May 11

What Is BDSM Aftercare? How To Restore Normality After Play

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I had my first truly kinky experience when I was 21. Even though I was the dominant, it startled me so deeply I swore off BDSM for about a year and a half before I was ready to dip my toes back in. The problem was: I had no idea about BDSM aftercare.

The girl I had the scene with was much more experienced than I was, and even though she explained aftercare to me for the sub, I had no idea I would need it as the dom.

BDSM aftercare is exactly what it sounds like. It’s the care you give (and/or receive) to your partner after your scene is complete. It’s an integral part of BDSM. Despite this, it is far too often overlooked. So how can you integrate aftercare into your play sessions? Let’s take a look.

Why Is Aftercare Important In BDSM?

Many people use BDSM as a way of escaping one’s humdrum daily life. So how do we transition back to reality after a scene?

Quality aftercare.

It’s hard to loop every fetish, kink, and play into one umbrella term for a scene. But there is usually some type of escape from reality.

Maybe it’s a roleplay scene where you get to, albeit briefly, partake in a situation you’d never be able to in “real” life.

Maybe you enjoy being verbally degraded and emotionally humiliated, you no good filthy little fuck toy.

Maybe you enjoy being beaten until tears stream down your pretty little face.

Whatever it is, it’s almost always the case that both parties will need to engage in some sort of aftercare. 

medfet scene

Both parties? Really?

Yes.

Let us discuss a scene with emotional and verbal degradation. Of course, we might find it easy to understand how a sub - who just spent a scene being called all sorts of demeaning names - would want reassurance that they’re not actually all those things they were just called.

But we also need to take a look at the needs of the one doing the name calling. For the most part, even the most sadistic among us still have souls. How would you feel about yourself if you just spent the last hour degrading and demeaning the one you did a scene with (and/or even love!)?

You might not feel so great about yourself, if you consider yourself a generally nice person.

This person might need some gentle reassurance that they are indeed, still a nice person. “It was only for the scene,” the sub might say. (This of course, could and would just as well be said in the opposite direction.)

That’s just one example of the psychological aspect of aftercare.

But what about the physiological need for aftercare?

If your scene involves any sort of pain play - spanking, caning, biting, paddling, pinching, or piercing - your body will naturally release endorphins and even enkephalins (an type of endogenous opioid) to help ease the pain.

Cortisol - the body’s “stress hormone” is released, as is a natural reaction to being put in a stressful situation. (This is referring to a stressor, even though the participant might not find the scene stressful.)

All of this is to say, our bodies and minds are affected by such scenes. We often enter an altered state of consciousness. This is referred to as “sub space” and “dom space.”

Check out this article on Vice for an in depth look at the physiological changes one can experience during a BDSM scene.

Quality aftercare is necessary to bring both parties back to their “normal” state of being. It allows their hormones (cortisol, endorphins, etc.) to return back to normal. It allows both parties to process the scene - either what they did, or what was done to them - and connect even further after the scene is over.

When Aftercare In BDSM Doesn't Happen

Any number of things can happen when you don’t engage in aftercare for both parties.

I began this article by mentioning I engaged in a scene I (with 20/20 hindsight,) wasn’t ready to participate in. I certainly wasn’t ready for the after effects of it. It affected me so strongly I swore off BDSM for over a year and a half before giving it another (more educated) shot.

For those interested, I was topping for a very experienced sub. She wanted a scene with bondage, impact play, humiliation, and artistic cutting. Inexperience and excitement got the best of my judgement and I engaged in the scene with her.

Strangely enough, she did mention aftercare in our pre-scene negotiation and I did engage in aftercare for her.

But the effect on me made me feel like an abusive, horrible person and unwilling to do anything remotely involving BDSM ever again.I followed up with her via text the following day and she said she loved the experience, even proudly sending me a picture of my handiwork. 

But she never asked me how I was feeling afterward. 

I didn’t know it at the time, but I was experiencing “top drop.”

Top drop can be defined as “an after-effect that may be experienced by a dominant after they have finished with their submissive. This effect is usually characterized by a feeling of guilt or depression.”

