Aftercare is the practice of intentional self-care post-sex. If you haven’t tried it, it has myriad benefits for your mental and physical wellness. Aftercare can create better sex, a deeper bond between partners, and can help smooth any drops in emotions after a sexual encounter.
If you’ve ever spent time cuddling post-sex, you have already done aftercare. Putting some thought into your needs after sex can have a significant impact. You can practice aftercare following any type of sexual encounter, from hookups to sex within a marriage, and there are many ways to do it.
What is aftercare?
Aftercare originates from the BDSM community. It’s a way to ground after an intense experience, like a BDSM scene. Aftercare isn’t just for BDSM practitioners though; it benefits people with vanilla preferences, too. It’s for people who’ve been together for a long time, and even casual hookups—anyone can reap the benefits. If sex is dessert, aftercare is the cherry on top.
Why should I practice aftercare?
Ever felt sad after sex? There’s a reason for that! In BDSM, it’s called top-drop and sub-drop. This typically entails a drop of feel-good chemicals that are so prevalent during sex, like oxytocin and dopamine. It isn’t just BDSM practitioners that experience a drop in emotion post-coitus.
Emotional and physical lows can happen immediately after sex, or even a day or two after the encounter. Feelings of sadness or disconnection are quite common after sex. This drop is sometimes called postcoital dysphoria.
Whether or not you experience bouts of bluesiness after sex, aftercare has other benefits, too. The practice can deepen intimacy for partners. For one, it shows that everyone involved respects the other, and prioritizes caring for them. It’s a way to show a partner that you recognize their needs, and care about their feelings after you’ve had sex. Aftercare can also help partners work through feelings that arise post-sex. At its very basic premise, emotional care is intimacy.
Aftercare also makes for better sex. Why? When you take time to connect post-sex, you open the door for closeness and reflection. In these moments, you can reflect on how the sex was for you, and share desires for future encounters. It’s near impossible to actualize new fantasies and desires when you don’t have the time and space to share them.
How do I practice aftercare?
Aftercare can be unique for people based on their individual needs. Some people may need a shower or cuddle after sex, and some might need a contemplative walk to reflect on the experience.
You can navigate a difference in aftercare needs by taking some time to reflect on what you typically crave after sex. Share your thoughts with a partner before the encounter, even if it’s a one-time hookup. This way, you’ll ensure that whatever you might need is taken care of. If you and a partner have different needs, see to it that you can both get them met. If one partner needs time to be introspective, can they come back after 20 minutes for a cuddle?
It’s best to share aftercare needs before the encounter. That way, everyone involved knows what to expect after. Aftercare is just as important as any other check-in about sex. Aftercare can be self-care for your mental health, physical health, and general wellness.
Remember, the form of aftercare that’s right for you and a partner is completely dependent on your individual needs. Here are common ways that people can practice aftercare.
1. Pillow talk
You can stick to whispering sweet nothings to each other or open up a deeper conversation about the experience. You might check in about how the sex was, how you’re feeling, and what you liked or didn’t like. Feel free to reflect on specific moments during the sex. You can also plan out fantasies or specific positions to try for the next time. If you’ve been with a partner for a while, you may take the opportunity to remind them why they’re special to you.
2. Soft touch and cuddling
Check in with a partner about the kind of touch they most enjoy. Note that preferences about touch can be different for different people and that’s completely okay. Play with light scratching, a massage, or stroking someone’s arm or cheek. You can also give one another massages with a smell-good fragrance or massage candle. Try and make the experience sensual and relaxing.
3. Drink water or grab a bite
It’s quite possible that after sex, you’ve worked up an appetite or are thirsty. Make sure to tend to your basic needs after sex; it’s easy to get caught up in the feel-good endorphins and forget about your needs. Pro tip: post-sex pizza in bed is basically an aphrodisiac.
4. Take care of any injuries
If you engaged in BDSM and have any wounds or sore spots that need tending, make sure to tend to them. Bandaids, ice, a heating pad, and loving touch can all be beneficial for addressing any sex injuries. Sometimes, an extra pillow for a sore neck can suffice.
5. Naps and movies
Think about what kind of activity might be relaxing after sex. Taking a nap together or cuddling up and watching a movie is a great way to get rest, and smooth the transition from the euphoria of sex to everyday life. Plus, sex might make you sleepy!
You can’t overdo aftercare. Spend as much time as you like engaging in your preferred method. You can also implement aftercare every single time you have sex.
So next time, instead of popping out of bed directly after sex, or rolling over and falling asleep, consider spending some time tending to you and your partner’s physical and emotional needs—whatever they may be. Smoothing out a drop in emotions, deeper intimacy, and better sex…is there any reason not to try aftercare?