I had a sexual encounter with someone I’d never been with before, a visitor who I’d just met in person for the first time. He flew in an airplane to see me and stay with me and my spouse. I’d been in love with him for more than a year, and I was shocked at the lack of aftercare.
As I was getting up to leave his bed, right after the encounter, I touched my friend’s leg and asked if he was going to be ok. He said yes and didn’t ask if I was going to be ok.
After I went back to my own bed and rested, I txted to praise him, say the experience meant a lot to me, and I offered care and reassurance if he needed anything. He said he was good.
the morning after
The next morning, I panicked. My friend made no acknowledgement that anything had happened between us. Since he was our houseguest, I saw him, and I was shocked that he said or did nothing to reassure me.
I got the impression it had been no big deal to him, and he didn’t know I needed aftercare. My body was panicking because our time in his bed had been intense for me. I’d been extremely aroused and vulnerable, nearly having an orgasm as he touched my nipples and caressed my back and neck.
We had sexual interplay and collaborated on an experience. My body was flooded with bonding hormones like oxytocin, and I was high on love. I entered a state unlike my usual state of consciousness, which I had never done with this person before.
So I really needed aftercare. That morning I cried and felt grief in my body, as my friend gave no support to me. In the driveway, I felt his distance and awkwardly asked him, “Do you like me?”
He responded, “I love you, Mama!” The experience was chilling, as I saw he was in the same friendship as ever, while I had experienced something life-changing.
There was a stark contrast between what had happened for us. We’d been in his bed, touching each other, making small sounds, mammaly animals sexy together in space, but our experiences had been totally different emotionally.
I tried to be there for myself. I touched my own arms and held myself. Kind self-talk helped me avoid full-blown panic. I told myself, “I’m here for you. You’re going to be ok. You’re safe. I’m here for you–I’ll always be here for you.” I prayed and asked the sky and Mother Earth to help me, which they do.
the afternoon after
The sex had not been communicated about beforehand. My preference before having sex with anyone is to talk about what we’re doing, define needs and expectations, how we’re feeling, and the context of the relationship. This basic respect and adult kindness is crucial.
A pre-scene conversation is common in BDSM culture, and seems like basic adult responsibility. I wish it was standard before sex between all people. We could talk about STI status and how slow or fast to take it. And we would talk about aftercare needs.
This sexual encounter was unplanned, and the man visiting is not known for clarity or much direct, vulnerable conversation. So there’d been no discussion of what we were going to do, how it might be part of our relationship, or what we might need afterward.
When he went for my breasts almost right away, when I joined him in his bed, that was a surprise. I really wanted it, but it was not what I thought would happen. I’d asked to cuddle with him and tell him a loving sentence, and touching my breasts wasn’t mentioned as an option.
I feel a lot and have huge emotions in my body. That’s valid and pretty normal. People are supposed to bond and care–there’s nothing wrong with that. The love I feel isn’t wrong.
My friend could have used compassion, powers of imagination, or empathy to know that I would feel emotions and need aftercare. He knows me well, so if he had been paying attention to who I am, some sensitivity would have been easy. Instead he selfishly focused on himself.
In the afternoon my friend mentioned he’d been dating and there was a lady things were going really well with. I panicked again. Wow, I had no idea. Immediately I hoped the relationship they were having was open. I felt afraid of this unknown lady being hurt as I was being hurt, and I felt additional fear of being abandoned.
The emotional irresponsibly my friend treated me with was astounding, and I experienced a new level of pain. Later I asked if I could talk to him. I explained that I’d felt vulnerable after we had sexual interaction in his bed.
He asked, “What do you mean by vulnerable?”
“Feeling exposed and raw,” I said. “When I go out into the world, there are usually layers between me and the world that feel protective. My psyche is inside me, behind some layers that help me feel safe. But when I went into bed with you, there was none of that.” I was completely present emotionally and exposed.
I explained to him–it was a big deal to me. I acknowledged that we had done only a little sexually.
“First base,” he said, and I winced inside, that he reduced what happened between us to a teenage boy’s baseball metaphor. To me, it had been significant. But his dick didn’t get touched, so I guess for him, nothing really happened.