Like I said, it put me off BDSM for over a year, even though I wasn’t the submissive. Can the same thing happen for the submissive in the scene?

Yes. It's called Sub Drop...

Sub Drop

Sub drop can be defined as “an emotional and physical low that begins anywhere from a few hours to a few days after an emotional/endorphin high and can last hours to weeks.”

What are some effects of sub drop?

  • Delirium 
  • Brain fog
  • Negative thoughts
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Nausea 
  • Headaches

In some extreme cases, it can even result in suicidal ideation. In so few words, sub drop and top drop can really, really fuck with you. That’s why it’s so important to have a good understanding of the after effects of BDSM scenes before you even begin discussing and/or negotiating the scene.

As a matter of fact, discussing aftercare during your pre-scene discussion is a good way to make sure you’ll both be taken care of afterwards. In a strange catch-22, aftercare begins before the scene even starts.

How Long Should Aftercare Wait BDSM

Aftercare, at the very minimum, should be administered right after the scene stops.

After all the restraints/gags/clamps/plugs/ropes/toys have been removed, it’s time to begin aftercare.

If you’ve ever frequented any fetish/kink/BDSM clubs, you may have noticed some couples cuddling on couches.

Maybe you’ve seen them feeding each other snacks and drinking water.

Maybe you’ve seen them sitting face to face and debriefing each other on how the scene went, what they enjoyed, what they would do differently, and how they’re feeling in the present moment.

This is when aftercare begins. 

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Soft BDSM Scene Aftercare Example

I have witnessed rope bondage scenes where the dom does a suspension with their sub.

Even though no impact play, sexual play, or humiliation play occured, you could always see some sort of structure and discussion happening afterwards. There was one couple who used to frequent The Citadel (a kink club in San Francisco) and do rope suspension scenes for all of us perverts to watch. I noticed each scene always ended with the sub being untied and brought to the ground, where the top would hold her while she laid, unbound, on the ground. 

After that, he would sit on a chair and watch her recoil all of the ropes used during the scene and put them in their suitcase. I always found that slightly odd, until (much later, when they were mingling among their fellow kinksters) I asked them about their post-scene ritual.

She said recoiling the ropes provided her a sense of closure - that the scene was over, and she was to fulfill her duty as the submissive to neatly place all of their toys away as “Daddy” watched her. For them, that was their agreed upon aftercare protocol.

Simple, effective, and it worked for both of them for that particular scene. (A scene like this is often referred to as a “soft” scene in BDSM.)

Hard BDSM Scene Aftercare Example

So what about a “hard” scene?

I have also witnessed in the same club a top whipping his sub to tears. Many would watch on as she squirmed against the restraints holding her to the St. Andrews cross.

We’d hear the yelps, cries, and screams she let out immediately after the thwap of the whip. 

We’d also hear her moan and scream in pleasure as he would hold a vibrator to her clit as a “break” (or a reward), still tied to the cross, before taking a few steps back and continuing the whipping.

After a scene like that, they would sit on the couch, all cuddled up, whispering (what I can only imagine was) sweet little nothings into each others’ ears. “I’m proud of you for enduring that,” “your marks look so pretty on your delicate skin,” “thank you for making me a crying little puddle of joy. I loved every minute of it.”

I can’t know exactly what was said for sure, but it was obvious to anyone who paid attention they were giving each other the emotional aftercare each of them needed. It’s a beautiful thing. For a scene like that, however, aftercare doesn’t end there.

Again, I can only imagine what the rest of their night (long after everyone had left the club) looked like - not to mention the following days and weeks. 

Physical aftercare must be administered to tend to her physical wounds. Emotional aftercare must be given to make sure the sub returns to their baseline emotional state and they can “integrate” the experience into her psyche. 

For a scene like that, aftercare must continue into the following days and even weeks. It is the responsibility of both the Top and Bottom (or Dom/Sub) to discuss what level of aftercare is appropriate for the scene they’re about to engage in.

This should be discussed before the scene even begins and should include: what their preferred aftercare protocol is and how long it should last. 

How To Provide Aftercare BDSM [Guide]

“Brutal beating, firm fuck, and sensual softness.” Those were the words of a former sub of mine when we were beginning our relationship and discussing what her scenes involved. 

