Subspace, Sub-drop and Aftercare - Different Strokes

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Subspace, Sub-drop and Aftercare - Different Strokes

through their bodies, could mean that submissivess could behurt or damaged during scenes. If, for example, a lessexperienced Top is dealing with a submissive who has gonedeeply into subspace, and doesn’t know what signals towatch for, that Top may take the physical aspect of the playtoo far, all the while waiting for s safe-word from thesubmissive that the submissive is incapable of giving.So, what do I look out for? What are the signs that asubmissive is in subspace?Just like anything else, signs of subspace can vary fromindividual to individual. The length of time taken to go intosubspace, and the types of activities that can take asubmissive into subspace are often specific to the individualsubmissive. For some, it takes a long time and quite a deal ofphysical stimulation, whereas for other submissves, merelyhearing their Tops’ voices or being touched by the Tops canhave them floating off.But there are a few tell-tale signs: The submissive maybecome less verbal in communication as he/she enters themore “feral” state of subspace. The Top may notice that thesubmissve’s ability to speak and to use words tocommunicate how he or she feels is reduced, and thesubmssive may only communicate in grunts or moans (which,let’s face it, are difficult to interpret). There are often changesin skin tone; eyes may roll back in the head. The body may golimp and floppy (which is at odds with the muscle tensing thatwould generally be expected with physical punishment).After a time with a submissive, the Top will come to recognisethe signs of that individual’s subspace.The endorphin-mixed-with-adrenaline high that isexperienced by the submissive is often compared to a druginducedhigh and can be addictive for the submissive. Thinkof it as something akin to “runner’s high.” Indeed, asubmissive in subspace can often beg for more of thephysical stimulation that he/she got and keeps him/her therewithout the knowledge that this could result in harm. This iswhere the Dominant needs to keep control of the situation,and bring the submissive safely down from the high.Now that I know what to look for, what should I do?It can be damaging for a submissive in subspace, to just beleft, cold-turkey as it were, without being brought safely“back down to earth.”A Dominant that is unaware of subspace and its physical andpsychological impact on his/her submissve, may just up andleave after a scene, with the submissive possibly still insubspace. It’s not good enough to just untie the binds, andleave. It is the Top’s responsibility to spend time bringing thesubmissive back down: gradually lessening the stimulation,talking the submissive back to earth, giving the submissiveaffection and reassurance, telling him that he’s done goodjob, and giving lots of hugs and kisses to accompany thesubmissive’s journey back down, for example.Exhaustion will often accompany the submissive comingdown from subspace. So the Dominant may have to providea safe environment for the submissive to sleep and regainstrength. Leaving a submissive in subspace, where he/she isstill flying and buzzing in an out-of-body experience, can bedangerous. For example, imagine a submissive, still insubspace trying to drive a car. He/ she doesn’t have therequisite concentration and ability to perform such acomplex task, and by not grounding the submissive beforeletting him or her leave, the top could be putting thesubmissive in danger.Now, you may be thinking, “Well I only interact with mysubmissive online, I don’t need to worry about this.”But that’s not necessarily true. Submissives in cyberrelationshipsenter subspace just as easily and fully as those inreal life situations. And as the Dominant in a cyber D/srelationship cannot often see his/ her submissive, he/sheneeds to rely on other methods to determine if the submissiveis brought down again after a scene. In this case, the voice isthe best tool available to the Dominant – he/she needs to getto know the submissive’s voice intonations and how theychange while in subspace, so that it can be safelydetermined when the sub is again grounded. Where a sceneis done in text alone, the communication that occurs in-sceneand following the scene, in aftercare, between submissiveand Dominant is similarly critical to the submissive’s wellbeing.Sub-dropEven after the most carefully applied aftercare, some residualeffects of the subspace experience can still remain with thesubmissive. The phenomenon of “sub-drop” is the name givento the drop or low that a submissive (or indeed a Dominant,but that’s another discussion) can experience in the hours oreven days after an intense BDSM scene. The term sub-drop isgenerally applied to the ”negative” effects or depressivestate that a submissive can experience after a scene. Thecauses are manifold; it can be a physical reaction to theadrenaline and endorphins leaving the body. It is typicallymore common with submissives in long term or committedrelationships than with casual partners.Most of what you read online is about the physical aspects;the fatigue, sadness, aches and pains and recovery frommarks. There is a more intense side of sub-drop that gets verylittle