The Sex Hangover
It's seven in the morning. You're waking up and something doesn't feel right: your head is pounding, you feel sad; you just want to pull the blankets over your head and never get out of bed again. What's happening?
We all know what a hangover feels like - that unpleasant combination of tiredness, dehydration and nausea is one almost all of us have experienced at some point in our lives. It makes us declare 'never again!' to our friends the next day, as we're downing coffee (or Berocca.) And then as soon as the opportunity arises, we're back out there again having fun. That's how it works for me, anyway.
Sometimes I see my clients in such a headspace, and it's not always about drinking. As I'm getting ready to leave a booking I'll notice sadness about them, or hear about it the next day when we exchange post-booking emails. Sometimes I discuss it with new clients, who describe feeling down the day after seeing someone new. There's more than one type of hangover. Here are the most common...
The Regular (Drinking) Hangover
Do your kidneys hurt? Got a headache? Feeling tired? Did you drink a lot last night, and have a lot of sweaty, energetic sex? You may have a regular old hangover. Drink lots of water and take your vitamins! You'll feel an improvement within hours.
Although it's common to want to have a few drinks to steady the nerves before a big date, sometimes the experience can be more fun when you're closer to sober. Maybe consider how many it too many, next time you're in the same situation?
The Adventure Hangover
The idea of a 'comfort zone' - that place that feels easy and familiar and habitual - is pervasive in self-help literature. We're always being told to 'step out of your comfort zone', as though we're not living unless we're continually pushing ourselves to be adventurous. I agree with this principle in theory - there's nothing more important than challenging yourself. But I think the idea lacks balance. Not only do we need time inside our 'comfort zones' to recharge, there is also the possibility of stepping too far out. When we move beyond what is familiar we are exposed and vulnerable. It's a great experience but there's also danger - the unknown, the possibility of things going wrong. Committing to this risk is necessary if we want to gain new and rewarding experiences. But is there such a thing as 'too vulnerable', 'too scared' or 'too challenged'? I think there is.
This is what we call the 'edge' of our experience. It's great to push into new territory - going to a new social event, or asking someone out on a date. For others it might take the form of trying a new kink, or putting yourself out there with a work of art, an idea at work, a business venture, or a new piece of writing (yes, I'm referring to myself here!) How far we push, or how scary things get, is a matter for our own judgement. If we step out a little we feel challenged. If we step too far, we may find ourselves feeling fearful.
Fear exists for a reason: to keep us safe. I have a friend who is continually pushing himself past his fear, as he believes it's the only way to overcome it. Men in particular are taught that it's important to be courageous, to challenge their fears or possibly even deny that the fear exists at all. Guys aren't even supposed to feel scared, right? Except that they do - we all do. Fear is there to protect us. It is our bodies' way of telling us that we may be moving into dangerous territory, and it's time to put some risk management practices into place.
Whenever my friend comes up against a situation where he feels fear, he forces himself through it. Often this is in social situations, especially sexual situations. Sometimes he uses drugs or alcohol to take the edge off his fear so that he can keep going. I don't think this is a good idea. Fear is there as a warning sign - not necessarily to stop, but to evaluate safety before we move forwards. It might be letting us know we are moving too far out of our comfort zones, and exposing ourselves to physical or emotional risk.
What happens when we step too far out? This is the aforementioned 'adventure hangover', the thing that happens when you've gone and done something 'crazy' and you're feeling the repercussions. For a lot of my friends, stepping 'too far out' means trying a challenging kink that they haven't done before, rushing into social situations without the necessary time to prepare, or getting sexual with someone new before trust has been established. For my clients, it could mean meeting an escort for the first time - it can be a super scary experience. Are you beating yourself up a bit the next day? Do you feel like you took things a bit too fast?
And adventure hangover isn't a sign of failure. In fact, it shows that your body and mind are working as they should, to protect you from experiences that might be too much. Treat it as a learning experience - you may have stepped too far out of the circle, but you learned something about your limits. We need to take things at a safe pace. Move back to a 'comfortable level of discomfort' and you may find that in months or years, the thing that seemed 'too scary' and gave you such a bad hangover will become natural and comfortable.
