Most serious kinksters know that subs are likely to require aftercare. They understand that boys need to be brought out of whatever dark place a scene takes them to, through cuddling and reaffirming that the boy is a good person. They know that different subs may need different things, like a warm bath or something to eat. What’s less-well known is that sometimes doms need aftercare as well.
BDSM involves going into a nightmare funhouse where up is down, cruelty is affection, and abusive behavior is craved. The purpose of aftercare is flip things right-side up again, to help the participants transition back to a normal state where the sub has value. Deep submission requires a lot of self-abnegation, and maintaining that state is challenging, so aftercare allows the sub to reawaken whatever parts of his ego he’s turned off for the scene. It also allows for the normal bonding hormones to work their magic and strengthen the ties between dom and sub.
After a heavy scene, doms can find themselves needing that transition back to a normal state as well, although for less obvious reasons than subs do. During a scene, dominants have to unleash anti-social desires that we have been taught to keep chained up. We can’t live normal lives in society just constantly demanding things, insulting people, hitting them, and so on. But as doms, that’s what we do in a scene, and the heavier the scene, the more harsh we have to be. Getting into that scene sometimes requires a slow build-up as we give ourselves permission to be as cruel as we and the sub want us to be. And once we get there and feel the savage pleasures of our sadism, we often can’t turn that off all at once. It can take time to push the monster back into his cage.
Additionally, letting out the monster can be surprisingly scary. We’ve been told all our lives that good men don’t hit their intimate partners, that they don’t say cruel things to him. So giving ourselves permission to beat a boy raises the specter than maybe we’re not really a good man after all. Everyone has self-doubts, and when you let out your darkness, sometimes that provides an opening for your own personal demons to escape and tell you things that scare you.
“A good man wouldn’t do that. You’re not a good man.”
“You’ve ruined everything. He’s never going to forgive you for saying that.”
“Now that he’s seen the real you, he’s gonna run away.”
“Why would you do that to him? You don’t really love him.”
Aftercare provides a way to soothe those fears. The cuddling offers an opportunity for the sub to reaffirm that he really did enjoy himself, that he really does care about his dom, that the dom isn’t a bad person just because he has dark desires. I’ve often said that boys aren’t worthless, but they have something inside them that needs to feel worthless. In a similar vein, we doms aren’t evil, even if we have something inside us that needs to feel evil. Aftercare provides a moment for the sub to reassure his dom that having a monster inside doesn’t make him a monster.
Years ago, I was involved in with a boy that I loved very much. We were having fun exploring our kinks, and one night after a particularly heavy beating, I hate-fucked him. As I fucked him, I let loose with a torrent of verbal abuse, telling him that I thought he was worthless, that I hated him, that I wanted him to truly suffer. It was an amazing scene that allowed me to connect with one of the darkest parts of my psyche. But afterwards, I felt truly horrible. How could I possibly think the things I had said to someone I loved? How could he possibly forgive me. I remember rolling over to stare at the way, overwhelm with a moment of self-loathing. And he just rolled over and cuddled me and told me that he knew that the things I had said weren’t true, that I wasn’t a monster, and that he still loved me as much as I loved him. He took care of me for about half an hour and helped me process what I had done.
The problem, of course, is that if the sub is giving aftercare to the dom, who’s giving aftercare to the sub? How do you strike that balance between the sub’s need to process and receive affirmation and the Dom’s need for it? I don’t know that there’s any clear rule here. What I know is that while I have occasionally needed aftercare, I don’t always need it, or perhaps I usually get what I need simply from cuddling and making sure the boy is all right. I suppose tending the boy gives me a chance to remind myself that I’m a good person, because a bad person wouldn’t be looking out for his sub’s needs. And for a sub with a deep need to serve, taking care of his dom can make him feel useful and energized. So I guess it’s a play it by ear sort of thing–while aftercare is normally given by the dom to the sub, both parties should be aware that sometimes it needs to be the other way around.