attention because for each person it is different anddescribing how to recover can take many forms.If not cared for, a submissive could go into depression justfrom one play session. The endorphins and other hormonesreleased during play leave their body in such a way that ittakes time to rebuild the balance of hormones in the system.A submissive could feel like they have a hang-over or partiedtoo hard the night before, they could feel lost and depressedfor hours or days. Some may just want to sleep it off. These arethe more extreme forms of drop. Some people recover in amatter of hours, but others could exhibit signs of sub-drop forweeks after an intense session.How this all works?Since the increase of hormones and chemicals has produceda trance-like state, as play ends the submissive may feel outof-body,detached from reality. As the submissive's systemstops producing morphine-like drugs, and as theparasympathetic nervous system kicks in again, thesubmissive may feel a deep exhaustion, a sharp drop intemperature, as well as incoherence and un-coordination.Drop is also experienced by athletes and adventurers. Drophappens to Tops and Dominants, (though this is often lesswell-recognized)for pretty much the same reasons asathletes and adventurers. It also happens to people afterhigh stress situations. After an emergency like a car accidentor a break-in, people often find that they go through dayswhere they have a feeling of being adrift, rather than howthey are used to feeling.Drop can also happen if play is stopped abruptly. BDSM playis a very vulnerable experience for people. It often involvesexposing one's inner-self in ways that one has never beforedone. Sometimes, inexperienced Tops will begin BDSM play,and then abruptly terminate a scene (perhaps because theyrudely decide that someone else would be "more interesting"to play with) and walk away. This can leave the abandonedsubmissive in a *very* down state -- feeling that theyengaged their sense of trust to allow a Top to play with them,and that the Top simply let them splatter on the ground.


There is also a different sort of drop, which is a function ofencountering contradictions between the ingrained (andoften implicit) "rules" that people live their lives by, and thediscovery that various things in BDSM make them extremelyhappy. Usually the last thing that people do upon discoveringthat they are ecstatically happy doing things which harm noone but which might run contrary to a moral code handed tothem as a pre-cognitive child, is to haul out the moral codeand examine if following it actually leads to happiness.Most often what people do is continue to do what makesthem happy, but mindlessly accept their code'scondemnation of it and swim in a sea of guilt over thecontradiction. While this form of drop is usually outside of thesubject of subspace and aftercare, it can be relevant if itleads to unexpected and unanticipated feelings of guilt,perhaps a day or two after play. It can combine with otheraspects of drop to leave someone feeling abandoned, offbalance, or simply wondering and unsure about their worthafter a heavy scene.Because sub-drop may manifest itself in many different ways –there could be tears, irrational fears expressed by the sub, ora submissive may feel sad or lonely in the hours or days afterleaving the Dominant - the Dominant should provide anenvironment for the submissive in which the submissive canexpress his or her feelings and receive the Dominant’sattention (after all, the Dominant is at least partly responsiblefor getting the sub into this place). The Dominant shouldwatch for signs of distress, and try to understand what thesubmissive needs from him/her – bearing in mind that this maybe different depending on the submissive.The point of aftercare is to make the submissive feelaccepted, wanted, safe, secure and comfortable. Withconsistent application, good aftercare will help grow the trustbetween Dominant and the submissive, and will help therelationship to blossom and reach new heights, as thesubmissive will know that the Dominant has his/ her bestinterests in mind, has an understanding of what’s happeningto him/her and will do her/his best to alleviate any negativesituations that may develop.A good and caring Dominant will always have the care ofhis/her submissive foremost in mind. By all means take thepleasure, that’s what D/s is about – but don’t take and givenothing back. The D/s experience should be rewarding andpleasurable for both the Dominant and submissive.Dominants and submissives equipoise each other – and thisbalance cannot be dismissed or forgotten. It’s about mutualtrust and understanding, and while both parties are chargedwith trying to understand each other, in this case much of theresponsibility lies with the Dominant to provide the lead, andthe consistency which the submissive craves so much in life.The submissive however is not without responsibility in relationto sub-drop and aftercare - the sub must communicateneeds and feelings to the Dominant openly and honestly, sothat the Dominant can take the necessary actions to care forthe sub. The Dominant in turn must not be dismissive aboutwhat the feelings, emotions are and why the submissive isfeeling the way they do. Communication between Dominantand submissive is paramount!.By