What is #Aftercare and Why is it Critical to Sexual Intimacy and Health?
What TikTok, Aristotle, and the language of BDSM can teach us all about the healthy benefits of post-coital cuddles. Can a hug...save your life?
I am an aging latecomer to TikTok and, for now, a passive presence, but in the few weeks I’ve been tooling around on it, I’ve learned a lot from the youngs. I’d been told the TikTok algorithm magically feeds you the content your soul craves, so I was not surprised to see my feed fill up with babies, puppies, babies and puppies together, cats, parents poking fun at their messy teens, teens poking fun at their clueless parents, recipes, #feminism, time-lapse pencil drawings, and science experiments where things explode. (Yes, I am that basic. Show me an infant sleeping in the arms of a golden retriever or a Mento dropped in a bottle of Diet Coke, I am your bitch.)
I was surprised, however, by the appearance of a recurring word within many of the #feminist videos being fed to me, namely: aftercare.
Aftercare? When I see that word, my brain automatically jumps to the aftercare programs at my kids’ schools: chess club, art, roller blading, homework help, your basic bridge between the end of the school day and the end of the work day. (Why these two ends do not match up is a topic for another, angrier essay about women, cultural expectations, and the unpaid labor of mothers.)
That’s not this aftercare. This aftercare is not about taking care of kids after school but rather about taking care of each other after sex. Or “seggs,” as the TikTokers spell it. It often appears accompanied by viral TikTok songs such as “Habits Stay High” by Tove Lo or “Turning Page” by Sydney Rose, or sometimes a short list of words pop up around the TikToker’s head, as she points to these prerequisites for a healthy sex life, one by one, borrowed directly from the language of BDSM: consent, boundaries, communication, aftercare.
Having fallen into a temporary k-hole of such videos, I did a little digging. #Aftercare, in the context of #seggs, is the oft-neglected third act of a sexual liaison. If we put this into Aristotelian terms and draw it as a narrative arc diagram, it would look something like this:
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