Sex & Dating | February 2, 2021 9:33 am

Shower Sex Is Canceled. Go Take a Sex Bath.

Shower sex is but an adolescent fantasy. Adults take sex baths.

Brigitte Bardot holding up leg in bathtub
Go take a sex bath. Go do it right now.
Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

At some point in our sex-having lives, we must all come to the inevitable, however disappointing, realization that shower sex sucks. Many of us reach this realization pretty early on, because the disillusionment typically sets in the first time we ever attempt the awkward dance of having sex with someone under a cascade of falling water in a tiny enclosure that was in no way designed to house that activity. Like road head or hot tub sex, shower sex is the kind of ill-advised sex act you do once to check it off the bucket list — probably in the shared bathroom of your college dorm when your high school girlfriend comes to visit you sometime in the first few weeks of freshman year before you inevitably break up — then never try again. 

But have you tried taking a sex bath?

The sex bath is shower sex plus time and sexual wisdom — shower sex’s mature, sophisticated older cousin. If shower sex happens between sexually inexperienced adolescents in college dorms, sex baths take place between adults in fancy hotel rooms, or at least in a home or apartment that one of you shares with few enough roommates — zero, to be exact — that the tub feels sexy instead of gross. 

Speaking of the tub being gross, I understand my praise of the sex bath will not go over well with a certain army of bath haters who often characterize the act of bathing as “just sitting in a tub of your own filth,” and would likely argue that the only thing more disgusting than sitting in a tub of your own filth is sitting in a tub of your own filth intermingling with someone else’s filth. Guess what? Sex is all about getting your filth in someone else’s filth. Also, performatively hating baths because it’s “like sitting in your own filth” is the hygiene version of hating the word “moist.” It’s a boring, tired take and we all know you don’t actually think it’s that gross. The sex bath isn’t for those people.

It’s important to note that a sex bath needn’t involve actual sexual intercourse. In fact, it shouldn’t, because as we’ve established, having actual sex in water is a scam. The sex bath, rather, is the simple, unadulterated act of taking a bath with a sex partner, and it’s delightful.

“Taking a bath together can thoroughly enhance sex and intimacy for a couple,” says Zachary Zane, a sex advice columnist and sex expert for Promescent. “The focus isn’t on penetration when you’re having an intimate bath together. It’s really more on feeling your partner.“

Indeed, while shower sex prioritizes often poorly lubricated thrusting, the sex bath reflects a mature evolution from a narrow, adolescent understanding of sex as intercourse exclusively. The sex bath acknowledges that sex isn’t all about putting genitals in orifices. As any mature, sex-having adult knows, sometimes the key to good sex is not sex — or not sex according to rigid, intercourse-centric definitions of the term, anyway. Bath sex is an embrace and acknowledgement of the value and appeal of non-penetrative sexual touch. “It’s a great form of foreplay because there’s a lot of making out and touching that can happen in a tub,” says Zane. 

“I think it’s a great way to have more drawn-out foreplay,” echoes Tiana North, a polyamorous educator and activist and co-founder of The Sex Worker Survival Guide. A bath leaves room for “a lot of kissing, heavy petting, and fingering,” says North. “Then you can take it to the bedroom once you two are all warmed up and ready to go.” 

That said, there’s no reason the sex bath has to be limited to a strictly pre-sex activity. “Baths after sex are a fun way to get clean and stay intimate,” adds North. While showering together after sex in a non-penetrative manner is often presented as a shower-sex upgrade for would-be shower-sex enthusiasts who find themselves disappointed by how much shower sex actually sucks, the sex bath once again reigns supreme when it comes to partnered post-sex hygiene. Why? Because a sex bath eliminates the worst part of showering together: the part where you can’t both fit under the shower head and you have to take turns freezing your asses off while the other person gets to bask in the hot water. In a post-sex sex bath, you both get to be immersed in as much water as you want the whole time like a couple of sexy steamed dumplings in a bowl of hot soup. (I’m aware that this particular visual is probably not helping me win any converts from Team Bath Hate. Again, this isn’t for them.)

North adds that taking a post-sex bath can also function as a form of aftercare. Not only does a bath help relax your muscles after any strain they may have endured under your amorous exertions, but taking a bath together also creates an intimate space for partners to reflect on their recent encounter, offering “the perfect moment to verbally check in about each others’ experiences,” says North.

A sex bath can be enjoyed before sex, after sex — hell, you could even take a sex bath instead of sex. You’re an adult; you can do whatever you want, like drink champagne in the tub, which is yet another thing you can’t do during shower sex. You could even fill the tub up with champagne and take a sex bath in that. Just kidding, don’t do that. I don’t know what would happen for sure, but it will probably involve a lot of infections. The point is, there’s no bad time to take a sex bath. There is, however, a bad time to have shower sex, and it’s all the time. When you’re ready to graduate from the adolescent fantasy of shower sex, the sex bath awaits.

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