When people within the BDSM community hear aftercare, the first thought is of a Dom(me) carefully taking care of their submissive. They might fetch a glass of water, place a tender kiss on spots that might be a bit sore, light a cigarette for their partner to enjoy, or any other countless things. What the images people call to mind usually have in common, however, is that they are all things the Dominant does for the sub. Many Dominants, my younger self included, are under the impression that aftercare is only about the sub. It can be a hard thing to really grasp for us Dominants who like to be in control, but we need aftercare sometimes too and sometimes, that’s the best aftercare to give your sub.
I know when I first began pushing further into the BDSM culture, I read resource after resource to make sure I did things by the book. While doing so, I believed that aftercare was about placing the submissive in the center of attention once a scene was over. Admittedly, it was easy for me to do that because I rarely felt the need for any extra attention and if I did, well, I was pretty damned good at ignoring every kind of feeling I didn’t want back then. As I’ve gotten older, and as I furthered my education, I began to realize that aftercare can be much more complicated than the simplistic notion of pouring a glass of water for the woman in my bed or making sure there was a blanket nearby she could cover up with. I never even considered that I might also need something.
The most unfortunate part of my penchant for ignoring the possibility of a Dom(me) needing aftercare was not what that meant for me, but what that might mean for my sub. My current sub (my girlfriend) has been the one to show me how different aftercare can be from what I had experienced in the past. I had always cared for my partners, but it always followed an immediate “off” switch that flipped after the scene was over and thus, all signs of the D/s dynamic would vanish. For her, the most rewarding aftercare is actually taking care of me, serving me in an entirely different way.
I am still not one who often needs aftercare in it’s traditional BDSM sense, but my girlfriend’s desire to care for me has really allowed me to explore what aftercare is to both the submissive and the Dominant. Recently, one night of ours got particularly rough and both our bodies certainly showed proof of that. When we were exhausted and it was clear we were coming down from our sexual high, I checked in with her and began to see if there was anything I could do. As I was asking her, we both realized just how deep the scratches on my chest and back were, and her only request was that I let her clean the wounds. I agreed to do so and even as I reacted to the burn of alcohol cleaning the marks in my flesh, it was so apparent that she truly needed nothing else to make her happy. Her aftercare was not me explicitly doing something for her, but rather the other way around.
Not all subs will need aftercare resembling my girlfriend’s (or any other things I’ve mentioned) and not all Dominants will be able to end a scene without their own form of aftercare. I’ve learned that now, but it has taken me longer than I believe it should have. So as I keep saying in many of my articles, talk to your partner, know what works for them, but also know what works for you. Don’t assume you know how things should play out once the scene is over, and if you’re a Dom(me) don’t be afraid to voice your needs while you’re seeing to your sub’s.