The “Revenge Hookup” And Why You Should Steer Clear Of This Toxic Trend

Breakups can bring out the worst (and often the pettiest) in all of us.

By Meghan Dillon3 min read
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Sometimes this pettiness can turn into art. Musicians like Taylor Swift and Olivia Rodrigo have made careers out of it. Sometimes this pettiness can inspire you to turn your life around (Adele’s post-divorce glow up, anyone?), and sometimes it can lead to self-destructive behavior. A recent Cosmopolitan article romanticizes the self-destructive side of breakups through a trend called "the revenge hookup."

What’s a Revenge Hookup?

A revenge hookup is exactly what it sounds like: hooking up with your ex’s best friend to hurt your ex. The author of the Cosmo article claims that her ex “deserved it” because he constantly cheated on her. 

She further explains that having sex with her ex’s friend while he was in the same fraternity house was the ultimate thrill and turn-on. She wrote, “Knowing that my ex could likely hear the headboard pounding against the wall below him was the sexiest part of the night. It turned me on more than anything.”

She described how she left the house the next morning to flip off her ex’s window and never hooked up with her ex’s best friend again. She finishes the article by writing, “I have no idea if my ex ever found out about it. But frankly, I don’t care if he did or didn’t. The best revenge is living life to the fullest…and having sex with your ex’s best friends. I think that’s how the saying goes, right?”

It Might Be Tempting, But Revenge Sex Is a Terrible Idea

We get wanting to get back at a cheating ex in a way that would hit him where it hurts – through his best friend (side note: why are the friends of toxic exes always super hot?) – but this line of thinking does nothing to help you and can even hurt you more than you already are. 

If the revenge hookup isn’t a perfect example of self-destructive behavior, we don’t know what is. To the Cosmo writer, hooking up with her ex’s best friend probably felt good in the moment, but it was nothing more than a way to temporarily soothe her pain from the breakup. 

Though she likely saw it as harmless, she fails to acknowledge the feelings of her ex and his best friend. It’s understandable that she’s hurt by her ex, but why bring another person into the equation? She is using the best friend as a weapon to hurt her ex, and it’s potentially ruining their friendship in the process. It only spreads hurt and brokenness in the attempt to get revenge. Furthermore, the revenge hookup doesn’t solve your own emotional hurt, but only complicates it with the additional negative feelings of anger and revenge. Two wrongs don’t make a right, even if it feels good in the moment, because your feelings aren’t always accurate indicators of what’s right and what’s wrong (that’s why we have brains too).

The author also mentions that she’s fine with her ex never finding out she hooked up with his best friend, so what was the point in doing it in the first place? If the ex never finds out, then it was ultimately pointless and only damaging to her. You can’t hurt someone if they’re ignorant of what you did to them.

Though her goal was to hurt her ex, she likely hurt herself in the process. We all know that women release higher levels of oxytocin than men after sex, making it difficult for women to hook up without developing a sense of attachment. Sexologist Tanya M. Bass says, “Oxytocin is known as the feel-good hormone that promotes feelings of love, bonding, and well-being.” She continues, “It can be very common to feel attachment to someone after sex since the brain releases oxytocin during arousal, stimulation of the genitals and nipples, during intercourse or orgasm. The release of this hormone after being physically intimate may cause a feeling of attachment and closeness.”

Women who participate in hookup culture are also more likely to suffer from psychological problems like depression, so is one fleeting hookup to get back at your ex really worth all of that drama? We don’t think so. However, the author of the Cosmo article is right about one thing, the best revenge is living your best life, but hooking up with your ex’s best friend isn’t that.

Win the Breakup by Taking the High Road

Success is the best revenge, and it’s best to achieve this while maintaining a sense of dignity and class. The perfect example of winning a breakup with grace is when Princess Diana wore her famous "revenge dress" after the news of Prince Charles’s adultery with Camilla Parker Bowles went public in June 1994.

Diana had an event scheduled before the news broke but didn’t let it get in the way of her plans. She attended the Vanity Fair party at the Serpentine Gallery in London as planned but changed her dress last minute. Diana didn’t need to make an overly dramatic or spiteful statement – the dress did that for her. People style editor Brittany Talarico writes, "Of course Diana knew that all eyes were going to be on her. She didn't have to say anything with words. It was a fashion response — that dress became her clear message to Charles and the world."

Diana kept her composure while simultaneously making a point about her own value. Stooping to the level of revenge sex or any other action that spreads pain and destruction only drags you farther down, in both your character and your feelings.

Closing Thoughts 

If your ex really hurt you, the best revenge is to live your best life and take the high road. This doesn’t mean you can’t be somewhat petty – nothing is quite as satisfying as the look in your ex’s eye when he sees you dressed to the nines out at your old favorite bar – but looking smoking hot isn’t anywhere close to having meaningless sex with your ex’s best friend.

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