I asked how he felt about what happened, and he said he felt good. I asked if he wanted more of that, and I said I wanted to do more with him. He told me no, he didn’t want more; he said he had mixed feelings and was scared.
I was surprised because I’d thought that was a first time and part of building something meaningful. That year and a half of friendship meant a lot to me; I had no idea he would have sexual contact with me with no intentions.
I was blown away by his lack of regard for my well-being. He’s hurt me over the course of our friendship with inconsistency and lack of consideration. But this was beyond.
He mentioned the lady he’s seeing and how she would be hurt. And he said he was scared because in the past, having sex with someone meant he would lose them. So he was afraid of doing more with me and losing me. He gave an example that someone he’d done it with who later wanted nothing to do with him.
Wow, I can see why that might have happened. Does he withhold aftercare from everyone? Tell everyone about significant others after the fact?
I tried to have compassion for his fear. But I noticed he lacked compassion for anything he was doing to me, through deceit, irresponsibility, or selfishness.
Love is normal, for me. I didn’t have any way of knowing that my friend’s treatment of women is reprehensible, that he deceives, under-supports, and uses us. Even if I suspected he had a poor track record, I had no idea I would be subject to that cliche misogyny.
I asked how long he’d known this new lady; he told me three months. He explained they have a language barrier. I felt sorry for her, realizing she’s probably being held in the dark also. She was also guessing at this man’s intentions and seeing his touch as meaningful when it’s not.
Maybe with her, it is meaningful. Or maybe she’s a casual person, which is why it’s going well, as she doesn’t need from him what I need from anyone.
This lack of aftercare is damaging but helps me understand my friend’s fuckery. Two people can share an experience but have totally different needs about it. I had no way of knowing that being in bed with this man would mean nothing to him, he would not give aftercare, or that I’d be hurt badly.
My body knows we had sex together but doesn’t know quite how. My body might be afraid a baby will arrive in nine months, so it’s important to make sure I’m not abandoned for that big responsibility that works better with support.
For my whole life, fear of abandonment is a huge theme. Neglect is part of my ACE score and trauma, a thread in the family pain. The first nightmare I remember from when I was a child, I was three or four years old. It was about my family abandoning me.
I resent that his way of being wins. My tender emotional needs are considered overmuch–his need not to be needed is what matters. I’d like reassurance and care even now, three days later, but reassurance doesn’t make sense, as I really am alone with the experience. It’s not an error of communication–it’s a lack of love.
I can’t ask someone to feel what they don’t. What I most wish for is true intimacy and being real together, but I can’t ask him to be who he’s not. Grow a heart, communication skills, and adult priorities is a weird request. He’s almost 40 years old–if he doesn’t have all that by now, I doubt he ever will. He’s gotten this far without them.
The lesson for me is that I need to be close to people who enjoy doing love–not just exciting bits, but building reciprocal long term mutual well-being. What else is family, relationship, or community for? He’s ok with me building his well-being. But my needs are nothing.
Aftercare is important following any intense experience, not jut sex. Doing a huge project together, being in an accident or tragedy together, after a big argument. One time a friend cleaned part of my house for me, and I had no idea that I would need aftercare, vulnerable that this friend had touched and examined so much of my art, papers, and objects.
My aftercare preference is checking in right afterward, again the next morning, and again the next day. Checking in means asking how someone is feeling, do they need anything, and offering love if requested. Unless you’ve discussed it and the person says they don’t want that, checking in is best practice and basic respect.
I’ll be more careful in the future, not to be close to anyone who’s irresponsible with my heart and body. It’s a long process to learn how to care for my unique self. It’s beautiful that I can trust, and I love that about me. But I apologize to all my true friends who hear what my visitor did, shake their heads, and cry.
The violence I survived as a kid and young adult means I was never taught to see myself as valid or taught that I deserve respect. I teach myself now, as a middle-aged, crazy, disabled woman. I’ll stay close to people who help me learn I deserve respect, and I’ll avoid people who teach me I exist to be used.