Aftercare is a really important aspect to BDSM. In fact, just like safewords, aftercare is a requirement for healthy relationships. In order to ensure a partner’s safety and well-being, it should be performed after every scene unless your partner says otherwise.
Aftercare is a vague concept, basically referring to general support after a scene. The actual act of giving aftercare varies based on the partner, type of scene, and intensity of the scene.
Different partners require different kinds of aftercare. Don’t assume that since you have experience with one partner that you know how to care for another.
Talk to your partner(s) about their specific needs. Make sure to get as in-depth as possible. Some basic things you should know about your partner include triggers and what they typically like as a form of aftercare.
You should know your partner’s medical and psychological status. If your partner has diabetes, be sure to note that, as blood sugar levels can drop dramatically during pain-play. If your partner has a past injury that tends to flare up, establish what treatment should be done for it. In addition, if your partner has PTSD or other mental health concerns, you should be aware of how they are calmed in situations where they are triggered. Everyone responds differently, so ask these questions and take notes–literally, if need be!
Type of Scene
The type of scene has a lot to do with what type of aftercare to perform. Mental scenes differ from physical scenes and have different kinds of aftercare.
For sessions involving pain-play, some form of medical aftercare might be required. This can include cleaning and bandaging any open wounds or applying a soothing lotion on a freshly-spanked bottom.
For sessions involving emotional play, aftercare usually consists of loving support. After a humiliation scene, try cuddling or telling your partner how much you love them and/or how much they mean to you. The point is to bring your partner back to reality, where they are respected and valued.
In addition, combine your partner’s specific needs with the types of scenes. Talk to your partner(s) about these situations and what should be done. For example, a submissive who is a survivor of sexual assault may usually like to cuddle after a scene, but they might need space after a consensual non-consent scene. Discuss this with them before play.
Intensity of Scene
I say aftercare is required, but you might find yourself feeling perfectly fine after a scene. This is totally fine, too. Both/all parties should still check in with each other in order to establish that everyone is okay. Often, one party will think the other is okay when they, in fact, are not. You should get some form of confirmation from your partner before you leave them. Leaving them after a scene without checking in on their needs can constitute as abuse.
Keep in mind that aftercare is not specific for submissives. Dominants need it, too! It is not uncommon for a Dominant, especially a newer Dominant, to require aftercare. Sadism, especially, can trigger Dominants to experience intrusive negative thoughts about themselves after a scene. (They may feel like monsters–like they abused their submissive.) The submissive, in this case, should be just as attentive to their Dominant as their Dominant should be to them.
Aftercare doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, the most common forms of aftercare are so simple that you might not even recognize them as a form of aftercare! These can include:
- Telling your partner you love them.
- Thanking your partner for Dominating/submitting.
- Talking about the scene and discussing any problems that occurred.
- Getting your partner a drink or snack to calm them.
- Giving your partner a relaxing massage.
- Telling your partner what a good job they did.
The most important thing to do in order to give quality aftercare is discuss it before a scene. Understanding exactly what comforts your partner will make caring for them so much easier and will avoid any further discomfort.
You might want to consider even keeping a little stash of aftercare supplies nearby during a scene. Having a bottle of water, a small snack, some lotion, first aid supplies, or stuffed animal can really help make aftercare easier in a pinch!
It’s important to talk to your partner about aftercare. Tell them you want to know how to be a good partner to them. Make a list of things they like to experience after a scene, if that helps. Be sure to have a plan of action before any problems arise after a scene. It can be terrifying to have a partner going through distress after a scene and having no clue how to help. Avoid this by talking about their needs before the scene begins.