Aftercare, Part III: The Exceptions

This is the third part in a series on aftercare. Part I is here. Part II is here.

I had initially intended on only writing two posts on aftercare– one on the basics and one on how aftercare can create traumatic bonding that bonds the participants to each other. However, something that I had intended to mention in my initial post yet forgot to include, was the fact that aftercare means different things to different people. It was something that I first thought about a while back when reading a post on rayne’s blog about a scene with her Master. However, my fantastic commenters did not hesitate to call me on the exclusion of this important point. But since I am not one of those people that can, or wants, to go without aftercare, I’ll let those that know better than I do speak about it.

Jade commented:

“One thing I would point out is that what constitutes aftercare is not the same for everyone, tho. I know one sub that simply likes to have a blanket thrown over her and to be left alone until she comes around. My own Top plays with someone that doesn’t want any “loving” interaction after, for her, that diminishes the power of the scene. It is thru their ability to communicate those needs that they realized and were able to give each other what they needed to feel a sense of completeness after the scene, and that, too, is a key element of aftercare–recognizing both the top and bottom’s needs and fulfilling them.”

dragonmage echoed this, saying:

“I would like to add that not only can aftercare be different for different people, it can be different for different scenes. Some days, Luvbunny needs me to hold her for several minutes to an hour after a scene, but sometimes a couple of minutes or even just a quick kiss is enough.”

However, the real reason that I chose to address this in it’s own post was because of an email that I received from a real life friend from our local scene.

“While I always enjoy reading your posts, I must take some issue with how your Master presented the “need” for aftercare. What you both presented works for you, and that’s great. I’m glad that you have found a relationship dynamic that allows you to explore your kinky needs, as well as your romantic needs.

But, as someone commented, each couple/scene has different needs for aftercare. I don’t know if you’ve posted anything about negotiating a BDSM scene, but I find it critical to deal with aftercare needs before a scene starts. Here is a FetLife entry that one of my play partners posted that I found truly enlightening and hope you will take the time to read it.”

I, too, found the post enlightening. It’s quite a long post and if you have the time, I highly suggest taking a few minutes to head over and read the whole thing. But for the TL;DR crowd, or those without a Fetlife login, I’ve posted some of the parts that I found most interesting or important from the post below.


Sometimes the whole point of the scene is to wallow in the muck and the filth and the humiliation. Sometimes the point is to be torn down and be left to put YOURSELF back together again. Sometimes the point is that you are strong enough, and powerful enough to claw your way out of the dirt, clean up the mess, and go process the places it took you. Sometimes the point is to crawl off someplace and masturbate furiously until you’ve milked every bit of pleasure out of the bruises on your body and soul. Sometimes the scene isn’t MEANT to be over for days or weeks or months to come. Sometimes it was just fun, and now it’s over, and you’re done. No dessert required, thank you.

So, to you well-meaning darlings rushing toward that puddle on the floor in dismay…um…NO. She isn’t “okay”, and she doesn’t want to be. You asking is destroying her headspace, and she’s very likely to slug you if you try to hug her. Even if she’s crawling toward her tent or bag or corner or shivering in a puddle of something disgusting…she doesn’t want your help unless she asks you for it. It is no more right and proper to interfere in the aftermath of a scene than in the scene itself. Your “rescue” is not required. And that “irresponsible” “asshole” who “just walked away” and didn’t “take care of her”? He most likely knew exactly what he was doing…

Most everybody I know who plays this way has some small way of checking in, or reconnecting, when they are done…which may be hours, days or even weeks later…and likely looks nothing like textbook “aftercare.” It’s what they want…the right amount of the right thing for them…and they know it, because they know themselves, and usually, each other, well enough to have negotiated what they need. AND THAT’S OKAY.


It takes a certain amount of physical, emotional, and psychic energy to access that place inside where the shadow lives…the one that wants to hurt and frighten people until they are screaming, sobbing, fighting back or cowering in fear…drag it out and play hard with it…and put it back again. Everybody has a different experience of it, and some would dispute my characterization of it. Fair enough. But many will agree that when they’ve reached that place, by the end of a scene, when they’ve taken their willing partner to that place with them, it is either TOO hard to reverse gears, or they simply don’t want to…because it destroys the high of it

For those people, I think it’s important to clarify: there is an enormous difference between the top who prefers not to provide aftercare, and one who is incapable of recognizing a true psychological left turn, in a scene gone bad. None of the people I’m talking about would EVER hesitate to jerk themselves out of the happy headspace to provide all of the necessary aftercare in an instance where a scene goes somewhere that isn’t good (in a bad way)…and most have had to more than once. Not everybody is capable of playing responsibly in the places where people’s fears, phobias, identity and self-esteem live. Those that are may have a preference for rocking their own high at the end, but they do it only after they’ve made sure that they’ve left their partner/bottom in a (relatively speaking) safe place. That isn’t necessarily a soft and cuddly, pretty place, that everyone is going to get warm and fuzzy feelings watching.

That means knowing something about the people they play with, TRUSTING the people they play with to know themselves…and to arrange aftercare from some other source if they need it. “Bring your own aftercare” or “borrow some” is a perfectly legitimate approach to a scene between two people whose energy needs are different at the end of a scene. And many times, even when it appears there is none, there are “watchers” that you don’t see…friends who know the people involved, who keep watch, run interference if necessary, and subtly ‘hold the space’, while everybody comes back to earth in their own time and fashion. That is part of the power of the organized scene, and public play in controlled spaces and events.


There are some wonderfully sadistic tops out there, who LOVE the part where they turn on that dime, pick up the broken pieces and hug and cuddle and love them back together again. Being the good Daddy, the Loving Dominant, the Sweet Cuddly Top, does it for them, and it’s their favorite part of the scene. Power to them, and there are folks who need them and adore playing with them. The are also folks who can’t. “Aftercare for tops” stems in part from the fact that there are people who simply can’t give that to them. I’ve been warned as a top AND as a bottom: “I may not want to talk to you for a few days after you do what I’ve asked you to do. And that’s okay. I just need time to process it. We’re okay.” It’s an important thing to know…

But be clear and honest with yourself and the people you play with that the point of your scene is not so much the places you go, as the bringing you back. Because it is unfair…to you and to the people you play with…to not understand the difference. If your aftercare is going to take longer than the scene did, be clear on the fact your fetish is the aftercare, and ask for what you want. Or bring it with you.”

I find her final point an interesting one, and would like to know what you all think of it:


I will be dogmatic here. Do not get into the deep end of the pool if you aren’t prepared to swim. I am up to my ears with the discussions of the top’s responsibility for the emotional well-being of the people they play with. At the end of the day, we are alone in our skins. The only person who can fix what’s broken or bruised in there is you. The only person who knows what you “really” need is you. If you’re in this game looking for therapy, fine. But be prepared to do your OWN work. If you need a therapist to help you do that, get one with proper credentials and pay them for their time. But even there, in the end, you’re still going to have to be the one that decides who you are and what you’re capable of.

If you are going to ask somebody to play with your pain, your fears, your phobias, your self-esteem, your core emotional identity…you need to have done some work of your own, and be prepared to do more.

The people you play with are responsible for watching out for your physical and apparent emotional safety, recognizing your stated limits, attempting to figure out how to get you where you want to be and when you’ve had enough, and stopping before you come to real harm…TO THE BEST OF THEIR ABILITY. And at some point or other, if you play hard…the best of them will miss something, and you will get hurt, or disappointed, or scared or let down. We all have hidden landmines, in our bodies and our minds, that can take us to places we didn’t anticipate. Any good top will do their best to be supportive and caring, and help you find your way back again. But ultimately it’s YOUR work to do.

As a sadist or a masochist, you are responsible for knowing what you want, knowing what your limits are, what your needs are, caring enough for yourself to HAVE SOME of both, and providing for your own physical and emotional safety…whatever that means to you. In many cases that means finding someone you can trust to play with, and taking the time to let that trust build with experience. And even then…the best of intentions and plans will fail sometimes. Dealing with that is part of the game.”

However, I really like the note that she ends on.

Like everything else in BDSM the presence, intensity and duration of “aftercare” is a preference. No more, no less. One that should be worked out between the parties involved. We need, collectively, to lose the current notion that soft and cuddly aftercare (or anything else, besides consent) is “REQUIRED” for responsible BDSM play.

What are your thoughts on this “darker” side of BDSM? Agree? Disagree? Care to add anything?

Photo source.
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  1. Welcome to Chicago, Jillinois
    Posted December 21, 2009 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    Thank you for posting this.

    The biggest worry I have when it comes to BDSM play, especially in 24/7 play/relationships, is that power dynamic and the similarities that they can share with abusive relationships (as you've described in your previous post). What makes me nervous when I hear about others involved or wanting to get involved in D/s play is that it's a game that should only be played by people who are very self-aware and emotionally healthy to begin with. Sure, not everyone is perfectly emotionally healthy, but when it comes down to it, be it in vanilla or kink relationships, we all are responsible for our own wellbeing. If we start depending on others to heal us, save us, make it better in the end, we're never going to be ok.

    BDSM is not for everyone, and that "headspace" that Britni talks about after a scene can have some really negative effects on people who aren't ok to begin with. There are steps you should take to explore it in a safe way (I talk about it more here: ).

    Again, thank you for this post… the "First Step: Be Ok" part is often on my mind when I read your blog.

  2. piecesofjade
    Posted December 23, 2009 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    Yup yup…just what I was alluding to in my earlier comment. And I also concur with Dragonmage's comment, that even with the same Top, different scenes elicit different needs for aftercare, for both me and them.

    Going back to the FL poster's comments about the "trust" element in all this, I trust W to know what I need in the way of aftercare, b/c he has played with me enough to read me pretty well. He can tell if I am bouncing out of it with a grin and am ready to go socialize afterward, or if I need alonetime or a quiet, loving space with him to reconnect. But when we first started playing, he had to learn that about me, and that I sometimes need a lot of aftercare (as opposed to his previous playpartners), and that, for me, that reconnection time, that "finding our humanity" again and knowing we're okay, IS part of the entire scene for me (and now, as an extension, I think for him as well.)

    In addition, aftercare (for me) oftentimes doesn't happen only right after a scene, nor only with my Top. My SO also administers it if necessary, when I get home to him (and in fact this dynamic is an interesting part of what we do.) Also, especially after a particularly intense scene, I need connection with my Top in the days following, even if we can't be physically together.

    Again, excellent topic, and one I may revisit in my own blog. :-)


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