The situation I want to discuss is often referred to as sub-drop. It can be very unsettling to have had a really good scene with someone, have a lovely chat with them afterwards, give each other a hug, only to find out that the next day they are feeling really low. Having had a lovely night, they are now feeling sad, even upset, often without being able to put their finger on exactly why.
I want to explore how we can prepare for, and best support our play-partners when this happening. However, better than a cure is prevention so first we shall look at good aftercare practices which can help mitigate the risk of sub-drop occurring at all.
Our responsibility extends beyond just the actions of play. If we think of our scene as taking our partner on a journey then it is also our responsibility to bring them all the way back.
Aftercare can take a few forms, broken down here into a number of steps. Be aware though that individuals may have different things they really like, or really hate, as such I would suggest that aftercare feature in your pre-scene negotiation. Better to talk it through than just try and wing it. There are people I do not play with because I know the aftercare they will need is not aftercare I can provide. So while some aftercare activities are unique there are some rather common activities which are certainly worth knowing.
Once a scene is over the first step is often making sure the bottom knows the scene is over. It is hard to help anyone start to relax if they don’t know that the scene has ended. Some play has a very clear end point, some does not. There is no harm in letting our partner know a scene is over, and often highlighting that they have done really well. No one can start to relax if they are waiting for the next strike of a flogger. As you are unstrapping them from the cross or taking off a blindfold just whisper to them that they have done well, that they are safe now, you are satisfied with them, whatever phrase will properly communicate that they are entering a safe space where you will take care of them.
Don’t underestimate the power of a blanket
After a scene it is not uncommon for the bottom to feel cold, even to the point of physically shaking. A large blanket can be an incredibly welcome sight after a long scene. If the bottom likes physical contact then a blanket and a hug, and if they don’t want physical contact then snuggling in a blanket alone is still enough to warm them up. This is where negotiating aftercare in advance can be so valuable, you never want to unknowingly make them feel uncomfortable while trying to offer care.
Keep them sweet
Now they are warm and feel safe the next step is often getting some sugar into them. If you already know their preference then some sweets or chocolate in your kit bag is often a good idea, also a sugary drink (not diet) is a quick and easy way to perk them up again. Make sure you know about any food issues before trying to feed them anything, at the time they might well not be in a fit state to express any dietary requirements or allergies.
Time is relative
All of this it can just be a matter of time. Some people bounce right back and will be full of energy afterwards. Others might need taking home and a good nights sleep. Most will fall somewhere in the middle. Let them direct the timing, check in on them, ask them if they need anything, then just let them relax as long as they need to.
Take it to the extreme
More extreme play, especially those which involve piercing of the skin or severe bruising, may involve a physical recovery time. You should know what will help with this recovery, how to keep a wound clean, or a bruise heal, and communicate this information, even to the point of making sure that instructions are being followed over time.
Drop the beat
Lets now explore what sub-drop is. I have seen it happen after intense physical play scenes, as well as after purely psychological scenes. There is no simple A causes B scenario when it comes to sub-drop. Some people always drop, some people think they never do. It isn’t their responsibility to not drop or to always know when they will, it is our responsibility to prepare.
Our first step should always be maintaining contact and to highlight that we are contactable. If we don’t have clear lines of communication then we cannot gauge how our partner is doing. It is often the case that those we play with have lives to go back to, Saturday and Sunday might be all about play, kink and fun, but Monday is back to work. Following up on people we play with should become habit.
Sub drop has often been described to me as falling back into the real world from the endorphin high of kink. For some people the escape from responsibility is their chance to have a release from the stress of ordinary life. It can be hard going back to the complexities of the real world from the simplicity of just being able to obey and have someone else make the choices. That, unfortunately, we cannot change.
The reality of sub-drop is there is often not much we can practically do, especially if we can only offer support at a distance, in the case of a casual play partner perhaps. Sometimes all we can do is reach out, and if our play partner is feeling down we can only reassure them that it is okay and it will pass. Talking is the best cure here, and you should keep it in ready supply for them.
Having spoken about how to care for bottoms who drop it might be tempting to think tops are immune, but we most certainly are not. The post play drop can happen to us to. I have had days after a big weekend scene when I felt really low, and I didn’t know what was happening. I tried to look around and find something to hang those feelings on, to work out why I felt low. Something must have gone wrong, the scene must have been bad, I wasn’t very good at what I did, etc…
We need to take care of ourselves and learn how we work. Know what your drop is, and how to manage it. Ignoring it, trying to just push through it, doesn’t actually help. No one is awarding dom points for being a big, tough sadist who doesn’t need a hug. So be honest when you feel you need comfort, tell a friend when you are feeling down, remember that on Monday you are also having to adjust back to the real world.
For some of us kink is the only time we can let extremely important parts of our personality out. Maybe only once every few months do we get to really let ourselves go. Top or bottom, it doesn’t matter, it is about being free and wholly ourselves in a way we normally cannot, regardless of the end of the whip we are on.
Consider all the effort that goes into holding that kinky part in, the tense coil that is the naughty, socially unacceptable part of our personality. The bit that likes to feel helpless, or make people cry, the aching desire to be ground underfoot, or spit on someone’s face. That tension has to be released at times, but then we have to coil it back up. While most of that has to be done by ourselves it can really help to know you are not alone.
Reach out to the partner you played with, see how they are doing, let them know they are good, that you had fun and that you are there for them. Whatever naughty things we are doing with each other we should always care; before, during and after.
About the Author
Will Hunt has been involved in the UK kink scene for the last 10 years; running clubs, teaching workshops, performing and generally encouraging naughty behavior wherever possible.