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 the sexuality. Also compare with 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 losing their partner.
In Real Life, this is a common way of dealing with emotional trauma and PTSD. It should be very obvious that it's a bad idea (though at the very least, it's better than drugs or alcohol or the like, perhaps). 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...
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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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Shows up in two different but related stories by Kalash93. 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.
Relax is all about this trope. The conclusion is absolutely heartwarming.
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.
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 Alien≥, 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.
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.
Littlefinger sleeps with Lysa Tully after he gets drunk at the feast in which her sister Catelyn's engagement to Brandon Stark is announced.
Robb Stark sleeps with Jeyne Westerling after finding out that his little brothers have supposedly died. The next day he marries her to protect her honor. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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: It's just that the doctor part of me never shuts off, and I know that Iím 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 can see how intimacy would do that. Lauren: Itís in much the same way that a person having a heart attack often feels a sharp pain in their left arm? It's the brain's way of redistributing the pain. So it's not all concentrated in one area. Bo:(grinning) I love it when you totally geek out. 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.
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.
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.
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.
Webcomic/The503: 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.
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.