So, you just had some great sex and you're thinking about how nice it'd be to be held in bed. Except you look over at your partner and he's already knocked out cold, even though you literally just finished 15 seconds ago. As annoying as that is, it shouldn't be taken personally because, as it turns out, it's just the way men are wired.
When speaking with Dr. Leah Millheiser, MD, clinical assistant professor in the Department of OB/GYN and director of the Female Sexual Medicine Program at Stanford University, she explained how biology plays into the different postsex responses men and women experience.
"Oftentimes, when men have an orgasm, they get this sudden wave of relaxation and fatigue and their bodies are actually telling them to roll over and fall asleep," she told us. "And this is not any reflection on the sexual experience or how they feel about their partner. It really just has to do with what their neurotransmitters are telling them."
"It really just has to do with what their neurotransmitters are telling them."
So, it's not because he's an assh*le (in most cases, anyway). Some of us women, on the other hand, want to follow up with pillow talk. Why?
"Whereas for a woman, she has this surge of oxytocin in the brain, and oxytocin is that bonding chemical; it's the same thing that's released when you have a baby. And so women want to be held and the feeling of closeness."
When it comes to sex, men and women differ in more ways than one. In addition to having opposing biological reactions after getting it on, women tend to have a more difficult time of keeping life stressors outside the bedroom. Dr. Millheiser referred to this as sexual plasticity. She explained that research has documented that women are more affected by the psychosocial factors in their lives, meaning that we tend to absorb issues we have at work, home, etc., and focus on them to the point that it gets in the way of arousal.
"As a clinician who focuses on sexual wellness in her patients, one of the things that I hear about quite frequently is that women are unable to sort of let it all go during sex," she said. "And during sex, when they are really supposed to be focusing on the experiences that are happening in their body, they're focusing on all of their to-do lists or all of their stresses. Men tend to not do that as much as women do."
This difference in sexual function is evolutionary. At some point, when women developed the ability to experience menopause, sexual desire no longer became necessary for survival past a certain age. Her job was essentially done after bearing children and raising them, whereas as a man's role was solely to procreate, which has allowed them to continue to maintain a healthy libido throughout their lifetimes. Sexual ability and function may decrease with age, but they're technically still able to reproduce.
Now, returning to the tendency for males to fall asleep after sex, Dr. Millheiser says not to take it with offense.
"Unfortunately, women do, and I think sometimes, based on the quality or the state of the relationship, they take it a little more personally than others. But remember, biologically, this is what we're sort of trained to do."