The Importance of Aftercare: What to do after sex

Do you remember the first time you saw sex on the big screen? You’ll always know that the romantic leads finally did it when an intense kissing scene cross-dissolves to a slow shot panning across them entwined under the mythical magical blanket.

You know which one I’m talking about – the magical blanket that will fully cover a woman’s breasts up to her armpits and amazingly only reach the man’s loins. Cut to cigarette smoke lazily wafting through the air as he takes deep drags in quiet achievement. Meanwhile, she’s smiling to herself with the perfect bedhead hair and nary a smudged eyeliner in sight as she closes her eyes in hazy satisfaction.

Aha – they made love! Your mind deduces.

Let’s switch it around – do you remember the first time you had sex? Or more precisely, do you remember what happened AFTER the first time you had sex?

Mine wasn’t a beautiful, filtered shot of dreamy smiles but it did involve blankets. When we finished, my ex asked me to stand up, pulled the bed sheets off, and rushed off to the bathroom where he proceeded to scrub the minute traces of blood off. I remember feeling naked in more ways than one as I stood at the bathroom’s doorway, watching him soak the sheets in the bathtub. I wrapped myself up fully with the non-magical blanket and my mind was racing instead “What have I done?”

My sex life post-sexual debut has vastly improved since then. Yet for such a seemingly small gesture to be ingrained into my memory, it goes to show how important aftercare in sex and intimacy is.

We spend a lot of time talking and educating ourselves about what happens before sex, during sex and even how to get sex but surprisingly not much is said about what to do after sex apart from a vague “Go and pee”.

So, in the spirit of the new year and new (sex)olutions – let’s talk about Aftercare.

Aftercare is a term that’s usually used in BDSM jargon. You’re probably familiar with BDSM from popular movies like 50 Shades of Grey and 365 Days that introduced a sanitized lite version to the mainstream. It’s important to note that aftercare is especially vital in BDSM as sex can often be physically and emotionally intense when involved parties engage in role-play and play scenes. The submissive partner may feel a “drop” after the spike of hormones such as adrenaline and endorphins during play, which includes symptoms like exhaustion, guilt, depression and hypersensitivity. Aftercare in this sense can be as simple and straightforward as cleaning up wounds, tending to bruises and abrasions, hydrating and eating, or cuddling and having assuring words post-scenes.

However you really shouldn’t have to be tied up in chains and bruised – or even in a serious relationship – to deserve sex aftercare. As the name implies, they are affectionate acts that intend to make both partners feel safe, comforted and respected after a sexual encounter.

There isn’t much scientific study into non-kink sex aftercare but we’ll list various ways that you and your partner can engage in mutual aftercare. While there are certain actions that we definitely mandate (yes, please still pee immediately when you’re done), the rest are recommended suggestions. Some of these may resonate for you and your partner, while others may seem a tad overkill. Obviously you know yourself and your relationship best so take what works and discard what doesn’t!

1. Get up and pee

I know, I know – leaving the wonderful warm cocoon of bliss to trudge to the toilet and sit on the cold porcelain throne is the last thing anyone wants to do. But you know what else is the last thing anyone wants? It’s getting a UTI. For the lucky ones amongst us who have never experienced a Urinary Tract Infection, a UTI occurs when bacteria enter the urinary tract through the urethra and multiplies in the bladder. Unfortunately, vagina-owners tend to get it more regularly due to the shorter distance between our urethra and bladder. Other factors like sexual activity, menopause, birth control etc may also contribute to the frequency of UTIs.

How do you know if you have a UTI? Trust me, you’ll know. Symptoms include burning after urination, constant urge to urinate, passing small amounts of urine despite the urge, cloudy pee and sometimes pelvic pain. If left untreated, it can lead to infection of the bladder, kidney and even sepsis.

You don’t necessarily need to have sex to get a UTI, but having sex does increase the chances of having a UTI. Sure you can just wash up in the shower but when you empty your bladder after sex, it allows the bacteria to be flushed from your urinary tract before an infection can begin. Also be sure to wipe from front to back to prevent bacteria from the anal region to spread to your vagina/urethra, especially if anal intercourse was involved. (P.S. this is also why you shouldn’t be penetrated vaginally straight after anal unless a change in condoms or clean up is involved.)

