Is Aftercare The New Foreplay? - Men's Health Magazine Australia

Is Aftercare The New Foreplay?

What you do after sex may be the most essential bedroom activity for a happy relationship.

One night four years ago, I inhaled and exhaled on command, like you do in yoga, as my partner inserted a vibrating butt plug into my behind. Anal play requires a lot of prep and attention; we began with fingers, used plenty of lube, and practised relaxation techniques. When I came my face off solely from anal penetration, what happened next surprised me. I felt vulnerable. I needed some good old-fashioned cuddling to make up for the intensity of what my body had just experienced.  

Thankfully, my partner knew that I was having sub drop, a term for the crash that can follow the emotional high of BDSM play.

They took out the plug, snuggled with me, told me how pretty I was and how much they appreciated me, and offered a snack and a few puffs of weed. After such loving attention, not only were the nervous feelings gone, but I also felt overcome with love. That was the night I first realised the importance of sexual aftercare.

Sex therapists define aftercare as the practice of tending to a partner physically and emotionally following any kind of sexual activity, from butt-plug experiments to WFH quickies. Although aftercare is common in the kink community, evidence suggests we could all benefit: according to a 2018 study in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 41 per cent of men said they’d experienced postcoital dysphoria (aka the “post-sex blues”) at some point in their life, with 20 per cent saying they’d had it in the previous four weeks. The pandemic probably jacked up those numbers, as everyone’s emotional needs increased exponentially. Aftercare helps turn any type of sex into lovemaking, and we need that as much as we need to fulfill our naughtiest fantasies.

“There is a combination of brain and body chemistry that occurs during sex that requires the neurochemical and psychological closure that comes with aftercare,” says Dulcinea Alex Pitagora, a psychotherapist and sex therapist. “The particular benefits depend on the individual but typically include stress relief, empowerment, improved self-image and confidence, as well as increased feelings of closeness and bonding with partners.”

Just as there are different kinds of foreplay, so too are there different kinds of aftercare: after dirty talk, it could be whispering, “I love you so much” into each other’s ears; after spanking and other forms of impact play, say icing a bruise or giving a massage. With my current partner, I’ve leaned into aftercare and found it’s especially helpful after we have a threesome. In the moment, I’m turned on seeing my man with another woman; however, in the days that follow, I want extra attention and can get a little clingy. So we go out on romantic dates and have lots of intimate sex, complete with pillow talk about how committed we are to each other.

As a result, we’re able not just to strengthen our relationship but continue to date women together without unaddressed feelings of insecurity. 

Whether you’re having threesomes or living that sweet vanilla life, you can benefit from a post-sex wind-down ritual that isn’t falling asleep one minute post-orgasm. Use these expert-approved tips to weave the practice into your sex life.


Ask, “How Did That Feel for You?”

Aftercare is a great time to find out what your partner liked (and didn’t). They may share that they love name-calling but feel self-conscious about face sitting. “There is less of a shock to the autonomic nervous system when [you take] time to validate your partner’s experience,” says sex therapist Holly Richmond. In other words,
a little post-sex debrief will show them how much you care. Plus, you’ll learn how to make it even better later on.

Grab a Snack

Just as eggs, salmon and sweet potatoes help replenish key nutrients after a hard workout, a healthy snack or light meal can help the body recover after an intense sex session. (Water, too.) The benefits aren’t just physical; they’re emotional as well. Preparing food can be a couple’s bonding activity or a caring gesture from a dominant to a submissive partner.

Snuggle Up

There’s science behind spooning: cuddling and other forms of intimate touch release oxytocin, a hormone known for promoting bonding and feelings of trust, Richmond says. You can also give your partner light caresses or back scratches while you both float down to earth.

Treat Any Bumps and Bruises

The slap of a paddle can feel fantastic when we’re flooded with endorphins during sex, but the resulting marks can be alarming after the fact. “Some people who have marks from play or sex may want direct care – such as gently rubbing arnica gel into the area, or taking a bath, or whatever else feels soothing,” Pitagora says. (Pssst: cannabis-infused lotions, oils
and other topicals have anti-inflammatory properties and may help with post-sex pain relief.)

Remind Your Partner How Much You Love Them

Calling someone a “dirty little slut” can be orgasmic in the moment, but afterwards your partner could use a compliment. When it’s over, say (or text) something like, “That was so hot. I can’t believe how lucky I am that I get to be with you”. Show them you mean it by sending them flowers, coming home with their favourite treat, or planning a romantic date.

Care for Your Unicorn

When a couple brings in a third (. . . or a fourth . . . or a fifth), the aftercare should extend to everyone. “Because there are several people involved, people assume that everyone will be tended to, but it is easy to overlook someone’s needs,” Richmond says. “Be diligent not to leave anyone out.” Before you all get down, talk over logistics, such as spending the night. After group sex, some people want to stay over, wake up, and have threesome pancakes, while others are eager to hit the road, Jack.

Follow Up

Your partner may still be processing their feelings the day after a hook-up. “What you’re doing by checking in the next day is helping them self-regulate,” Richmond says. Send your lover a text that says, “Last night was so hot! I’m still thinking about it. How are you feeling?” Be honest about your needs, too. You might say, “Last night was great! I’m feeling a little vulnerable, though. I’d love to do x again, but first, I’d love a romantic night in”. The more you can address each other’s needs after sex, the more you’ll both be in the mood to do it again. In that sense, aftercare may be the best kind of foreplay there is.

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