We talk about sex alot. When I truly think about it, I’ve talked about most parts of sex my entire life. We talk about foreplay—the lingering look in the eyes, the anticipation, the flirting, the rush of excitement and touch before the act. We talk about the actual act — the positions, the pace, the dirty talk, etc., We constantly talk (and I’ve been constantly asked) about introducing new things and spicing it up, but we rarely talk about the after. How is everything leading up to sex important and not anything after? I’ve had some of the most meaningful conversations and moments of thoughtfulness (and some of the most awkward moments) post sex and yet we never talk about it.
One of the many things that I’ve admired as an outsider of the BDSM community is its stance on consent and aftercare. It completely justifies the idea that sex does not end after ejaculation. Aftercare is the attention given to one or both partners at the end of an act. It often includes utilizing various pampering techniques in an effort to provide comfort to everyone after having an intense experience that can leave one feeling vulnerable.
Aftercare is more than getting the wet rag after sex.
While we can have sex just for the sake of stimulation, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be checked up on. A simple “How are you feeling?” can calm any insecurities one may have after the fact—especially when trying something new for the first time. In 2015, a study found that nearly 46% of the 230 women surveyed felt feelings of tearfulness and anxiety after sex — which is known as “postcoital dysphoria” — at least once in their lives.
For this week’s column, I spoke to Atlanta based artist Makeda, sex educator Tiffany, and non-profit strategic consultant Sean about how we can smoothly implement aftercare into the bedroom.
Atlanta based artist Makeda Lewis (she/her/hers) is an artist and program coordinator that creates contour drawings and multimedia pieces that explore varying tenets of human connection. Her published coloring book, Avie’s Dreams, You can support and follow Makeda via her website makedalewis.com, her twitter (themakeda), or instagram (hungermakesme). Cashapp: $TheMakeda
Tiffany Lashai Curtis (she/her/hers) is a Philly native and queer Black femme, sex educator and sex and culture writer. Her work focuses on inclusive sex-ed, and sexual liberation for Black womxn and femmes. You can support her by reading and following her work via her website, Instagram, or Twitter, and via Cashapp: $tlc336.
Brooklyn based non-profit strategic consultant Sean Aaron (he/him)can be found on Twitter and Instagram.
How Do I Initiate Aftercare?
You don’t need to be deep into kink or a BDSM lifestyle to make aftercare apart of your life. Aftercare is literally what it sounds like—”caring after.” Caring about the sex that you just had, caring about your own experience and a partner’s, and caring enough to make sure that you and the partner, felt emotionally and physically safe and tended to. Aftercare is a chance to check-in after sex, and to provide compassionate, but honest feedback. – Tiffany
Initiating aftercare could look like:
-Stating whether or not you had a good time, and if you’d like to do it again. This could be the extent of your aftercare if you’re having casual sex for one-night only or if you decide to keep a casual thing going.
-Asking if your partner likes the new position/toy/game that you just tried. Sex shouldn’t hurt or be uncomfortable. After trying something new or your first time with a new partner, aftercare is an essential moment to discuss if the sex you just had actually felt enjoyable.
-Some other statements that can help get things started:
“Anything I can do to make it better for next time?”
“I didn’t really like __ but I loved when you ____.”
“I really like to ___ after sex.”
“I really like to ____ before sex.”
“Can we cuddle?”
“I didn’t come, but it felt good when you ___.”
“I need/like/want ____ in order to come.”
“How else can I make you come/feel good?”
“Can you stay over?” – Tiffany
If you need to be held after sex or need your scalp rubbed after sex, that is also what your aftercare can look like! – Tiffany
How I initiate aftercare isn’t that different from how I’d initiate any other aspect of good, healthy, passionate sex — communication and empathy. Proactive and passionate conversations about what does and doesn’t give my partner pleasure in effect empowers us both to act out and act on those feelings through the entire intimate experience. – Sean
How you would like to receive aftercare:
I like to be asked. There’s something powerful about a partner taking the time to check-in and asses how I’m feeling. Aftercare, or any sort of affectionate or thoughtful treatment after the release of physical intimacy, is a powerful way to make sure your partner continues to feel desired, respected, and safe. – Sean
Vanilla? No Problem!
When it comes to vanilla sex, aftercare looks like checking-in and following through, which isn’t all that different from what aftercare looks like in BDSM. If you or a partner need time to just lay up after sex, or if it feels better when someone stays the night after sex, that can be what aftercare looks like. It’s all about affirming your needs and the needs of a sexual partner. Whatever you need is valid, if you need to have someone be vocal about how much they love/like you or your body during sex, if you need to cuddle after, if you don’t like to be called certain things during sex, and if you don’t want someone to just roll out immediately after sex, these are all things to bring up as part of aftercare. – Tiffany
Lastly, it can be beneficial to not do a full deep-dive into discussing the sex you just had, right after you have it. If you’re a forthright person who likes to address things immediately, that works, but also you or your partner might have more clarity around discussing your sexual experiences, when y’all are vertical and clothed. — Tiffany!
You Can Practice Aftercare Outside of Sex!
To be completely honest, the most significant experience I’ve had with aftercare has been in a purely emotional way and divorced of BDSM context. With a past partner of mine, we organically fell into this habit of being intentionally tender and sweet with each other after an argument. On some level that extended the endurance we had to discuss difficult things, because we knew at the end we’d come back together in a really soft and good way that reminded us of why we were together in the first place.
1) Make sure the argument is over first, hahaha. At least get through the eye of the storm first.
2) Carry honesty all the way through. At the bottom of everything real is genuine love. When you can take a moment to remember that, it’s easier to see what’s bigger than your ego and pride so you can actually HEAR each other.
3) Something that applies here and also when it comes to creative inspiration, in my opinion: you have to set the stage for it. Whatever your medium is, maybe it means sitting with it and doodling or mindlessly throwing things down and seeing what sticks until something truly magical happens. Translated easier, kisses and hugs and laughs and sharing inside jokes are hard when you don’t feel it. Those first steps may feel forced, until they don’t. You can always extend the olive branch. — Makeda Lewis