The Aftercare Lie

Now and then I will share one of the lies I wrote about in my 50 Lies Told to New People About BDSM book. They make good topics for articles since they’re already fairly bite sized. They also deal with issues I see on a daily basis on kink-based social websites or groups.

Today I’m going to present two that go hand in hand and apply to both private and public play.

  1. A good Dom will just “know” what you like and what you want.

This is a huge lie that I see perpetuated all the time. It’s usually presented in some romanticized list of “things a good Dom does”, which is what makes it such a popular notion. We all like lists, right? How can you go wrong with an unreasonable list of expectations that says how a person will be a perfect Dom while saying others who don’t do these things are crappy human beings, right?

What could possibly go wrong with that?

Well, last I knew, people aren’t telepathic. A Dominant, a Top, a sadist, a submissive, a bottom, a masochist…cannot read your mind. While it’s a lovely fantasy, to think someone will “just know” what you want, the reality is that we all have to open our mouths and make words. Or write things down in a note and then discuss it together. We have to communicate directly with one another. There’s no way around it.

Yes, it sometimes happens that we meet someone and we click and it seems like the other person knows how to read our signals. You cannot count on it, however, as it can take years to build that kind of rapport.

Knowing that you must open your mouth and make words at the other person in order to express your needs and desires brings me to one of the most misunderstood and miscommunicated concepts.

After care and the many lies surrounding it. The lies I’m dealing with in this piece are:

  1. You are entitled to whatever after care you want, REGARDLESS!

36a. A good Top/Dom will make aftercare a priority.

First, a basic definition that includes no editorializing: After care is the particular and specific attention given a partner after a strenuous play session, whatever the two people involved decide that care should be.

This concept (formerly about wounds and broken skin) has, in recent years, been twisted into marathon cuddling sessions for the most minor and brief of play, between people who barely know each other.

How do I know this? I asked them directly.

“After care is a requirement for everyone,” they type in the eleventybillionandtenth discussion posted this year.

“What do you consider after care?” I ask.

Invariably, they come back with something that involves cuddling as the main focus. Doesn’t matter if the person they played with is someone they’ve known for ten minutes. That stranger must cuddle. Those who don’t want to cuddle with this bottom they’ve known for all of ten minutes are at once vilified. I have read their outraged posts in a thousand threads on the topic.

Cuddling. It always comes down to cuddling. We must cuddle! Always! For an hour!

Those of us who don’t, as top or as bottom, are scorned and told we’re not doing it right. We’re told yes, we do too have to do that, whether we want to or not.

I’m here to say no, we don’t. Consent is a thing even when it comes to the after care. If someone doesn’t consent to cuddling, that’s an end to the topic. Furthermore, the top doesn’t have to give a reason why they don’t want to cuddle. “NO” is a complete sentence regardless which side of the slash we’re on.

No one ever thinks about consent applying to after care. No one thinks about a top not consenting to something. New bottoms are erroneously told they are entitled to whatever they demand (closeness/cuddling) and what the top wants or doesn’t want is irrelevant.

We are people, not on-demand fetish dispensers. The notion of after care has become a kink in and of itself in recent years; and new bottoms are ardently brainwashed into thinking they absolutely must have after care or they’ll suffer some dire consequence of mental breakdown.

The people perpetuating these after care lies give no allowance for the individual and personal needs and preferences of the two people engaging in play. They’ll backpedal when challenged, and say “oh everyone is different”, which at once completely negates their statement that “everyone must have aftercare”; but if you illustrate how you personally are different and do not want/like to cuddle, up go the judgments of what a terrible top you are (regardless your skill or the happiness of the bottom) or what an unfulfilled bottom you must be (regardless your satisfaction with the play had). Yet another pair of lies.

No, you’re not entitled whatever after care you want. Your expectations may be unreasonable. I once saw a bottom state (in a post online) that any top who plays with her knows they must be available to her for three months afterward. I wonder. If she plays with four men in one month, does she then have four men at her beck and call for quarter of a year? That is outrageous to me, and unreasonable. Play at a dungeon is not a substitute for a long term relationship. If you want a boyfriend experience, then go get a boyfriend.

Do not ever think the other person has no option but to do what you want. They always have the option to say no, whether you like it or not. They can say no at any time. It’s that consent thing. If you can withdraw your consent and stop play at any time and for no reason, then they can withdraw (at any time and for no reason) their consent to cuddle.

You are entitled only to what you and the person you’re playing with both agree to. Any version of “if you don’t, I’m going to tell the world what a shitty top you are” is  blackmail. Let that sink in. I’ve seen enough writings and group threads to know this is precisely what happens, and it’s despicable.

This all means you have to do that thing up in #22: You have to discuss it together before play begins, not after play has ended.

