BDSM is an umbrella term for numerous sexual practices; it stands for Bondage, Discipline, Sadism, and Masochism. It typically includes elements of roleplaying, dominance, submission, and other related interpersonal dynamics; often times, impact playsuch as whipping, spanking, and hair-pullingis involved.
It takes a moment after having an intense sexual encounter to return back to your normal self, even if you wanted it and enjoyed it; you have an actual comedown. Adrenaline may have gotten you through the experience and made it pleasurable, but afterwards, you no longer have that adrenaline spike. That's where sexual aftercare comes in.
So what is sexual aftercare?
"Aftercare is any care provided to a person who has just undergone some kind of experience, particularly to help them process, come down from, or recover from that experience," according to Elizabeth Anne Wood , PhD and author of Bound: A Daughter, a Domme, and an End-of-Life Story .
Why is aftercare so important?
Aftercare matters for two main reasons, Wood explains. The first is physical: "If the body has endured traumaeven if that trauma was sought out as in the acquiring of a tattoo or a good floggingit needs care in order to heal."
Wood elaborated on the tattoo example: "You certainly want to take good care of the skin to make sure you don't end up with an infection or a ruined design. The same might be true after a very physical BDSM scene."
Psychological wellbeing is the second reason aftercare is critical following an intense BDSM experience. "It feels good to be looked after," Wood says. "In BDSM contexts, the submissive or bottom may have just endured humiliation, stress, pain, or a pushing of psychological boundaries, and need comforting and cuddling to help them return to equilibrium.
Woods adds, "The dominant partner may also need aftercare, whether that means icing a shoulder strained after a long flogging session, or cuddle time with the submissive partner to help come down and feel like equals again.
How should you bring up aftercare with your partner?
Like everything else when it comes to sex and relationships, the best way to bring it up is by talking about it honestly and openly.
"In the case of BDSM scenes, you might want to discuss aftercare desires or expectations before engaging in play," Wood says. That way, you know exactly what to do when the scene is over, especially since the submissive partner still might be in what's commonly referred to as a "sub-space"a trance-like state caused by the rush of adrenaline and endorphins. While in a sub-space, it can be difficult to articulate your needs.
Can you only have aftercare after BDSM-style sex?
While aftercare is a common practice in the BDSM community, it doesn't only have to pertain to more "intense" sex.
"Aftercare is great in all sexual experiences because it takes a persons emotional well-being into consideration," says Gigi Engle , a certified sex coach and sexologist. Even if this was a casual encounter, Engle argues aftercare is still important. "It acknowledges what you two have experienced together. Everyone deserves to walk away from sexual experiences feeling emotionally well and good about themselves."
For couples, Engle believes it can help bring the two individuals closer and foster a pair bond. "Sex isnt just about wham-bam goodnight. Its about two people having pleasure and a shared experience."
What isn't aftercare?
Aftercare should not be confused with apologizing or trying to make up for poor or abusive treatment, Wood explains: "If youve hurt someone by accident, through carelessness, or because of false ideas about what they deserved or wanted, you should apologize and make amends for your behavior, but this is not aftercare."
In fact, if you are responsible for having hurt someone, you shouldn't be that person's initial source of care.
"They are likely to need care from a trusted third party before they are able to even consider an apology from you," Wood says. "Your first obligation in this instance is to make sure that the person is safe, not to try to remedy the harm you caused yourself."