Why Do Some People Cry After Sex?

The hardcore crash of emotions after sex is not as bizarre or uncommon as many might think.

After Zohra, a 28-year-old writer, had sex with her husband a few days after their wedding last year, she couldn't stop tears from streaming down her face. 

It wasn’t their first time having sex – they'd been together for ten years. But for some inexplicable reason, she told VICE, the post-copulation tears became part of their sex life after having tied the knot. 

At first, her partner was confused by the sudden burst of emotion. "What happened?" he'd asked her, worried that he’d inadvertently hurt her. 

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It was all perfect, she'd assure him, unable to pinpoint what she was really feeling apart from a general sense of being overwhelmed. 

“We all live so many lies outside the bed,” she told VICE. “But now, it just feels like this experience is special, that he will have this unique connection with me and me alone. I’m not sure if passionate is the right word or if it’s even possible to come up with the right word to describe the intensity of that experience.”

Experts have explained this kind of emotional reaction after sex as postcoital dysphoria (PCD), defined as feeling tearful or sad after otherwise satisfactory or even great consensual sex. According to a study on PCD by the Queensland University of Technology in Australia, nearly 41 percent of men reported experiencing PCD at some point in their lifetime and nearly 4 percent of people said that they cry after sex on a regular basis.  Another study suggests nearly half of all women experience post-coital crying at least once in their lives, with some reporting (often inexplicable) tears during or after sex several times per month.

Neuropsychologist Jasdeep Mago told VICE that we often manifest our “most easily accessible emotion” in moments of vulnerability – and lying bare with another individual is often a deeply vulnerable act. You are going into an agreement to share each other’s deepest desires, to be seen naked, to be loved, wanted and fulfilled – making vulnerability a core component of our sexuality.  

“Many people actually end up laughing when they hear bad news or do something emotional. They are obviously not literally happy in that moment but it’s their most easily accessible and used emotion, which surfaces in moments of vulnerability,” said Mago. “For people whose easily accessible emotion is crying, myself included, you will notice they can break down even in the middle of an argument.”

In societies where sex is still widely considered taboo, explained Mago, actually having sex can itself be an overwhelming experience for many, the enormity of it resulting in an unexpected rush of tears. 

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This was the case with Rituparna, a 24-year-old content strategist. She was 18 when she first cried after sex. At that age, she said, both she and her partner were not equipped with the tools to navigate her emotional reaction. But years of therapy and self-work helped her understand her emotions and reactions better.

“Growing up in a conservative family in a small town in eastern India, there was a lot of shame associated with sex,” she told VICE. “I also went through some sexually traumatic experiences as a child. So, now, when I’m able to have safe and consensual sex, I cry out of gratitude for deserving a space where my pleasure matters and where I know I’ll be treated like a human being.”

In some cases, experts found that women experiencing postpartum depression may also cry after sex as they experience hormonal fluctuations. Rituparna said that while some might explain this as an interplay of hormones such as oxytocin and dopamine, for her, crying after sex is essentially a cathartic experience.

“It’s almost an otherworldly space for me, and I approach it from a position of great respect,” she said. “So far, my partners have been very understanding whenever I’ve cried. In some instances, they became vulnerable too.”

In the queer space, trusting your flings and hookups with a vulnerable reaction after sex is not a common experience, according to Saurabh, a 32-year-old filmmaker. Whenever he felt like crying after sex, he waited for his partner to leave the room first. 

“The first time I cried, it was from sheer exhaustion,” he told VICE. “I didn’t know why I wanted so much sex and why I had to be such a sexual person. It all became too much for me and I broke down. But I couldn’t cry in front of him because I don’t expect strangers to process or even understand a visceral and emotional outburst.”

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Asma, a 24-year-old advertising manager, has often felt tears well up after hooking up with strangers. 

“I ask myself: Is this how life is going to be? Will I always have these temporary flings? What value will this add to my life? I let it all build up even during the course of sex and I ultimately break down.”

Asma has, on occasion, cried after sex with her previous boyfriends too. “I think that was about the insecurity I felt in those relationships.” Though her past relationships that were stable led to fewer instances of postcoital crying, a recent positive sexual experience led to tears too. “The fact that I could have his undivided attention for so long really overwhelmed me.”

Mago, the neuropsychologist, said that the feeling of being overwhelmed is a neutral one – it can swing either way, positive or negative.

“One of the reasons why people might get overwhelmed after sex and cry is when there is a mismatch between their expectations from sex and how it actually turns out,” she explained. “Sometimes, bad sex is a stark reminder of the systemic issues in a relationship too, and the crushing realisation can be overwhelming.”

Aastha Vohra, a sexuality and sexual wellness expert, told VICE that anxiety that surfaces during the act itself cannot be discounted when trying to understand why people cry after sex. 

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“In many cases, the vulva owner may not have been sufficiently lubricated, and that can cause a lot of discomfort and anxiety that ultimately keeps building and ends up in crying,” she said. “[Consensual] sex is a channel for nearly all our emotions because we’re quite literally naked during the act. It allows you the safe space to express those anxieties and emotions because for many, that safe space might not exist anywhere else.”

Intimacy coach Pallavi Barnwal added that some people who cry after sex may also be the ones who exercise immense emotional self-control outside sex. And a lot can be understood by looking into one’s childhood too. 

“Sex is essentially a primal act that subconsciously takes us back to our earliest bonding experience, that with our parents,” she said. “Past scars and ghosts have a strange way of showing up when you least expect them to. If you are in an extramarital relationship, the guilt can also sometimes manifest in tears.”

In cases where certain positions, words or other apsects of sex evoke past sexual trauma that leads to postcoital tears, Barnwal suggested addressing the “root cause” with therapy.

Mago, the neuropsychologist, emphasized that crying after sex is not explicitly classified as a disorder, disease or syndrom. “Crying after sex in itself does not derail the healthy functioning of an individual,” she said. “Unless it does, in which case you must seek professional help.”

The way Barnwal sees it, the ambiguity and the wide range of experiences surrounding the phenomenon of crying after sex should not surprise us. It boils down to the fact that sex is a multi-layered realm where things don’t immediately have to make sense. 

“We must understand that all sex is essentially two sets of competing truths – pain and pleasure,” she said. “It all depends on how you navigate it and how your partner supports you during the process. If you are the one witnessing the person you've had sex with break down, then understand that this is nothing scary or bizarre. Most of the time, it’s not even about you. Just hold them, cuddle them, and embrace sexual vulnerability as a totally normal thing.”

Follow Arman Khan on Instagram.

Tagged:

mental health, relationships, intimacy, emotional, orgasm

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