Aftercare Basics BDSM

The basics of aftercare can be summed up as: any steps taken to ensure both parties are taken care of after a scene. It doesn’t matter how basic or how extreme the scene is, some level of BDSM aftercare should always occur.

Not only does it help each of the participants “recalibrate,” it can also be used as a tool to bring each of you closer together.

BDSM Aftercare Types

There are two main types of aftercare: physical and emotional.Physical aftercare is when you tend to one’s physical wounds: broken skin, bruises, cuts, etc.Emotional aftercare is when you tend to one’s emotional state: cuddles, words of reassurance, and checking in on their feelings.

BDSM Aftercare Kit

A BDSM aftercare kit is a handy piece of kit to bring along with your toys. It depends on the scene you’re partaking in and it depends on who you’re playing with. In general, it’s best to have at least the following:

  • Water or a sports drink to rehydrate

  • Snacks, as your blood sugar may be low after a scene

  • Basic first aid kit

  • Ice pack

  • Blanket or robe, as it makes cuddling far more comfy

  • Scented candles

  • Journal, if either of you enjoys writing about the scene 

Everyone is different and everyone has their own preferred aftercare protocols. Perhaps customize your kit to best suit your play partners aftercare routine. Do they have a favorite candy? A stuffed animal they feel comfortable around? A favorite TV show to wind down with?

What Kind Of Activities Are Included In Good BDSM Aftercare?

I can’t imagine the creators of the 5 Love Languages would ever see their idea posted to a kink website, but here we are. Stranger things have and will continue to happen.

Everyone is different and everyone feels cared for in different ways. The 5 love languages are a great way to figure out how to best provide aftercare for your partner.

Someone whose primary language is “words of affirmation” will respond better to verbal niceties than someone whose primary language is “receiving gifts.”

On the other hand, someone whose primary language is receiving gifts might appreciate their favorite candy more than “you did a great job” after the scene is over.

The point is: the better you know your partner, the better you will be equipped at providing them great aftercare. 

Most BDSM aftercare routines involve some sort of physical affection. Cuddling, snuggling, or taking a warm bath together. Anything that brings you physically closer together and share some intimate skin to skin contact.

Sharing a snack. Eating with someone you love is extremely intimate. Just like sex, it uses all 5 senses!  Eating with someone you just flogged to tears is a wonderful way to reconnect after a scene. Perhaps, if someones primary love language is acts of service, maybe you can cook for them. (But be careful not to leave them alone for too long!)

Communicating about the scene. Ask each other which parts were your favorite and which parts you may want to do differently next time. Do you want more of something next time? Now’s your chance to ask for it. Journaling about the scene.

Writing is a great way to express one's feelings. It’s also a great thing to have if you ever want to go back and revisit a particular great scene. Laughing (and even crying) together! Many subs have reported an emotional catharsis after a particularly charged scene. 

The same goes for Doms.

Hold space for your partner and allow them to feel whatever comes up. On the other hand, laughter is almost always welcome and a great way to lighten the mood after a great scene. Offer each other kind and gentle words of reassurance.

Everyone loves being told they’re proud of you!

Did your partner go to great lengths to please you? Tell them how much you appreciate the effort they put in.

In my experience, “good girl” goes a long way for many [female identifying] subs. If the tables are turned, reassure them by calling them a “good boy” or whatever pronoun they identify as.

Situation Specific Aftercare Advice

As all BDSM scenes are different, all BDSM aftercare routines will differ. Below are some of the more specific examples for different types of BDSM play. 

BDSM Aftercare Long Distance

It’s 2021. Technology allows us kinksters to connect even from afar. Some long distance kink relationships involve someone (usually the sub) doing “tasks” even if the Dom isn’t around. This can be anything from spanking themselves, going out in public with a butt plug in, or, if your relationship allows, playing with other non-primary partners.

A simple facetime chat is a great way to connect and discuss all the things I mentioned above. You can tell them how much you miss them, how much you can't wait to see them again, or that you’re out of milk and need them to bring some next time they come over.  

Do you know a time when they won’t be able to answer your call? Call them during that time and leave a sweet voicemail for them to listen to whenever they’re missing you. 

