What should I do after sex?

Dear Alice,

What do I do after sex? Should I just lay there? Should I talk about it?

Dear Reader,

Just as there is no "right" way to have sex, there is no "right" way of interacting with each other after sex. Some people just lay there, other people may talk about the experience or how they feel. Other people go to sleep, get out of bed, go to the bathroom, get ready for work, turn on the TV, or any other combination of activities and conversations. There are, however, some health and hygiene-related activities that you might want to consider doing after sex; "safer sex" doesn't end at contraception!

For people with vaginas, it's recommended that they urinate within a half-hour after sex in order to help prevent a urinary tract infection (UTI). There is no need to give your vagina any special treatment in terms of hygiene, aside from regular bathing, washing the outside with warm water, and avoiding scented products (like soaps, sprays, and period products). It's best to avoid douching, as contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or pregnancy. For people with a penis, urinating isn’t as pressing for UTI prevention; however, it is still a good idea to take care when washing your penis. Mucosal skin is sensitive and can be easily irritated whether from secretions during vaginal sex, fecal bacteria from anal sex, or mouth enzymes and bacteria from oral sex. Washing your penis with warm water using gentle, fragrance free, dye-less soap is sufficient. Uncircumcised people have more mucosal skin, therefore it’s recommended to clean under the foreskin regularly to avoid smegma buildup.

Not only can the after-sex care of your body be important for hygienic reasons, but so too can the cleanliness of other accoutrements you may have used while in action. If not cleaned properly, sex toys can harbor sperm, bacteria, or STIs that can cause pregnancy or infections the next time they are used. Checking the instructions from the manufacturer is always a good place to start when cleaning sex toys, especially because cleaning tips can vary depending on if your toy is made of a nonporous (glass, stainless steel, hard plastic, silicon) or porous (rubber, vinyl, nylon, leather) material. If you no longer have the instructions, consider wiping toys down with a clean cloth soaked in anti-bacterial soap. When the toys are dry you can store them in a pouch in a cool and dry place, which can help keep them in top condition for many uses to come!

Before deciding what to do after sex, you might consider checking in with your partner(s). Have they mentioned something that they’d like to do? What if you're thinking of falling asleep or watching TV after washing up but your partner feels like cuddling or having a deep conversation? The only way to know is to ask, and the only way for your partner(s) to know is to tell them. Something as simple as, "Gosh, I'm really hungry and would love to get something to eat right now. What about you?” or “How are you feeling? What would you like to do now?" can both be great starts to the conversation.

There are so many possibilities. . . have fun exploring!

Last updated Mar 10, 2023
Originally published Mar 09, 2001

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