If the top doesn’t bring it up while you’re discussing the play you’re about to have, the bottom absolutely should. That shoe fits equally well on both feet. Do not assume you, as the top or the bottom, will get exactly what you demand without talking about it first. If you don’t discuss after care before you play, and you don’t get any when you’re done playing, the Dom/Top hasn’t done anything wrong.

It is not solely the responsibility of the top to bring it, or anything else, up for discussion. Bottoms have a responsibility to themselves to discuss anything and everything they feel is necessary before play begins.

The top is allowed to have their own preferences and personal practices, and does not have to change them for any bottom if they don’t want to.

Assuming what you want will happen is not a good position to start from. You may well end up sitting there, blinking at the Top/Dom while he turns over to go to sleep. Assume nothing. Speak up and discuss it before you ever get to the bedroom.


Ask what the Top/Dom usually does after play is finished. They are likely to have their own routines, which might include cleaning the implements and putting them away, but not anything of intimacy.

If you know you need something different or specific, ask if they will do what you need. If they say no, how will you respond? Will you give in and say it’s fine just so you can have play? Or will you walk away?

Furthermore, it is wrong for a Top/Dom to insist they must give aftercare to an unwilling bottom and try to force that bottom to comply. There are a lot of bottoms who don’t want anything, who want to shake hands and walk away. If pushing a spanking onto someone who doesn’t want it is wrong, then so is pushing aftercare onto someone who doesn’t want it.


While you’re finding out if the Top will tend to your needs, you should be finding out if the top expects you to do something for them. Some tops say that they are the one who needs after care. I’ve seen some tops say that they need to do the cuddling for their own peace of mind, or that they want a shoulder/arm massage for all their effort. Are you prepared to do that? To put off your own after care needs for half an hour to give a shoulder massage?

If you don’t like the answers you get to your questions, as top or as bottom, you have to decide what you can live without. Or you may have to make the decision to go without playing with them and head your separate ways.

Engaging in a play session when you know you will not get the attention you want or need afterward puts responsibility for yourself squarely on your own shoulders.

However it shakes out, we all must understand that there is no single standard for what people do after the play and fucking are done. Some people do want to lie around and cuddle for hours. Or lie around and watch television at their separate ends of the sofa. Others can’t stand to be touched and want space. Some might get up immediately, have a cigarette, or go make food. Some get dressed and go about their day as usual, or leave to go to work.

When you see someone demanding that there must be aftercare always, they mean they need it for themselves. They don’t have the communication skills to use “I” statements and speak for themselves, and also don’t realize that they are tossing out decrees for the entire world. “I must always have aftercare” is very different from “everyone must always have aftercare” but they cannot see the difference.

When they insist everyone needs aftercare, they are showing their own inexperience. They cannot say you must have anything because they know nothing about you. It’s not their job or place to convince you, against your own better judgment, that you need something you don’t. They’re simply not qualified to speak with any authority on the topic of “you”.

Caring for Yourself

You’ll find out for yourself once you get into the play situation. Maybe you will need the cuddling and half a gallon of ice cream. Or maybe you’ll find out that you don’t like to be touched after play ends. Be prepared with a few elementary things and then you’ll be better able to recognize the out of the ordinary needs stemming from playtime.

Keep yourself well-hydrated before and during play, as well as afterward. Get a fresh bottle or glass of water to keep at hand during the session. Pause periodically to get a drink. That can easily be worked into the play itself, if you like.

Eat well before and after play. You need food energy because you will use up a great deal of energy during play.

Get a good night’s sleep before and after your session, if at all possible. Naps are your friend. If you’re exhausted going in, you’ll be doubly so when it’s over.

I think these three things are the most important. Most importantly, they are in no way dependent on the good will of someone else. A great many daily health issues arise from sleep deprivation and dehydration. If you have these things in hand, you may find you don’t need anything else. Or you may find the cuddling becomes the delicious icing on the SM cake rather than an entire interventive medical regimen you can’t survive without.

Doesn’t matter which side of the top/bottom slash you’re on. Only you can decide what you need and what you want, and those needs and wants may change over time. That’s okay too. Just let it be your decision what you need or don’t, and not someone else’s.

If you want something a prospective partner is not prepared to give, walk away rather than put yourself at risk.

About the Author

TylerRose. is a real world dominant sadomasochist. She lives in NYC and regularly attends SM parties, sex parties, and munches. Among her hobbies are crochet, cross stitch, and going to movies.

She is forever writing one book or another, and will likely die with a thesaurus open on her thigh.

Her “high horse” is 50 hands high. His name is Unabashed. And her soapbox is spray painted royal purple with outlines of stars made out of Elmer’s glue and gold glitter.

You can follow her on Facebook:
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And read the other 49 lies in her book 50 Lies Told to New People About BDSM:


  1. Kat Miller says:

    Excellent article! I too have seen many ‘demanding needs’ post….so wrong!
    Thnx for another informative read!

  2. uptowngrl says:

    I agree! Great piece!

  3. My Dom and i never do aftercare. He tells me to put the ‘play toys’ away. That’s it. i do what i’m told. Is this wrong?

