As an erotica/sex writer, I do a ton of research about different aspects of sex and different relationships. Regardless of the type of relationship you are in, the act of sex has all of the same parts. One of my writing books, Naughty Words for Nice Writers, breaks up the act of sex into four phases of physical changes that occur with the body:
Sex therapist, Kim Atwood, refers to foreplay and aftercare as bookends to sex. Both are necessary parts to a positive sexual encounter. Most of the time, we spend time talking about foreplay and orgasms, but we don’t spend time talking about the after. Like when a woman has a baby, the process isn’t over when the baby comes out. The body, physically and psychologically, has to process and recover.
Kim goes on to say in her article that aftercare is ideally part of every sexual encounter. It doesn’t necessarily have to be some long-drawn-out thing. But it is important to reassure, connect, and help your partner come down from the endorphin high that comes with orgasm.
No, it’s not just for BDSM. I’ve talked about this before, there is so much that we can learn from BDSM relationships. They have been so stigmatized by the kink, that most people fail to look at the key components of those relationships. More often than not, those types of relationships are better than a good number of vanilla relationships because they thrive on high quality, clear communication. Because the communication is there, the couple has a high level of trust.
Though it is a big part of BDSM play, it is an important part of any playtime, even vanilla play. The definition of aftercare on Kinkly.com is “aftercare is the period of time after a scene in which partners attend to one another's physical, emotional, and psychological needs.” Aftercare is building the closeness between you and your partner. Aftercare is taking the time after to connect with the other person.
I don’t care how many times you’ve had sex with someone, I think it’s an experience that can leave you vulnerable, unsure, and even self-conscious. You are literally naked with someone without the help of spanx, a good bra, etc. (I’m a woman so that’s why I use those examples.” A gentle hug. A simple smile. Any small intimate gesture can show your partner that they are accepted and cared for as more than a fuck toy.
Aftercare isn’t some big complicated thing. At its core, it is a time for the pair to connect and make sure that everyone is ok with what happened. Sometimes, Doms and subs can feel ashamed of their kinks. Aftercare can help take the shame away.
In the BDSM world, aftercare is talked about at the same time you would discuss limits and boundaries. Typically, this is something that is included in the agreement between a Dom/Top and a sub/bottom. I wrote an article about this type of agreement.
If punishments are inflicted, the Dominant needs to reassure the submissive that everything is ok once the punishment is administered. The punishment is over, and they are safe. For more on punishment, read this.
During a scene, the sub’s body will be pushed to its limits. That’s part of the point of playtime and why things are discussed and agreed upon before play happens. There will be a surge of adrenaline, endorphins, and emotions. They may feel disconnected as they float in subspace and need to be brought back to reality safely. It’s a fun place to be, but if not tended to properly, it can be dangerous if the sub isn’t brought down slowly and carefully. This will help prevent sub drop.
Coming down from an intense sexual experience can include the following:
All of these can be scary, especially the first time they happen, and it’s very important to have a Dominant that has experience on their side. A good Dom/me will know how to handle aftercare to let the submissive know that they are ok. That is a huge part of what they are responsible for. They are safe. They are cared for. For information on Dominants and what to look for, check out our article.
Sometimes a scene will include spankings, caning, flogging (remember, all of this is agreed upon beforehand). If there is impact play, the submissive will need to have any physical wounds taken care of. If rope is used, the Dom will need to pay attention for any rope burn that the submissive could have.
Remember that subs aren’t the only ones that need aftercare. While it looks different, Doms still need it. Aftercare can look the same for Doms as it does for subs in terms of reassurance.
Talking through what type of aftercare you both need before playtime is so important. I can’t even begin to stress that enough. If both the Dom and sub need aftercare, then you should focus on things you can do together. Maybe it’s the submissive performing oral at the end of a scene to solidify that they are still connected and accepting of the Dominant. It could be a massage of the Dominants hands or shoulders to show care that the submissive is appreciative of what the scene took out of the Dominant. Or it could simply be snuggles and a thank you. Two simple words that can ease any guilt the Dom may be feeling about inflicting pain to a person that they care about and getting off on hurting the person during a scene.
Sub drop can happen a few hours or a few days after an intense scene. Drop can happen due to the crash that comes after the endorphin high of a scene. What goes up, must come down. It doesn’t always happen and there are other factors that can contribute to drop. If the sub has a lot of stress or things happening in their day-to-day life, it can heighten the chance for a drop to occur. Sub Drop can manifest itself in so many ways but the most common ways include:
Dom Drop can look a bit different than sub drop. Many times, the Dominant will need a break and may pull back from the sub to recharge their battery, so to speak. To the submissive, this can feel like abandonment and can push them into sub drop. During this time, it is vital that the Dominant have designated friends to help them level back out. The Dom should also find someone that is trusted by both him/her and their submissive to attend to any needs that the submissive has. This will ease the pressure off of the Dominant and help them bounce back faster.