The Intimacy Hangover
This is something I have heard about from my clients...some more than others. One guy wrote to me before we met, describing his period of depression the day after a booking and how much it bothers him. But for other people this can happen right after sex, or at the end of a booking - feeling lonely, disconnected, alienated or just generally down.
An intimacy hangover reminds me of the phenomenon we call 'drop' in the kink scene. When two people do kinky stuff together, there's a strong bond of trust and responsibility. Even if the participants aren't close outside of the play session, the need for trust creates a connection that's incredibly intense. When play ends, that connection is severed. People often feel the loss of this intimate contact. It's compounded by the fact that their brains have sucked up every last supply of endorphins during the session, leaving them feeling emotionally drained and sometimes even depressed. Experienced BDSM players are aware of this and will attempt to mitigate the effects of 'drop' in their play partners by easing out of the session slowly, with lots of cuddles, tea or whatever it is that the people involved need in order to help them still feel connected.
Similarly, an 'intimacy hangover' can be experienced by sex work clients. Although we aren't close outside of the booking, inside of it there is a lot of trust and connection. We suspend our rational knowledge around the situation (that it's commercial) for a period of time so that we can enjoy the feelings of pleasure and connection with another human being. Our bodies use up the same endorphins and experience the same level of intensity. Once the sex or the session is done, moving back into a headspace where you are not as emotionally intimate can be jarring.
We're not designed to be rational around sex. It's hard for us to see something as genuine and rewarding, but also as a commercial exchange, so we suspend disbelief for a period of time. But when the sex is over sometimes it's easy to discount the whole experience, once there is a reminder that your escort is a professional (i.e. once she is preparing to leave, or the day after when she is gone). I have often observed clients becoming withdrawn or starting to doubt the sincerity of our time together.
I had a client describe this to me in detail once "I always feel depressed the day after a booking. I'm not sure whether it's because I doubt the sincerity of the lady, or whether I just feel more alone than usual. Sometimes I replay things in my head and wondering if she was faking it. Or I just feel sad that I don't have someone who can be around all the time."
Once the intimate connection ends there is a lot of room for negative thoughts to move in - did she enjoy it? Was it real? Reminders of loneliness, a feeling of being abandoned, feelings of shame around buying sex due to our culture's backwards views on sex work - all this stuff can get to us. You will be especially vulnerable these worries when you're low on endorphins and feeling tired. I think it's important to understand that in the moment, the feelings of connection and pleasure you experience are valid. It doesn't matter what the circumstances are surrounding your connection - whether it's an escort, your girlfriend, a one-night stand...if it's genuine, you will know it.
The Antidote - Self-Care
The way to combat all of the above is via self-care. No matter what the cause, the same principle applies: acknowledging that your feelings are normal is the most important thing. Don't shame yourself for feeling depressed or run down - it's a natural response of the body, and it's there to protect you. It's a sign you need to slow down and take care of yourself.
An alcohol hangover is easy - effectively managed with fluids, good food and rest.
An adventure hangover? Try talking things over with a trusted friend or writing your thoughts down. I have a number of clients who keep escort journals, and use their reflections post-session as a form of therapy. It's important to remember that there is no need to be ashamed of stepping too far out of your comfort zone - it's just a learning experience. As you explore further, you'll find that things which were previously too challenging will become less so. It's just a process; one that can't be rushed.
And an intimacy hangover? For escort clients, I find that easing out of a session slowly helps. I like to make time to lie and talk, to share a glass of wine after sex, and discuss what we enjoyed about the booking. If you're feeling down the day after, why not write your lady a short email thanking her for the encounter? It's a chance to reconnect and acknowledge the intimacy you shared. Journaling or writing a review is also a great way to re-live some of the good stuff and reassure yourself that just because you’re not feeling great today, doesn't mean that the good stuff didn't happen. Memories are the best things we take away from our encounters.
What does your self-care look like? Everyone is different. Have some ideas ready for the day after, so that you're well-armed to address the post-booking blues.