BDSM activities, especially the more intense ones involving pain and stress, make use of the body’s built-in defense mechanisms and chemistry. One simple example is the body supplying pleasure-inducing endorphins in order to help the brain deal with pain. These chemicals, though natural and produced by one’s own body, are nonetheless drugs, and can cause some similar side effects. These effects must be understood and managed in order to have successful and pleasurable scenes.
Aftercare is the practice, at the end of a scene, of caring for and paying particular attention to the sub or bottom to ease their mental and chemical transition from the scene back into regular life. Subdrop is a term for the unfortunate results that can sometimes happen when coming down badly from this chemical high. Not everyone experiences it, and everyone who does, experiences it differently, and aftercare cannot always completely prevent it, so it is important that it be understood before one begins to play.
The Chemistry of Kink (& BDSM)
All in all, this is far too complex a topic to truly be covered well here, but suffice to say that sexual arousal, sexual activity, sexual release, pain and many other factors cause the body to react neurochemically–that is, they cause the body to release various levels of various chemicals such as endorphins and hormones in order to change the mind and body’s reactions and responses.
One well-understood effect is the endorphin response to dealing with pain and discomfort. At a certain point, the body begins to release endorphins and related neurochemicals to ease pain and allow the body and mind to continue functioning under stress–it’s a survival mechanism known to many as “the runner’s high”. Endorphins don’t simply mask pain, though–they treat the brain to pleasurable sensations in order to do it. This is a part of why some people enjoy some pain as a pleasurable experience.
However, these chemicals are indeed drugs, even though they are naturally produced by the body. That means that it is possible to experience effects similar to “coming down” off a drug-induced high. Additionally, some of the hormones and neurochemicals released cause a chain effect, where after chemical A is done in the body, chemical B with a different effect is released, often an effect contrary to what one wishes (such as the “roll over and go to sleep” drive many men feel after sex). Feeling lethargic, depressed and disinterested in things that normally excite one are all quite common effects, and are often referred to as “subdrop” in the sense that they are usually experienced by the sub or bottom, and that it’s a drop in mood and activity level. It may sometimes come directly following a scene, or it may come days later. Remember these symptoms and watch for them. When experiencing subdrop, try to eat well, drink lots of water, get some rest and try to cuddle with a significant other. These can all help to ease the effects and help the body process the remaining chemicals and get rid of them. It is also important to note that Doms can get “Domdrop”, too. They also go through certain chemical highs and lows when involved in an intense scene, and although Domdrop is much less common, it can be just as intense.
Aftercare is an important method of both easing the transition from a scene back into regular life, as well as helping to reduce or eliminate the chance of subdrop occurring. Aftercare is a little different for each person, according to their preferences and what they’ve found to work well for them, but generally involves gentle touch and close contact, like cuddling and hair stroking. It is important to work out with a potential play partner what aftercare should and will involve before the scene ever begins, as at the end of the scene but before aftercare, the mind and emotions may be a boiling cauldron, and it may be next to impossible to make such decisions well.
If one is at a (BDSM) public play party, even if there are other people waiting to use the play station and equipment you’ve just finished with, make sure you take the time to do aftercare. Others will simply have to wait, and if they have any experience at all, they’ll understand and would likewise not wish to be rushed when they are through. If you’re observing a scene, when the players are done, it is important not to interrupt them during this period. If you have questions, approach the players after their aftercare is finished, not before. They may be very friendly and willing to answer any question you have, but if you ask at the wrong time, you might disturb the aftercare session and help contribute to subdrop. Aftercare is just as much a part of the scene as spanking, bondage or anything else.
It is important to note that, because of the hormones involved, aftercare is a very emotionally intense time. It can really serve to bond the Dom and sub. For this reason, if you are negotiating a scene with someone new, someone who might have a significant other of their own (particularly if in a Master/slave relationship), it is important to not only negotiate what kind of aftercare is desired, but whether you should even be the one to do it. Many subs prefer to be handed off to their own relationship partners for aftercare, so that that primary relationship is strengthened and brought closer by the emotions and bonding of aftercare, rather than forging new bonds with another person. Depending on the relationship, they might even be under orders to do this, but in those cases, chances are good you’d be conducting the negotiation with directly the Master/Dom anyway.
Be aware, though, that in a case where the top is to hand off the bottom to her Master (or whatever terms and relationships apply) for aftercare, this can sometimes leave the top feeling disconnected, and increase the chances of Domdrop. Generally, it is up to that top to have made whatever arrangements are necessary to lessen this effect. Personally, I’d suggest that if you are a Dom who is negotiating a scene where you must hand off for aftercare, you should look around the party for a friend who will agree to be around at the end of your scene for hugs and such. This can help.
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