Dr. Liz: What is aftercare?
What does it mean?
What does it look like?
What are your tips for aftercare?
So for anyone who doesn’t know, aftercare is a term in the kink community that refers to the things that you do after a scene to help the top and the bottom kind of recover, process, figure out what they need in order to be able to come back to the real world.
The reason I said both tops and bottoms is because tops also need aftercare.
There is a often a misconception that the only people who need aftercare is bottoms, and that is not true.
As someone who has been a top who needed some serious aftercare and had some trouble getting it, tops need aftercare too.
How would you describe aftercare or like what people look out for it?
Rebecca: I mean I think I would describe it similar to how you just did.
It’s what the bottom or the top need after a scene to help them rebalance, to feel grounded again, or to kind of return to their more baseline state.
So you’ll hear or you’ll talk about subspace or top space kind of that place that your brain and body get to during a scene.
And for a bottom, it’s often kind of that drop or kind of the disorientation a little bit or just feeling …
Dr. Liz: Almost a trance-like state often.
Rebecca: Almost a trance-like state.
I can’t describe it very well for top state but …
Dr. Liz: I mean it’s kind of like a rush.
It’s like I’m an adrenaline junkie.
I’ve been a skydiver.
I own a motorcycle.
Top space feels like that to me.
It feels like the middle of a sky dive.
It’s this like high that you are riding and you feel huge and powerful and energized.
And that’s amazing in the moment and then as the scene ends, all of that adrenaline your body has been dumping starts to crash and a lot of times it can bring up a lot of questions of like, “Am I a terrible person for what I just did?”
If you said some horrible things, if you’ve hurt someone real bad even if they enjoyed it and intellectually you know that they enjoyed it, because your system is crashing, your frontal lobes are less functional, your limbic system is more functional and those feelings and fears and anxieties, it’s really easy for them to start running away.
Dr. Liz: So aftercare I like to think of is having a bunch of different components.
There is a physical component so like what does your body need?
Pretty much everybody, that’s going to be water at the very least.
You’re going to need water.
Both people will need water because both people’s bodies have been dumping a lot of adrenaline and adrenaline uses up a ton of water in your body system.
Also, electrolytes can be really helpful so like a Gatorade or electrolyte tab can be good.
Bodies, we talked about sugar from like gummy bears, chocolates, something that has quick access sugar for your body to utilize because it has used up a lot of its energy source.
Physical stuff like something soft.
Dr. Liz: So movement and stretching can be really helpful.
Sometimes like massage or light touch or calming touch.
I usually have a soft robe or blanket if I’ve been bottoming that I put on because a lot of times, while you’re in the scene, your body temperature is very high and as the scene ends, your body temperature crashes.
And so having something to keep you warm is really helpful, and that soft sensation for me is really like grounding after I’ve been – especially if I’m doing a lot of pain work.
I think physically also, looking at like if there has been any restraints, making sure that you’re checking nerves, that they are also going well.
Checking on if there’s any bruising, where that bruising is at, what you might need for recovery for that.
So just checking in with your body, seeing what your body needs.
Then there is …
Rebecca: And responsiveness or alertness, depending on the type of play you’ve been doing, just making sure that the other partner is again, especially in subspace, you’re going to feel – you may feel kind of out of it or loopy but still are your pupils reactive?
Are you still kind of oriented?
Some people might need more balance or support as well coming out of the scene.
Dr. Liz: Yeah.
And that transitions into mental which I think would be the second component.
So like when I top someone for a scene, part of what I do after we’ve cuddled for a few minutes is I’ll start asking them questions that require them to think and make judgments because it brings my frontal lobes back online.
So I’ll ask them what their 3 favorite things were and what 3 things I could do differently better, not all next time to make it even better for them so that they have to look through what we did, make choices about it, analyze it, come up with examples, and speak them to me.
And that that does pretty effectively is get them out of that trance-like sub state and out of that limbic system arousal and back into the prefrontal cortex where they are doing more logical thinking, coming back to a more standard consciousness.
Dr. Liz: I think for a top, a lot of times mental aftercare is about this reassurance component, which is like a mix between mental and emotional because I think that the same way that when you’re in the middle of a race, you could run forever.
When you’re in the middle of a scene, you could insult someone forever and then you come out of the scene and you’re like, “That was in my – the thing that came out of my mouth were in my brain.
They came from my brain and that was me in some way saying this thing.” And that’s a really tough thing to process.
And so figuring out what processing you need as a top or a bottom in order to be able to integrate that scene, check on who you are your self-concept and separate out who you are in a scene from who you are as a person because again, you don’t walk around the street punching people in the butt but I absolutely will punch the crap out of someone’s butt in a scene.
So like helping to remember that distinction that just because you said or did something awful in a scene doesn’t mean you are awful especially if the other person enjoyed it.
Dr. Liz: Any other mental stuff you can think of?
Rebecca: I’m trying to.
I mean I think for me, a lot of it is, it’s that just grounding again or kind of the mental questions to help get the frontal lobes back online to help kind of reorient to time and to space and to place.
That’s kind of the main thing for me.
Dr. Liz: Yeah.
I think too looking at – so this is kind of like a combination of mental and physical is like the cleanup and the putting the gear away.
