(also called sympathy sex
or, colloquially, a mercy fuck
) is a popular term used to describe sexual intercourse
that is provided based solely on feelings of pity
that at least one partner feels for the other. One or all of those involved may lack any feelings of attraction toward the person(s) they have sex with, and there is a high chance that the event will never be repeated (resulting in a one-night stand
). Reasons for pity sex vary per person, but commonly, one individual may be considered more desirable or "lucky" in sexual experience than the other and feel remorse for their own success when compared to another who has suffered repeated frustration or failure. Consequently, they may feel that they are helping the less-fortunate individual by giving them "what they want". A less-than-noble motive may be the ease in which sex can be achieved when the opposite partner lacks self-esteem
The consequences of pity sex are also varied, but it is usually agreed that it often fails to help the less-fortunate individual as intended. Problems can arise simply based on whether the person was aware that they received "pity sex" to begin with. If they did know, then it can further fuel their depression with the assumption that they are so unattractive, the only way "scoring" was possible was through a "handout". If the person did not know that it was "pity sex", they may view their sexual encounter as a legitimate sign of intimacy and seek to pursue it. When the other person fails to respond similarly, it can lead to confusion, anger or further depression. Additionally, any friendship or camaraderie that existed between them beforehand may be lost forever. Even worse, sexual predators often use pity sex as a way of trapping victims.
There is still debate as to whether or not pity sex is morally acceptable. Some feel that it is barbaric and cruel, claiming that it takes advantage of a desperate individual or provides false hope. Some counter that "pity sex" can (even if temporarily) relieve sexual frustration that would otherwise cause serious damage to a long-term relationship. Others argue that the line drawn between "pity sex" and "casual sex" is open to interpretation. In the end, it may simply be a matter that is relative to every individual's unique situation.
According to SexNewsDaily, 26% of men and 36% of women have had "pity sex" with someone they felt sorry for.
In popular culture
A notable fictional example of "pity sex" is the sexual encounter between the title characters in the film, When Harry Met Sally
. Sally (played by Meg Ryan
) is distraught over the news that her ex-boyfriend, who had supposedly sworn off the idea of marriage, has married another woman. Harry (played by Billy Crystal
) comes to comfort her, and ends up sleeping with her. When Harry later reveals to her that he had slept with her out of sympathy for her condition, Sally slaps him, and later refuses to answer his calls for a period of weeks. The situation is resolved when Harry confronts Sally with his true feelings of love for her.