please, no thank-you

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.

23 thoughts on “please, no thank-you

  1. Just a responsible opposing viewpoint…

    I once said “Thank you” to a new partner – not out of the gratefulness that men presume because sex is something men want and women give – but because she took the time to be loving and exploratory, and made an effort to make it good for *me*.

    When I explained this to her, she got it, and we made a point to thank each other often.

    When you’ve had a partner – or several – who put little or no effort into lovemaking, finding someone who had the inclination was like a God-send.

    Apparently this wasn’t your case; but do try to understand that there is more than to this than you assume.

  2. Ah, but I don’t assume. Thank goodness! I’ve had many good experiences with the phrase, as I mentioned. The kind of situation you describe is exactly the sort of positive experience I’m talking about when I wrote that “‘Thank you’ can be a way to express respect and appreciation in a context of mutuality.” Thanks for sharing your own positive experience! 🙂

  3. I say thank you in specific contexts.
    -in a sexual D/s situation
    -when it was pleasure received with not much chance for reciprocation
    -as an acknowledgement of mutual enjoyment, when it’s a new-ish partner

    I tend to assume when people thank me they’re also acknowledging the mutual enjoyment/openness/intimacy, and not that I’m granting them a favor. So I generally say thank you back.

  4. I can definitely see where you’re coming from–if thank you sounds one-way in the context you describe, then there’s no joy in that. I’ve said thank you for specific reasons, such as “thank you for that really great orgasm” or “thank you for a mutually enjoyable experience that I assume you are just as grateful for.” I can’t remember if anyone’s ever thanked me after sex or not. I don’t think so, but I could be wrong. I think in most cases I would take it as a positive thing, but yeah, if there was a specific tone of voice, type of look, whatever, I might not be so appreciative.

  5. I often say it at some point after sex/play.

    Another person has let me in for a while, sharing their time and energy with me and – to varying amounts given the context – extended trust to me. Even to the point where they want to have sex just as much, and possibly more than I do, they didn’t have to have sex with *me*. My partners have a lot of other options open to them, and choosing to spend their time with me is something I think I should be grateful for. For me, giving thanks for the privilege is a contrast to the typical culture of low personal contact sex I encounter in the surrounding culture.

    I don’t want to buy into a culture where sex is either a mechanical process for the purposes of getting off in a backroom, or part of a relationship. Casual sex can still be good sex, but combined with the baggage of both the dominant mainstream world, and the mainstream gay world it can become something which dehumanises.

    My choice is to find a middle ground where I can be open to sexual play, while still finding a way to respect the presence of the other people involved. Saying thank you and meaning it is important to me for that. I’d never even considered it could be seen as a demeaning comment ’til this post, so I’ll be more mindful of context and tone when I try to express gratitude for the experience.

  6. To me it’s similar to saying thank you at the end of a nice evening with friends. When I thank my guests for coming to dinner it’s not because I think they did me a favour. It’s because I had a good time with them and I appreciated it and want to let them know. Ditto thanking someone for having me for dinner. So, yeah, sort of a “thanks for enjoying this ride (heh) with me.”

    I’ve never had sex with someone who said thank you as a thing that they did before meeting me, but I have had lovers start to say thank you to me after hearing me say it on a few occasions to them. I don’t demand or expect it, but I think it’s nice.

  7. I say thank you afterwards pretty frequently. My reasoning is much like Jake’s, I think – I like to show that I don’t take my lovers for granted. I know that they’re there with me because they want to be and because they enjoy it for their own sakes, but I still feel right sharing my appreciation and joy. A very mutual appreciation, of course, and all the better for it.

  8. i have a partner with a very strong preference towards non-reciprocal sorts of sex where only one person is getting off at a time and the other person is helping to get them off. And while getting someone else off is certainly hot and satisfying it its own right, there’s still a feeling of imbalance built in, at least for me. in that kind of situation i feel like it’s totally appropriate to say thank you or to get thanked. but, i can see how with more immediately reciprocal kinds of sex how it would feel weird and awkward and maybe gross.

  9. Ew. Using gifts or expressions of gratitude when what you really mean is sorry totally squicks me out. Like this:

    “P.S. Looking forward to it, AND I just might have a little surprise for you if you can swing one of those days…….my way of saying apologizing for the slight change in plans. ”

    Ugh. Too bad there isn’t a paternalism-check for emails, like a spell-check, you know? Gotta love how giving me “a little surprise” is intended to compensate for wasting my time. *hurl*

  10. This is really interesting. There’s a…widespread unspoken belief, a subliminal assumption in dramas and humour, a widely held emotional orientation not vocalised or consciously believed, that women are not people, who desire as we men do. It is something difficult to purge from one’s thought, and an insidious weakener of relationships. I think it’s very important to make clear the nature of female desire,as no different to other desire, and I am so very glad that this article and this blog exist.

  11. I once had a (het, male) lover thank me after sex, and it squicked me for exactly these reasons. It felt oddly formal, and like I’d just had a transaction, not a mutual experience. You don’t thank me for giving you sex, you thank me for giving you a cookie.

    “Uh… you don’t have to thank me.”
    “I like to express my appreciation. You’ve just permitted me to share something very intimate.”
    “But why would you feel that YOU have to thank ME? Isn’t that a little silly?”
    He insisted he liked to (because that’s always a good reason to do something that makes your partner uncomfortable). Then he brushed off my attempts to thank him in return. AAAAAH.

