What is Sexual Aftercare?
We talk a lot about foreplay and what happens during sex, but what we don’t talk about enough is what happens after.
Aftercare is a broad term for how you and your partner support each other and check-in after you’ve had sex.
Sex can ramp us up and leave us with all sorts of emotions. We may feel energized, or drained – or both. Some people feel exposed and vulnerable, or like their nervous system is ramped up.
This practice gives you and your partner a chance to regulate, and deepen your relationship.
Sexual aftercare should be thought of as part of your sexual experience, much like foreplay, versus a separate thing after, that may feel like a chore. It’s essential for a healthy dynamic.
The goal of aftercare is for all parties involved to feel safe and seen, while leaving space to discuss anything that came up during sex.
A Gift from Kink
What is sexual aftercare? The term aftercare comes from the kink community.
Depending on what your flavor of kink is, some minor injuries can occur, which need to be attended to.
The other reason people in the kink world advocate for aftercare is to help support people in any hormonal drops that can occur after such an intimate or intense experience. When adrenaline, cortisol, or oxytocin levels surge, they will also drop. Some people may experience anxiety, shame, or mixed emotions afterward.
Aftercare helps to ease the hormonal crash and helps people to integrate their experiences.
Aftercare for Everyone
Kink can encompass so many things, and even if you don’t incorporate it into your sex life, aftercare is just as important for you.
Aftercare tends to your physical, emotional, and mental needs. Some people may want to add spiritual needs to that list.
While these tips aren’t necessarily exclusive to physical or mental and emotional, here’s a breakdown of some helpful tools to incorporate into your aftercare routine.
First, you’ll most likely want to tend to the physical.
This means rehydrating, and peeing of course to prevent a UTI. For people with vaginas, especially if you are prone to yeast infections, you may want to take whatever measures are needed to avoid irritation. Cleaning up yourself, and any toys used helps to lessen your risk of infection.
What other ways can you nourish your bodies?
You can try a nice calming tea, having a snack, or ordering a hearty meal. One of my favorites is to place an order for delivery and take a steamy shower together while we wait for our feast.
Some people may need space and time apart, while others will want to continue their physical connection by massaging each other, cuddling, and kissing. Both are beautiful, but it’s important to try to manage both partner’s needs. Note that taking space does not mean someone who intentionally avoids connection by rushing out the door, and reaching for a distraction in order to avoid aftercare.
If you know there’s something you or your partner will need afterward, like say chocolate, then try to plan ahead of time.
Mental and Emotional
Physical aftercare feeds into mental and emotional, but they are all equally important.
Some partners benefit from talking about their experience and giving each other positive reinforcement. This can even be a form of sexy pillow talk, where you boost each other up for the fine work you just did.
Hanging out and being mellow is also aftercare! Putting on an uplifting movie, dancing around to romantic tunes, and just basking in each other’s company are all ways to support each other after having sex.
Some people assume that sexual aftercare starts after one or both parties orgasm. Orgasms do not have to be the focus of your sexual encounters, and they are not necessary before engaging in aftercare.
Understanding the importance of aftercare makes sex less goal-oriented, and more about honoring everyone’s needs, and the dynamic of the relationship.
To Each Their Own
You may have a set aftercare routine with your partner that works for you, that’s awesome. Some people want more fluidity and gauge their needs in the moment.
Sexual aftercare is especially important for people who have sexual trauma PTSD – who experienced sexual trauma or abuse in the past. Sex after trauma can be triggering, and survivors may tend to withdraw or dissociate during or after sex. Aftercare gives them sexual trauma therapy which allows them to ground down and be held in a safe, supportive space.
Aftercare can look different for everyone, there’s no one right way to do it. What’s most important is that everyone’s needs are being met, especially if someone is feeling especially vulnerable or exposed.
Solo people or long-distance partners can also benefit from aftercare. Try it yourself next time you have a solo sex session!
Aftercare is important for so many different reasons, but it’s vital to creating a holistic sexual experience, and for deepening intimacy. You and your partner, or partners, deserve to be showered with kindness, affection, and understanding after a sexual experience. Aftercare makes space for all that and more.
Natasha (she/they) is a full spectrum doula, reproductive health content creator, and sexual wellness consultant. Her work focuses on deconstructing the shame, stigma, and barriers people carry around birth, sex, and beyond, to help people navigate through their lives with more pleasure, softness, and sensuality. You can connect with Natasha on IG @spectrumoflovedoula.