Sexual narcissists are people who prioritize their own sexual satisfaction and needs above their partner’s, and experience other narcissistic traits. They lack empathy for their sexual partners, expect frequent praise on sexual performance, and feel entitled to sex when and where they want it. While a sexual narcissist may seem romantic and passionate at first, a relationship with one often turns one-sided, transactional, and potentially even aggressive.
What Is a Sexual Narcissist?
Sexual narcissism–also known as sexual entitlement–is a pattern of sexual preoccupation, with interactions being characterized by egocentrism and an inflated sense of sexual esteem. A sexual narcissist may also experience general difficulties with intimacy.1, 2 While these individuals present with an abundance of confidence in their sexual performance, many experts believe this relates to a difficulty with both giving and receiving emotional intimacy.
It’s theorized that a person may become a sexual narcissist due to low self-esteem, insecurity, and dysfunctional beliefs about relationships.3 Because of this, sexual narcissists often have negative attitudes toward sex and report low levels of sexual satisfaction, despite efforts to increase their own satisfaction.1
Some traits of a sexual narcissist include:
- Lack of sexual empathy
- Sexual entitlement
- High sexual standards
- Expectation of praise
- Use of sexual coercion
- Hypersensitivity to criticism
- Use of exploitation
Sexual Narcissism vs. Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Whereas narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a formal DSM-5 diagnosis, sexual narcissism is an informal term used to describe a pattern of sexual behavior in a person who possesses certain narcissistic traits.4 So, while some sexual narcissists may have an NPD diagnosis, others will not meet full diagnostic criteria.
8 Signs of a Sexual Narcissist
While sexual narcissists act amorous initially, they tend to become egocentric, unempathetic, and possibly aggressive in sexual situations. While these appear to be signs of grandiosity and high self-esteem, sexual narcissists are actually often anxious about sex and have low sexual self-esteem, causing sexual frustration and potentially even abuse of their partners.
Below are eight signs of a sexual narcissist:
1. They Seem Complementary and Giving At First
Sexual narcissists tend to enter intimate relationships with charm, flattery, and an abundance of love. They may even go to great lengths in early sexual encounters to prioritize their partner’s pleasure. While this may seem desirable and sweep you off your feet, these behaviors act as a method some sexual narcissists use to control their partners.
2. They Exhibit Sexual Aggression
While aggression during sex can be perfectly healthy for some (e.g., for partners engaging in BDSM), it may indicate someone is a sexual narcissist. This may be the case if they are performing unwanted sexual contact, sexual coercion, or rape.5 Aggression can happen periodically as the result of narcissistic rage, or because the sexual narcissist prefers sexual encounters to be aggressive in nature.
3. They Ignore Your Sexual Needs…
Research suggests that while narcissists are in fact capable of empathy, they choose to use it only when it serves them.6 Sexual narcissists tend to demonstrate a lack of empathy for their partner’s intimacy needs. For example, they may purposefully ignore their partner’s sexual requests or preferences.
4. …And They Prioritize Their Own
Because sexual narcissists are preoccupied with their own satisfaction, they focus on meeting their own needs, rather than their partner’s. When their partner does express a sexual need or preference, the sexual narcissist may ignore the request, accuse their partner of being controlling or selfish, or guilt their partner into meeting their own needs.
5. They Can’t Take Criticism
Sexual narcissists are hypersensitive to criticism about their sexual performance and bodies. When confronted with a suggestion to change positions during sex or move at a different pace, they may appear disinterested in the feedback. In reality, they likely experience it as a narcissistic injury. In some cases, perceived criticism will trigger narcissistic rage, which involves an outburst of aggression and violence.
6. They Say Everyone Wants to Be With Them
Sexual narcissists often portray themselves and their sexual abilities as unique and superior to others, although this is not always the case. While research suggests that some sexual narcissists tend to have high sexual esteem and perceive themselves to be good lovers, others act confident, grandiose, and arrogant in order to compensate for an underlying weak self-esteem.1
7. They’re Never Sexually Satisfied
While sexual narcissists will go to great lengths to prioritize their own sexual satisfaction, they frequently report low sexual satisfaction and place the blame for such on their partners. They may judge or criticize their partner’s performance, or suggest that sex has become boring and needs to change. Sexual narcissists may hint (or even overtly threaten) that they will look elsewhere for satisfaction if their partner can’t step it up.
