When Harry Met Post-Coital Dysphoria. Ladies, how many times have you been lying next to your partner in bed right after sex wondering what he’s thinking? How many times have you come right out and asked him what he’s thinking? In all those responses, did any of them ever say “I’m so filled with shame and self-loathing, I kinda wish I was dead”?
Researchers in Australia decided to dig deeper into how men feel after an orgasm, a subject which has been extensively studied in women before, but not with respect to men — in large part because the assumption has always been that men feel just swell after sex.
Do men just want to get up and leave after sex, as a Billy Crystal character in a certain late 80s rom-com once claimed, or is it more complicated than that? Read all about it in Calico’s latest post, “When Harry Met Post-Coital Dysphoria.”
by Calico Rudasill, Sssh.com Porn For Women and Couples
Every so often, I flash back to a time in my life when I’d be lying in bed with a man, shortly after having sex with him, and I’d ask him some version of the question: “What are you thinking right now?”
I suppose as a young woman, the main reason I did this was to fish for affirmation of some kind – I wanted to hear him say something nice about me, or about the sex we’d just had, or anything which indicated he was feeling emotionally committed to me in some way.
The funny thing? When the guy said the sort of things I wanted to hear, instead of being happy about it, my bullshit detector would go off in my head and loudly sound the alarm: He doesn’t mean it. He’s just saying what you want to hear.
From the Heart of Fiction, the Ring of Truth
One day, when I was in my early 20s, I sat down with a group of friends of both sexes to watch a movie I hadn’t seen when it was in theaters – When Harry Met Sally.
Most likely because it had been described to me as a “romantic comedy,” a genre which has never appealed to me much, I had avoided the movie, expecting it to be a bunch of cutesy nonsense which would just make me want to puke up popcorn on my friend’s couch.
But something happened as I watched the movie – something remarkable. One of the guys in the room, John (yes, in this case that is his real first name), kept interjecting with loud proclamations of “Yes!” at key moments in the dialogue, all of them coming right after the Harry character said something quite contrary to what a woman might want to hear.
One of those moments was when Harry asks Sally if she knows what goes through a single man’s mind when he’s lying there with a woman right after having sex with her.
His answer, of course, is: “How long do I have to lie here and hold her before I can get up and go home? Is 30 seconds enough?”
Just as my mind was forming the thought “How awful!” John sprung up off the couch and yelled “Yes! Exactly!”
While I was somewhat shocked by John’s outburst (and suddenly felt quite badly for his girlfriend, who was witnessing all this with a bemused look of detached acceptance on her face), I did take comfort from one thought: My bullshit detector works just fine, after all.
Less Selfish Than Sad?
Maybe I shouldn’t be so quick to assume many men are like John, though. After all, most guys I know weren’t kicked out of their graduate school program for fucking their thesis advisors’ wife, which John was, several years after the movie night described above.
Plus, there’s some research which suggests a good percentage of men suffer from something called “post-coital dysphoria” or “PCD” – something observed even more commonly in women, as it turns out.
As Yasmin Tayag puts it in the Inverse article linked above, “PCD is defined by psychologists as a type of ‘dysphoria’ because the negative feelings are incongruent with the ‘positive emotional experience’ usually associated with consensual sex – the afterglow, the cuddling, and so on.”
In the study Tayag addresses (which was published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy), male subjects from the study are quoted saying things like “(it’s) hard to quantify but after sexual activity I get a strong sense of self-loathing about myself, usually I’ll distract myself by going to sleep or going and doing something else or occasionally laying in silence until it goes away.”
While I don’t want a guy to be lying there hating himself after having sex with me (especially if the fact he just had sex with me is the reason he suddenly hates himself), but at least that reaction would make me feel sympathy for him – as opposed to a sincere desire to stick a fork in his self-absorbed neck as immediately gets dressed and heads for his car.
Of course, as a married woman who takes monogamy and commitment seriously, my days of wondering what the man lying next to me in bed is thinking after sex. With my husband, there’s no need to ask – because he will tell you what’s on his mind, without fail.
And what’s on his mind, you ask?
“Honey, do we have any peanut butter? I’m starving right now.”
Where’s that damn fork when I need it?
Calico’s work has appeared under various pen names in adult industry trade journals and on several mainstream op-ed portals, including the Huffington Post.
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