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Cigarettes (and More) After Sex: Sexual Aftercare

A graphic of a bed with messy sheets and a cigarette. The text reads "Cigarettes (and More) After Sex: Sexual Aftercare."
Maris Ava Cruz
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Aftercare, or the set of practices people use to take care of themselves after sex, is a topic often overlooked.

When it comes to the stages of a sexual encounter, most of us are familiar with foreplay. But what about on the other end of intimacy? That's where aftercare comes in.

Sex can be a lot like a three-act play: there’s the lead-up, the main event, and the ending. But when does the curtain fall? After orgasm? Once you leave the bed? When you’re out the door? The answer is, possibly never — that’s where aftercare comes in.

Sexual aftercare is the series of practices that we engage in to ground ourselves after an intimate and vulnerable activity. Aftercare is often overlooked, but it can provide great psychological benefits to sexual encounters. From cuddling to smoking to even just spending some time alone, there’s no wrong way to practice aftercare.

Host Anita Rao explores what aftercare is and why it’s important with Ev’Yan Whitney, a sexuality doula and sex educator. Also joining the conversation is Cam, an online financial dominatrix, and Ramses Rodstein, a queer trans Mexican erotic filmmaker and performance artist.

Interview Highlights

Ev’Yan Whitney on the benefits of aftercare:

Aftercare is a way to help ground ourselves back into our bodies to connect with our partners, if we've had a particularly challenging or difficult or just like really elevating kind of a scene — it just helps us get back into our bodies, connect with our partners. … Aftercare can also be a way to remind people like: Hey, you're good, you're safe. You're with a partner that loves you, you just did something for yourself that was really positive and healthy for your body. It's a really great way to kind of hit the reset button if things start to get haywire.

"[Aftercare] is what we should be doing anytime there's an especially heightened emotional state, whether it's because of sex, whether it's because of moving, whether it's because of like, going to a haunted house, like taking the dog to the vet, like anything that is stressful or causes a spike in adrenaline or cortisol or even a lot of good hormones. "
Hannah

Cam on setting boundaries in her work:

I'm a very honest person, which I think helps a lot in sex work community. And I will tell somebody, there are times where I can tell that a client is asking for more than what they need. And of course, I wouldn't write somebody off if I didn't know. But there are times where I have had to tell somebody, like: I have to go because I need to take care of myself. And I will just lay down the law at that point and just tell them that I will be either back later or they can message me the next day if they're still feeling that sort of way and then point them again into those resources that I have either done myself or read myself.

Maris (they/she) is a rising junior at UNC-Chapel Hill double majoring in journalism and communications.
Anita Rao is an award-winning journalist and the host and creator of "Embodied," a live, weekly radio show and seasonal podcast about sex, relationships & health. She's also the managing editor of WUNC's on-demand content.