providing good aftercare, the submissive will know that theDominant provides a safe environment in which these topicscan be discussed without fear and in full honesty. A Dominantwho understands subspace – its thrills as well as its pitfalls –can get the very best from their submissive, and therefore thebest experience for himself/herself, from which everyone wins.Guarding Against Sub-dropThe issue of the emotional and psychological trauma onemay have experienced during play - this can catch up withyou shortly after play to days later when you least expect it.To guard against it, drink water before, during and after play.Make sure you do not play while hungry or even slightly ill.Listen to your body and if it’s giving you signs to stop, youshould. The only limits you should try to break are emotionaland non-physical ones. Your body tells you things for areason; listen! Drink something with simple sugars after play.Orange juice works wonders.Creating a Drop KitA drop kit can be helpful for Dominants and submissives thatexperience moderate to severe drop after play sessions.Drop can be associated with feelings of loneliness, mentaland physical exhaustion, confusion, insecurity, tremors andmany other physical symptoms. It is important to take care ofyourself during times of drop. This kit will put all the thingsnecessary at your fingertips.This is by no means an exhaustive list - please feel free to addyour own personal selections.Warm blanketFirst Aid KitFirst Aid ManualBath saltsBubble bathScented candlesIncenseFavourite bookPrepaid calling cardHard candyFavourite beveragesLotionJournalRelaxing musicLetter from your partnerStuffed animalsColouring books/crayonsGift card to favourite restaurantVitamin EFavourite movieTwo reasons why sub-drop happens more often in committedrelationshipsThose that are in casual play relationships tend to not have asmany drop issues as those in committed relationships. Thereason for this is two-fold. First, casual relationships don’t havethe same element of intimacy that exists in long termrelationships. That’s not to say that all casual relationships lackintimacy, but if you’ve been in a committed relationship forany amount of time you will know the intimacy for which Ispeak. This intimacy can cause issues with boundaries andlove that when the play is over the submissive can questionthe validity of those feelings. On several occasions thethought “how could he love me if he did that to me?” comeinto play. Of course it was consensual, but once the headspace is over, the questions can bring emotions of sadness,questioning and disbelief. These are all normal.The second reason sub-drop occurs more in committedrelationships is because limits are tested more frequently andthe play could be edgier. Casual relationships tend to not beable to develop the trust and history necessary to testboundaries as easily. No matter how strong the trust is withpartners, you can still have feelings of disbelief or evenfeelings that you can’t believe you like something soperverted, kinky or dirty. Your own doubts can bring aboutfear, sadness and loneliness. You could even question whyyou are into BDSM to begin with. Again, very normal!Address the emotionsThe emotions that can surface during and after play arenecessary to address. Don’t keep them bottled up. Writethem down, talk about them and keep open communicationwith your partner. They can help you get through your


feelings. Several of the things in the Aftercare kit are meant tohelp you establish that connection. A notebook to write yourfeelings down, a phone card to call your partner (if they arelong distance), a letter from your partner telling you how theyfeel about you and perhaps even a voice recording. Call upsome friends and get out, if you have lifestyle friends they toocan help you recover from sub-drop.AftercareThe BDSM community combats drop by teaching people howto land gently, and by being prepared to assist others whomthey play with to gently transition from flying to being "on theground". We call this "aftercare". It is important to not onlyknow that one might need it, but also to know that it issomething that one may want (and need) to negotiatereceiving after playing.What exactly is aftercare?In the context of the sexual practice of BDSM, aftercare is theprocess of attending to one another after intense feelings ofa physical or psychological nature relating to BDSM activities.Aftercare has a way of emotionally bonding people,validating the experience that the two just shared.Aftercare is the negotiated time after a scene or play timewhere you recover and take care of each other’s needs. Thisis also a time to reconnect to reality and re-establish rolesoutside the scene. Some scenes are very intense emotionallyand psychologically and the Dominant may need to help thesubmissive unwind and recover.Aftercare is an important part of recovery from play for manypeople. It is most common to experience a drop in emotionsand energy after play from within hours to even days later. Alltoo often it becomes a necessity to take care of yourself aftera play session because your Top was just visiting or the playparty is over. Even after a few days you may need to carryout some aftercare. Knowing what to do can preventphysical and emotional struggles.BDSM experiences