In this article we’ll learn about post nut clarity, why no-one really knows what it is, but also what it might be and what it might do.
Post nut clarity just means feeling clear headed, or back down to earth, after sexual arousal and orgasm. It’s a very recent term. Some people came up with it on a podcast and now I have to explain it all the time to confused teenagers. Great.
But, interestingly, it reveals a really complex set of ideas and problems which are really poorly understood, which I am going to try and explain. So, I invite you to join me in the ‘nut-nerd-mobile’ as we find out more.
Is it what happens after ejaculation?
As I’ve written about over here, post nut clarity could just refer to what we have known for years as the refractory period. Amusingly some scientists refer to it as the ‘post ejaculation refractory time’, which they shorten to PERT. I just find that funny. What this refers to is the period after ejaculation in men (with penises), when they find it difficult to get aroused, or get an erection, or ejaculate again.
This has become a bit of a ‘common sense’ idea. Men have sex, ejaculate and then they don’t want to do it again, or maybe just fall asleep. Leaving their partners frustrated that they don’t want to have more sex (particularly if they are women*).
But it doesn’t apply to all people. Firstly some men can come more than once in a row and maintain their erections. Secondly, women (with vulvas) who ejaculate don’t seem to get this. So if it is a purely biological process [spoiler, it isn’t], it doesn’t apply to all people.
It’s also really not understood what causes the refractory period or what is even really going on there. Why? Well, mostly the bio/psycho study of sex is looking at how to ‘cure’ the sexual ‘problem’ of men not being able to nut inside women at the right time. Once they’ve nutted, ‘science’ shows about the same level of interest as it does in women’s sexual pleasure (and any other gender that isn’t ‘bloke’). Ie not a lot.
Does it happen after orgasm?
Frustratingly, a lot of the science looking at orgasms and ejaculation talks about them as if they are the same thing. Orgasms and ejaculation are different, as we found out from this research paper. So a lot of this is really confusing. People don’t experience orgasm every time they ejaculate and people don’t ejaculate every time they orgasm.
One theory is that it’s to do with the hormones released into the body after orgasm (serotonin and prolactin), which act as an off switch for sexy times. One of the possible effects of serotonin is to relax us and chill us out. So if people experience post nut clarity this could be what is happening. However, this is an under-researched area and we don’t really know.
We also know that hormones, transmitters, or chemicals in the body aren’t solely responsible for how our body might respond. So even after orgasm, if ‘chill out’ hormones are being activated in the body, that doesn’t mean we are feeling chilled out. They might help to regulate the body so that we might, but they don’t make us chill out. Does that make sense?
What I think post nut clarity is
When we have sexual thoughts or feelings there’s a lot going on. Thoughts, feelings, sensations, stories, fantasies, and even our own sense of self are all swirling around. In addition to our bodies changing, blood flowing in different directions, breathing changing, hearts pumping, it’s a lot! There’s a cool French word for ‘ooooft, it’s a lot’ which is ‘jouissance’.
So if we experience ‘jouissance’ (je – wee- saaance), then anything afterwards is going to be more chill, clearer, back down to earth. Let’s say that you spent the afternoon having sexual thoughts but frustrated that you couldn’t masturbate. Then you get home and have a few minutes masturbating, thinking about what you were thinking about, trying to have an orgasm. That’s quite a few hours of ‘pre nut muddled brain’™. After orgasm, that period ends and it feels like, what has recently been called, ‘post nut clarity.’ Like ‘right, I can get on with the rest of my day now.’
This kind of psychological and sociological explanations are missing in a lot of ‘sex research’ and I think that’s a massive shame because it’s not either ‘biology’ or ‘psychology’ or ‘sociology’. It’s all of it and more.
The Post Nut Clarity Assemblage
So, let’s say that someone is experiencing Post Nut Clarity, what are its assembled parts?
serotonin – getting their breath back – a change in temperature – being stroked – heart rate coming down – thoughts shifting to non-sexual thoughts – exhalations – ‘what do I need to do next’ – prolactin – facial muscles relaxing – the idea of ‘post nut clarity’ – phone – core muscles activated – bed – clean up – clothes – dry mouth
If you’ve done this module of Teach Yourself Sex Ed you will be familiar with this idea. It’s known as the ‘body without organs.’ That simply means that everything ‘in the body’ is always in relation to things outside of the body (and vice versa). They all affect each other all the time and everything is moving. Just as looking at your phone, with images of porn stars, or Harry Styles, might change what is going on in your body.
The idea of ‘post nut clarity’ or ‘PERT’ (lol) is also part of it. If you think ‘oh this is post nut clarity’ you might feel more chill and clear, which does things to the body. So it slows the heart rate, we breathe out more, the parasympathetic nervous system kicks in. The idea of a thing produces the thing. Look, I told you we were nerding out about this,
Posh word coming up
The posh word for what I just described happening to our bodies is that we are ‘materialdiscursive’. This just means that ‘the body’ (the material) is always in relation to the stories (discourses) being told about it (and us generally). The bodies and stories aren’t separate things that interact with each other, they produce each other (which is known as intra-action).
Yes this is complex but also, not really when you think about it. It’s just:
“Yeah post nut clarity is a thing”
“Body chills out.”
“Different and clearer thoughts”
“Yup, I’ve got that post nut clarity.”
In the field of sex and relationships there are
too so many stories and some of them are more powerful than others. They all have the possibility of affecting our bodies in ways that are confusing and difficult because the stories are just made up (like with post nut clarity). Not everyone agrees what they mean, they all affect us differently, and they can also restrict us in ways we don’t even really understand.
So is post nut clarity ‘a thing’?
Well it is at the moment, because people keep talking about it, it exists on the internet, and I’m explaining it. But whether you experience it is (in some ways) up to you. Let’s try to get away from defining everything, because it’s really not very helpful (see also ‘orgasm’) and instead try to think about what is working for us and what might be better. This ‘defining’ thing is something that not very good sex educators do because it just creates more stories (discourses). What we need instead are resources that will help us.
Which is where I come in
The job for people like me shouldn’t be to say ‘this is what this means’ but instead should be ‘what might this do for you? What else might it do?’ So instead of thinking ‘I’m experiencing post nut clarity’ instead try thinking ‘what is post nut clarity doing for me right now?’ What are the kinds of sensations, feelings, thoughts, and doings? Is this working for you? What else might be at play?
Also try to resist the temptation to try and make sense of absolutely everything. Having some self-knowledge can be good and reassuring, but be careful about writing your own stories about yourself too. Because you can create very precise stories of ‘how you work’ that might not serve you very well in the future. Sex is complex and we are always changing so try to be curious and open minded and don’t take ideas like ‘post nut clarity’ too seriously.
You can chill after sex. Or just take a breather and go again. Maybe you want to nod off. Have a cup of tea. Do things for your partner’s pleasure and not yours. All of these things are options and it’s up to you to figure out what works for you.
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© Justin Hancock, 2022
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Justin Hancock has been a trained sex and relationships educator since 1999. In that time he’s taught and given advice about sex and relationships with thousands of young people in person and millions online. He’s a member of the World Association for Sexual Health.