Aftercare. To me, this stands out as the most forgotten part of sex. The term is well-known in the BDSM community—yes, it’s true, BDSM isn’t all about handcuffs, whips and pleasurable pain. Care that comes after the play is just as crucial as the play itself. Practicing aftercare ensures that all participants feel safe and cared for post-romps in the sheets.
During sex, especially if you had an orgasm, a huge rush of endorphins and other hormones bubble up in your body (in all the best ways). However, if you don’t take care of you after this huge rush of yummy feelings, then you may experience a drop (often referred to as a “sub-drop” in the BDSM community). Once these endorphins and adrenaline levels crash, you might fall into a sadness from that dramatic shift. You definitely don’t have to be whipped into submission to feel this wave of feels either: A 2015 study found that nearly 46 percent of 230 women surveyed felt tearful or anxious post-sex at least once in their lives.
This illustrates why aftercare remains so important—whether you’re full on BDSM or happily vanilla in your sexual preferences, you should always stay mindful of this practice. Taking the time to check in and talk afterwards makes sex better for everyone involved. Obviously the kind of aftercare you practice depends on who you’re sleeping with and what kind of sex you have with them. Just like everything else about sexuality, aftercare is personal— and it’s up to you what it should look like.
Let’s define aftercare as the act of intentional care—taking stock of how your sexual partner(s) feel after your sexual encounters. This can mean whatever you want it to—from checking in with how they’re feeling to quietly cuddling. It’s important to let them know that your care for their pleasure, and that their well-being remains of paramount importance even after an orgasm.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. This all sounds great for long-term or consistent sexual partners, but how am I supposed to engage in intimate aftercare with my hook-up or one-night-stand?! Talk about awkward. Yet, I would beg to differ! The culture of shame around sexuality promotes the idea that we can’t have intimacy with someone we’re just casually hooking up with. But we can! It doesn’t have to mean you’re going to settle down with her—it simply means that how she feels after the sexual experience retains equal significance to the sexual act itself.
It may seem scary to let your guard down, but you’ll feel so much better when you do. You can keep aftercare with your one time hook-up as simple as talking about the experience. What was fun? What didn’t work out for you? The best move she gave you? It’s important to talk about your sexual experiences—the good and the bad. Not only will you learn about that person, but you’ll also learn a lot about yourself and your body in the process. A simple check-in asking, “How was that for you?” also suffices in many cases.
Maybe you’re not quite ready to jump into talking about your feels right after sex. That’s okay, babes! Finding physical connection also plays a vital role in feeling like you’re both well taken care of. Cold outside? Grab an extra blanket! Cuddling is honestly my favorite kind of aftercare. Maybe you’re not ready for the ~sleepover stage~ yet, but make sure she finds a safe way home. You could even offer to get her an Uber. All of these small acts of kindness added up will make this amazing sexual encounter go down in the memory books—for both of you.
What aftercare is not.
No matter who you’re sleeping with, your long-time boo or the girl from the bar, this person still deserves your respect. Aftercare is definitely not sneaking out in the morning (or the middle of the night) sans goodbye, acting aloof or embarrassed about your romp in the sheets together, not acknowledging that you just banged, or objectifying this person and treating them like a convenient collection of body parts you just got off to. If you’re mature enough for sex, then you can handle a simple form of checking in with that person to make sure they’re okay. That way, neither of you will feel awkward the next time you run into her at the one lesbian bar in town. We all know how small LGBTQ circles are, so keep it cool and make sure she leaves on a positive note.
Top? Bottom? Doesn’t matter.
Oftentimes, the conversation around checking in seems to revolve around ensuring that the bottom feels safe and taken care of post-coital. Check in with each partner —whether top, bottom or switch! Make sure your top knows what you loved about that experience. Was the way she pulled your hair just right? Let your bae know what you want more of next time, what you might change up a bit—and then hit them with a compliment to finish it off. When everyone involved knows what really gets the other off, the sex only gets better. And who doesn’t want that?
At the end of the day, aftercare is just a fancy word for making sure that you have the most amazing sexual experiences possible. Talk about sex before, during and afterward. You’ll continue to grow in your sexual repertoire—and invest in your and your boo’s sexual future!
Corinne Werder is a writer, sex educator and girl on the move currently residing in Brooklyn, NY. She looks at the world through the lens of a pleasure activist, femme-of-center queer woman. Her background in sex education comes from her volunteer work with RAINN, her work as a sexual assault/domestic violence advocate and she is currently a student at the Institute for Sexuality and Enlightenment.
Have more sex questions? Leave a comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org and come back for more every Friday!