The 6 Sexual Mind Games of Narcissists

A wealth of research indicates that narcissists may be prone to engaging in sexual aggression and can even be sexually coercive. But what do their manipulation tactics when it comes to physical intimacy actually look like? Here are six sexual mind games of narcissists you should watch out for.

Sudden withdrawal of affection after an intense period of love bombing.

The narcissist creates a powerful sexual intensity with their victims early on, only to withdraw suddenly to throw their victims into self-doubt. At the beginning of the relationship, they can’t get enough of you: they’re sexually insatiable. As soon as you’re invested in the relationship, however, they will suddenly act cold and distant. This can cause emotional whiplash in the survivor who has grown accustomed to the narcissist’s constant, at times overbearing, physical attention and affection. Unbeknownst to the victim, the narcissist is withdrawing on purpose in order to keep you attached and addicted to winning them over. They have love bombed you with constant physical intimacy and flirtations to make you feel incredibly desired. When they pull away, this creates a cycle of intermittent reinforcement and manufactures a biochemical bond that is very difficult to detox from. 

The Madonna-Whore Complex

Freud may have gotten a lot wrong with his psychological theories, but he may have nailed this one concept – at least, when it is applied to narcissists. To a narcissist, you are either labeled as the virginal saint and “mother” or the “whore.” Many survivors of narcissists can attest to the idea that narcissistic (and misogynistic) individuals tend to dichotomize individuals based on their sexual interest, behavior and history rather than all of the qualities they bring to the table. They cannot seem to see you as a multifaceted human being with complex needs, desires, or personality traits. Instead, they group you into one category and seem perplexed if you exhibit behaviors or traits that seem to move outside the “box” they’ve put you in. For example, they cannot see intelligent women as sexual (or sexual women as intelligent), so they tend to emphasize one trait over the other. They may see you as a convenient hookup if you’re a very attractive woman whose features are frequently sexually objectified, but fail to commit to you because they cast you into the category of “not relationship material” due to those same qualities.

Or they could downplay your achievements if they also know your sexual history or you express sexual interest, believing that a woman who is intelligent cannot possibly also be sexual at the same time. If you are a nurturing woman or a woman with qualities they think “emasculate” them (such as being “too” intelligent or successful in a way that surpasses them), they may still commit to you but view you as a “mother” to them, which lowers their sexual interest. This has very little to do with you or who you truly are – it is all about their distorted perception and inability to see people for the complex human beings they are. Some female survivors of narcissists have experienced a narcissist cheating on them with women they deem “whores” or women they perceived as “sexual” based on such a biased perception.

Comparison and jealousy induction.

Research supports that narcissists and psychopaths provoke jealousy on purpose. They love to create love triangles for power and control, and sex is no exception. In the beginning of the relationship, they probably hooked you by praising and complimenting everything about you – everything from your physical appearance to your sexual prowess in the bedroom. During the devaluation stage, they are far less likely to fawn over you. In fact, they may even compare you to other partners or excessively criticize you. They may label you a hypersexual nymph when you try to re-engage with them sexually while they withdraw deliberately or complain you’re too “frigid” “immature” or a “prude” when you want to deepen the connection beyond just sex or want to slow down physical intimacy.

Using sex as a reset button.

Despite all these manipulation methods, the narcissist will continue to use sex as a reset button – something to bond you even after crazymaking arguments or draw you back to them in the classic “makeup sex” after staged break-ups. This is how they get you re-attached to them right after explosive arguments (which they manufactured out of thin air) and threats to leave the relationship. It is also a “hoovering” method that sucks you back easily into the chaos of the relationship without the narcissist having to lift a finger to change their actual behaviors or put more effort toward you and the relationship. Research reveals that both pain and pleasure with an unpredictable reward can contribute to a long-lasting, addictive bond with someone. So even if you know you’re not emotionally compatible with the narcissist, your brain will trick you into feeling like they are “the one.”

Sexual coercion and bullying.

This is less of a mind game and more of an outright violation. Research indicates that narcissists tend to have sexually coercive beliefs and behaviors and additional hostility toward heterosexual women who they may view as “sexual gatekeepers.” They may pressure or bully you into sexual behaviors you’re not comfortable with, attempt to “open up” the relationship (while becoming rageful if you’re the one who seeks other partners and feeling entitled to being the only one who does), or threaten to end the relationship if you do not meet their sexual expectations or engage in certain sexual acts. They could retaliate if you don’t “serve” them in the ways they demand to be catered to, or punish and devalue you verbally or emotionally if you refuse to have sex at all. This is not a mere “sexual incompatibility” – this is outright sexual coercion and assault – and it is very dangerous.

Manufacturing chemistry through false promises and a false mask.

During the love bombing stage of the relationship, the narcissist is able to spark physical chemistry even if there isn’t an initial interest by catering to what they think you desire in a partner. By donning a false mask and future faking, they’re able to get you emotionally connected to them and to envision a future with them. Because of these false promises, you may be prone to escalating the physical intimacy of the relationship early on which manufactures a false sense of “knowing” the narcissist. By dangling this carrot of a future that doesn’t exist, they get you to invest yourself emotionally, physically, sometimes even financially in a relationship they have no plans to actually carry through with. Be careful if someone is promising you a dream life with them or attempting to fast-forward physical intimacy before they’ve even gotten to know you.

About the author

Shahida Arabi

Shahida is a graduate of Harvard University and Columbia University. She is a published researcher and author of Power: Surviving and Thriving After Narcissistic Abuse and Breaking Trauma Bonds with Narcissists and Psychopaths. Her books have been translated into 16+ languages all over the world. Her work has been featured on Salon, HuffPost, Inc., Bustle, Psychology Today, Healthline, VICE, NYDaily News and more. For more inspiration and insight on manipulation and red flags, follow her on Instagram here.