What Does Emotionless Sex Mean — And When Is It A Problem?

Sex and emotions are more connected than you think.

What Does Emotionless Sex Mean — And When Is It A Problem? Dainis Graveris/unsplash

Sex means different things to different people.

For some, it’s a highly emotional experience worthy of the saying "making love." For others, it’s more of a bodily activity all about physical pleasure.

Sex without emotions is a bit of a controversial topic as it addresses our various ideals about sex and love.

But to understand what a lack of emotions connected to sex really means, you first need to understand what emotions are.


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What exactly are emotions?

Emotions are usually thought of as pleasant or unpleasant states of being, but they’re actually a whole lot more complex than that.

They are systems that have several different jobs — one of them is to motivate us to do certain things.


You can think of them like compasses that guide us, giving us information and informing us how to act on the information. Depending on which emotion we’re feeling, we’re urged to act in specific ways.

For example, when we’re sad we might feel like crying, when we’re angry we might want to defend ourselves, and when we’re happy we might want to celebrate it by sharing the joy with those close to us.

Sexual desire, or arousal, is an emotion.

The same thing goes for sex. In order to feel like having sex, we need to feel the emotion of sexual desire.

Without this emotion, sex doesn’t happen — at least, not sex that feels good and pleasurable, which is what we should strive for.


This means that emotionless sex doesn’t actually occur, because with sex we don't want, we still have feelings — anger, fear, perhaps worry, shame, and guilt.

Emotions are always with us — even if we try to run from them.

Our emotions are a part of us that we cannot shake. However, this doesn’t mean we don’t try to.

Over time, we learn to favor positive emotions over negative ones. This isn’t strange — no one wants to feel negative feelings.

When we try to push negative emotions away, we end up pushing all of them away, even the positive ones like joy, interest, and sexual desire.

This can lead to us feeling depressed or experiencing anxiety. Our bodies and minds are telling us something is off, partly because we haven’t been in contact with ourselves.


We need to know what we’re feeling and act on our emotions because if we don’t, we can’t know our true needs, which means we can’t feel true desire or joy.

Sex without strings attached.

When we think about sex and lack of emotions, we think about someone who can have sex without being connected to the other.

This is often portrayed as sex without strings attached. In films and T.V. shows, men (more than women) are seen as wanting and engaging in sex without feelings.

This idea is based on gender stereotypes, where men are seen as being more logical than emotional and women as more emotional than logical.

But as we all know by now, emotions are evolutionarily biological processes that we all possess, regardless of gender or where in the world we’ve grown up.


And to want sex is to feel you want sex. Thus, you’re not void of emotion at all.

However, just because sex involves the emotion of sexual desire, it doesn’t mean you necessarily feel emotional during sex. Or only have sex when you feel like you’re in love.

This is because there’s a difference between emotion and being emotional.

Do love and sex go hand in hand?

When we talk about being emotional we’re often referring to feeling strong emotions, such as happiness or sadness and openly displaying them towards other people.

When it comes to sex, being emotional is usually thought of as feeling in love or infatuated with the other person. Today, we often pair sex with love, which is one of the reasons why sex without it is still so taboo.


Sex is seen as a continuation of love, an activity we engage in to express how we feel about one another. To have sex is to make love.

And while this is true — sex can definitely be a loving experience — it doesn’t make sex without love something wrong.

Our ideal of monogamy affects how we look at people who have sex with multiple partners or people who engage in casual sex.

Those who "don’t settle down" or are "forever bachelors" are seen as damaged goods because they have sex without forming a deep emotional bond.

But, this isn’t true. Sex can be whatever you want it to be; an emotional experience all about connecting with your heart and soul, or a bodily activity all about carnal pleasure.


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Even if there is no wrong way to feel during consensual sex or a wrong way to have sex, here are 4 instances in which sex and lack of emotions can turn into a problem.

1. Sexual difficulties.

Things like low libido, not being able to get an erection, or orgasm difficulties can in part be caused by feeling low. And when you’re low, you’re not in contact with the full range of your emotions.

If you want to get past your sexual difficulties, getting in contact with your emotions is one way of doing this.

2. Pining for a love connection.


Wanting to feel that love connection during sex — and not being able to — can be frustrating and upsetting.

If this is you, sex therapy will help you reach that goal.

3. Disconnect in a relationship.

Sometimes a lack of emotions leads to a relational problem. Perhaps you and your partner are experiencing a disconnect because your partner feels lots of feelings during sex and about sex that you simply don’t.

If you want to bridge the gap, it’s important to find ways to talk about it.

To begin exploring the topic, ask yourself (and your partner) these questions:

  • What does sex mean to you?
  • When do you feel like having sex?
  • How do you want to feel when having sex?
  • If you’re not feeling how you’d like to feel during sex, what do you think is stopping you from feeling that way?
  • How can you help each other feel differently about sex or during sex?

There’s no right or wrong way to feel about sex.


For some, sex is a highly emotional experience. For, others it’s more of a bodily activity.

Regardless of how you feel about sex and how you feel during sex, one thing is certain: Sex and lack of emotions don’t exist.

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Leigh Norén is a sex therapist and writer with a Master of Science in Sexology. She’s been featured in Thrive Global, The Good Men Project, Babe, The Tab, Glamour, Sexography, and The Minds Journal. Visit her website for more tips on emotions and sex. Download free resources for better sex and happier relationships.