cw: non-explicit mentions of bdsm & impact play
Update to this post: My partner now uses they/them pronouns.
Any introduction to BDSM will stress the importance of aftercare, and almost every kinkster has at least one story about how they didn’t think they needed aftercare…until they did. Aftercare is important for physical issues, of course—Tiger Balm on bruises, lotion on sore skin—but it’s also important for processing emotions, calming down, and getting into a normal headspace again.
BDSM activities can build a lot of complicated feelings, even if both parties enjoy themselves during the scene. And frequently, the pleasant mental place known as ‘subspace’ that many bottoms find themselves in is caused by a release of endorphins—it’s very similar to the ‘runner’s high’ that people who do marathons enjoy. However, what goes up must come down, and when the endorphin high is done, a lot of people find themselves in a state called ‘sub-drop’ which, as the name suggests, is not an extremely fun state to be in.
(I’d like to note that doms and tops need aftercare as well, which is very often neglected. It’s so neglected, in fact, that it’s a topic for a future post.)
Personally—perhaps because of my depression, or perhaps because I’m just wired this way—I find myself capable of crashing even after the most mundane, vanilla orgasm. It makes sense, of course. Orgasms also release endorphins and all kinds of other happy chemicals, and have been reported to create a lot of unexpected reactions in people, including feelings of sadness (postcoital dysphoria), shakiness, or headaches. Add to this the fact that my sex life is atypical, being queer and with an asexual partner, it took me a while to even recognize signs of crashing, let alone work out a good aftercare routine.
When I drop, one of the first signs is that I become very short-tempered. Early on in our relationship, my partner and I would get into a lot of dumb arguments after I came back from masturbating because I was exceptionally cranky. I also tend to get teary or even just fall into a depressive state for a little while, even if my depression’s been at bay. Sometimes I feel a little detached. Physically, I get unpleasantly shaky, and cold. Obviously, this is not fun, and until my partner and I found aftercare that works for me, I almost didn’t want to do anything sexual, because the aftereffects were so unpleasant.
Fortunately, we’ve since worked out what helps me, both after a kink scene, and after an orgasm, vanilla or not. Some of it is stuff my partner and dominant can do for or with me, and some of it I do on my own.
I love the idea of a kinky quickie as much as the next person, but one of the biggest struggles I’ve had is not giving myself time after orgasm or a spanking session. I’d have a spectacular orgasm, then immediately fling on my pants, and go right to washing dishes or making dinner. Because I was short-tempered, I usually got resentful of whatever activity I was doing. More importantly, I had a hard time calming down in general, because I wasn’t taking the time to transition from one situation to the other. We’ve since learned to try to save any scenes or orgasms for mid-afternoon or mid-evening, when I don’t have anything on my to-do list for a few hours. If scheduling doesn’t work out that way, or we have a spontaneous scene too close to a busy time, then either changing chores around or asking for help—or both—are helpful. I’ve also learned to avoid anything extremely negative after any kind of endorphin high, so I stay off Twitter and other social media and avoid anything political. It’ll all be there later, when I’m a little less fragile.
Many BDSM experts—and vanilla sex writers—recommend cuddling your partner after a scene or sex, and for many people, that probably works great! But my asexual partner isn’t generally in the room right after I orgasm and, more importantly, I don’t really like being cuddled when I’m coming down from an endorphin high. It just makes me feel sweaty and confined and uncomfortable. Instead, I wrap up in a blanket and hold onto a favorite plushie or a pillow. It gives my arms something to do, and gives me the secure feeling of being held without the confinement of another being’s arms. Plus, because my favorite plushies are usually a gift from my partner and I’m a sentimental sap, it still feels like she’s involved even when I’d prefer she keep her physical distance. I try to spend at least five minutes laying around like this, and then I’m usually okay to interact with my partner again. I often bring the plushie along anyway, in case I do start to feel shaky.
If we’re doing aftercare after a kink scene, she is in the room, obviously, but I still don’t really want cuddles. She does put lotion on any skin that’s especially sensitive from impact, but mostly it’s hands-off. She usually drapes a blanket over me wherever I am and puts a plushie in my arms, and just sits nearby with her phone. We can talk about the scene sometimes, what we liked or didn’t like, or just wait a while before talking.
Just about every aftercare source recommends some kind of snack, but they rarely mention what that might entail, because it’s unique to everyone. You may be dehydrated after a scene, or have a blood sugar crash, or just need the comfort of something tasty. Personally, I’ve refined my ideal aftercare snack to a sugary drink (a juice box, a small cup of soda, or a sport drink), a cheese stick for some protein, a couple of crackers for carbs and crunch, and a piece of chocolate. It’s a decent little snack that boosts whatever it is that needs boosting, but doesn’t interfere with any upcoming meals. It’s to the point that my partner will either set it out for me or, if she knows she can’t for various reasons, she’ll instruct me to prepare my snack ahead of time.
Sometimes I’ll read silly jokes to me from the Internet. Sometimes we sit on the couch and watch Frasier or Simply Nailogical. Sometimes, once she knows I’m okay with being touched again, my partner will tickle me. Spending some time laughing seems to help balance me out, and can even pull me out of crash-mode if other things haven’t worked.
This isn’t always an option for me, but sometimes if we have a lot of time after a scene, I’ll take a nice, decadent bath, with bubbles and maybe some rubber ducks, which are obviously essential to the recovery process. It provides the necessary warmth, it smells nice, and it’s a good opportunity to either leave my mind fairly blank, or to read something light and fluffy like a cute romance novel or a favorite children’s book.
These techniques aren’t 100%, and sometimes I still experience some drop, but it’s nowhere near as frequent, intense, or long-lasting as it was before. What are your aftercare or post-sex rituals? Have you ever experienced sub-drop or a post-orgasm crash?
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