There’s a lot to be said about finding your rhythm and role in BDSM acts or dynamics. As someone who’s exploring the role of a Dom and a rigger, there are techniques to read up on and practice, there are safety measures to look into and possible reactions or responses to mentally prepare for and finally, there is aftercare.
Aftercare, or the act of seeking closure, comfort, attention and/or validation after BDSM scenes, is to help the participants in that scene slowly ground themselves and transition back to their everyday selves.
Aftercare is also something that I, as an anxious person with OCD who is still finding their bearings in the BDSM world, take very seriously. Because everything needs to be perfect, it needs to play out ‘just right’, and my brain won’t stop screaming at me about the endless ways in which everything can go wrong and how I need to be perfectly prepared for every possible scenario.
I take aftercare very, very seriously.
So seriously, that I forgot I might need some practices of my own to implement after scenes.
The thing with being a Dom or a dominant-type in any BDSM play (the sadist, the daddy, the rigger, etc) is that we’re often told about the power, respect, and sense of responsibility that comes into play when you take on that role. But nobody really talks about the sheer overwhelm of how much trust your subs, littles, or rope bunnies place in you. Or the fatigue that can kick in from engaging in bondage, impact play or prolonged disciplining so your subs receive the perfect scene to liberate and validate them.
We don’t talk about the enthusiastic subs who can get carried away and throw caution to the wind with, “I want us to try everything, I have no limits!”. Or the openness with which strangers will candidly DM you to ask if you will be their master, their owner, their god, and so on.
Trust is a strange, powerful thing. And with OCD, I haven’t gone a single day of my life knowing what it’s like to have absolute faith in myself. So imagine my shock and horror at the prospect of having someone else trust me with significant amounts of their personal safety and pleasure when I barely trust myself to safely transport a pair of scissors from one room to the other.
Trust and responsibility is also something I crave deeply from other people because I often struggle to see that capacity within myself. And when I do receive it, it can be difficult to accept it as is and keep it from escalating into another obsessive fear.
But the idea of aftercare to me, was solely something that Doms provided to their subs. To bring closure from the degradation or humiliation, to soothe the heightened sensations and pain, and to help them come out of the trance state that subbing often puts them in.
But when I finish playing with a partner, what ensures that I come out of my own heightened awareness and vigilance to, well, my everyday levels of vigilance?
What helps me keep my own ruminations at bay, so I’m not left to spiral with my thoughts of how I may have frightened my sub or ruined the kink for them? What encourages me to develop more trust in myself, to create a space where everyone involved can share feedback after the scene, and to slowly be less overwhelmed by the amount of trust my sub places in me?
Couldn’t that be fueled by a form of aftercare too?
Just as aftercare for subs can be anything from cuddles, words of affirmation and care, a massage, a meal, first-aid, watching videos together, or going your separate ways to find comfort and closure in your own individual spaces, aftercare for Doms can vary too.
Maybe your Dom strapped for you for a really long time, and aftercare for them could look like you offering them a massage, an ice pack, or a hot shower.
Maybe you engaged in impact play together, and they need to be thanked for the punishment they gave you just as much as you need to hear what a good sub/little you are.
Maybe your scene involved a blindfold and both of you would now feel grounded and safe from being able to finally make direct eye contact.
Or maybe rigging you meant that they weren’t able to receive any physical contact from you, and it would mean the world to them to finally feel your hands on their skin.
Just as subs may choose BDSM to feel cared for by someone else, to relinquish control and have someone else take the wheel, or relive traumatic acts or traumatic language safely to make peace with their experiences, Doms too may choose to engage in BDSM to process their own ideas and experiences around care, control, trust, communication and discipline. And that can make BDSM experiences feel emotionally profound and overwhelming for Doms too.
Which means aftercare is essential, whether you discipline or ask to be disciplined.
Not only could aftercare be an excellent exercise in helping your Dom reorient themselves, it could also mean a prolonged state of submission or servitude for subs. Bring them a glass of water, massage their feet, compliment them for the parts of the scene that you liked (so they also notice what you would like more of next time!) or play music and watch puppy videos together.
The scope for finding an aftercare routine that works for all of you, is endless. And discussing this up front is not just about subs knowing how to treat their Doms better, it can also be a great way to test compatibility and see how seriously your prospective Dom takes your safety and their own. Will they be able to provide what you’re looking for after a scene is over? Will they dismiss your need for validation? Will they focus more on their need to ground themselves than your need for calming aftercare? Will they overextend themselves and exhaust themselves?
What would safety look like for you in a partnership or scene where someone’s ideas of aftercare are not compatible with yours?
Maybe aftercare shouldn’t be a casual footnote in the conversations around BDSM. Maybe aftercare can be the very thing that builds boundaries between Good Doms, Unprepared Doms and just Incompatible Doms. Maybe aftercare can make you a better Dom because it can provide you with the release, reassurance and feedback that encourages you to grow and pay more attention to detail. Maybe aftercare has the power to make or break an entire kink for you, and BDSM would be a lot easier to explore if we all learned to look past the highs of each act and paid equal attention to demonstrating care and comfort too.
After all, aren’t those the very feelings that a lot of us crave from BDSM in the first place?