It’s essentially the first social rule you’re taught in life — when someone does something nice for you, you’re supposed to say “thank you.” It’s polite! Being grateful is good for you! Even so, many of us get totally weird when it comes to expressing gratitude toward someone helping you experience one of life’s greatest pleasures — i.e., saying thank you after sex.
Today, I put out a poll to my Twitter followers asking them how they felt about the matter. With just under 300 responses as of writing, 37 percent said they don’t care about someone saying thanks after sex, while 33 percent said they don’t like it. Only 30 percent said they enjoy being thanked. But while people should obviously do whatever it is makes them happy with regard to sex, there’s actually good reason to think that pairing gratitude with intimacy will make you happy.
Last year, psychologists tracked 118 couples’ sense of sexual satisfaction and “communal strength,” a term that refers to the extent that people desire to respond to their partner’s sexual needs and wants. What they found was that couples who expressed and felt the most gratitude among their partners regarding sex also experienced the most sexual satisfaction and communal strength. In other words, when someone felt as though their partner was appreciative of their partner fulfilling their needs, they too felt more sexually satisfied and wanted to continue fulfilling those needs further.
But even so, some think there’s something off about saying thank you after boning. Perhaps this is largely in reference to people hooking up for the first time, or who are otherwise not in a relationship. Regardless, what seems most important about acknowledging your appreciation after sex isn’t just whether you do it, but how. “You have to say it in the right way — like if it seems like the same way you thank the cashier at the grocery store, then that’s weird as fuck,” my friend Matt tells me.
“It’s like I just passed them the salt,” an anonymous follower adds. “I think maybe the reason it feels this way is that ‘thank you’ is for inconveniences, or something you asked someone to do for you as a courtesy or favor for at their own minor expense.”
In that sense, having someone say thank you can make the whole thing feel transactional, as though you did something you didn’t really want to do and that the sex was ultimately one-sided. Given how most people want sex to feel mutually beneficial and enjoyable, it’s fair that this notion would be upsetting. However, there are ways of saying thank you or expressing gratitude that acknowledge both people’s pleasure and agency. As Matt pointed out, there’s gotta be a sense of intimacy to the thank you, rather than just formality. Rather than just dropping a dry “thanks,” try being specific about what you’re grateful for — “Wow, thank you, I really enjoyed how you did XYZ!”
If outright saying the words “thank you” still seems off, something like “that was really great” still drives home the point that you’re grateful. You don’t need to be overly earnest but, c’mon, you just had sex. If you can’t be honest and open post-coitus, when can you be?
Given that the majority of the people I polled said they either don’t like it or don’t care, I suppose it’s fair to just avoid the matter entirely, and find some other means of acknowledging that you had a good time. Still, there’s something nice about it, and the research backs me up in thinking that it’s healthy.
Maybe saying “thank you” will make your new partner think you’re a little bit weird, or maybe they’ll be so glad you said it that they’ll want to keep fucking you again and again. Isn’t that a risk worth taking?