This post was originally published on July 3, 2014.
That's the stereotypical way we tell it: In straight couples, guys sleep after sex and women just want to cuddle. Then there are those other types that resort to post-sex cigarettes or midnight brownies. And, as we also recently learned, many couples have taken to shooting #aftersex selfies in their post-coital glow. In the last few years especially, researchers have been trying to nail down what our post-sex behavior — no matter your orientation — says about our sex lives.
Daniel Kruger and Susan Hughes, two researchers at the University of Michigan, argue that what happens after sex is just as important as the sex itself. In a study of 456 undergraduates, Kruger and Hughes determined that in couples, a woman is just as likely as a man to be the first to fall asleep. However, across the broad, regardless of gender, whoever was the partner who wasn't snoozing after orgasm felt really left out. The partner who fell asleep last after sex expressed a desire for greater bonding and communication from his or her partner. Whether that bonding comes in the form of spooning, watching a Netflix movie, or cracking inside jokes, one thing seems clear: Any behavior that doesn't involve snoozing after sex was considered best for solidifying a relationship with someone. Perhaps the ole bang-and-nap is better suited for casual sex, the researchers concluded.
The scientific belief is that men produce a lot of prolactin after an orgasm (post-sex, not post-masturbation), and it's that hormone that makes them super sleepy. The effort of sex often exhausts a dude and he needs to rest in order to sleep through that intense recovery period before he can have another orgasm, says science. While there may be some truth to that, whether or not we fall asleep probably also has to do with a lot of other factors: how tired we are, what time of day it is, and whether or not we feel the need to bond with a partner (especially if they're a new one) after boning.
An older study in the Journal of Sex Research looked at some of of the other broad post-coital behaviors and found that men are more likely to drink, eat, smoke, or ask their partner for a favor (Will you go downstairs and get the Doritos? Can you fold my laundry?) post-sex. Women, on the other hand, like to "profess their love," and crave more intimate behavior like cuddling. While these results are gendered, all in all, what we do after sex might have more to do with what stage of a relationship we're in and our purposes for having sex. If we're not planning to see the other person ever again, then why not fall asleep and (possibly) leave them frustrated and wide awake?
But, there's also something unspoken in these studies: Part of our post-sex behavior might relate to whether we want to do it again. Due to biology, women are more likely to be down for round two, but also, only a third of women experience orgasm regularly from sex alone. That instinct for spooning instead of snacking might be more alive in women not just because they have major feels, but because they would really like to have sex again soon, please and thank you.
As for the #aftersex selfie takers, I'm not really sure what that curious behavior says about the stage of your relationship, but it may indicate a high likelihood that you are under 18 and have an acute addiction to Instagram.
This post was authored by Kate Hakala.