  • In Californication, Hank's promiscuity is largely due to his inability to cope with the demise of his romantic relationship with Karen. Also applies somewhat to Charlie in later seasons, after his divorce from Marcy.
  • In Season 6 of Buffy, Buffy suffers from long-term depression after being taken from heaven back into the real world, and so engages in a Secret Relationship with bad-boy vampire Spike. Unfortunately Buffy's guilt over her behavior only makes her feel worse and she eventually breaks off with him, causing Spike to seek solace in the arms of ex-demon Anya, similarly dumped by Xander. Both Buffy and Xander are not happy when they find out about it. Afterwards, when Xander accuses Anya of sleeping with Spike specifically to hurt him, Anya states that that was not vengeance, it was solace.
    • It becomes quite disturbing in Buffy's case as she also enjoys beating on him, Covert Pervert (handcuffs, biting) doesn't begin to describe her and Spike's just a toy to her. The parallels to Faith are clear: when the Slayer's in heat the target of her affections is in trouble.
    • When Buffy's mother dies, Angel does a Character Overlap just to comfort her, but has to leave early to prevent this trope from happening.
  • Lost: After seeing Jack flirting with Juliet, Kate goes straight to Sawyer and jumps him at his tent. He sees her subtly crying and puts two and two together, but goes with it anyway.
  • On Bones Booth and Brennan's first time together is the night a colleague is murdered. Brennan's staying in Booth's apartment for safety's sake, and during the night, overcome with grief, Brennan comes to Booth's bed. He puts his arms around her as she cries, and you can guess the rest.
  • Mentioned the Lost Girl episode "Lachlan's Gambit". Lauren is grieving over Nadia's death and she even gives a scientific reason for this, but ultimately subverts it.
    Lauren: Can I sleep with you?
    Bo: Yes.
    Lauren: I just mean sleep. (Bo's face falls a little) In your arms?
    Bo: …yeah exactly.
  • In Smallville, this is how both of Chloe's sexual relationships and eventually (dubious) marriages start. In season two, she had a (off-screen) summer fling with Jimmy after she broke up with Clark, and in season nine, is Strangled by the Red String with Oliver once Jimmy died.
  • Switched at Birth: Emmett is completely hysterical about his father giving up custodial rights, and is incredibly angry at his girlfriend Bay for interfering. Simone, meanwhile, is bummed out about her basketball tournament loss and her boyfriend Toby not trusting her. Both Emmett and Simone are out of town and coincidentally staying at the same hotel, and run into each other at the ice machine. She invites him to her room, and you can guess the rest.
  • Castle: After a very rough day, including a near-death encounter, a tense break-up with Castle, virtually being kicked off the force, and letting a good lead on her mother's killer get away, Beckett finally confesses her feelings for Castle and throws herself at him, at the end of the 4th season.
  • How I Met Your Mother: This is how Barney and Robin hook up. She was depressed over her high school boyfriend dumping her again (in the same situation, for the same girl, and for the same reason as the first time), and he made her feel better after she broke down crying. Coitus proceeded to ensue. Though a one night stand at the time, he eventually sought to make it more than that.
  • Averted with a lampshade on an episode of Remington Steele. After Remington comforts Laura in the aftermath of a personal tragedy, in which this trope does not occur, Laura comments on what might have happened. Remington, a gentleman rogue, finds the notion of them ending their UST that way offensive.
  • In the Knight Rider remake, Mike's Love Interest Sarah is grieving after the death of her father. Mike is trying to get her to return to work with him and KITT, but Sarah would rather lounge on the beach than face reality. Just as Mike, exasperated, is about to leave, she tells him she doesn't want to spend the night alone. Coitus Ensues. However, this isn't their first time (she was his girlfriend before he was shipped out to Iraq), and neither does it signal a renewed relationship.
  • On That '70s Show, Donna's parents go through a long period of strain before her mom suddenly up and moves across the country. Immediately after, Donna has sex (twice) with Eric, her ex-boyfriend/now-platonic-friends-no-really. It turns out to be kind of a bummer for Eric, who thought this meant that she actually wanted to get back together with him.
  • Friends: In "The One Where Joey Speaks French", after Rachel's father has a heart attack, she turns to Ross for comfort and sex, although Ross rejects her.
  • Happens in Season 6 of Mad Men where after helping Stan recover from a dart injury, Peggy receives a kiss from him and gently chides him for coming on to her ("You're lucky I don't like beards"), he then told her the reason he's been taking so much hard drugs: his cousin died in Vietnam, Peggy then voices she experienced loss and that one has to own that loss and not numb it with one-night stands and drugs, from her perspective it just seems he's still being his usual horny self (he gives a longing look at her when she walks away); she then discovers him having sex with the grieving hippie, teenage daughter of a late partner and disappointedly goes home.

