Aftercare refers to the care we provide to ourselves and to our partners with after playing with them. Top, bottom, switch, dominant, submissive, whatever, we are all entitled to be looked after in the moments after the scene and during the dropping part of the process which can last for up to a few days. Drop refers to the readjustment of biological chemicals that are triggered during rope/kink play. Drop can take many forms, depending on the person and type of play. It can cause fatigue, emotional upset, hunger, sleeplessness, irritability and confusion and many other issues. It feels like being drunk or high, sometimes. It can affect a person’sability to drive, work and engage normally with other people. So acknowledging the affects of dropping after play and making sure our needs are met is really important.
Sometimes we neglect to take this as seriously as we should, because we think a glass of water and a cuddle is all you might need, if anything. However, taking that more relaxed approach to aftercare can lead to significant risks being taken and potentially life threatening situations.
In my experience in the lifestyle over the years, consequences of our actions can sometimes be unpredictable. We can’t always know all the interpersonal and external factors that might affect our ability to play nor the extent of the risks we take. Some examples of the risks are:
- We might know a person’s medical history
- We might not know about trauma they’ve experienced and how it might impact play.
- We might not understand their needs explicitly, especially if there’s a language, cognitive or cultural barrier.
- We can get caught up in the excitement of impending play and not remember to make sure everything is in place for aftercare.
- Your partner might react negatively to a scene and the aftercare you had in place is insufficient.
- Your partner can be worried about burdening you with their needs and keep it quiet.
- A partner might feel embarrassed by their physical or mental health condition.
- We might not expect an issue in that play session, because it’s never been an issue before, but it comes up out of the blue.
- We might’ve forgotten our medication that day, or to rest, eat and/or hydrate adequately.
- We might be unwell but not know until we play and our normal phyisical or emotional reactions are impaired, and then become more unwell as a result of playing then we would’ve otherwise.
- We might be so enamoured with the partner we forget or neglect to mention a need we have.
- At public events, we might feel peer pressure to perform, neglecting our own needs.
- There might be a loss of power supply.
- There might be a disruption in access to water or food.
- There might be a loss in phone signal, should you need to call for help.
- A person might be called away in a family/loved one emergency.
- The person you are with may not have your best interest at heart, and might not take your needs seriously. You may be in danger or at risk of abuse.
So many things can go wrong in a scene. So many. Or sometimes the scene is hot and amazing, but the aftercare be insufficient and you become harmed. The positive experience ruined because aftercare was an after thought. What can we do to prevent problems and causing harm?
- Make aftercare a permanent part of your negotiations process. Agree to aftercare before you play and make sure everything is in place/available beforehand. Consider what to do to make sure needs are met in an emergency, should you need to cut the scene short due to an emergency.
- DO NOT PLAY WITH PEOPLE THAT DO NOT ASK ABOUT AFTERCARE. That shows ignorance at best, abuse at worst. They are not safe people. Walk away.
- Only play with people you feel are listening to your needs. If you’re getting a lot of excitement about play but little enthusiasm around making sure you’re safe afterwards, do not engage with play with that person. Does your gut feeling say this person is a good match for you?
- Think through what your needs are based on your experience so far. Be mindful that unexpected issues can arise. What do you think your body and mind needs? Can you meet those needs in the context of the play session you’ve planned? Are there ways to overcome any barriers?
- Create a personal risk profile, containing all your medical needs and ways you can mitigate those needs in play. For example, if you suffer with asthma, you’ll add that you need your inhaler. Share this with your partner. Update it regularly.
- Think about what your partner needs. Are you able to meet them? Will play affect your ability to meet their needs? Is there a way to make sure both your needs are met?
- Always have a safe call. Depending on the situation, consider having a spotter to check that the tie you are doing is safe. Accidents happen. People can turn from being lovely to be around to difficult and threatening very quickly indeed. Make sure your safe call knows where you are and who you are with. Be prepared to call emergency services as well. Your safety and well-being are far more important than feeling embarrassed or ashamed.
- Provide feedback to your partner and listen to theirs. It can feel like a bit of a downer, a buzz kill, but reassuring each other about the good parts and giving constructive criticism should be integrated into your aftercare process. You may want to give it a couple of hours to up you few days to have a conversation about what worked and didn’t, and what you might want to try next time.
- Get your safety gear ready before you play. Have a first aid kit, check all your safety equipment before playing, and choose locations that have a mobile signal.
- Do not blame or shame yourself (or your partner/s) if things go wrong. Shit happens. We make mistakes. Talk through options. Reassure one another. Think creatively about different options that are available to you. Learn from the mistakes made and how you can mitigate those new needs in the future. Unless it was intentional and/or you felt threatened in anyway – then you do not have to engage with that person at all.
This is not an exhaustive list. It is based on my experience in negotiations and aftercare. At the end of the day, you are responsible for your own health and safety. You need to think through as many reasonable possibilities of the play and the aftercare you might need and that of your partner. Talk to your doctor or health care professional for advice if you experience any physical or emotional difficulties, or for advice on whether the type of play is situation for you.
Featured image: self tie decorative chest harness by Dea Nexa