8 Things To Know About Aftercare When You've Just Had BDSM-Style Sex

First: It's not just for kinky sessions.
PHOTO: Getty Images

Pop quiz! You've just had a wild romp between the sheets and now you're both lying there, panting (you've already peed to minimize your chances of a UTI in this scenario, natch), in a post-orgasmic bliss. Quick: who's responsible for aftercare, aka the care-taking of a partner after an intense sex sesh?

A) Whoever was the "top" or dominant person.

B) Whoever was the "bottom" or submissive person.

C) No one.

D) Both of us, regardless of whoever was submissive or dominant.

    The correct answer is D! While aftercare is typically thought of as something a dominant does to care for a submissive after BDSM play, it's important to understand that both partners should be taken care of and checked in with after sex, especially if it was a BDSM scene involving kink. Since BDSM play and kink can often be emotionally and physically taxing (even if you're just play-acting those roles,) it's crucial to check back in with your partner and step out of your BDSM characters post-sex.

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    Aftercare activities commonly include: A dominant bringing their sub some water, caring for any physical wounds that may have occurred during play (that were consented to and pre-planned, of course), cuddling, talking, hugging, making them food, or giving them a ride home. Of course, aftercare is very nuanced and there's way more to it than simply throwing a water bottle at your sub and being like "peace out, text me if you wanna see me again!", so we spoke with experts to put together a list of eight things you gotta know.

    1. It's as much about beforecare as it is aftercare.

    Ensuring a smooth aftercare process comes easier when you do your prep work beforehand, as it's something that needs to be planned ahead of time, just like safe words and boundaries. Communicate with one another about what you need beforehand, whether it's a hug, water, twenty minutes to cool down before beginning other aftercare, etc. "This allows you to set your expectations and make sure they work for both of you," explains IM Jae, a sexuality coach. It also helps you plan ahead, as post-sex, you might be too worn out or tired to go hunting for that one particular fuzzy blanket your partner wants, or turning the kitchen upside down looking for a bottle of Gatorade.

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    2. If you can't trust them to give you aftercare, then they're not someone you should be having sex with.

    "It goes without saying that you probably don't want to engage with anyone who isn't prepared to provide aftercare," says Alexis Taylor, sex and relationship expert. If they can't be bothered to get you a glass of water or ask how you're doing after a regular session or BDSM scene, how can you trust them to care about your needs when you're in the heat of things?

    3. Sometimes there can be formal contracts involved.

    "Some people make a point of writing aftercare into their BDSM contracts formally, while others discuss it. For some, aftercare comes naturally," adds Taylor. The bottom line and the most important thing to remember, is that you want to ensure that you and your partner are both on the same level when it comes to understanding how to best care for each other after a particularly intense sex session.

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    4. It's as much about mental aftercare as physical aftercare.

    During BDSM play, you're likely to experience different dynamics that do not reflect how you or your partner feel about you during day-to-day life. If your partner wants to be submissive and wants you to call them worthless during sex while you act as the dominant, it's important that you reaffirm your real, caring feelings for your partner by stating how you truly care about them during aftercare, explains Angela Watson, a clinical social worker and sex therapist who runs DoctorClimax.

    "If mental aftercare isn't practiced it can be hard to maintain that aspect of a healthy relationship," Watson adds.

    The dominant should reassure the sub that things said in a sexual encounter is not how they see them 24/7. "Couple these words of affirmation with light, genuine touching that wasn't typical of the BDSM encounter," suggests Watson.

    "Aftercare is all about re-establishing the dynamic that was exploited during sex," adds Watson. "Playing with the rules of your relationship is integral to the scene, but afterward, there needs to be time put into bringing things back to reality. Both physical and mental aftercare serve that purpose so nobody feels used and abused (except when they want to).

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    Dominants need aftercare too.

    While it can obviously be jarring for a sub to be spoken down to during sex, both partners should ensure that the dominant's needs are not completely bulldozed over during aftercare either. Dominants have the added responsibility of planning and executing a scene, being hypervigilant about looking out for their submissive's best interests, and need to always be prepared to deal with any unexpected issues, says Sunny Megatron, sexuality educator and host of American Sex Podcast. "Add to that the altered state of consciousness they may experience while playing out a scene... and you've got a recipe for emotional fallout once the fun is over. Aftercare for dominants is essential to help them acclimate back to their default mental state."

    Cuddling counts!

    While aftercare is crucial in BDSM experiences, it's also a good habit to get into even if you and your partner aren't into BDSM. "The aftercare practices that allow dabblers of BDSM in these sex arts to do so with their wellness intact, are just all around good practices for positive intimate experiences," says Stef Osofsky, a sex and relationship consciousness coach. Those who prefer vanilla sex can also benefit from aftercare, as it's never a bad idea to check in with your partner and communicate after sex.

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    Aftercare doesn't necessarily end right after sex.

    Feelings can also come up after a scene, so it's always a good idea to check in with your partner a few days later too, says Carol Queen, PhD, and sexologist at Good Vibrations. While immediate post-sex aftercare is a must, it can also be impactful the next day or even the next week, adds Megatron. "Generally, the more intense the scene, the more likely the need for extended aftercare," Megatron explains. "Check in with your partner the day after and repeat over time, as needed."

    Aftercare varies from person to person.

    If a person wants to be left alone post-sex (and they've communicated that to you beforehand), then don't smother them with blankets and hugs. Like all things sex, what one person wants is not necessarily universal. What is universal, however, is that you should speak with your partner and make sure the communication is there and open about what you each seek in a supportive aftercare environment. "You should never assume you know what your partner needs after playing," says Watson. "That's why aftercare should always be negotiated just like you negotiate the active parts of your scene."

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    This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.

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