If I was asked for my one golden rule to sex, this would be it: P.A.S. (PEE AFTER SEX). This particular passion stems from an unfortunate personal incident. I’m particularly susceptible to UTIs and on one occasion, I ended up in the hospital on a drip because of a kidney infection because I ignored my symptoms and chose to drown myself in cranberry juice instead. Lesson learned – just P.A.S

2. Make cleanup sexy, tender or funny (or all three)

There’s this storyline in Sex & The City where Miranda goes out with a former Catholic schoolboy and she notices that he jumps straight into the shower immediately every single time they make love. She wonders if it’s because he’s linked sex to shame and the next time they were in bed, she grabs onto him and tells him it’s ok, he doesn’t need to wash it off. He proceeds to go off at her in a dramatic tirade of Catholic guilt projection. We’re made to believe that Miranda definitely dodged a bullet there, but just like her bestie Carrie would muse to the rest of us:

I couldn’t help but wonder – while it’s so easy for us to get down and dirty, why can’t cleaning after come up (or in this case, cum off) just as easily?

Back to blaming the reel world and especially porn scenes, no one ever shows you how messy sex actually is. There’s no lingering close-up shot on the wet patches in bed or the smell of sweat and bodily fluids lingering in the air. We also don’t really talk about The Waddle amongst our friends, let alone our feminine elders to pass down these notes.

What’s The Waddle you ask? It’s the term we coined for when after your partner ejaculates inside you, you end up doing an awkward shuffle to the toilet (which hopefully is in the same room) while half cupping your genitals and squeezing your legs so that the said ejaculation doesn’t drip down your legs. In other words, you’re pretty much waddling like a duck at high speeds to avoid semen spillage.

Well, there’s an app for that.

Image via Awkward Essentials

Just kidding, but there is an apt (product) instead to solve that dilemma: enter Awkward Essentials and their brilliantly named Dripstick®. Dripstick® is made from a medical grade polyurethane sponge with a polypropylene handle and the only after sex clean up sponge on the market. Think of it as a tampon that you insert after sex in order to absorb bodily fluids so that you no longer have to do The Waddle to the loo but instead feel confident and leave the bed as gracefully as when you hopped in.

If the Dripstick® isn’t your go-to, there are still ways to ensure post sex clean-up is a breeze. We’ll like to call this aftercare move The Flight Stewardess. Set up a small basin of hot water with face towels soaking inside next to your bed. By the time you’re done, the water in the basin would have cooled off to a nice warm temperature. Just squeeze the excess water from the towels and use the hot damp towels to wipe each other down. Say “Hot towel?” with a wink and let him decide if the complementary nuts are next.

Too much prep needed? A good old fashioned shower together is also a crowd-pleaser. While some may feel like a shower with your partner is the prelude to the sexy times, sharing a shower afterwards also allows for a tender moment together to decompress. You may scrub each other in hard-to-reach places for continued intimacy but you can also just wash your own selves and use the time to chat casually as a transition between such an intense emotional moment to a neutral state. Sometimes nothing feels as grounding as when you’re discussing weekend plans with your partner in the shower after being so vulnerable beforehand. On the flipside, take note of your partner’s state as well. Some partners appreciate the euphoric high after sex and feel most bonded and affectionate then. Talking about who’s taking out the trash later might kill the mood and make sex seem like something to tick off the to-do checklist if not enough emotional aftercare is taken.

3. Sexy Post-mortem

This leads us to the next point – the sexy post-mortem. We understand that an audit and feedback after a project helps to improve our work lives. Likewise, the same can apply to sex and intimacy. Unlike business though, we recommend a softer approach when it comes to giving feedback to your partner since sex can be a highly emotional affair that’s intrinsically tied to one’s insecurities. Note that a softer approach doesn’t mean a dishonest one. A possible approach is where one highlights the good parts first before going into the critique of the less preferable moves. For example, instead of saying “I hated it when you did X. It did nothing for me.“, you can phrase it as “I really liked when you did Y, that felt amazing. It didn’t feel as great when you switched to X but at least we tried it. Let’s do Y again the next time… it felt so good!”

If it doesn’t feel authentic to you or you need more time to process and check in with yourself after sex, you can also give a genuine compliment on how you enjoyed yourself generally or just a huge smile and kiss afterwards to show your partner aftercare. Save the post-mortem for another day when you’re both feeling more neutral or bring it up right before intimacy as a sexy suggestion; “Hey remember what we did that day? Wanna try it again?”

