How Aftercare May Be the Easiest Way to Improve Your Sex Life, According to 2 Experts
Most everyone has some sort of post-sex routine. Whether it's cuddling with their partner, turning on Netflix to watch a new show together, splitting a frozen pepperoni pizza, or taking a relaxing bath, these are all examples of what experts like to call "aftercare."
"Aftercare is the period after sex, kink, or intimacy that allows the people involved to have a 'soft landing' after what may have been an intense experience," sex therapist Amy Julia Cheyfitz tells POPSUGAR. Think about it as the time to "check in with your partner(s), deepen or reinforce intimacy, and support each other," she adds.
Though the term is most often used in correlation with BDSM practices — an umbrella term that stands for bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, and sadism and masochism — all people could benefit from aftercare, no matter how intense (or not) the sex is.
Below, our experts explain the basics of aftercare, how to practice it, and why it's so important.
What Is Aftercare?
It's possible you and your partner(s) are already practicing aftercare without even realizing it. Carol Queen, PhD, sexologist for sex-toy retailer Good Vibrations, says it can be anything from checking in after sex "to see how your partner is doing" to actively doing "whatever helps them come down from the intensity of a scene and feel grounded again."
As stated previously, aftercare is most often associated with BDSM practices because "play can be intense and may bring up emotional responses," says Queen. This is especially the case when you're engaging in sex that involves a person taking on a more dominant role and a person taking on a more submissive role, since there's a power imbalance.
However, aftercare can be beneficial for all types of sex — even if it's "vanilla," says Queen. This is because, for any type of sex, "it feels good to be validated, appreciated, and checked in with" afterward. It also helps people practice healthy communication, during which partners can discuss what they liked, what they didn't like, and what they want to try in future sex sessions.
Why Is Aftercare Important?
Cheyfitz says that when the body releases the "feel-good" chemicals during sex (like oxytocin and other endorphins), as people's bodies return to baseline after that elevated state, it can feel like you're crashing. But practicing aftercare can "allow for a gentle 'coming down' period to make that return to our body's regular state feel a little less abrupt," Cheyfitz says. Think about it this way: after running a long marathon, you wouldn't immediately sit down. You would likely rehydrate, refuel with food, and stretch. This is the same idea when it comes to having any sort of sex.
In addition to preventing the body from crashing, aftercare can help you bond with your partner on an emotional level. "We often feel very vulnerable after sex," says Cheyfitz. "Aftercare can be beneficial for soothing some of those feelings, and allows a space for affirmation and reinforcement that sex and pleasure is something you are deserving of."
If you are engaging in any form of BDSM, Queen mentions that practicing aftercare can also help bring both the sub and dom "back to earth," as it can help "reassure and regulate feelings."
What Are Some Examples of Aftercare?
There's no right or wrong way to practice aftercare. In fact, the way you practice aftercare might look a lot different than the way another person practices aftercare — and that's OK. Find what works best for you and your partner. As Cheyfitz says, "it can vary based on each individual person's needs."
However, if you need some ideas, here's what our experts recommend:
- Give and receive a massage or back rub
- Order food
- Brew a hot cup of tea
- Bake cookies
- Eat chocolate
- Take a bath or shower together
- Communicate with your partner about what felt good, what you enjoyed, what gave you pleasure
- Compliment your partner
Keep in mind that if you are engaging in BDSM there can also be additional aftercare considerations depending on what type of play you are doing. "You may want to put arnica on bruises, tend to any abraded or broken skin, or apply aloe if you were using something like a violet wand," says Cheyfitz.
Just note that it doesn't matter what type of aftercare you're doing, so long as the post-sex activity feels good and "serves you in a positive way," says Cheyfitz.