Because You’re Worth It
“Nobody dies from the lack of sex. It’s lack of love we die from.”— Margaret Atwood
“Do you provide aftercare?” This is a question a dear friend once asked me, that caught me off guard. I think I would have been less shocked if she’d ask me, “Do you breath air?” How anyone could reach a place that this needed to be asked was beyond me.
For the uninformed, aftercare refers to an act of service comprised of time and attentiveness which is done after typically a BDSM scene, but also can include post-coital cuddling and communication. It’s a period of bonding with an intimate partner after exploring physical intimacy together whether plain vanilla sex or something much more hardcore.
While there is nothing inherently wrong with it, I keep seeing a focus on hooking up, the all too familiar DTF (Down To F***) paradigm. We are all very much animals, physiologically speaking, and we all have sexual needs. The experience of a visceral coupling with someone you barely know, based on primal physical attraction, does have it’s allure to even me, but the basic humanity of your temporary partner is often lost. I’m speaking to men, women and non-gender binary people in this appraisal. It is common to view your partner in this situation as nothing more than a means to release, but something precious is often lost without accompanying aftercare. The sentiment of losing respect for someone because they had sex too quickly can often become an ugly side effect of this thinking.
Physiologically speaking, attention to your partner is necessary as post-coital tristesse can occur, often called “drop”, following sexual intimacy, largely connected to adrenaline rush and endorphins crashing. This is particularly the case after an intense scene or a particularly aggressive lovemaking experience. A state of mild shock is not completely uncommon. Your partner will need to be cared for, as will you.
I’ll break down common components of aftercare, that may or may not apply to a particular intimate coupling, BDSM or vanilla. I’ll try to use appropriate terminology, but these points refer to any gender, any position or any role in play and sex. Even a dominant partner often needs these too, where applicable:
Comfort and safety: If restraints or particularly athletic positions where explored, simply reaching a place of comfort is typically the first concern. Moving carefully to a comfortable couch or simply lying down in bed together can instill a stronger sense of connection, even if only on a human level. If a partner was blindfolded, make sure it’s removed carefully so as to not startle them with potentially bright lights. If orgasm occurred, the person may be a bit dizzy and unsteady. Cover up your partner if it may be too chilly.
Attend to injuries: If play was rough, attend to any injuries that may have happened. Antiseptic ointments can be used for cuts and abrasions, as well as perhaps bite marks and scratches. Muscle cramps can often happen at this time. Taking a few moments to massage out a cramp in a partner can be very beneficial to establishing trust and a healthy connection. Learning first aid, personally, is always beneficial regardless of to whom it’s applied.
Hydrate: It almost seems silly to mention, but have fresh water ready. This helps both you and your partner, as even gentle love making can often dehydrate a person. I often have drinking straws too, as an intense scene can make shaking hands and full glasses a soggy disaster waiting to happen.
Be present: This is a time to hold your partner, lie beside than and simply be there for them. Maybe they need to be held. Maybe they need you to not touch them at first. Taking the time to be present with them will help normalize their mental and emotional state and help bring about closeness. Running to jump in the shower now can often humiliate a partner. Waiting will not harm you and can greatly benefit your partner.
Communicate: When you are both ready, after a bit of afterglow perhaps, start communicating. It can be as simple as caressing them and reminiscing about what was done together. Did you try something new? How did it feel? Did they reach orgasm, and if not does that matter to them? Should something be explored more or has a limit been reached? How do they feel about what you did together? Perhaps, in many cases, just lying together, holding each other close listening to each other’s breathing, is enough communication.
Round two?: Often, meaningful aftercare can become foreplay for a second encounter. Perhaps you both (but not limited to just two person couplings in this) shower together, or simply go to sleep together. If it’s morning, maybe it’s time to make or get breakfast. This all can be part of aftercare and help instill a deeper bond.
But, what if this was just a hookup? Aftercare isn’t just for your partner… it’s also for you. This is a powerful time to reflect on your own experience and what you’ve learned about yourself as a person and a lover. I might add, without judgement, that a hookup can become much more in time, and even a friendship could be very beneficial to both partners. I am both demisexual and polyamorous, so I view physical intimacy through those lenses. Even the most casual of sexual encounters can often have an element of deeper connection, and purely sexual relationships can be nurturing, too. A person’s body is just a part of them, and the sexiest part of anyone is their mind. Aftercare can lead to better intimacy, better connection and just plain better sex. The communication that comes out of it can make it like Captain Hammer said, “… better the second time.”
Better relationships, more communication, more openness and more love is better for everyone, and you really are worth it.