Dr. Liz: I think for a lot of people, that ritual is really helpful and grounding because it’s about like if we are mindful in opening a scene, it’s the way that you mindfully close a scene that you clean your things, clean your station, put the things away.
And some people make the bottom do that.
Some people, the top does that.
Some people, it’s a shared task.
But however you do that, that’s a really good like almost ritualistic way to help you come out of the scene and back to a more standard consciousness and way of being.
And I think for – I think sometimes as a top, you can go into – some people might go into almost a kind of hyperfocused or meditative type state where like all of your focus, all of your energy is on that bottom or on what you’re doing.
And so, some people – Midori I think actually talks about thought squirrels in one of her workshops and I think for some people, being in a scene really helps shut off those thought squirrels or all of those thoughts that are constantly running through your brain.
But when you have that laser focus or that hyperfocus, I think coming out of a scene then having that ritual of maybe it’s how you take care of your bottom or putting your gear away or cleaning up your area helps so that the thought squirrels don’t just come all the way back online or go wild again.
But you have that ritual to kind of help again reorient and regroup.
Dr. Liz: Yeah.
Like the questions I ask of a bottom when I top, they are also mental aftercare for me because I’m asking them to give me compliments.
I’m asking them to tell me what I did right.
That’s why I ask for 3 good and 3 changes because I need to know that they enjoyed it.
I need to be reminded that I’m not a terrible human being.
I need to hear from their mouth what was good for them.
I think the third component would be like emotional.
And emotional I think is the component that has the longest time span.
So there is this stuff you do immediately after the scene for aftercare that release the emotional component but depending on the kind of scene, that may be also something that you check in a couple of days later, a week later just to see how stuff is setting.
For me when I bottom, emotionally, one of the best things is that cuddle time and then getting praise like I did such a good job.
I need to know that I did such a good job because my brain will tell me I did the bad job.
So I need people to tell me very explicitly that I did a good job.
And I think that’s true for a lot of people.
I think aftercare can really often look like that cuddle or that closeness and then that reassurance and that praise.
Dr. Liz: Yeah.
And I think for tops, again, aftercare emotional, also that praise, right?
I’m like, “What was good?”
I think sometimes bottoms and I get this way when I bottom as well, forget that their tops are also people who have brains that can be mean.
And so, there is this way that almost everyone who is a top has learned about praising, reinforcing, making the bottom feels heard and seen and appreciated, and there is not necessarily as much focus in reverse.
Dr. Liz: So just like making sure that the top also gets those emotional needs met.
I think the intimacy of it, like this is a very intimate moment that you shared with each other and you might be transitioning out to being intimate with other people or moving to different spaces.
And so thinking ahead of time about how do you make that transition smooth and gentle as much as possible.
Dr. Liz: Hey, Kenzie!
Welcome to the live.
Emotional aftercare also, some people have like specific objects that are like helpful for them in terms of either bringing them back to regular consciousness or grounding after a scene.
So some people have the specific blanket that it’s their aftercare blanket and their brain has associated that with like the warm, fuzzy after feeling so that it helps them feel more held after the scene.
Some people have like a stuffed animal or whatever it is for you but figuring out what it is that you can have that’s like your anchor point that you can associate with that good after scene experience so that every time you get it out, it gets you back in that better space.
Dr. Liz: Yeah, because our brains, they love learning things.
Rebecca: They love conditioning.
Dr. Liz: They love conditioning.
They love it so much.
So if you start building those associations, you can really help make stuff easier for you.
And I think overall what I would say is that in general, our society, we talked a lot about being mindful in how we start things that we tend to talk a lot less about being mindful in how we end things, and I think it’s important to be equally mindful both ways.
However much time and energy you put into negotiating what’s going to happen in a scene, you should also be figuring out what’s going to be happening after because your on- ramp and your off-ramp are going to the same height and if your on-ramp is nice and gentle and your off-ramp is steep, that’s going to be a weird freaking journey, man.
So level it out.
Try to make sure that you’re putting as much of that gentleness in the transition out as you do in the transition in.
Rebecca: Yeah, well-said because I think we could all get caught up in just the immediacy of afterwards or of cleaning or picking things up.
Dr. Liz: Someone is waiting for the station.
We need to fix it up and get out of the space.
I was probably didn’t see it that one time.
Dr. Liz: We’ve all done that.
We have all done that.
Rebecca: Someone else is waiting.
We need to move.
And that also – I mean that detracts from the scene and from that – because you’re missing that aftercare, and to me it’s the totality of the experience, how you negotiate, what you do during the scene and that aftercare, and if you try to rush that or you don’t have that thoughtfulness that you did at the start of the scene or the lead up into it, it detracts from I think the whole experience.
Dr. Liz: Yeah.
I would agree.
Rebecca: Other people can wait and they will.
Dr. Liz: Yeah.
I think most people’s aftercare is not taking an hour.
It’s like 5, 10 minutes at most usually.
So take the time.
It’s going to be OK.
People will wait.
You will be fine.
I think too like aftercare is something that I wish more vanilla people cared about because I definitely had times where I was having relatively vanilla sex with someone and I wish there was more aftercare that happened afterwards.
So I think that again, it’s this idea of like if you’re going into a space of a lot of intimacy and intensity, making sure that you have an off-ramp for it that’s going to help take care of you and the person you did it with.