Eroticized Rage’s Greatest Hits

Posted on August 30, 2016


I was listening to American Top 40 a couple of weeks ago, and Ryan Seacrest was announcing that Elle King’s “Ex’s and Oh’s” had been in the top 40 for 55 weeks.  That’s over a year that the song has been a hit.  With the overwhelming success of the song, it seems there is a market for songs that are intended to be erotic, but are really an expression of anger.  We can (and should) differentiate erotic love (which at its best is about mutual pleasure, intimacy, and connection) from eroticized rage (which is an acting out of either conscious or unconscious anger through sex).

If K-Tel[1]  (for those of us who are old enough to remember their collections) were to put out a collection of rock and pop hits that were eroticized expressions of anger, it might be something like this.  Basically, a song qualifies for the list if the message is either “I want to have violent sex,” “I want to rape you,” or “I really hate you, but let’s have sex.”

Let’s pretend it’s on LP (i.e. vinyl).

Side 1

  • Ex’s and Oh’s, Elle King. A great song to lead off the album.  The song is basically about how she uses her sexual prowess to get men and then dumps them.  She proudly wears the string of broken hearts behind her as a badge of honor.  She’s must be angry about something.  My first question as a therapist is, “Tell me about your father?”
  • Gorillas, Bruno Mars. Bruno begins his proposition with “a body full of liquor and a cocaine kicker.”  His description of the sex he offers is unabashedly violent.  This is about rage, not love.  He doesn’t like women; he is just angry.  If this man’s offer sounds of interest at all, run away and contact a therapist near you.
  • Stay With Me, Rod Stewart. About 45 years before Sam Smith made his plea not to be left alone, Rod Stewart and Faces recorded a song of the same name.  In the song, Rod makes it clear that he does not even find the woman attractive (I don’t mean to sound degrading, but with a face like that you’ve got nothing to laugh about), and that he fully intends to kick her out in the morning.
  • One More Night, Maroon 5. For the couple in this song, their sex life is an extension of their fighting.  The singer only stays in the relationship for the sex.  He admittedly sees the relationship as “dysfunctional.”
  • Midnight Rambler, Rolling Stones. This song contains the lyric “I’m the hit and run raper in anger.”  Need I say more?
  • She’s So Selfish, The Knack. After railing against how selfish his girlfriend is throughout the song, how “she doesn’t care for nobody else. It’s just me, me, me, me,” he finishes with “I don’t want much.  I don’t want to be her boyfriend forever.  I just want to touch her.”

Side 2

  • Black Dog, Led Zeppelin. This is the opening track from one of the greatest rock albums of all time so it may seem blasphemous to criticize it.  However, it is a description of wanting the woman who is the object of his desire to “burn” and “sting.”
  • Blurred Lines, Robin Thicke. This is basically a song about date rape.  Again, need I say more?
  • Everything You Did, Steely Dan. This song is about a man catching his wife with her lover and demanding that she do the same sex acts for him.
  • He’s a Whore, Cheap Trick. This song is about how though the singer finds the woman grossly unattractive (“she’s got a face that would stop a clock”), yet he is interested in her money.
  • Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love, Van Halen. No suggestion here that sex has anything to do with relationship.  “if you want it got to bleed for it.”
  • Welcome to the Jungle, Guns N’ Roses. “I wanna watch you bleed.”  ‘Nuf said.
  • Complicated, Fitz and the Tantrums. “We do this every night.  Yeah we f*** and then we fight.”  That’s not love; it’s anger.

Here is the point.  Passion in a healthy sexual relationship is a good thing.  When sexuality is an expression of rage, that is not really healthy sexuality for you or your partner.  You are missing out on the best part (which is the intimacy, connection, and mutual pleasure).  Healthy sexuality has been substituted for an outlet for anger that probably originated in your family of origin.

It is also reasonable to differentiate between “make-up sex” and “eroticized rage.”  At the risk of sounding unromantic, sex is really an attachment behavior.  Some couples have sex after the argument as a way to reconnect.  Other couples have one partner (usually the man) who wants to have the make-up sex and the other partner (usually the woman) who is not interested following the fight.  There is always a risk in making gender distinctions as there can be as much variation within genders as between.  Having said that, a man will often be willing to have sex with a woman he is mad at.  Whether conscious of the process or not, he is seeking to reestablish the connection that is missing following the fight.  Most women will not have sex with a man she is mad at.  If the fight got particularly personal (involving criticism and contempt), this is particularly so.  Basically it goes like this, “you can’t have called me a ‘bitch’ two hours ago and expect me to take you into my body now.”  For her, sex is usually an expression of the connection she already feels.

Back to eroticized rage.  Whether you are the one expressing your anger through your sexuality or if you find yourself with a partner who does so (or partners who do so), you might want to take a look at it.  If you are able to understand and resolve the anger you brought into the relationship, you can enjoy much healthier intimate relationships.

[1] If you have never heard of K-Tel, ask your parents.