    Music 

    Theatre 
  • In Lady Windermere's Fan, Lady Windermere, mistakenly thinking her husband is cheating on her, resolves in a moment of despair to go to her other lover, Lord Darlington.
  • Miss Saigon. Chris grabs his wife Ellen and kisses her passionately, having just awakened from a nightmare about his lost love Kim. It's not hard to imagine that he's trying to invoke this trope.

    Videogames 
  • In Heavy Rain, Ethan can have an Optional Sexual Encounter with Madison when he is approaching the Despair Event Horizon over the events of the game. It's actually Sex For Solace for her respect as well, as she's been attacked by a serial killer and nearly raped at gunpoint during the preceding day.
  • In Katawa Shoujo, Misha tries to seduce her best friend Shizune's boyfriend, Hisao, because she's depressed and looking for comfort over the fact that she loves Shizune and knows she can never have her (while Shizune and Hisao already had Their First Time). The self contradiction here should tell you why this is a terrible idea. Even worse, the sexual act is very painful for Misha, they don't get caught but they both fall into depression, and this triggers the route's Bad Ending.
  • In Mass Effect 2 the option to have a one night stand with Jack can unlock for a male Shepard right after Horizon with some careful timing. Why is this considered solace? Because you could potentially get dumped by Ashley on Horizon, probably even in Jack's presence.

    Webcomics 
  • Referenced and averted in Questionable Content, after Dora breaks up with Marten…
    Sven: Oh, and if you need some meaningless rebound sex, I know TONS of slutty chicks who'll-
    Marten: OKAY THANK YOU BYE!
  • In Sequential Art, Hillary, sobbing, says she's not asking for much, just some symptathy--cut to the two characters in bed.
    • Though later, we see that Hillary has been drugging Pip and letting him believe they've been having sex in exchange for favors, leaving what really happened the first time a bit ambiguous.
    • Nothing ambiguous about the first time, since he's clearly wide-awake in bed with her in that strip and thinking about what happened, the drugging came later when she realized she could use him and regained her dubious emotional equilibrium and returned to type.
  • Subnormality has "A Christmas Eve in the Future", in which a man walks into a Sex Stop ("Serving all genders since 2130!") looking for this.
  • The 503: Averted when Shellie backs away from a kiss with Phil after learning about the death of his girlfriend three years ago in Strip 189.
  • Ship In a Bottle: Reversed. While the fact that she was a seductive buck-naked genie seemed to be all the incentive Allan needed to sleep with Shiphrah in the first issue, he was quick to blame the encounter on his grief about his recently-deceased grampa in the imediate aftermath, as an excuse to back out of a realtionship with her.
  • In Something*Positive, Davan's old friend Scotty kills himself when his longtime off-and-on girlfriend, Donna, breaks up with him. Donna feels guilty and thinks everyone else blames her, Davan was also mourning and assures her that it wasn't her fault, and, well… When they meet again a few years later, Davan winds up having to take a Daddy DNA Test.

    Web Original 
  • From the 10 Commandments for Pilots:
    Thou shalt cast thine eyes to thy right and also to thy left as thou passeth through the firmament lest thy fellow pilots bring flowers to thy widow and comfort her in other ways.

    Western Animation 

Alternative Title(s): A Naked Shoulder To Cry On

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/SexForSolace