Love & Sex

Why Are Couples Posting #Aftersex Shots on Instagram?

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It's not brunch, but it's still a brag.

Flushed faces, side profiles, splayed limbs, adorable grins, embracing couples. This is what fills the #aftersex tag on Instagram, a recent discovery I made when checking out a post on Reddit of someone's impressive after sex hairdo. The fascination with and documentation of the post-sex experience is no stranger to the Internet. Over the last five years, VICE has released two different versions of their sexy exit interviews, "People Who Just Had Sex," one in print and the latest iteration coming in quirky video installments. The riff is always the same: hilarious, candid, and casual after-sex conversations about sex with people who just screwed.

Even though the VICE couples know these shots and statements will be made public, the effect is always intimate, if not pleasurably voyeuristic. Such is the same of the very public #aftersex and #aftersexhair tags on Instagram that people are now posting, with full knowledge that they can and will be searched by anonymous eyes. Often the shots are selfies, two half-profiles spooned familiarly together, always sharing contented expressions. It, like a lot of Instagram pics, is a private moment built for an audience. Is the #aftersex shot, taken to be shared, the new social cigarette?

In a Mashable feature on why modern humans are driven to take selfies, Dr. Letamendi, a doctor of psychology at UCLA explained that, "Now that we can interact with hundreds — no, thousands — of people simultaneously, we've strengthened the impact that others have on our self-value." And when we apply the idea of a looking-glass self to the most personal of our human acts — sex — it would follow that in a way the #aftersex tag is a reassurance to the couple taking the photos. "Hey, look at us, we're having really, really hot sex," is met with recognition of their hot sex life by their friends, maybe even a like. 

#Aftersex shots are an open display of a healthy sex life, but they're also gloating. Analogous to the brunch brag, a shot of you snuggled up to your lover in post coital bliss is as symbolic as it is a mere documentation of life on social media. If your sour cream hazelnut waffles declare to the world you are succeeding at breakfast, then an #aftersex shot tells everyone on your feed, or anyone who regularly checks Instagram hashtags, that you are succeeding at sex. 

The intimate, funky-haired selfies are trophies for an achievement. But in this case, the achievement still remains irreverently sweet. Like the internet trend of couples swapping clothes, #aftersex tags on Instagram provide sex partners with a cute bonding experience. "Let's take a picture because we just fucked," is still, in its own perverse way, a record of love. Certainly #aftersex shots are a brag, maybe they're an overshare, but they're also just another modern way — like viral proposal videos, like engagement photos — to publicly declare love. I'll watch that.