It’s the season of giving thanks and being grateful! That’s also the theme of today’s guest post by sex and relationships consultant and writer, Ness Cooper (she/her). This one gave me lots to think about and I hope it will for you, too.
Giving Thanks for Sex by Ness Cooper
In a sweaty mess, he rolled over and as he looked into my eyes and kissed me, he uttered two words that shocked me: “Thank you”.
Mentally mumbling in my head and set-back from the intimate headspace we were just in, I didn’t know how to respond. Part of me wanted to say that I don’t accept thanks for sex. It was the first time anyone had said thank you to me after sex, and I really didn’t know how to take it.
Part of me wanted to have a go at him for being silly because really, he shouldn’t have to say thanks for something we were both enjoying mutually. But upon reflection, I realised how rare it had been over my sexual and romantic life, that someone had ever thanked me for intimacy. And it made me realise how rare it was to be thanked for doing anything in my past relationships, from thoughtful plans to romantic tasks, and even gift-giving.
Had I just gotten used to bad relationships? The answer probably is yes, as those matches haven’t lasted, and obviously there were good reasons for them to end.
To make things even more interesting, I have been teaching couples to say thank you to each other for over 10 years, including after sex as part of aftercare. So I shouldn’t have been surprised that one day someone would actually say it to me, but I found myself in that very situation.
Saying thank you whilst sharing vulnerability can be hard to process as we’re both in a vulnerable state post-sex. It can feel natural to be on your guard when things happen that you’re not used to. But thanking someone post-romp generally isn’t an expression that has hidden intentions or anything to worry about, it’s someone being vulnerable with you and thanking you for being vulnerable with them.
Thinking about it more, I realised that I had always been led to believe certain things around sex were just expected, whilst a lot of the time teaching people that we shouldn’t expect sex a certain way. I think:
- I had always been taught that sex is something we should do but not talk about.
- That there’s a certain standard to sex and even when reached we don’t get praise for it – just like many other roles in society that are expected, sadly.
- That we sometimes feel we should be “British” and be ashamed of receiving things from others or sharing vulnerability in any form.
- If it’s good, you’re lucky, and you should be grateful.
These are the main factors I was led to believe from my upbringing and poor sex and relationship education. And even though I fight against these things regularly when teaching sex and relationship education, I hadn’t really been faced with them in my day-to-day life until I was thanked for sex.
Yet, we should be thanking each other for having a good time together. As long as that time is enjoyable and consensual, the context of the intimacy shouldn’t matter. If it was important to you, and the other person or people showed you things that had meaning to you then, then saying “thank you” to them could mean so much to them even if it’s a casual encounter.
I’ve seen people challenge thanking intimacy in the past as it can make it feel like a transaction. Even over the many years, I have engaged in sex work, being thanked by clients for services is rare. We’ve partly come to expect sex, no matter what format it is offered, free, paid, or a mutual exchange. And from that expectation of just thinking we have a right for it like many other things, we have forgotten to say thank you and apricate that vulnerability someone has to others or share with us.
It’s also worth noting that it’s not just paid services and gifts we should thank people for, but we should thank people more often for other ways in which they influence our lives positively. It may sound a bit like Charles Dickens here, but when did money have to exchange hands for us to be thankful for something?
I may have gotten used to people I dated acting a certain way, and when someone changed that dating script I had been so used to, it made me realise that I didn’t have to keep following the same routine. It can be really hard to change dating patterns, even when we want them to change, and this can also make it harder for us to accept those changes when they do happen. I now know from my own experience that accepting and being able to go-with-the-flow during these changes can take time. Making sure you make room for them in your life for the things you have wanted and needed deep down can make a big difference to your sexual wellbeing.
So I end this article of reflection by giving thanks to that person who taught me that yes, you really can say “thank you” when sex is involved.