Prioritize aftercare as much as your orgasm


Rachel Choi

Illustration by Rachel Choi

By Mariyam Quaisar, Managing Editor

What do you do after having sex? Cuddle with your partner, turn away and take a nap, or worse, wipe the remnants and just scroll on your phone? The emotional aftercare that takes place after sex dictates the lasting tone of the entire experience.  

Aftercare is a term that originally comes from the kink community—namely those who practice BDSM—but in reality applies to everyone who engages in sexual relations. Peoples’ hormones can go mayhem after intimate and/or intense experiences. Adrenaline, dopamine, and oxytocin—hormones that skyrocket during sex—drop just as quickly as they rise, and if that drop is not attended, it can result in feelings of anxiety or shame. 

Sexual intimacy doesn’t end when all (yes, all) people orgasm—what happens after sex is as crucial as the act of sex itself because of the weight of the subsequent emotions. You can feel energized or drained, sad or happy, satisfied or unsatisfied (bummer). Many people feel vulnerable after doing the deed, and emotional aftercare is essential to regulate sensual sensations so neither party feels used or ignored. 

It is natural to feel a range of emotions after sex—especially those referred to as post-coital blues. Oftentimes, people have a truly amazing orgasm then feel sad for what seems like no reason. Post-coital dysphoria comes from the euphoric rush and sudden comedown that follows sexual pleasure, and while it is unavoidable, that does not mean it should not be addressed. Think of aftercare as the soothing balm for these sad feelings.  

This practice of emotional aftercare comes in a variety of forms because every person has their own preferences. While one person may prefer cuddles and kisses, another’s may be a relaxing cup of tea or talking through things that went well—positive reinforcement. Regardless of what type of aftercare you choose, there is an unspoken reassurance that no one is being taken for granted and that the intimacy did not end when the sex did. 

People often assume foreplay and sex are the main contenders for sexual satisfaction, but the second bookend of sex—aftercare—is actually proven to be the most important. According to a study published in the “Archives of Sexual Behavior,” conducted by researchers at universities in Toronto, people who spend more time on “post-sex affection” are more sexually satisfied and more satisfied with their relationship. 

Engaging in things like cuddling is a positive post-sex reward, which can make your partner feel good and reassured that they are not just another stop on your sex train.  

Understanding your partner’s needs after an amazing time in the sheets can only be known by—you guessed it—communication. Talk to your partner to recognize and address what aftercare means to them so everyone involved can feel satisfied beyond having an orgasm. When aftercare is not properly addressed between partners, the sudden rush of feel-good hormones experienced during sex turns into a humiliating crash just seconds later. 

Aftercare is not limited to people in serious entanglements—it is simply an extension of sex itself. To show that you care about the person who just saw you naked and heard you growl (you know who you are). It doesn’t matter if you’re friends with benefits, in a long-term relationship, a one-night-stand, or married; aftercare must be a priority. 

The hookup culture the current generation prides itself on may find this notion of aftercare unnecessary because “it’s just a casual thing,” but the intensity of sexual encounters can sneak up on a person as fast as a guy finishes. While some encounters arguably don’t need beyond the bang-and-bolt, that is certainly not true for every instance of “casual sex.” 

Underlying feelings of shame can flood to the surface in a blink of an eye, and while sex in itself is not by any means shameful, it’s important to forestall that unwanted feeling by engaging in aftercare regardless of the situation. 

The bottom line is ensuring everyone is cared for with respect and tenderness. For most people, memories of sexual experiences don’t vanish into thin air when the cum is cleaned up and you’ve shut the door on your way out. You should be leaving any sexual experience feeling good about yourself.