8. They expect praise
To fuel their self-esteem, sexual narcissists will crave, expect, and even demand praise to meet their narcissistic supply. During sex, this may look like ordering partners to express sexual satisfaction or give compliments to the sexual narcissist.
Long-Term Effects of Sexual Narcissism
The long-term effects of having a sexually narcissistic partner vary, however some may experience low self-esteem, symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even sexual trauma or narcissistic abuse syndrome.
Sexual narcissists, themselves, will likely not achieve the intimacy they want deep down through their behaviors. This can contribute to symptoms of depression, anxiety, emptiness, and anger. Some sexual narcissists may find themselves facing legal consequences due to their actions, and even experience negative health outcomes such as increased cortisol levels and associated health concerns.7
How to Deal With a Sexual Narcissist
How you respond to sexual narcissism depends largely on the nature of your relationship with one. Is this a one night stand or a long-term relationship? Are you committed to this person or wanting to exit the relationship? No matter what, maintaining personal well-being is the most important priority–not meeting your partner’s sexual needs. This can be done by setting boundaries, clearly and confidently expressing your own needs, and practicing self-care.
Here are some ways you can deal with a sexual narcissist:
You may try setting boundaries around sex. However, remember to be firm and clear, as wavering may invite a sexual narcissist to violate and push your limits. Name the unacceptable behavior clearly (“Do not choke me during sex”) and restate the assertion as many times as needed. If the sexual narcissist tries to make intimacy solely about their needs (“But this is what turns me on”), redirect the attention back to yourself.
Boundaries are helpful with a sexual narcissist outside of the bedroom as well. Because sexual narcissists often cheat to avoid the intimacy and vulnerability that comes with a committed relationship, you may want to express to your partner your limits around infidelity.
Express Your Sexual Needs
Seeing as sexual narcissists commonly focus on their own sexual needs, they often won’t consider yours unless you’ve explicitly spelled them out. Do this in a way that ties in what they will get out of meeting your needs. For instance, try saying, “When you do X to me, it makes me even more attracted to you.”
Sexual narcissists may leave you feeling uncared for, unprioritized, and unimportant. To combat these effects, consider practicing self-care. This can include activities such as journaling, exercising, doing pleasant activities, and even masturbating.
Don’t Reinforce Sexually Narcissistic Behavior
Partners of sexual narcissists should be careful not to reinforce unwanted behaviors (such as aggression, boasting, and praise-seeking) while engaging in sex. Avoid giving indication that the sexual narcissist’s unwanted behavior is desired or enjoyable when possible (e.g., by moaning or smiling).
Validate Them When Possible
If you see an opportunity to validate your partner’s emotions, take it! Validating involves conveying that what your partner is thinking, feeling, or doing makes sense or is understandable. Moreover, this is a method of disarming a narcissist that makes communicating effectively more possible. Remember that you don’t have to agree with something in order to validate it, and you certainly don’t have to validate behaviors that push your boundaries. If your partner becomes angry when you set a sexual boundary, you could say to them, “I see how this makes you feel.”
Consider your safety
Because some sexual narcissists become aggressive or retaliatory when confronted about their behavior, it can be helpful to develop a safety plan with a professional or loved one. Safety plans are particularly important if you are unable to make things work with a sexually narcissistic partner or feel you are in danger.
How Can Therapy Help?
If you’re concerned about your or your partner’s sexually narcissistic behavior, need help setting boundaries, or thinking about exiting a relationship with a sexual narcissist, you may benefit from seeing a therapist. Marriage and couples counseling can be beneficial for couples in which one or both partners are sexual narcissists. However, seeking this route requires both partners’ willingness to participate.
Couples therapy involves first showing the sexual narcissist how their self-serving sexual behaviors negatively affect the relationship. The counselor will then work with the sexual narcissist on becoming aware of their underlying low self-esteem, while helping the other partner identify and change the ways in which they reinforce the sexual narcissist’s patterns. This is important, as many sexual narcissists seek out partners who fuel their egocentric patterns of interaction.1, 3
Individual therapy is another valuable resource for partners of sexual narcissists, and sexual narcissists themselves. Examples of therapies that treat sexual narcissism and its effects include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). If you are interested in pursuing therapy, consider checking out an online therapist directory to find the right therapist for you.
Sexual narcissism can be challenging and may bring up difficult and oftentimes unexpected emotions, both for the individual and their partner(s). That being said, there are healthy ways to move forward, manage symptoms, and build healthy sexual relationships.