Updated: AUGUST 1, 2023
Reviewed by Marla Stewart
on July 26, 2023

Aftercare is the act of supporting and caring for an intimate partner immediately after sex or a BDSM scene. Aftercare may occur after any sex act, such as vaginal or anal penetration, the use of sex toys or oral sex. It's the conclusion of intimate playtime, just as foreplay is the start of intimate play. Allowing sufficient time for foreplay, sex and aftercare can make sexual encounters more satisfying for all types of couples.

Aftercare in BDSM

In BDSM, aftercare is the process of attending to sexual partners' physical, emotional and psychological needs after a BDSM scene. Typically, the dominant partner in the scene will be the one leading the aftercare and tending to the needs of their submissive partner or partners. BDSM scenes are often very intense and can be emotionally, psychologically and physically draining. Aftercare gives dominants the chance to check in with their submissives and confirm the scene has been enjoyable for them. It can also help a submissive who has entered subspace return to normal functioning. While aftercare is often discussed for submissives, aftercare for dominants is important too. Spending time on aftercare can help everyone involved in a BDSM scene return to an equilibrium that allows them to rejoin the outside world. Keeping the needs of all partners balanced here typically required negotiation.

Sexual Aftercare

While aftercare is traditionally associated with the BDSM community, anyone having any kind of sex can practice sexual aftercare. Like BDSM aftercare, sexual aftercare focuses on supporting sexual partners and deepening intimacy. However, both partners in sexual aftercare focus on supporting and caring for one another. It is not led by just one person as people outside the BDSM community (and not in D/s dynamics) tend to be more equal in their sexual experiences. They focus on staying connected to one another as the euphoria of their encounter subsides. As with BDSM aftercare, people practicing sexual aftercare may also check in to confirm the experience was good for all parties and communicate about any issues related to the sex on their mind.

More About Aftercare

Communicating openly about aftercare and individual preferences allows people to negotiate aftercare that works for everyone involved. It’s best to communicate about aftercare before getting intimate, as this allows people to talk with a clear head about their likes and dislikes. They may discuss the activities that make them feel safe and cared for after sex.

Communication and Aftercare

For sexual aftercare, it’s important for everyone to feel heard and find activities that are mutually agreeable. It’s more important for dominants to hear their submissives and make sure they are the focus of BDSM aftercare. For example, some submissives may prefer to take this time to be alone and tend to their own needs. A good dominant respects their submissive partner’s wishes. With a clear understanding of preferred activities, people can naturally transition into aftercare after sex or a scene.

"Vocalizing individual needs can be daunting, especially if your needs conflict with those of your partner, but it’s necessary for all activities to remain consensual and respectful," explained Natasha Marie Narkiewicz, a sexual wellness expert and head of communications at MysteryVibe who's active in the BDSM community. "If you’re nervous about vocalizing your needs, write them down before a scene so your partner can read them and then you can have a conversation about it. If your needs conflict with your partner's, sit down and figure out if you can strike a healthy compromise. If not, you may want to reconsider engaging in that scene or activity with that particular person. This isn’t a criticism of either person, just an acknowledgment that we all have individual needs, and sometimes the dynamic just isn’t the best fit – and that’s OK too."

Aftercare is a very individual experience and may differ in various relationships. Some common aftercare activities include:

  • Talking about the experience
  • Caressing and cuddling
  • Kissing
  • Praising a partner, especially a submissive
  • Showering or bathing together
  • Massaging one another
  • Drinking water to rehydrate or tea for comfort
  • Snacking on favorite foods or ordering take-out
  • Urinating to prevent urinary tract infections
  • Watching a movie or listening to music
  • Napping together
  • Taking time apart
  • Going on a date with a primary partner, if having sex outside that relationship.

Aftercare for BDSM for can include all of these things, but may also include tending to any physical injuries, reassurance from the dominant, cleaning up and even an orgasm.

Why Aftercare Is Important

Aftercare can help people positively transition out of a sexual experience. It ensures all people feel cared for and helps avoid an abrupt crash when hormones subside, which may lead to feelings of frustration, resentment, shame and loneliness. Instead, those who are engaged in aftercare following sex or a BDSM scene are more likely to feel safe and valued by their partners. Proper aftercare helps people feel their physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual needs are met after sex.

In most cases, proper aftercare can minimize the risk of subdrop, the crash that submissives may feel coming out of a BDSM scene. A good dominant anticipates their submissives’ needs and is likely to carry an aftercare kit to deliver anything they require. However, this plan isn’t always foolproof. Sometimes submissives can experience a delayed subdrop hours or even days after a scene, when they aren’t with their dominant. They may also experience sub drop on their own if they take time out from their dominant after a scene. In these cases, practicing self-care can help a submissive get through the crash as it happens. Regular check-ins from the dominant can also help a submissive get through a delayed sub drop.

Aftercare and Consent

As with all sexual activities, consent is vital for aftercare. People can simply ask their partners how they should approach them after sex to start this discussion. If they seem to differ in their approaches, the instigator of the discussion might ask if they could do something specific that they prefer after sex. This conversation gives space for consent and negotiation.


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