Sexual “Afterglow” Lasts 48 Hours

It turns out that sexual afterglow lasts a bit longer than that after-sex cigarette. A new study called “Quantifying the Sexual Afterglow,” The Lingering Benefits of Sex and Their Implications for Pair-Bonded Relationships” says afterglow actually lasts about 48 hours. Who knew?

The study, published in Psychological Science, says that it’s an evolutionary thing. “Sex presumably facilitates pair bonding, but how do partners remain pair-bonded between sexual acts?” the researchers asked. “Evolutionary perspectives suggest that sexual afterglow serves this purpose. We explored how long sexual satisfaction would remain elevated following sex, and predicted that stronger sexual afterglow would characterize more satisfying partnerships.”

The scientists studied 215 newlyweds, and asked them to rate their daily sexual activity, because, well newlyweds probably do it more often than anyone else does. (Oddly though, the sexy time results only averaged out to getting laid 4 times in two weeks.)

Every night at bedtime, the newlyweds were asked to take notes. Did they have sex with their partner that day? Were they satisfied with their sex live, their spouse, and their marriage that day? A 7-point scale was used (1=not at all, 7=extremely) to rate their spouse. (People should do this in real life.)

Then the couples were asked again 4-6 months later. To test their theory, the team looked at data gathered from “two independent, longitudinal studies”, one with 96 newlywed couples and the other with 118 newlywed couples.”


“Results demonstrated that sexual satisfaction remained elevated approximately 48 hr after sex,” the study found.”Spouses experiencing a stronger afterglow reported higher levels of marital satisfaction both at baseline and over time. We interpret these findings as evidence that sexual afterglow is a proximal cognitive mechanism through which sex promotes pair bonding.” The study’s results remained consistent through all ages and sexual orientations.

Andrea Meltzer, the lead researcher on the study said. “And people with a stronger sexual afterglow—that is, people who report a higher level of sexual satisfaction 48 hours after sex—report higher levels of relationship satisfaction several months later…. This research is important because it joins other research suggesting that sex functions to keep couples pair bonded.” Like hugging and cuddling, the “feel good” hormones are at work bringing couples emotionally closer.

Affectionate young female couple relaxing on bed

In the future, the research team will study how afterglow affects other aspects of monogamous relationships, including cheating and “whether or not long term relationships result in marriages.” In the meantime, its good to know that doing something twice a week–even if it lasts for two minutes, can last two days.

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