Thursday, June 20Royal Holloway's offical student publication, est. 1986

No, I Haven’t Finished Yet

You didn’t orgasm, and now they’re rolling away from you. Their chest is heaving, and you aren’t all that out of breath. You get that sinking feeling that you’re done now. There’s a stickiness in between your legs and a heaviness in your chest, and you can’t articulate that deep discomfort you’re feeling.

Maybe you did. Maybe it was the best sex of your life, but they’re already getting up and heading to the bathroom without you. It makes sense; they’re cleaning themselves up, but you feel rejected. Instead, you hug your legs to your chest and call yourself over-sensitive.

Sex is a three-part story: the build-up, the act, and the aftermath. We know how the build-up goes; a coy dance that ends in people deciding that this, this is good. Sex itself, the climax of this performance. It’s the aftermath that tends to leave people stumped. Surely once it’s over, it’s over. 

Right?

Not quite. This is when arguably the most important element of sex takes place; aftercare. When you type the phrase “sex aftercare” into Google, you are met with many articles that are concerned with justifying why it is crucial, and are busy defining what this mysterious term even is. It’s clear that aftercare simply isn’t being carried out, and it makes me wonder just how many people are left feeling dejected after sex. 

Aftercare has a different definition for everyone. Personally, it means that quality time is spent with the person with whom you just slept. No one is hurrying off, and you are talking over what was good, what felt strange, and what made you laugh. Whatever your sexual arrangement may be, ensuring you and your partner have communicated what aftercare means to the other is essential.

Amongst many other things, Oscar Wilde once said that “everything in the world is about sex, except sex.” If this is true, we spend our entire lives spinning relentlessly towards sex, like it is the sun in the middle of our universe, and we are hapless little planets hurtling right at it. We spend so much time trying to navigate the build-up, picking the metaphorical petals of he likes me, he likes me not, that by the time we get to sex, we’re pretty wrung out already. In all honesty, I agree with Wilde. Sex isn’t about sex. Sex is about vulnerability. Trust. Boundaries. Feelings. Sex throws down the ultimate gauntlet of being yourself, and it feels as though you are entirely placing yourself in someone else’s hands.

Wilde goes on to finish the quote by saying that “sex is about power”, which is a daunting thought. Sex shouldn’t be a competition of who is more powerful than the other – ideally, it’ll be equal between the participants. Even if you are experimenting with more extreme forms of power-play, the foundation of consent and boundaries should always be there. It is paramount that you lay these down before your libido rises and your pulse skyrockets; it’s the sex equivalent of being drink-driving. You’re impaired in your decision making. Set your ground rules. It may be that your partner must use condoms every time, or that they check up on you throughout sex. Establish an understanding that the human body can react differently every time you have intercourse; things may hurt today when they didn’t yesterday. It can be a surprise for both you and your partner; communicate to them that your body is not a sex toy, and that this pain means stop. It’s simpler said than done, but when we don’t make these conditions obvious to others, it’s all too easy to overthink the whole experience.

It’s ironic; it feels as though the word ‘aftermath’ could have a negative connotation to it. The word ‘aftermath’ itself conjures an image of picking up the pieces after a destruction – perhaps attaching it to sex isn’t the best idea. By replacing it with a sense of aftercare, the dynamic instantly shifts. Suddenly, we have ushered in a healthy discussion in which you and your partner can establish as loose a routine as you desire, surrounding what follows sex. 

Picture this: they plop down next to you, and you go in for the pre-clean-up hug. You start to reflect upon the good and bad elements of what just happened, and laugh at the particularly awful parts. One of you accidentally kneed the other somewhere rather delicate, or perhaps you sneezed on their face. Sex is anything but smooth. Most importantly, if a disagreement arose during or afterwards, try to talk it out. Intimacy makes every emotion feel heightened. You’re putting yourself out there – it’s natural you will be more sensitive to certain comments. However you can maintain the connection between you both after you do it. Whatever you do, just don’t get up and leave the second you’ve had your fun.

It truly doesn’t matter what kind of sex you are having, be it casual or part of your relationship. The vital aspect is approaching aftercare, and developing a pattern that makes you feel respected. There are fewer feelings worse than feeling used for your body. Remember, sex is meant to be fun. You’re meant to be able to soak in the post-orgasm glow. It’s not meant to be a race of how quickly someone leaves after they peel off the condom. 

Consider sex to be the antithesis of the mindset of “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” What happens in sex should be talked about for as long as needed. Aftercare isn’t optional – it just isn’t done enough.

Image Credit: Priscilla Du Preez via Unsplash