Aftercare (its not just for BDSM)

The Drop.

It’s difficult to talk about BDSM Aftercare without first referring to the Drop. Commonly it is more associated with submissives and known as sub-drop, but the feeling and sensation can also occur within dominants and be known as Dom-drop.

It is a mind state that is similar to the sensations of depression and will occur after an intense BDSM scene. It is caused by the sudden drop of endorphins and adrenaline that will occur after the spikes within play. There is speculation about why it occurs less within dominants and the most rational train of thought is that Dominant types experience a different form of energy than their submissive counterparts, a dominant doesn’t necessarily experience the same endorphin and emotional high as a result of the activities. The symptoms of a sub drop will often include:

Difficulty with memory, details and making decisions
Decreased levels of energy
Strong feelings of guilt and helplessness
Strong feelings of pessimism
Excessive sleeping or insomnia
Increased irritability and restlessness
Loss of interest in activities that were once deemed to be pleasurable
Appetite loss and over eating
Persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety or ‘empty’ feelings
Thoughts of suicide

In some serious cases of “drop”  could involve flu-like symptoms and result in sickness as a result of the stress to the body lowering the immune system. As you can see in the above symptoms sub drop is almost always accompanied by feelings of depression, anxiety or lethargy. The symptoms might present themselves almost immediately or they might take up to 72 hours to form. One sub might get sick and feel nauseated while another might get headaches, and another still might decide to sleep for the next day. It affects people differently.

It’s prudent for a dominant to make sure their submissive knows after a scene that they will be there for them and that you will be checking in with them over the next few days.

Delayed onset of sub drop can be surprising. The sub might find themselves riding the high of the experience and all of a sudden their body/mind will just crash.

What is BDSM Aftercare?

Aftercare is the time you and your partner take after play time to recover and also to see to each other’s emotional and physical needs. Certain role plays and kinky acts can be both physically and psychologically taxing, so this time is a great for relaxing, as well as getting ‘back to reality.’

Why is it Necessary?

Our fantasies and play don’t necessarily correlate with who we are in our regular, day-to-day lives. While we may want our partner to dress as a demanding authoritarian who exacts humiliating punishments on us during kinky play, that may not be how you set up the normal course of your relationship. Aftercare functions as a ‘re-calibration’ for the normalcy of a relationship.

There can be an immediate physical toll as well. Many people compare the sensation immediately following a scene  as being similar to sensations felt after an intense athletic performance. The rush of endorphins coupled with potential physical exertion can leave you feeling weak, fatigued, or dazed, and you may be slightly dehydrated depending on the intensity of the scene.

“Sub drop” or any drop is not exclusive to BDSM. One 2015 study found that nearly 46% of the 230 women surveyed felt feelings of tearfulness and anxiety after sex — which is known as “postcoital dysphoria” — at least once in their lives (and around 5% had experienced these feelings a few times in the four weeks leading up to the study). Experts have speculated that this may stem from the hormonal changes people (particularly those with vaginas) experience after orgasm, but many also say that it can come from feeling neglected. The so-called “orgasm gap” suggests that straight women, in particular, may feel that their needs in bed are ignored. People in general can also feel lousy post-sex if they’re not communicating about what they liked and didn’t like about the experience.

Taking the time to be affectionate and talk more after sex — a.k.a. aftercare — can make sex better for everyone, not just those who experience a BDSM scene.

Types of Aftercare

Aftercare can be generally put into two categories: physical and emotional. Physical aftercare includes things such as helping remove any paraphernalia like restraints or blindfolds, getting your partner something to eat or drink (blood sugar levels can be important to pay attention to), providing a blanket or warm clothing, kissing or caressing any part of their body, or specifically to area that may have been marked during play, or  providing affection and comfort in a quiet place.

An intimate massage can be a great way to connect with your partner while offering a comforting touch, and a warm massage oil can sooth both your muscles, and the skin if you were engaging in impact play. A bath or shower is also great; it serves a practical clean up purpose as well as letting you both share an intimate and relaxing moment!

Emotional aftercare involves discussing the scene and how you both felt about it, good and bad, which is integral for ensuring that you both understand each other’s needs and expectations from play. You also may want to give your partner assurances about their kink, reminding them that nothing they did or enjoyed makes them ‘weird’ or ‘perverse.’ Making a conscious point to continue this conversation after a couple of days also makes sure you’re both aware of any negative feelings that have lingered, and can also serve to make you excited about the next time.

Does Everyone Need Aftercare?

Some people might be completely okay without aftercare, or may prefer to be left alone and not kiss and cuddle. That’s why it’s important to negotiate aftercare before getting started. If you’re just starting to experiment with BDSM and not sure what kind of aftercare you or your partner may need, discussing your feelings after the scene serves as your jumping off point for the care you or your partner would like to receive in experiences to come.

Additionally, many assume that aftercare is exclusively something that a Dominant must give for a sub, though that simply isn’t true. Someone in a Dominant role may experience the same ‘drop’ from physical exertion as a sub, and can similarly desire the emotional connection that re-establishes the normal, healthy roles of your relationship.

And those in long-term relationships are certainly not exempt from aftercare. It’s something couples should continue to do, especially after trying something new (such as anal sex). Did the sex hurt? Do they want to do it again? What did they like and not like about it? You can’t know what your partner is thinking unless you ask them. Plus, it can be easy for long-term partners to feel taken for granted, so making sure to cuddle, stroke each other’s hair, and savor the moment after sex can make even the most routine sex feel special.

One thing to keep in mind? It can also be helpful to continue these conversations when everyone’s vertical, clothed and any post-orgasm high has faded.

There is no one way to give or receive aftercare, the only real guideline is to be open, accepting, and attentive to the emotional and physical needs of your partner, while also making sure that your own needs are met as well.

What should you do if you don’t get Aftercare?

Although it is normally advised that a dominant should be in a position to provide suitable after care, there may be rare instances where this is not possible. A submissive might need more time than usual to come down, and a dominant might simply be not in a position to do so. In such a situation a babysitter might be utilized, that being a third-party kink friendly individual who can take on the responsibility of after care for the submissive. In such situations it is still highly recommended and considered to be good practice for the dominant to spend at least 15 minutes with the submissive so that immediate feelings of abandonment and hopelessness do not set in. The babysitter should be a mutually agreed upon person by all involved which can continue the responsibilities of aftercare once the dominant is required to leave.

And if a Dom won’t talk about Aftercare beforehand or does not follow through – walk away, immediately.

Compiled and modified by dievca with Thanks to:
Katy Thorn, Lelo website article on Aftercare
Amanda Luterman, a kink-friendly psychotherapist from a Refinery 29 article on Aftercare
Rick Sales, website article on BDSM Aftercare