What is aftercare?
Although it’s sometimes overlooked, BDSM aftercare plays an important role in whole scene. Aftercare is essentially defined as a period of time and space used to facilitate recovery after a scene. When administered, care allows participants to experience connection, resolution, catharsis, healing and recuperation. If a play scene is like a blissful flight, then consider aftercare akin to a safe landing.
Why do some people need aftercare?
BDSM play is demanding – so is lifting weights, dancing or running a marathon. One way the body deals with these demands is to release endorphins.
When the body is faced with sufficient pain or stressor stimuli it releases endorphins. Endorphins are neurotransmitters, chemicals that affect the brain as well as the lymphatic and nervous systems of our bodies. There are over twenty types of endorphins, some of which are as powerful as morphine and codeine. Endorphins react with the opiate receptors in the body and work to limit feelings of pain and to mitigate the effects of stress. These chemicals can also prompt feelings of euphoria, heighten emotion and may encourage sexual desire. Endorphins are the body’s own natural feel good drug. It’s your body’s way of saying, “I’m good, that’s enough”.
Endorphins are awesome. OK, we all got that. Now, here is where it gets a bit tricky. People respond to stimuli and release endorphins differently. The same person can respond to stimuli differently under given circumstance. The whole biochemical process of endorphins is affected by someone’s physical and mental state. The only constant is that a threshold has to be reached as a catalyst to the process.
Let’s apply all of this geek science to BDSM. Consider a flogging scene played by a top and bottom. The top is working hard enough to break a sweat, throwing various floggers constantly for thirty minutes. The bottom is receiving lots of stimuli, as the flogger impacts on the skin. Eventually, the top may get an endorphin rush that helps her complete the scene as her shoulders grow tired. The bottom may get his own endorphin rush from the sensations the flogger cause, heightening his feelings of submission. The physiological stressors are what create the endorphin aided pleasure response from the scene.
When the scene is over, the top may feel emotionally fine but need a massage to soothe her sore shoulders. The bottom may be ok physically but need reassurance as he deals with the emotions of the scene. Both players could simply need water and a quiet moment to cool down and catch their breath.
Aftercare allows participants to address the needs of themselves and their partners. In aftercare, the top may get the massage she needs. The bottom may receive cuddles to help him process his feelings. In aftercare people relieve themselves of the stressors they encountered during the actual scene. This is the recovery, the metaphoric “safe landing”.
If it’s recovery, then it’s aftercare
It’s time to think differently about aftercare. Traditionally, aftercare was considered to be the responsibility of the top, something to be administered to the bottom. The truth is anyone, regardless of how they identity can benefit from aftercare. A top and bottom can respectively care for each other. Other partners and friends can also be a care resource. Even self care is a valid form of aftercare. This approach acknowledges that everyone has their own distinct needs after a scene.
Aftercare should always be discussed during negotiation. Ask your partner what type of aftercare they require. Be certain you’re capable of providing the degree of care someone is asking for. For example, if your partner expects sex as a part of aftercare and you aren’t comfortable with that be honest. It isn’t fair to either person to agree to care that you can’t provide. Work to negotiate a level of aftercare that is adequate to meet your partner’s recovery needs. Also express what your personal aftercare needs are and make provisions for receiving that care. Some people don’t require aftercare and don’t provide it to their partners. Be clear about expectations. Knowing expectations is especially important when negotiating a casual or first time scene. Whatever the process may be, if it’s prompting recovery, it’s aftercare.
Basic preparations can help you to administer either aftercare or self care. Bottled water is your friend, make sure it’s available. A simple snack can help to regulate energy levels. After a scene the body’s core temperature can drop, so have a wrap handy to ward off chills. A first aid kit can help with minor strains, cuts and unwanted bruises that occur in a scene. Be aware if your partner exhibits signs of distress. Know your own body and if something feels off, get help. Learn what medical resources are available at a playspace if a serious matter arises during aftercare (or during the scene itself).
A safe, supportive space
The time spent in aftercare should feel safe and supportive. Remember, that endorphin rush is likely to cause heightened emotions. Maintain a sincere, comforting attitude. Refrain from criticizing your partner or blaming them if something went wrong. Instead, focus on the best parts of the scene and express your appreciation. If serious matters need to be addressed, do so in a respectful, adult manner.
Cuddles and chocolate
If appropriate for your dynamic, indulge yourself and your partner during aftercare. Share some cuddles and chocolate. Give aftercare the attention it deserves and let the time enhance the quality of your play.
And a cartoon [SOURCE–please visit her tumblr to see her other art]