Guest Written by Xenia E., a freelance sex and mental health writer. Xenia focuses on sex work, LGBTQIA+ issues, menstrual equity, gender, and trauma. She holds a BA in writing from The New School. You can see more of her work on Instagram at @_xeniae.
What if we treated what happens after sex with as much consideration as sex itself?
Aftercare can make sex emotionally safer, improve bonds between partners, and smooth out lows after sex. But what is it? Aftercare is the practice of self-care, post-sex, for closure, decompressing, and emotional and physical security. If you’ve ever cuddled with your boo after an orgasm, you’ve done aftercare before.
BDSM offers several indispensable ground rules for an emotionally safer sexual encounter. However, these ground rules aren’t just useful for BDSM; they can help facilitate a safer and sexier experience for anyone. BDSM teaches essential components for healthy sex, including negotiation (what you will or won’t do in bed), communication, consent, and aftercare.
BDSM has much to teach us in regards to intentionality with how our sex unravels. Much is deliberated before you even enter the bedroom, which can often make folks feel safer and more at ease because everyone involved has the same expectations and has considered their needs after sex.
Aftercare offers a devoted time to wind down after sex. It can benefit even those with vanilla (non-kinky) preferences by providing a deeper sense of care and trust.
BDSM can be intense. But so can any type of sex. BDSM might include restraints, flogging, role playing, or power play. Because of this intensity, BDSM causes a massive rush of endorphins and other feel-good chemicals to come into play.
When the scene is over? Some might experience a drop in endorphins and adrenaline and have feelings of sadness or depression. These lows can last from minutes to a couple of hours, up to a few days after the experience. These lows are typically referred to as sub drop, but dominants can experience it, too (called dom drop).
It’s not just BDSM practitioners who experience an emotional drop-off after sex, though. Think about it like this: It’s natural for there to be a low after the high of sex, even after non-BDSM routine sex. Physically, your heart rate slows back down, body temperature drops, and muscles start to release.
Aftercare smooths the drop in feel-good chemicals that people experience and can make the transitioning moments more manageable and less low, numb, or hollow. Making room for aftercare post-sex can act as a bridge from the intensity of sex back to everyday life. It’s a way of ensuring that people have closure and time to unwind.
Also? Sometimes sex kicks up feelings of vulnerability or past trauma. Aftercare is a way of providing some tenderness to anything that sex might have brought up. It can also deepen trust and intimacy between partners by creating a space for attention and care to any emotions lingering after sex.
Aftercare is for everyone, from solo masturbators to married couples with more vanilla preferences to kinky group sex. There’s no one correct way to do aftercare as it looks different for everyone. Think of it as self-care post-sex.
Trying to figure out which kind of aftercare is best for you? You might ask yourself: what might feel good? What feels needed or necessary after sex? If you’re prone to the sads, what would offer some support or comfort?
It’s a good idea to check in with partners before sex to see what their needs are so that everyone gets their needs met. Some people might need a meal, and others might need to be held and wrapped in a blanket. This is where negotiating before sex comes into play. What might aftercare include? Start with the basics.
● Address any sore spots. Kinky in the bedroom and kinky in the neck? Try rolling out your neck, stretch, and adjust pillows so that you’re comfortable. A sex position pillow can come in handy, too.
● Adjust blood sugar levels. Remember that sex is exercise so make sure to avoid a low blood sugar attack. Dial up your favorite pizza spot or keep a granola bar handy to compensate for low blood sugar.
● Give reassurance to everyone that everything is okay. Remember when we talked about how sex can be intense and bring stuff up? Try offering some comforting reassurance that all is alright. Use a soothing, quiet voice.
● Physical touch. If it feels okay, you might snuggle up with your partner or partners, and offer or receive touch. For some people, physical touch is just as or more affirming than verbal reassurance.
The type of aftercare that’s right for you depends entirely on you. It’s also okay to need or want alone time after sex, and if your partner wants more closeness, stepping away for a quick solo shower with the agreement you’ll be back for a snuggle is an easy way to get both needs met.
Aftercare duration is different for everyone, but be sure to spend ample time winding down to avoid the post-sex blues. Aftercare seals the experience of sex, so check in to ensure that you’ve spent enough time and given or received adequate care. Remember, aftercare is a PART of sex and should be treated with just as much attention and care as getting off.
If you had a one-time hookup, a simple text is a nice way to check in and see how your partner is doing the next day. If a post-hookup text is something you need, communicate that to your partner beforehand! You might also try a phone call or make further plans if you and your partner are down to meet again.
Follow-up conversations can be a great way to check in about the experience after the sex high has worn off. You might ask how the sex was, what you’d like to do differently next time, or simply relish in what was so hot about it.
Sometimes, it’s hard to articulate what’s working or not in the heat of the moment. A check-in can serve as part of aftercare to provide further intimacy and open up a dialogue. Aftercare is for everyone, and we have BDSM to thank for it (and for our attention to consent and improved communication before sex, too.)
Why Aftercare Is Important After All Sex, Not Just BDSM: Mind Body Green
The Complete BDSM Aftercare Guide: Bad Girls Bible
How to Help Your Dom Through Dom Drop: Submissive Guide