What happens after an experience wherein you provide some level of care for yourself, your body, or the people you just shared that experience with. That experience might have been a BDSM scene, or a weekend con; it might have been a sexual encounter, or a day of serving; it might have been a visit from your property; or an evening spent in high protocol with your Master.
Like so many things in WIITWD, people want rules to follow and checklists to cross of so they know they’re doing it “right” – but like so many things in WITTWD the conversation is just not that straightforward.
Let’s start off by busting some aftercare myths, shall we?
Aftercare is necessary
Not always. Aftercare needs will vary greatly depending on the style, and intensity of the scene. Other factors, like familiarity with your partner, public vs private play, or what kinda of day you’re having will also influence your need or desires for aftercare.
You’ll always require the same type of aftercare.
Not even close. The style of aftercare required greatly based on what you just experienced. That might include stretching, rubbing, heating or icing sore body parts. It might mean having your partner reaffirm that you aren’t a filthy cum hole, a bad feminist, or a rapist. Or, it might mean eating steak while talking about where your latest energy fueled trip to the stars took you.
Aftercare looks a certain way
Nuh-un – you’re getting the theme here right? Some people want blankets and cuddles. Some people want to be left alone. Some people want to fuck all night and then discuss the scene over waffles when the sun comes up. We all get to choose what our aftercare looks like.
Aftercare requires two people – and always the person you played with
Nope. Getting to choose what your aftercare looks like means that you might do it by yourself. You also might not be the right person to provide aftercare. Sometimes sadists can’t switch out of the headspace quickly enough to provide immediate aftercare for their partners. Some bottoms might not be ready for cuddles from the person who was “violating” them the night before. Sometimes outsourcing aftercare is the best choice for all parties involved. It’s okay to make that choice.
Aftercare is for subs and bottoms only
Wrong. Aftercare is for the people who need and want int. Regardless of what role they play in their power exchange or what side of the whip they wield. Bottoms, as your tops about their needs during negotiations. Tops, let your partners in.
Aftercare happens immediately after the scene
Noooooope. Aftercare happens when people need it to. Sometimes that’s immediately after; sometimes it’s the next morning, sometimes days after.
The point of aftercare is _____________
You say this coming, perhaps? No. There is no single point of aftercare
For some people aftercare is a time to reconnect after an intense experience, to their body, to their spirit, or to other people. For some people it’s a chance to reassure each other of their humanity after playing with monstrous deeds. For some people it’s all about physical restoration of the body after a period of exertion. For some people it’s a time to process the experience that just was, and what that means for what will be. For some people it’s being easy on yourself while your body cycles through the highs and lows that come with BDSM.
Or it could be something else. Or a combination of many of those things, just as we get to choose our own sexual adventure, we get to choose our own aftercare.
So now that we’ve covered what aftercare isn’t – how do we figure out our own aftercare needs?
First – figure out how you hear love. Knowing which of the 5 love languages you hear in is key to knowing what will help you connect to your partner. If physical touch isn’t how you hear I care about you no amount of cuddles will replace your partner telling you that ya did good. If you hear I love you through acts of service, your partner fetching a snack for you, or turning down the bed before you get in it will give you the connective boost you want. If physical touch is your love language, line up the cuddles, pets, and caresses – fuzzy blanket optional 😉
Second – figure out how you process experiences. Are you an inter-processor (within), or an intra-processor (between)? Inter-processors need some time to sort things out within themselves (though things like meditation, journaling, heaving thinking, etc) and intra-processors do better sorting out their thoughts with others (think dialogue, public journaling, conversations etc). An inter/inter mix fits nicely as does a intra/intra mix, but combining the two means someone isn’t getting to process in their ideal way, so consider what types of arrangements can be made for this.
Third – remember that needs are multifaceted. Physical, emotional, mental, spiritual are different components that will play out in different ways highly dependent on what type of scene you’ve had. For example, if I’ve been providing leathercare service for the last hour, the only aftercare I need is physical – I need to stretch my body! If I’ve gone through intensely spiritual experience I need to get my feet on the ground (literally), some mellow time with people I know well and lots of grounding foods like red meat. If my play has left me mentally unsure I want to be left alone while I put myself back together; when I’m ready for a hug I’ll come find you. If I played with pain and impact, I need verbal reassurance that I was enough, and if it was intense, more verbal reassurance and exercise 2 days later while my chemical soups is balancing itself back out.
Fourth – make your best estimation. Take what you know about yourself and think about the scene you’re negotiating for. What are your aftercare needs more likely to be? Be as honest and upfront as you can be. It doesn’t serve anyone to pretend you can provide aftercare when you can’t, or that you don’t need aftercare when you really do.
Fifth – make space for the unexpected. One of the amazing things about using sexuality as a playground is the unexpected: the places you can go, the people you connect with, the acts you thought you could never do in public – but unexpected places can mean unanticipated outcomes and no matter what you planned for aftercare, you might actually need something different in that moment. I believe as go exploring with someone, or create an experience with someone we have a duty of care to help them come back from that place to the best of our ability. Top or bottom – when it comes to keeping people healthy and whole, power games don’t need to get in the way. If someone you played with comes to you in pain, ask how you help and listen to what they have to say.
So what are some of your aftercare needs? Share them in the comment section – you might just inspire someone!
Additional Readings on this topic: