One of the first things that you hear about when you start to research kink is aftercare – and quite rightly, because it’s important for tops and bottoms alike. Unfortunately, you tend to hear the same aftercare advice regurgitated over and over, and it’s not always applicable to you, your partner, or the scene you’ve just done.
This post is, in essence, a self-serving rant about the bits of aftercare wisdom that I have found are not universally applicable, and need to stop being touted as such. If these work for you, great – but if they don’t, you might find my get-arounds helpful.
So many kinksters and educators will tell you that aftercare should involve snacks, or at least a sugary beverage, to boost blood sugar after an endorphin-y rollercoaster. This is all well and good, except for the fact that I have a barely-suppressed eating disorder. When I’m feeling shaken-up, fragile, self-conscious or otherwise emotionally naked (in addition to being actually naked), I don’t want to eat, or think about eating, or be seen eating.
Blood sugar is an important thing to account for, especially for scenes that are more intense, but having anything with calories in it immediately after a scene is more distressing than it’s worth for me. To get around this, I eat before scenes, and if I have anything intense planned then I make sure I’ve had at least one full meal and plenty of water. I also tell people I’m sleeping with that that’s the case, so they don’t offer me food immediately after a scene and I don’t feel churlish in refusing it. And, once I’m starting to drop and I’m wrapped up in a blanket and feeling less hugely self-conscious, I might be able to manage some chocolate.
All my sensory experiences are heightened because of the ol’ autism. This means that scenes can be super intense and super awesome, but it also means that I have a lot of sensory overwhelm to deal with when a scene comes to an end. People who don’t experience sensory overwhelm to the same degree as I do can struggle to understand this, so let me make it clear: cuddles are overwhelming, because cuddles are sensory input.
Sometimes neurotypical people take this personally, so I do really want to stress that it’s not. Any cuddle, regardless of how loving and how expertly conducted it is, is overwhelming because it’s a sensory experience. If you’re cuddling me, you’re touching me. If you’re touching me, there is always a chance you’re overwhelming me, no matter how much I adore you. In a lot of situations, I can communicate this overwhelm, but when I’m in subspace… well, good luck.
The main way I deal with this is to account for it. I call a scene to an end whilst I still have a little bit of sensory energy left, so that if my partner(s) needs a cuddle, I can deliver one without completely and utterly melting down.
3. Debrief immediately after the scene
This is such a good idea for most people and most scenes… but for me, specifically, it isn’t. I tend to lose my mouth-words as soon as I’m remotely overstimulated, so trying to discuss a scene is not only useless, but potentially hugely frustrating and miserable for everybody involved.
Again, if my partner needs to debrief very soon after a scene, and they let me know that beforehand, I can set aside some spoons to make sure that they get what they need. (Tops and/or dominants need aftercare as much as bottoms and/or submissives do, but I don’t top very often, and every top is different anyway, so I can’t tell you what you/your top might need.) This only works, though, if I know in advance that they need an immediate or near-immediate debrief; otherwise, they’ll need to wait, and/or debrief with somebody else whilst I recover from overwhelm.
Sometimes I can participate in a debrief over a messaging app, especially if I have some residual spoons to hand, and sometimes I’m barely overwhelmed at all and can debrief immediately.
I would still recommend that if debriefing immediately after a scene is something you need, you mention it to your partner as part of your negotiations before the scene takes place. Maybe they’re some flavour of neurodivergent, or maybe their experience of subspace just renders them incapable of coherent conversation for an unpredictable period of time; either way, you should make sure that y’all have a strategy in case your debriefing (and, more broadly, communication) styles don’t align perfectly.
The takeaway, naturally, is to discuss aftercare as a part of your pre-scene negotiations so that you and your partner can plan ahead. But these are the most common things I hear newbies being told about aftercare, so they’re the ones I wanted to address, with the moral of the story being that you can’t and shouldn’t assume what another person needs after any kind of sex or scene.
As always: communicate with your partner(s), be respectful, and look after yourselves!