Aftercare refers specifically to the attention given to a partner (usually the bottom) at the end of a Scene. Aftercare often includes the Top utilizing various pampering techniques on the Bottom in an effort to provide comfort to everyone after having an intense experience that can leave an individual, top or bottom, in a vulnerable state, but this is not always the case.
Prior to a scene, different people will have different requirements to express during negotiations for aftercare. The amount and type of aftercare required will also likely vary with frequency of play, closeness of play partners, types of scenes, relationship dynamics, fantasy elements at play, intensity of the scene and the overall head space and physical well being of the bottom before, during and after the scene. Be sure to set any boundaries or requirements of aftercare on both sides as part of negotiations.
Benefits of Aftercare
Aftercare is used primarily to not only ensure the partner feels safe and secure, but can also be a wonderful exercise for the aftercare provider as well, further, the nurturing and bonding that occurs helps to reduce the effects of or even eliminate Drop entirely for many individuals. For some, a lack of aftercare can be detrimental not only psychologically, but also physically.
Best Practices: Standard Aftercare
After care will vary, sometimes drastically, between individuals and thus there is no one correct method of aftercare, nor necessarily an incorrect method either, however what is presented is a great template to use for a typical first time partner for a typical SM scene.
- Negotiate Aftercare before the scene starts. Discuss what the needs of both parties are and come to mutual agreement.
- Perform the Scene.
- At the end of the scene, the top will ensure they enter a nurturing state of mind to care for the bottom. The bottom will ensure that if they happen to be mentally alert that they will take on a caring and appreciative frame of mind.
- The top will disinfect and dress any wounds the bottom may have and remove restrictive bondage, debris, and harmful materials from the bottom. When removing a blindfold from a bottom consider doing this slowly and with warning, or perhaps leaving it on for the time being so as not to shock the bottom with assaulting bright lights.
- The bottom will be safely guided/moved to a comfortable and warm location such as a nearby couch (not a cold cement floor).
- The top will then place blankets upon the bottom as the body temperature will soon drop. If the bottom is very warm at that moment, consider using a breathable blanket for now, such as something crocheted and then adding more warmth as their body temperature begins to decline.
- The top will have clean water nearby. Consider having this able to be drank with a straw as the motor skills of the bottom may be impaired if the scene was particularly intense and using a straw may prevent spilling of fluids. The top will not force the water on the bottom but instead offer "Would you like a drink of water?" and present the water, allowing that the bottom may drink when they are ready.
- The top will provide subtle and soft positive verbal reinforcement to help guide the bottom into a feeling of peace and serenity.
- The top will provide occasional touch to skin that was not used during the scene on the head, limbs and back of the bottom, tracing the fingers lightly along the skin as gentle as one might touch their own face with only enough force to feel it. These areas of skin may be considered hyper sensitive and touch should be intermittent and not used to torture but instead to relax.
- The top will offer chocolate to the bottom (providing they not have a medical condition that forbids it) to help increase blood sugar as well as release Oxytocin.
- The top will continue providing continued yet intermittent positive reinforcement and nurturing touch. The top will stay with the bottom until they are relatively awake, alert, able to care for themselves and in a good head space. The top will not leave the bottom alone to feel abandoned or to fall accidentally.
- Both will ensure the other is in a positive frame of mind before leaving the other.
Aftercare for the Top
Tops may experience a level of drop as well as bottoms, though it is less common. Ultimately the top is still required to care for the bottom during aftercare and thus it is unwise that a top should not play harder than what would allow them to acceptably care for the bottom's condition. If this is a known disturbance to play/aftercare then a third party to provide aftercare should be arranged for.
Principles of aftercare are largely similar for tops as they are to bottoms as described above, though some principles may not apply or need to be creatively adapted. As with bottoms, specific desires and requirements will vary drastically between individuals. See also Dom Burnout.
Sometimes for one reason or another a top may not be able to commit large amounts of time to aftercare and a bottom may crave extensive time for this, sometimes even up to several hours of aftercare after an intense scene. Best Practices indicate it is important that a top generally spend the first five to fifteen minutes or so doing some form of aftercare in these circumstances so that an immediate feeling of abandonment does not set in, and that they have prenegotiated use of a babysitter before the scene. The babysitter will be an agreed upon person trusted by both parties to provide additional aftercare for the bottom once the top is required to leave.
Responsible aftercare doesn't just end shortly after the scene, but extends over that period of 1-3 days.
To ensure the safety of everyone, the two will agree to a form of outreach as part of aftercare for the scene and during that outreach, report honorably and with integrity any abnormal deviations, bad moods/attitudes, feelings about the scene, misgivings about the scene, and anything else that might be relevant. This also helps with enhancing communication and trust between the two parties and avoid the pitfalls of poor communication or lack of communication after a scene that can lead to toxic gossip and character assassination.
In the case a negative mood swing occurs and is reported, one will call or meet with the other casually to provide support and counsel as they are able, or help them find someone who can in the instance that they are unable.
Many do not wish to embrace typical aftercare methods. Some would prefer time alone, while others would prefer not be touched at all, and others would like some form of Humiliation or Degradation as aftercare to constitute part of their fantasy. There is no one right way to participate in aftercare, but it is important to negotiate aftercare well before a scene occurs to create mutually beneficial and consensual agreement about how aftercare is to take place.