What is post-sex aftercare and why does it matter?

Post sex after care. (Getty Images)
What is your post-sex aftercare like? (Getty Images)

Ever heard of post-sex aftercare? Maybe you're engaging in it already without realising (which is great), or maybe it could be the missing ingredient to transform how you feel after sex (which can come with much vulnerability for some, even at the best of times).

It doesn't matter whether you're in a relationship or not, post-sex aftercare to varying degrees can still help nurture you and a sexual partner physically, mentally and emotionally. But what exactly is it, where does the term originate from, and why is it so important?

Here, sexologist and relationship therapist, Becky Crepsley-Fox, and BACP-registered relationships counsellor, Lisa Spitz, explain all you need to know.

What is post-sex aftercare?

High angle view of two young adult women kissing together. One girl is kissing on the forehead the other girl. Hispanic and South American ethnicities.
Post-sex aftercare could include non-sexual touch, acts of service or words of affirmation. (Getty Images)

"Post-sex aftercare refers to the thoughtful and nurturing practices engaged in after a sexual encounter to ensure both partners feel safe, respected, and cared for," says Crepsley-Fox.

"Sexual activities can stir a range of emotions and physical responses; aftercare serves as a grounding mechanism to help individuals transition back to their usual state of being. This may be particularly important for those who explore intense dynamics or emotions during sex, or experience postcoital dysphoria – a phenomenon where individuals may feel sadness or cry following intercourse, which isn't necessarily negative but does call for support and understanding."

The sexologist and therapist says practical examples of aftercare could include cuddling, engaging in gentle conversation, providing hydration or snacks, and affirming each other's experiences to help foster emotional and physical reassurance. Whether it's non-sexual touch, acts of service, or words of affirmation, a little can go a long way.

Why is post-sex aftercare so important?

Upset redhead teen girl sitting by window looking at phone waiting call from boyfriend, feeling sad and depressed teenager looking at smartphone wait for message. Social Media depression in teens
Checking in on someone later that day or the next can show consideration and respect. (Getty Images)

As mentioned, for many, sexual experiences can affect both our physical and emotional states. "It can evoke vulnerability or resurface traumatic memories, even in a consensual and caring setting," says Crepsley-Fox.

The feelings of anxiety, sadness, or disconnection individuals might feel after is often referred to as the 'post-sex blues'. "Aftercare provides a supportive framework, helping to safeguard this emotional vulnerability by offering comfort and reassurance, which can prevent feelings of shame and mitigate sexual dysfunctions related to performance anxiety," she adds.

"Beyond addressing specific challenges, aftercare simply embodies basic kindness and respect. It ensures that all parties feel valued and safe, reinforcing a sense of security and mutual care in the relationship."

Spitz emphasises that during sexual acts, we might feel we aren't doing it 'right' or that our kinks and fetishes aren't 'normal', so aftercare can literally show "that we are satisfied and good enough for our partner" – assuming this is the case.

couple hugging in bed
Post-sex aftercare is now recognised more widespread. (Getty Images)

The concept of post-sex aftercare originates from the BDSM community, where, Crepsley-Fox explains, "it is customary for participants – typically the dominant (dom) caring for the submissive (sub) – to engage in nurturing activities after a scene".

"This practice ensures both parties are grounded and reassured after the emotional and physical intensities of their interaction," she adds.

"While initially specific to BDSM, the relevance of aftercare has expanded beyond this context. As societal awareness and understanding of sexual health and dynamics evolve, the principles of aftercare have been adapted to more mainstream sexual experiences. Recognising that any sexual encounter can elicit strong emotions or physical responses, more people now see the value in incorporating elements of comfort and connection afterwards, ensuring a gentle reconnection to everyday normalcy following the intimate intensity."

And while intuitive acts of post-sex aftercare may have always existed, as well as the above evolution, discourse on platforms like TikTok have moved it more prominently into the mainstream, providing more widespread awareness and access to knowledge.

"Furthermore," says Crepsley-Fox, "the rise of movements such as #MeToo has heightened awareness around consent and the nuances of sexual interactions, contributing to a broader societal emphasis on the importance of care and respect in all sexual experiences. This growing discourse is likely why we are now more aware of concepts like post-sex aftercare."

Navigating post-sex aftercare when single vs in a relationship

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Aftercare can be important in all types of relationships. (Getty Images)

Crepsley-Fox says post-sex aftercare can be just as important for single people engaging in casual dating as those in committed relationships.

"Emotions can be particularly sensitive after a casual encounter, where individuals might feel especially vulnerable or exposed. It’s essential to manage these moments with integrity and kindness without making commitments one isn’t sure about," she explains.

"Honesty and clear communication are key. After the encounter, consider engaging in a non-sexual activity together, like watching a movie or sharing a meal, which can help both parties feel more at ease and valued as individuals, not just sexual partners."

However, Spitz acknowledges, "Long term relationships can build on and nurture intimacy in the way a one night stand can’t." But there might still be ways to offer practical support.

"Covering the cost of a cab ride home, and checking in on them later that day or the next – regardless of future intentions – demonstrates consideration and respect," suggests Crepsley-Fox. "This kind of thoughtful engagement can make a significant difference in how both parties reflect on the experience."

What to do if you're not receiving post-sex aftercare

Shot of a mature couple talking on the sofa at home
Talking about your wants and needs is always beneficial. (Getty Images)

If you don't feel your needs are being met in this way, are you in your right to ask for it?

"If someone feels their sexual partner, whether in a committed relationship or a casual encounter, isn't providing any post-sex aftercare, they are absolutely within their rights to express their needs," says Crepsley-Fox.

This is done through effective communication. "It’s important to be clear and honest about what you need to feel cared for and secure after intimacy. You can start the conversation by kindly asking what they might need for their own aftercare as well, making the discussion inclusive and reciprocal. This approach fosters a mutual understanding of boundaries and care preferences. It’s also beneficial to reflect on your aftercare needs beforehand, so you're prepared to articulate them clearly when engaging with a new or existing partner."

And with some situations admittedly easier to experience full aftercare in, or communicate both sexually and emotionally (outside of the bedroom) to bring you closer to your partner, there are still some things you can do to improve your experience of the sex itself. "Finding out what your partner likes and sharing what you like is important," says Spitz.

"Being able to say, in the moment, I really like that or can you do this instead creates more intimacy. And it goes without saying all sex should be consensual and you can say no to anything at any point regardless of whether or not you've done it before."

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