What is Aftercare? Affection After the Orgasm

What is Aftercare? Affection After the Orgasm

Aftercare is a vitally important part of almost all sexual interactions. The word is widely used by the BDSM community to describe the “come-down” process following a BDSM scene. Often, endorphins and adrenaline that occur during heightened activity can lead to a high, and if left alone, a drastic drop-off can give one or both parties the blues. However, it doesn’t necessarily only occur after a rowdy night of whips and chains. Any time there’s an exchange of power (which, depending on your theoretical lens, occurs with any sexual activity), aftercare is an important process to demonstrate appreciation, gratitude and care for your sexual partner for their brave choice of trusting you and allowing you to take pleasure in their body. The act of aftercare shouldn’t be an afterthought – it’s a crucial part of play that should be incorporated into all sexual activity. 

What is aftercare?

Within the context of BDSM, after a “scene,” or a premeditated space in which BDSM activities occur, the submissive party may be feeling vulnerable on several levels. Outside of BDSM, partners can still feel the same type of vulnerability, particularly if they’ve taken part in an activity that leaves them feeling more “open” or is more physically rigorous. This could be anything – sex is a vulnerable activity! Depending on the person, receiving oral sex, engaging in anal play, any type of penetrative sex, etc., may require deeply trusting your partner and letting your guard down. 

Aside from feeling vulnerable emotionally, the “receiving” or subordinate partner may feel a rush of endorphins and other feel-good brain chemicals during and immediately following the scene. However, the comedown from this rush should be gradual or the sub could experience what the BDSM community refers to as “sub-drop.” If you’ve ever partied too much and then suddenly found yourself alone at home, you know the feeling. If you’re not nourished mentally, socially and physically, you feel a bit lost, miffed, and alone. To have someone caring for you and holding your hand, literally and metaphorically guiding you out of that vulnerable headspace, can make all the difference. Caring for your partner after sex will ensure they have a positive experience from beginning to end, and then they’ll be willing to do it again with you.

If you’re a top, ask your partner the degree of aftercare they’re into. Some individuals prefer to be pampered and fussed over, while others may need space and to “come down” on their own by journaling or showering to come back into themselves. Communication is essential.

Physical Aftercare

If you’re participating in extreme S&M, aftercare will include actually taking care of any physical results – applying, say, aloe vera or a soothing salve to freshly whipped skin, cleaning and bandaging any incidental wounds if things got really rough, that sort of thing. But it’s not enough to simply fix issues; you need to spend time really soothing, using your hands to caress areas that were just flogged, kissing, tickling, and any soft, gentle gestures that will make the sub feel especially pampered. 

Whether your scene is extreme or not, cuddling is not only nice, it actually does good things to our brains. It encourages the release of oxytocin, the bonding chemical that makes people feel safe and loved. Hugging, holding, kissing or any affectionate act will trigger this response when two people who trust each other have just engaged in any sort of physical interaction. You can also offer a massage or 

on a more basic needs level, have water and snacks available after a scene to nourish and replenish fluids lost. Fruit or chocolate will boost blood sugar, and salty snacks will boost potassium and other electrolytes. You might also need to take a nap to give the body a chance to rest and be restored.

It isn’t just subs who require aftercare – being a dom has its own challenges. It can be physically taxing, so after you care for your sub, they may want to return the favor by massaging aching muscles or bathing with you.

Mental Aftercare

It’s important to use words and actions to make your partner feel supported. The easiest way to do this is by talking. Ask them how they felt about what just happened! Make sure they enjoyed themselves, and ask them what they’d like you to do or not do again next time. Tell them how much you enjoyed it and praise them for performing the act, whatever it was, so well. Avoid any criticism – unless any boundaries were violated, of course – until later, when you’re both in a less sensitive headspace.

However you express your affection, it’s important to talk and laugh together after a scene to remind both of you that whatever roles you play sexually, first and foremost, the two of you are people who care about each other. You can watch a funny show while you cuddle, read together, color, or play a game to stay engaged but help both parties gently return to “normal.”

Self Aftercare

After your partner’s attended to your needs to the degree that you require, you may need some time to yourself. You also might not. But it’s important to take some time to reflect on the scene, check in with yourself, and make sure all your needs are met. This might mean spending time journaling, soaking in the bath, doing some stretching, or going on a walk. Outside of the context of sex with a partner, these are good things to do anytime you’re engaged in a situation that makes your heart race or gets endorphins pumping. Stressful day at work? Aftercare. Unpleasant discussion with a family member? Aftercare. Just like you’d want your partner to show you some love, you should do the same for yourself.