    • Broken Unicorn says:

      I don’t think it’s wrong if that’s what you and your Dom are both comfortable with. Aftercare is like any other part of a healthy sex life – if it’s something that is needed and consented to, it’s great. If it’s being forced on one person who doesn’t want it to be a part of their sex life, it’s lousy. If it’s needed by one person and not being given, it’s lousy.

    • Nothing wrong at all, Ruby. You’ll find that rather common.

      At parties especially in a pick up play situation, the bottom is often expected to wipe down the equipment while the top takes care of cleaning and putting away the implements. The top isn’t likely to have a stranger clean the implements and put them away.

      What’s wrong is for one party to demand what the other party isn’t willing to give. I’ve seen it rise to the level of emotional blackmail. That’s why it’s important to discuss it first and come to an agreement on what is acceptable.

      If it’s not acceptable, don’t play.

  4. This is a fantastic article. I’ve added these questions to my negotiation checklist.

  5. Lady_Ash says:

    When I speak with new subs/Doms, I always say that aftercare is something that a lot of people need, but the need is different for everyone and it needs to be discussed before play begins. And I also say, if there’s ever an aftercare need that you can’t or don’t want to fulfill, have them find a replacement aftercare person before you play or don’t play with them.

    Then I give examples of aftercare needs that I’ve experienced: My slave needs immediate cuddles and reassurance that he performed well during our play scene, which I happily do, while also allowing him to eat his favorite chocolate. After the cuddles, I require him to eat some protein and drink water. For myself, after I receive pain play that I have requested, I do not want or need aftercare. I feel very energized and want to be free from cuddles to be wild and fully enjoy that energy burst. Others I have Topped, the aftercare ranged from saying good girl and giving a kiss on the forehead to brief cuddles to a hug to checking blood sugar to an immediate feedback talk, etc. The aftercare needs are as varied as the people you play with, each needing (or not needing) different things.

    For people who are so new that they have never been Topped before, I tell them what my go to is (chocolate, water, and brief cuddle session) and let them know that if that doesn’t feel right to them, to immediately speak up because everyone’s needs are different. Most happily accept cuddles, chocolate, and water. Some though, have not wanted cuddles, so we just sat next to each other and we talked for a bit before we both moved along through the night. I’m a hugger, so I always check back later with a hug and a simple “you ok?”, if we’re both sticking around. I also tell them to contact me, if they ever need to talk or have questions and I’ll get back to them as soon as possible.

    With that being said, I am not available to anyone’s beck and call, period. I would happily reassure or talk with someone I Topped any number of days later. Shoot, I’d talk to any of them years later, but it will always be at my convenience. I would not Top someone that expected relationship level commitment (even for one day, let alone 3 months) from one play scene, the thought of that is absolutely ludicrous!

    • I have many times taught new bottoms how to care for themselves after play is finished. I would far rather educate them so they are self-sufficient than perpetuate this lie that there has to be someone else taking care of them.

      Lemme tell ya, I was quite the villain when I told “three month girl” to get a boyfriend if she wanted a boyfriend experience.

  6. For the longest time I thought (after reading and blindly believing the “Uno-Truthers”) that there was something seriously flawed in me. I suffered through after care as a Top cuddled and to my mind smothered me with attention. The last thing I wanted was more contact. But that was what good bottoms did, right?
    Thank you to the Top who finally actually asked what I DIDN’T need. I didn’t need (and still to this day) additional contact or sensation. I didn’t need cuddles or words of affirmations. Water which I would being before hand of and for myself a quick “you good?” And then left to decompress my mind and senses.

    So thank you for sharing this and possibly saving another bottom from undue suffering through “proper aftercare”.

  7. Thank you! Another reason why I’m not a big fan of dungeon “pick up play” is the notion of aftercare. It seems that cuddling, blankets, and water are just a given. Across the board. Regardless of, how you pointed out, the scene duration or how well you know the person.

    As a Top I may not want to cuddle with just any one. Thank you for the validation.

  8. Dame TylerRose. says:

    I seriously think that “aftercare” has become a kink all its own. These people don’t recognize that’s what they’ve done with the concept.

    Doesn’t matter what anyone’s personal preferences are, even as the bottom.
    Personal preferences are entirely beside the point and irrelevant to them.

    The Cult of Aftercare has decided EVERYONE MUST HAZ THIS!!! EVERYONE MUST DO THIS!!!

    Well, I’m going to throw the BULLSHIT flag on that every single time and tell them to speak for themselves. I can NOT stand to be told that I MUST have or do something that is completely against my own nature.

    I am not about to drink that particular Kool-Aid.

  9. My top and I are in complete chemistry together, cuddling is a great aftercare for both of us. Recently they dynamics of the partnership has changed. We both are having feelings but nothing can become this relationship. Do you think there is a way to reprogram my brain and body to a different aftercare?

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