Why does everyone talk about intimacy as if it were a glamorous thing? The magazines say that intimacy increases through the use of candles, lube, or aphrodisiacs, provided these items are all sparkly and well-scented. In the movies and books, intimacy is achieved through an unrealistically photogenic kiss, followed by the elegant tucking of hair behind the lover’s ear. Intimacy is the low sultry whisper of sweet nothings by candlelight.
I call bullshit.
We need to start embracing intimacy in the awkward, the embarrassing, the ugly. Intimacy is not meant to be aesthetic, because true intimacy encompasses the un-romantic. It lies in catching an accidental glimpse of all nose hairs in your partner’s nostril; in realising your partner’s hands get damp very quickly, which is why they’re always gripping their trouser knees. It resides in the act of wiping the dandruff flakes from your partner’s hair and then ignoring their protests as you give them a good oil hair massage.
For instance, I have never seen my partner’s face more set in concentration than when he’s trying to get cum off my skin after sex, and doesn’t want to miss a spot. That look on his face? That’s goddamn intimacy, ladies. The period after sex is filled with many similar intimacies. The process of cleaning up is just one of them, but it’s an important one. Now, this is not to say that cleaning up after sex is merely important for getting to know your partner. It’s important for the health of you and your gorgeous nether regions.
Many women across the world only maintain their vulvas to please their male partners, or deal with perfectly normal discharge. These are often not wellness habits–in fact they can have undesirable health outcomes.¹ So to set the record straight² , and give you tips on a few other things besides:
If you’re on your period, lay down a towel. They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure–or an hour of rinsing weirdly shaped bloodstains off your bedsheet. Yes, I’m cheating, I know this isn’t after sex, it’s very much before, but you can save a whole lot of trouble by sacrificing an old piece of fabric. And I hope you sacrifice many, many pieces of fabric–research shows period sex can ease menstrual cramps and satisfy your libido spikes.
Trash it, don’t flush it. If you’ve used a condom, wrap it in some tissue paper or old newspaper, and trash it in the general bin. Not recyclables, and certainly not a toilet bowl. If it looks like the spunk might spill out, tie a knot near the top before disposal (and please pass on my regards to whichever magical creature managed to fill a whole condom to the brim).
Keep it simple with a rinse. Wash around your vulva with water, gently–treat her like the queen she is. But don’t go overboard with chemicals–especially scented products. While we’re at the genitals–wash your hands too. Or just go the whole way, and take a simple shower. Your post-sex cuddle will smell a whole lot nicer.
Light discharges and mild smells are normal. It’s your vagina self-regulating–she’s tidying up the house! Let her do it. It should take a serious and abrupt change from regular discharge patterns for you to start panic-googling.
Drink water, pee, repeat. Feeling horny? Drink a goddamn glass of water. To earn the right to be that kind of thirsty, you first have to quench the literal thirst. Do I need to provide a ‘reason’, when water is basically the most awesome liquid in the world barring mom-made Bournvita? WELL, if you insist. Water polices the bacteria around your urethra that may be getting any funny ideas about ambushing you with a painful urinary infection, and forces you to flush them out. So drink, pee, and wipe front to back with tissue always!
Let air circulation work its magic. Air out your genitals, and make your partner do so too. Not only does it feel great, but dryness foils even the most well-laid plans of yeast and bacteria.
A bonus tip, because I’m feeling nice today—if you use lube, cleaning up works best with the unfussy, non-chemical kind that’s wet when you need it to be, and comes off in a jiffy once coital activities have paused. In fact, we may have one just like that here.
Startling intimacies abound in all these boring rules about hygiene. Once, after sex, I made fun of my partner for being a prude and not letting me watch him pee. I yelled from the other side of the bathroom door: never mind, I’ve already seen you once! He yelled back, wounded: it’s different every time! I roll around that perfect memory in my head whenever I’m feeling low.
These are the ordinary pleasures of awkward intimacies. No sweeping transcendental gestures. So the next time you face a moment where your partner is trying to get your pubic hair off their tongue, don’t be paralysed by the grossness. Let yourself feel the intimacy of the small smiles at what is silly, the shared laughs at what is embarrassing.
1: A. Hilber, T. Hull, ‘A cross cultural study of vaginal practices and sexuality: Implications for sexual health’, (2009)
2: Collated through open source information from Mayo Clinic, NHS, CDC, and Planned Parenthood.
About the author:
She who should not be named, enjoys writing and loves her mom-made Bournvita.