    At the time I didn’t have the words to explain my objection and for this and many other reasons, we split.

  12. Hey, thanks for all the comments, everyone! Talk about a variety of meanings for the same two-word phrase. I feel enlightened. 🙂

  13. Once after a really great night (and a great orgasm, too), I said “thank you”… and it was like “thank you for giving me all this pleasure”… no submission, no dominance… simply… pleasure! 😉

  14. I”ve had relationships now w/ 2 men who have said thank you afterward. It felt demeaning. “Thank you for coming for me” shocked me and made me feel cheap. I didn’t do him a favor, and those two words completely and immediately made me feel like I needed a shower. It took away all the intimacy and insulted me. By all means, compliment your partner, tell them they are beautiful at that “particular moment” or they have beautiful skin, or you love to watch their facial expressions. But to just say thank you (ONLY my opinion) seems to take sex back to the level of something that is mundane, like when ending a telephone conversation or someone passing the salt shaker. Thank you.

  15. The recent thank you’s I’ve gotten from men have left me feeling demeaned, angry and distant. Like THEY were the centre of a transaction I altruistically partook in. Gross. It prompted me to respond, “Why?”. Dumbfounded, neither answered. I hope the world stops revolving around the male ego. Sick of it.

  16. i said thankyou to my boyfriend last night after sex, because it was great sex and why not let him know it; he’s allowed a bit of an ego when it’s deserved.

  17. I tend to say “thank you” to partners for sharing intimacy with me and the implied trust when things are a little more kinky than usual. It’s definitely all about being happy about the awesome mutual experience.

    It’s definitely NOT about being thankful that they deigned to let me fuck them because they feel obliged to or because I’ve used them for my pleasure. Ugh.

  18. Haha, I found this great essay after googling “is it normal for someone to thank you after sex?”

    I was thanked recently and it made me feel like a I had just serviced him. It was odd and I didn’t like it. BUT I’ve thanked people after sex before, especially when it was great sex and I’ve had a great orgasm, so I guess our motivations are probably the same.

    It’s just a nice gesture and you want your partner to know how much you appreciate their efforts, skill and their letting you consume their body!

  19. A guy recently thanked me for sex and I loved it! I didn’t take his thank you in a sexist way. He is kinda geeky, and I felt that he was saying it in a funny, purposefully self-depreciating way to get a laugh and it really did make me smile. I think a lot depends on context, how he says it and the guy 🙂

  20. I say thank you often after sex and almost always after scenes – I generally try to say it when I feel gratitude for anything. I’m hetero, and my partners have sometimes been surprised when I do it but are usually delighted and say “you’re welcome,” or “No – thank YOU!” It’s nice. It feels very sweet.

    I have had a couple of guys say it to me and it made me feel like a whore (in a bad way.) I told them no problem and that they could leave the money on the dresser on the way out 😉

  21. Look if it makes you feel weird TRUST IT because it is EXACTLY WHAT YOU THINK….a depersonalization. A shielding tactic that some people use so as to lessen the emotion that was just shared not only in your mind but in theirs. They are PLAYING IT COOL…just in case SEX was all you were interested in &/OR to let you know in a covert way that’s all they were interested in-not you. So if you FEEL you’re being THANKED FOR YOUR SEXUAL SERVICES that’s an intimacy issue….not a joke. ADDRESS IT WITH THEM ASAP or take note of it and become conscious of what other COOL THINGS they say that makes you wonder…is this person really into me emotionally or just what I do for them & is making it a point either consciously or unconsciously to let you know in a sneaky way that HEY, A LOT OF THINGS YOU DO I LOVE & I THANKED YOU FOR IT…BUT I NEVER SAID OR MEANT I WAS IN LOVE WITH YOU! Then you will see how someone thanking you for things like sex literally, in those exact words, was on purpose to avoid them catching feelings and a defense against blame or responsibility of valid expectations you may have of someone you just shared more than just your body with in your mind. Obviously it was more otherwise you wouldn’t feel WEIRD about them saying it. Take note of it and if the COOL WORDINGS continue realize, even if they won’t admit it to you ever,…..THEY ARE JUST IN IT FOR THE GOOD TIME & THAT’S ALL THIS WAS DEARY THANKS! But don’t hate them too long for it though. Their inability to be on or reach that same emotional plane with you, especially with something as intimate as sex between two loving people, in all probability was stifled, ABUSED, and trampled by the people in their lives who should have loved them in other ways long before you ever met them! I.E. CHILDHOOD, PARENTS, SIBLINGS, FAMILY ETC. However, make no mistake, I’m definitely NOT suggesting that UNDERSTANDING their COOL SEMI-IMPERSONAL BEHAVIOR should at ANY POINT be ACCEPTABLE TO YOU! It’s THEIR PROBLEM! You deserve an EMOTIONALLY COMPLETE PERSON , let them get help for their inability if it indeed does exist. ACCEPT THE TRUTH- your love for them is NOT strong enough, special enough, etc. to help make them change what they are not feeling for you and or others. Even that special move you have lol! is not going to magically bring them to your loving level . THE DAMAGE IS TOO DEEP AND AS YOU PLAINLY FELT AFTER SHARING A PRECIOUSLY INTIMATE PART OF YOUR MIND, BODY, & SOUL WITH THEM IT WILL ONLY LEAVE YOU FEELING AS COLD/COOL INSIDE AS THEY ARE! Peace.

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