One of the most common topics in sexuality writing is improving your sex life. The internet is full of general advice covering a wide range of options: new techniques to try, talking about sex, asking for what you want in sex, selecting partners, and more. Most of what you find, however, does not mention the concept of aftercare.
Aftercare is commonly discussed in kinky spaces because it’s a foundational aspect of these types of relationships. However, aftercare can improve sex for anyone, kinky or not.
If you’re not familiar with aftercare, read on. If you already engage in aftercare, check out the end of the article for seven ideas to add to or reinforce within your personal practice.
What is Aftercare?
Considered a crucial aspect of kink, aftercare is caring for your partner(s) before, during, and after sexual activity. In these erotic spaces, love and care co-exist with power and aggression through the practice of aftercare.
At its most basic, aftercare is a post-play check-in between partners. During aftercare, partners give time and attention to each other to wrap up the scene and make sure everyone is feeling safe and comfortable.
There aren’t universal rules defining what you “have” to do for aftercare; everyone’s needs are different. The end goal of your aftercare practice should be to communicate and make sure everyone is feeling good and taken care of.
It’s important to keep in mind is that aftercare isn’t exclusive to kinky encounters, and you can practice aftercare for a wide variety of sexual experiences. You can use aftercare after phone sex, hypnokink, BDSM scenes, or even after more vanilla type sex. Aftercare is not a practice specifically for more submissive partners or bottoms. Tops, doms, switches, and pretty much anyone who engages in sex can benefit from developing an aftercare practice. Even if kink isn’t your thing, aftercare is could be a wonderful practice to bring into your relationship and sex life.
Why Aftercare is Important
Like any part of sex, aftercare can be pretty personal, and it’s something that you can talk about before engaging sexually with someone. Aftercare gives everyone involved a chance to return to their reality outside of the scene or sexual interaction. You can process what happened during the experience, including what you liked, what you didn’t like, what you would change, and any other thoughts that come up during the scene.
Aftercare is also an opportunity to check back in with your partner(s) in the roles you normally occupy in your relationship (no assumptions here about what type of relationships you have!). If explicit power exchange isn’t normally part of your dynamic outside of sex, you can set that aside during aftercare and start shifting back to your typical dynamic.
This time spent debriefing and caring for each other after sexual activity can help everyone to feel more grounded after what can often be an emotionally and physically strenuous experience.
A goal of aftercare is to prevent “drop” after sexual activity. Intense sexual activity can lead to a kind of natural high because of the way sex often leads to increased endorphins or adrenaline in the bloodstream. Ending a scene or sexual experience too quickly can make that high disappear too quickly as well. This leads to an emotional state known as drop. Though commonly referred to as “subdrop”, people of all roles or dynamics can experience drop, whether immediately or several days afterward. By working to prevent drop, aftercare not only improves our sex, but our mental health as well.
7 Ways To Practice Aftercare
Clean Up / Tend to Each Other
Sex can be messy! Help each other clean up, whether that be toys, sheets, or each other. For kinky folks, tend to any injuries that occurred during a scene. You can even keep a dedicated aftercare first aid kit with commonly used items so you always have it handy.
Talk About the Experience
Aftercare is a great opportunity to discuss what just happened during the sexual experience or scene. You can debrief on things you liked or didn’t like, anything you’d like to change, and any notes you have for your partner(s). Great sexual encounters are all about communication, so this time you’ve set aside can not only help you process your experience while helping improve future encounters as well.
Eat Some Snacks
Sex is often physically taxing; have a snack afterward! Everyone has their own preferences, of course, but some ideas: favorite candies or chocolates, fresh fruit or veggies, nuts, baked goods, chips, and energy bars. Whatever you settle on, make sure it’s a food that makes you feel good. Don’t forget to drink lots of water too!
Reflect on Your Thoughts
Is there a way you like to work through your own thoughts? Do you write in a journal or track your moods and activities on an app of some kind? If so, aftercare that involves processing your feelings might feel good to you. You can go over what happened and work out your feelings about it in a way that feels familiar.
Soothe Your Senses
Smell is an extremely powerful sense. If there’s a scent that calms you down or makes you feel great, use it! Light a candle with the smell, burn incense, put on perfume, etc. You can also try listening to some calming music or touching something soft to ground yourself via your other senses.
Physical touch can be another way to feel grounded after sex or a scene. Try snuggling with your partner(s), wrapping yourself up in a favorite blanket, giving each other massages, holding hands, or spooning.
Chill and Then Netflix
Getting lost in a TV show or movie is another option for aftercare. Try to pick something light that will make you feel good, but any favorite will do. You can also try listening to some of your favorite music or a podcast for a similar effect.