Top Drop can also happen if the Dom feels fear of loss of the submissive. One submissive shared the story of her and her Dom and how his fear of losing her and the dream relationship paralyzed his Dominant side. He had lost it once before and was terrified to lose it again. In an effort of self-preservation, the Dom withheld all BDSM playtime. She goes on to share how the only things that can help are trust, communication, and appreciation. She had to reassure him that she still wanted him.
Maybe the Dom and sub have a strictly online relationship. Do you still need aftercare? How do you even accomplish it logistically?
Aftercare is still needed even if the relationship is solely online. You should have your own plan for self-care. You will need to rely on yourself a bit more than you would if the Dom was physically in your presence. I would always wrap up in my fluffy blanket and eat some chocolate. As cliché as it sounds, it did help. I get very cold as I come down and chocolate always makes it better.
But what about when that isn’t enough? Maybe the tasks that the Dom gives are intense and/or playtime is with text only and not video or audio. The delay with texts can leave a sub reeling.
On Reddit, there are so many threads about how to handle aftercare in an online relationship. Some think it’s completely impossible. But others claim that it can be just as rewarding as having the face to face. In fact, for some it’s more intimate. There are hurdles, but they are easy to overcome if you take the time to think about them and ways to handle them. Again, the biggest piece of this puzzle is communication. Communication isn’t negotiable. It’s the make or break. Doms and subs alike must communicate needs and share what’s working and what’s not working.
One of the most popular ways to provide aftercare for the sub right after a scene is voice notes. Voice notes are simple, and they don’t have to be a long-drawn-out message. It can be a simple phrase or some praise that the Dom can either pre-record and send or send right after the scene has occurred. Saving these voice notes can be very helpful to the sub anytime they are feeling low. Hearing kind and gentle words from your Dom can make the biggest difference on a bad day or right after play. Saved voice notes are also great if the Dominant isn’t readily available after playtime and the submissive needs the reassurance. If the Dominant can call that’s even better.
The power of voice is very strong. One submissive stated on a Reddit thread, “hearing the Dom talk about how good it was etc. helps. It helps me feel like I did good rather than I did something shameful. And having the Dom be kind and complimentary helps too.” Almost every thread that I poured through claims that voice is best. Whether it’s a call or a voice note, it doesn’t take a ton of effort or time and can save your sub (or Dom) from drop.
Another way to get aftercare over a long distance is text messages. The Dom can send text messages that can describe what the aftercare looks like, telling their submissive to imagine that they are there and what they are doing to them. Having the sub mentally trade the image of the blanket for the image of the Dominant’s arms or imagining that the pillow the sub is resting their head on is the Dominant’s chest can make a world of difference.
If the Dom is able to, sending a shirt or a stuffed animal or some sort of tangible thing that the sub can hold onto. This is something that tends to happen when the relationship becomes more serious. The Dominant should figure out something that would comfort their sub. I would imagine having a shirt from my Dom that I can put on after play would be the next best thing to having his arms around me.
The last suggestion that I found particularly helpful, was just talking to your sub in regular headspace to help them come back down gradually. This can be done via text or voice. Asking the sub to send pictures after can help the Dom see that the sub is ok and vice versa.
Here is one thread that I found particularly insightful with both Dominants and submissives commenting.
The answer to this question is as different as the number of people in the world. Each person, each relationship is unique with unique needs, wants, and desires. For me the most important part of the word aftercare is “care”. When you enter into any sort of sexual encounter with another person, there are feelings involved. This is true whether it’s a one-night stand or a marriage of twenty years.
It is so important to treat the person that you are having sex with as a person and not just a play toy for your amusement. While that may be what is happening in a scene, after the scene it’s vital to reassure the person that is submitting.
I know that when I try new things or put myself out there sexually with my partner, I feel like a raw nerve. I overthink. I question. I doubt myself. But he is able to ground me and remind me that I am his. I please him and make him so proud and that all of me is normal. He knows that I need his voice to calm me and center me. I know that he needs praise and affirmation that I enjoyed what happened.
None of this was learned overnight. It came after lots of communicating. It came after trial and error and talking about what works and what doesn’t. The important thing is to learn what you need to feel secure and how to pull yourself out of drop.
As much as it’s joked about, cuddles are a very good thing.