can be exhausting; and drain theparticipants of mental, emotional or physical energy. As aresult, one or all participants may require emotional support,comfort, reassurance, and/or physical tenderness. Along withthis, he or she may experience everything fromexhilaration to traumatization. Aftercare also may include areview or “debriefing” of the activities from experiences ofboth the Dominant and the submissive.Aftercare is an elusive beast. Sometimes it is needed andsometimes the submissive would rather be left alone in orderto process the experience. While the desire to be left alonecould stem from just needing rest, it could also result from nolonger feeling safe in the current environment or situation. Asubmissive will never be very sure which mood they’ll be inwhen they begin playing but aftercare should always be onstandby because they take what happens in scene veryseriously. It goes with their very emotional self.People require emotional validation. Period! Maybe theperson who just had a BDSM experience with you is currentlyexploring a new sexual freedom, but is still having issuesaccepting their new-found awesomeness. Perhaps theperson you just ‘played” with did something completely newto him/her that you were unaware of. These people needaftercare. Need something reassuring; need to know thatwanting to have an experience and wanting to explore ismore than okay. These individuals need to know that even ifthis experience will never happen again, that they arerespected as people. And honestly, everyone needs to knowthat.It is not good for the submissive to be in a situation where theyfeel simply discarded after a sexual experience, left waitingfor the motion to come over and cuddle for a bit, or a simplekiss goodbye, only to receive nothing whatsoever. They havejust given their “play partner” something of themselves; havethrown themselves into the act, joyfully and uninhibitedly. Thesubmissive will feel completely and utterly rejected, used, andtossed aside when a partner refuses to acknowledge him/herin any affectionate way once the “play” was over.Acknowledgment of the event is key! Pretending it didn’thappen and standing awkwardly, looking embarrassed andashamed of what just happened is no way to send someoneon his/her way.It is often thought in a submissive/Dominant relationship onlythe submissive requires aftercare following BDSM activities,which is flawed in my opinion. A Dominant may require less,just as much or more aftercare depending on the scene,person, experience level, and other factors. The role ofsubmissive or Dominant is unrelated to the amount ofaftercare someone needs and should not be thought of as ametric in this regard. Aftercare is in fact the care given to allindividuals in the scene once it is over. It is not limited toimmediately after the play is over, but can last hours, days orweeks later. Oftentimes it involves reaffirming each other thateverything is well, getting some food and water and takingcare of possible wounds and bruises. Later, aftercare mayinvolve comforting words while distressed, calming confusionor showing love and affection.Does the Dominant need aftercare? Perhaps. Ask them whatyou can do for them after a scene has taken place.Negotiate it beforehand if possible. Dominants might noteven know that they too might need some relaxation andcomfort. In the least you can offer to massage their achingshoulders or hands. They’ve worked hard to give you whatyou want or need and they will have to recover themselves.In long distance relationships, a potentially useful practicewhen engaged in remote BDSM activities is to facilitateaftercare by the exchange of emotionally significant itemswhich can be clung to for reassurance, though success of thisdepends on both parties' level of emotional investment in therelationship.Aftercare is an often forgotten part of the negotiation processand there are many BDSM practitioners that do not performaftercare after a scene, believing that it is the personalresponsibility of the parties involved to take care of theirneeds after play. It is also less common for aftercare tohappen when playing in a casual once only sort of eventsuch as a play party. This is because the Dominant andsubmissive are there for selfish reasons and not for a dance ofpower between a well-connected relationship.Common aftercare practices may include hugging, kissing,hair-stroking, cuddling, words of praise or gratitude, orgeneral affirmation of an emotional bond between partners.Occasionally, more "vanilla" sexual activities such asintercourse or oral sex following an intense scene may also beconsidered as part of aftercare.It is important in choosing “play partners”, be they long-term,short-term, or casual, who understand and share thesubmissives’ needs. Showing people that you value them andwhat you’ve just done together is incredibly rewarding.Aftercare does not have to be extensive. Little things havehuge impact and can mean a lot to someone. Just applyaftercare as you would like to receive it, and you’ll alwaysleave someone feeling positive about the experience youshared together.Aftercare: Public vs private playAs a general rule, play in a public dungeon tends to be lessintense than private play. This is especially true if the play iscasual (established during the party, rather than betweenexisting partners). Even existing partners will often fail to push


