Aftercare is the practice of making sure everyone involved in a sexual or kinky experience feels safe and cared for post-play. While the term is primarily used within BDSM communities as the final aspect of a scene — this practice can be integrated into all kinds of sex.

During sex, especially if you had an orgasm, a huge rush of endorphins and oxytocin will flood your body, and when these chemicals suddenly dissipate, it can cause a strong emotional response. In BDSM this can often be referred to as sub/top drop. Studies have found that people commonly report feeling tearful or anxious after sex, for no tangible reason. Not having a nurturing space to decompress after a sexual experience can impact people psychologically and physically.

This is where aftercare comes into the scenario! Providing care for one another while those hormones are returning to normal levels will allow it to feel less shocking.

While aftercare might come more seamlessly for long-term or regular play partners — everyone deserves this kind of nurturance, even when the relationship is casual. That means yes, friends-with-benefits and one-time hookups still need this attentive and intentional care. Here are some tips on navigating aftercare with your casual cuties.

Talk About the Experience Together

While consent and talking about desires prior to sex is incredibly important — so is the debrief. You can tell your partner or partners what you liked, what didn’t work so well, if a certain position was painful, or if you want there to be a next time. These conversations will enhance your pleasure in the long run because everyone — whether top, bottom, submissive, or dominant — is given the space to share how the experience was for them.

It could be that you negotiated a very specific scene you’d never done together and it didn’t feel as amazing as you thought it might. Especially when navigating sex or kink play with a new partner, people might realize their communication styles are different throughout sex. Maybe one partner likes continual check-ins while the other prefers to rely on body language. Aftercare communication allows those needs to be talked about honestly.

Read: BDSM 101 Tutorial - The Importance of Communication

Engage in Non-Sexual Physical Intimacy

Oxytocin (also known as the love hormone) is released post-sex and it can make you want to nap, get comfortable, and snuggle. It’s what causes you to crave continued physical connection with your partner(s) after sex. Oxytocin also can enhance an emotional connection between people, if you’re open to it.

Offering cuddles to your partner(s) is comparative to the savasana pose in yoga — if you left a yoga class without this final resting pose, you might feel raw and emotional. Physical intimacy aftercare can come in many forms — maybe you love cuddling, but, if not, try taking a shower together, watching a movie or TV show in bed, giving a long hug, or curling up separately under a fuzzy blanket.

Read:

Offer Water or Snacks

My longest friends-with-benefits relationship was when I was in college — and Nick’s* love language was definitely food. That translated to our more casual relationship by way of freshly cooked bacon after every romp at his place. After sex, he would fry up some bacon before he either walked me home or we passed out in his bed. It made me feel cared for and like I wasn’t just an object of pleasure for him (which had previously been my experiences with casual sex).

Sex can definitely deplete your strength and energy levels — your heart rate increases and you burn calories — so hydration and food are great forms of aftercare. Having an easy snack like chips, ice cream, or fruit on hand, for this reason, allows your partner(s) to feel taken care of and appreciated.

Offer Transportation If You Aren’t Having a Sleepover

If a sleepover isn’t on the table for whatever reason, the person hosting should always make sure their casual cutie has a safe way home. I get it, sometimes you have to work early in the morning and want to be able to have your routine without someone new in your space. But having to get out of bed and commute home after sex can feel jarring.

Allow time for snuggles or connection before offering your partner(s) a ride home. Maybe you order them an Uber or Lyft — if they drove, you can offer to walk them down to their car.

Read: Packing Your BDSM Emotional Survival Kit

Sweet Texts the Following Day

Giving yourself time and space to reflect on your experience allows for a sense of afterglow — sharing sweet affirmations or sexy memories extends aftercare into the following day(s). Continuing positive emotions long after a sexual experience will not only allow for a more pleasurable and intentional relationship with your casual cutie — but it can also increase trust for vulnerability. Talking about sexual desires and boundaries can be difficult for so many of us and relationships with more trust and less stress/anxiety allow people to feel safer to talk about sex in an open and honest way.

Communication allows for better sex, and who doesn’t want that?

*Name changed for anonymity.