After the climax

New science offers tantalizing insights into the meaning of what we do post-sex, from sleeping to cuddling

By Katie Ryder

Published March 15, 2012 3:59AM (EDT)

      (<a href='http://www.shutterstock.com/gallery-119227p1.html'>Fenia</a> via <a href='http://www.shutterstock.com/'>Shutterstock</a>/Salon)
(Fenia via Shutterstock/Salon)

We’ve learned in sultry old romances and indie films about ill-advised affairs that we like to smoke between the sheets. People like to fix late night sandwiches, cuddle, talk about the future, take a shower. Every sitcom ever made posits that men don't want women to talk after sex. And everyone seems to think it matters who falls asleep first.

But does it really? In recent years, a small number of researchers have been working to develop the science of post-coitus -- a field that's barely been touched.

I spoke with Daniel Kruger and Susan Hughes, evolutionary psychologists at the University of Michigan and Albright College in Pennsylvania who have been working on uncovering the secrets of post-sex behavior. “There is so much attention, in the popular literature in psychology and even in evolutionary research, looking at everything leading up to the act of sex,” said Kruger. “But then there isn’t anything about what happens after.  It’s as if the attitude is, ‘oh, of course sex is the end goal, right?’ We’re making the point that the time that couples spend together after sex is an important part of healthy sexual...

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Katie Ryder

Katie Ryder is a freelance writer and a contributing editor for Guernica. Her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, the Paris Review Daily, NewYorker.com, and others.

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