as many boundaries in public play as they will in private. Sopeople in the lifestyle who are playing privately probablyhave a greater need to establish rituals of aftercare that fittheir exact needs.In public dungeons, aftercare is usually oriented towardsrecognizing the immediate physical needs of submissives whohave been playing. Because the submissive's body has beenundergoing exertion, body temperature frequently dropssharply after play. This may require having a blanket or a robefor warmth as the submissive can sometimes become chilly tothe point of shivering, even if fully clothed. The submissivemay feel unsteady on their feet (sometimes barely able tomove without assistance) necessitating a comfy place wherethey can sit or lie down and experience gentle contact andphysical comfort for a period after play. Their cognitivefunctioning may be impaired (slow or disjointed) for a whileafter play.Food or drink after play can be important: Water or sportstypedrinks to re-hydrate, or juice to provide simple sugars.Eating some chocolate after play is recommended by some,as the opiate and cannabinoid effects of chocolate aresimilar to those of subspace, allowing a more gradualtransition, and chocolate also contains several stimulants thatcan make mental processes feel more alert.It is important to know that it is unwise to engage in heavyplay (especially as a submissive) and then drive too soonafterwards, as one might be far more "under theinfluence" due to subspace than if one were at the currentlegal limit for alcohol.GeneralAftercare, at its most basic, simply involves the willingness tocontinue being there with your play partner for a sufficienttime period that they can feel safe, regain their emotionalequilibrium, and no longer feel the need to cling to you. It isequally important to recognize that aftercare is for both theTop and bottom, Dominant and submissive. If either personleaves too soon, then their partner may feel abandonment orloss far exceeding the obvious dimensions of the scene.Simply because you aren’t deeply and emotionally involvedwith someone does not mean that something deep andemotional happened during your experience together. Justbecause things are casual and you want to keep clearemotional boundaries in place doesn’t mean you shouldn’ttreat your partner with kindness and dignity! I know manyDominants that do not provide adequate, if any, aftercareunless requested. Some still will not give aftercare to a casualplay partner or a party scene. In these situations you mayneed to find someone else that is willing to provide you theaftercare you need to recover.There is no one way to provide aftercare. It is as unique as theindividual. As a submissive, you should try to learn what youneed after a scene so that you can add that to yournegotiations when you play with others. How do you know ifyou need aftercare? This is definitely subjective. How do youfeel after a play scene? Do you need a nap or some food?Do you crave some hugs and snuggles? What aboutsomeone to lotion your aching skin? Do you need a blanketand some snuggle time? Perhaps candy and water? Whatelse might you need? Learn these things and remember toask or at least discuss them before playing.All of these things are aftercare items. Not everyone has aneed for aftercare, and some only need it occasionally. Letyour body and mind tell you what you need and make sureyou fulfil the needs if not with the Dominant you played with,then on your own.It is a good idea to have a network of kinky friends whom youcan talk to if you find that you need to. As a Top, it is oftenimportant to make sure that the submissive you play withknows how to get in contact with you, so that if they needlater reassurance, it can be provided.Continuing to help the transition, especially if going homealone after play, some people find that assembling "aftercaresupplies" helps them continue to land gently after they arrivehome. Relaxing music, comfort objects, scented candles,bubble baths, favourite books or movies, incense, and otherforms of self-pampering serve to continue to remind peoplethat they are special and cared for, allowing them to bask inthe gradually fading fires of their flight into subspace.Aftercare: First aid for MarksPhysically it may seem obvious that you have marks; bruising,cuts, sore muscles, etc that need continued first aid. If youhaven’t taken first aid, you should have a basic medicalprimer at home.Knowing basic first aid for bruises, cuts and abrasions isimportant to caring for your skin and muscle tissues afterintense play. There are many schools of thought on bruisecare but the best I’ve heard about is Arnica cream sold inmost pharmacies. Cool compresses will help cut downswelling. Treat cuts and abrasions with anti-bacterial andbandages. Scar reduction creams may also be helpful if youare afraid of marks lasting longer than you’d like.So the next time you play with someone make sure younegotiate some aftercare if you need it or else you may beleft to your own devices for that. Remember that the sceneisn’t necessarily over in your mind once the play is done. Takecare of yourself.HAVE FUN! PLAY SAFE!

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