However if it was an act that you found yourself uncomfortable with or felt unsafe, you should address your boundary directly, whether immediately after or when you’ve processed it later. E.g. “You know how you choked my neck just now? I was caught by surprise and didn’t enjoy it as it actually hurt me. It might have been in the heat of the moment but let’s talk about boundaries and safe words for future.”

4. Pillowtalk & Cuddling

This is my personal favourite: those hazy 3 am chats in bed when sleep is heavy on the eyelids but hearts feel light with love. After the cleanup and when you’re just spooning in bed, it just feels nice to be wrapped around your partner’s arms. If you’re both not completely wiped out and snoozing away, that’s when the real talk happens as the masks come off. Conversations tend to segue into memories, hopes, dreams, and fears in this quiet dreamlike state. Enjoy the moment as it stands and appreciate the opportunity for vulnerability and connection.

The downside to cuddling while falling asleep? Apart from getting too warm or stealing too much of the blanket, you or your partner might end up with numb arms from cradling each other’s head. We’ve spotted this cuddle pillow which we’re definitely adding to our wishlist! Even if you’re a solo sleeper, the arm rest on the pillow is designed so that you can comfortably sleep on your sides. All that’s left to decide is whether you’re the little spoon or the jetpack.

Image via Amazon

5. Hydrate and snack

Whether it was slow and sensual or a rough ride in the hay, sex burns calories. In a study by University of Montreal, men burned 101 calories and women burned 69 calories, burning an average of 3.6 calories per minute. We suggest hydrating afterwards (especially if alcohol was involved beforehand) in order to avoid feeling hungover. Feeling peckish? Order in that pizza or indulge in dessert and create another intimate moment by catching up with each other over food. Over time, it could even be a personal ritual or inside joke with your partner like a Pavlovian response – e.g. the sight of Ben & Jerry’s Netflix & Chilll’d™ pint in the freezer means it’s sexy time…

Image via Ben & Jerry

6. Checking in with yourself

Aftercare doesn’t necessarily end the next day. As mentioned above in sexy post-mortem, there might be some emotions or thoughts lingering around that you are still processing. Society has conditioned us to feel guilt and shame when it comes to the taboo subjects and especially in women’s pleasure. Don’t feel weird or apologetic about them as sex can be emotionally as intensive as it is physically. Take care of yourself as you would a friend: Do you feel drained or energized by your sexual encounter? Do you feel safe? Do you want to see them again? What did you enjoy? What did you dislike? What would you like to try in the future?

In a friends-with-benefits situation, checking in with yourself and your buddy is just as important as P.A.S. Even though it might be a relationship that’s built on physical needs, there should always be mutual respect, trust and safety for both parties. Safety comes in the form of physical safety, emotional (e.g. consent, boundaries), sexual safety (e.g. STI testing, protection) and privacy (e.g. sexting, confidentiality). Before you get involved in a FWB relationship, be clear about both your expectations and boundaries.

Some are able to compartmentalize their emotions in a FWB situation and have fun, while others tend to get attached to their FWB and may want to go beyond and into a romantic partnership. Some FWB relationships may become genuine friendships and run for a longterm course. Others might fizzle out or end when one person has found a long-term relationship. There’s no clear and fast rules when it comes FWB except that you make them. So respectful and transparent communication should always be a hallmark in checking in with each other.

There are a few things in aftercare that we didn’t touch about in this article like STI testing and emergency contraceptives (i.e. morning-after pill) as these are more specific in nature and deserve their own in-depth articles.

If you’ll like further reading on emotional safety and aftercare in sex, check out sex educator and counsellor Greer Alexandra whose mission is: “to Educate on the importance of Emotional Safety within Sexual Encounters. To build communication skills, assertiveness and empathy during sexual encounters.” Her Instagram (@modern_intimacy_ ) on how to instill emotional safety and set boundaries throughout all the stages of sex are easy-to-follow and actionable for those who wish to incorporate them in their sex life confidently.

Honestly, I hope these points are not new for you as you and your partner have been engaging in them – intentionally or not. Otherwise, it’s never too late to start and I hope they will be useful for your next sexy encounter. These are all the things I wished I’d known all those years ago when I was wrapped in a blanket alone for my first time and nowhere as euphoric as the movies eluded sex to be. On the bright side, I’m so grateful that I’ve come a long way since then (Carrie-esque pun fully intended)!

Leave a comment if you’ll like to share about your personal favourite aftercare rituals!