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Aftercare 101

June 8 2023 | Written by Rhea Kumar (She/Her)

What Is Aftercare?

In essence, aftercare is a post-play check-in between partners. The origins of the practice come from the kink community. After certain practices like BDSM and S&M, it’s standard to engage in some form of aftercare to ensure that both parties are emotionally supported after their intimate session. But, lately, the aftercare conversation has expanded beyond BDSM to regular sex as well. 

While there aren’t official ‘guidelines’ to aftercare, it’s really between those involved on how they want to engage in it. 

The goal of aftercare is to ensure that everyone in the experience feels safe, seen, and of course, comfortable enough to discuss any concerns that may have come up during sex. 

There’s also a scientific reason why aftercare might be more necessary than you think. During these experiences, adrenaline, cortisol, and oxytocin levels surge, but immediately after sex, they drop. The feelings that many are left with can range from anxiety, shame, or mixed emotions. The hormonal crash can be a lot to deal with, but having your partner also a part of the discussion can help. 

Certified sex therapist Kimberly Atwood differentiates between physical and emotional aftercare:

Physical Aftercare 

  • Cuddling
  • Holding
  • Pillow-Talk
  • Sensual Touch
  • Laughter

Emotional Aftercare

  • Taking care of your partners’ physical and/or emotional well-being,
  • Discussing things that went well (giving positive reinforcement)
  • Discussing things that you would do differently next time, or made you feel uncomfortable

Some common questions some might have about aftercare are: 

How long after sex does aftercare constitute? 

From what most experts say, aftercare can constitute offering your partner a glass of water immediately after or checking in a few days later. What works best for you and your partner(s) is most important, and there’s no right or wrong way to do it. It’s crucial to address your needs earlier than later. 

What if my partner is abrupt after sex but I want to engage in proper aftercare? 

A sexual relationship truly isn’t healthy until both parties agree to everything from the beginning to the end of a sexual experience- yes, aftercare is also included in this. 

Perhaps open the discussion with the positive things you enjoy about your experience with your partner, but emphasize that you’d like their feedback as well, and this may open the floor to a bit more discourse about aftercare, and what might make the next experience better.