Perhaps you can send them a small gift in the mail. You could even send them a worn article of clothing with your scent on it for them to cuddle and feel safe. Whatever you do, use your imagination!

BDSM Spanking Aftercare

Spanking is one of the most common types of impact play. Sometimes it can be gentle enough to leave the skin red for just a few minutes, other times it can be “gentle” enough to leave bruises for over a week. 

If your goal is to experience a hard spanking without long lasting bruises (maybe it’s summertime and you need to meet friends at the beach over the weekend), icing your behind soon after the spanking session is a good idea.

Any type of cold compress will help reduce swelling and bruising. Of course, many people enjoy the pretty shapes and colors of the resulting bruises and serve as a reminder of a fun session. (Especially right when they sit down…)

For both topical marks and bruises, Arnica gel is often recommended. Aloe vera is also a nice choice as it provides a nice cooling effect. For an even greater cooling effect, have a spray bottle full of water (you can even include aloe vera gel mixed in) waiting for you in your fridge.

Have the spankee lay on their stomach with a fan blowing over their skin. Give a nice spritz of the cool water on their bum every minute or so and allow them to enjoy the cooling sensation on their skin. 

Gentle (GENTLE) sensation play for the win! 

CBT Aftercare BDSM

After engaging in a cock and ball torture scene, you will DEFINITELY want to engage in cock and ball torture aftercare. You don’t need to be a cock and ball owner to know this is a super sensitive area. Any impact to this area will often cause a bit of swelling and residual pain.

Along the same lines of spanking, arnica gel and an ice pack will do wonders to reduce the pain after the scene is over. 

A comfortable seat (or couch, or bed) is a great place to lay down and take any pressure off the area as you gently apply ice.

Some residual pain is normal the following day or two, but if you experience pain longer than that, go see a doctor. (Having a kink-friendly doctor is great in times like these). It’s also recommended to avoid sexual intercourse or masturbation until any pain goes away.

Subspace Aftercare BDSM

Subspace is when your sub enters an altered state of consciousness. Some say they feel like they’re floating. Others feel “high.” In some of the deeper states, some say it even feels like an out of body experience.

Because of this change of state, it’s incredibly important to stay (both physically and mentally) with your sub as they come back to a normal state.

A sub experiencing subspace during a scene may experience a “drop” after it’s over. This comes as a result of a sharp decline of endorphins, adrenaline, and dopamine circulating in your system after the scene’s over.

This sub drop can be helped with the BDSM aftercare protocols we mentioned above, but you will want to take a couple more precautions:NEVER let a sub who experienced subspace during the scene drive home afterwards.

It’s best (in many ways) to have them spend the night so they’re not left alone. If that’s not possible, arrange a way for them to get home safe. (Driving them home yourself, if you have not experienced top space/top drop, is best… as even putting them in a taxi means leaving them with a stranger in a semi-altered state of mind). 

How To Handle Emergency Aftercare BDSM

Even if you have a BDSM aftercare protocol all laid out, had a great scene, and implemented all your best aftercare ideas… things can still go south. A basic first aid kit should be enough for any unplanned mishaps.

But if something goes seriously wrong, you should always have emergency numbers on hand. The hospital emergency room is unlikely (hopefully!), but there’s always a possibility. If you’re lucky enough to know a kink friendly doctor, keep their phone number handy.

For psychological aftercare emergencies, having a kink-friendly therapist available can mean the world to a sub experiencing a sharp sub drop.

It’s always a good idea to have an “emergency contact” for anyone you play with. If your partner has a close friend who knows about their BDSM hobby, it could come in handy to have an extra person available to offer some emergency BDSM aftercare. 

Conclusion

Safe and sane BDSM means safe and sane from start to finish. Your scene may have ended, but your responsibilities have not. Always have a previously agreed upon BDSM aftercare routine for both (or all) people involved in a scene.

BDSM aftercare is the perfect way to end a scene and should be safe, fun, and comforting for everyone involved. It’s a great way to process what happened and bring you and your partner even closer together. (Did I mention cuddling afterwards releases oxytocin - the love drug?) It does!


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