About ten years ago, I hooked up with a guy I met at the gym. We spent a few months together and he was a fantastic lover. But after the first time we had sex, he did something that made me cringe: he said “thank you.”
I know he had good intentions. Or at least, I will give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he had good intentions. But the way it came out, and the context of the conversation, made it clear that he was operating in a mindset that was… well, kinda icky. I think he felt he needed to say thanks because in his world, girls didn’t like having sex; they did it as a favour to their men. Sex was a favour, an indulgence, a prize, something to be grateful for because really, it was a bit of a sacrifice on her part. It was a coveted object, a reward for good behaviour, a special treat when she happens to be feeling generous. It was a very gender-binary, heterosexual and transactional way of approaching sex, and it put me in a box that did not fit and attributed feelings to me that I did not feel.
It grossed me the fuck out.
I told him in no uncertain terms that I did not want to be thanked for sex. That I wanted sex as much as he did, maybe more, and that in no way was I doing him some sort of benevolent favour by getting in the sack with him. His thank-you blunted my agency, assumed I had no desire or interest or libido of my own; and since I am very much an agent of my own pleasure and a desiring, libidinous human being, I felt misunderstood and insulted that he could have misread my experience of our fuck as anything other than pure, genuine pleasure. What kind of actress was he accustomed to bedding? (And why would anyone even need to put on a show for him? The man had talent aplenty!)
We did figure it out. More or less, at least. He’d never dated a queer woman before and as time went on, it became clear that there was a lot about our sex life that was surprising or different for him, so the “thank-you” talk was one of many conversations we had that involved trying to mesh two worldviews that really didn’t fit very well.
That relationship eventually ended when the incompatibilities started to pile up just a bit too high. But that specific experience really stuck with me, and I carried it over into other situations that weren’t nearly the same. For a long time, “thank you” was a trigger point for me – it was an instant flashback to feeling incredibly misunderstood.
I have since had many experiences where “thank you” means something a whole lot different. “Thank you” can be a way to express respect and appreciation in a context of mutuality – not so much “thank you for allowing me to take my pleasure by using your body” as “thank you for enjoying the ride with me.” It can be a way to express the joy and honour of being allowed into someone’s vulnerability. “Thank you” can be a way to express submission and gratitude in a sexual D/s situation, when kindness has been proffered that actually is a favour – I had a conversation with a submissive not long ago who made it clear that he’d been trained by his first mistress to say “thank you” after anything sexual took place, as a way of indicating respect and appreciation for the efforts of the dominant. For that matter, “thank you” can come in handy for dominants too, in recognition of a submissive’s openness and trust. In short it can mean all kinds of things that aren’t the least bit icky at all.
But I’ll admit that sometimes, for me, “thank you” still echoes a bit funny when I hear it. It can create a distance I thought sex had bridged, a formality in situations where I thought intimacy was happening. It can still turn an experience of mutuality into an experience of transaction. That’s not the effect it has all the time; sometimes it’s really okay. But sometimes, with a certain tone and at a certain moment, with a certain look in the eye, “thank you” can still do more harm than good.
What have your experiences been with the words “thank you” after sex? I’d love to hear your stories.