Is Aftercare A New Concept?

You’re probably getting tired of the aftercare posts. Ironically the more I write about a topic, the more questions I hear about it. Since a lot of my posts are guided by questions I get… sometimes we ended up with multiple posts about a single topic in a short time. Sorry about that!

Because I’ve done several aftercare posts in the past couple of months, I’ve spent a lot of time comparing how fiction presents aftercare and how it tends to happen in real life, which can be quite different.

The specific question this time was, “We never used to see aftercare mentioned in books, but now we see it constantly. Is it a new concept?”

Read more: Is Aftercare A New Concept?

Here’s kind of an interesting fact. Sometimes reality follows fiction. When a trope or an action becomes super popular in media (books, movies, etc) sometimes it affects what people expect from other fiction and also from real life.

Once aftercare started to appear in various books, it became standard. Now readers get mad when it’s not there, even when it should be understood it wasn’t wanted or it was given just not blatantly. Which is a little frustrating because it’s been added to the checklist of things we ‘must’ include in every book to avoid the wrath of the 2-star reviews.

This has, I think, spilled over into the scene, because people who explore in fiction first expect to find aftercare being very explicit when they play. Explicit as in “I will now give you aftercare, sub.” If they don’t hear the exact phrase the new ones sometimes assume things have gone wrong, or they missed out on something they were supposed to have.

A couple years ago I saw someone bad-mouthing a Top I’d known for years, a very capable Top, whom I’d played with many times. The person complaining was fairly new and was talking about how they hadn’t even gotten aftercare.

But after listening to the story, it became obvious that what they considered aftercare and what the Top considered aftercare, were just different. The sub also didn’t speak up to say they’d expected something else, something specific, or that they needed anything. Tops aren’t mind readers.

Once the scene ended the two had camped out on a couch and just relaxed together. They chatted a little. Friends came over and joined. The Top walked away later thinking they’d had a great scene. The sub walked away thinking ‘where was my aftercare? They never even mentioned it!’.

The truth is aftercare isn’t new at all. It’s always happened. You do a scene with someone, of course you make sure they are okay after. Responsible Doms have always done that when circumstances allow and when it’s needed. For me it has almost always played out as snuggling or talking.

Sometimes when it’s a party and you don’t know each other well, or there’s a lot going on, the care is limited to “Thanks for playing!” and a hug. But if you looked out of it or wobbly, a caring Dom would always make sure you were okay before wandering off. Maybe they would just sit next to you for a bit, and you’d chat.

What has changed is that there is a word for it now, and there is a feeling that it’s an absolutely mandatory step. We’ve already discussed the fact that some people feel so strongly about it being mandatory that they are unwilling or unable to accept a submissive not wanting aftercare.

But the reality is that in-depth aftercare isn’t always needed. After an intense scene, yes. After a long scene, yes. After a quick over the knee one-minute spanking? Eh, for many people, no.

And when playing at a party many people don’t want to waste the time on anything but playing. Some people will go from one scene to the next with barely a break in between because they want to experience as much as possible in a limited time.

Misunderstandings about what people expect and want happen all the time. Usually this can be resolved by simply asking for what you need.

So, I’ll repeat what I’ve said before… aftercare should be offered, in some way, but it doesn’t need to be accepted. It doesn’t need to involve a checklist that includes food, drink, and a blanket.

It can literally be “You need some help getting dressed?” “Do you want a drink?” “Want to sit and talk for a while?” “You look a little shaky… come chat with me.”

We want the word and the idea of aftercare to be spread widely so that it becomes a habit, especially for people who are new or never knew there was one last thing to do before they walked away.

We want people to understand the concept of being checked on and the open invitation for extra care that should be built into the scene, so that no sub walks away feeling dizzy and alone.

But it does mean that sometimes there is a disconnect with long-time players who aren’t used to things being so specifically spelled out and new players who learned all they know from books. Books follow tropes and trends—not always realistic ones.

In books readers have come to expect aftercare to be very blunt, almost to the point of that checklist I mentioned. They might expect the Dom to actually flat out ask “Do you need aftercare?” Or go through a series of steps that include getting the bottom a snack or a drink.

In real life things often don’t play out that way. If you’re playing at a party or a club, there might be drinks available. Or there could be a ten-minute line of people waiting at the bar to get a soda or water, during which the Top would have to leave the bottom alone to get one—so maybe not feasible.

Clubs and parties rarely have a pile of blankets sitting around in case the bottom gets chilled or shaky (and if they did… ew, they probably aren’t washed much). Aftercare rooms are almost entirely fiction. I know of just a couple rare clubs, very upscale places mostly, that have begun to have them.

(And I honestly think the rare inclusion of these aftercare rooms came directly from people seeing it in fiction so much that they expect a club to have them.)

Food is almost never available at all unless you’re at a small play party at someone’s house. So the kind of aftercare you are able to give is often limited to basically just keeping an eye on the sub, sitting with them, or just helping them get dressed.

Because of this, when you talk to an older player about aftercare a lot of them may not even recognize the word. That concern is just a normal part of a scene winding down for them. If you ask them what they consider good aftercare, they may stare at your blankly.

That doesn’t mean they are bad Doms. There are no red flags here. It’s just a disconnect with a somewhat newer term which was more common online and in fiction than it was in actual scene locations, until fairly recently.

If the Dom doesn’t spend a lot of time in online forums, groups, kink spots, and doesn’t read a ton of BDSM fiction, it’s entirely possible they’ve never really heard or used the term. So instead of immediately panicking that it’s a wannabe Dom, try discussing how they handle things as the scene is wrapping up.

If you have specific needs at the end of the scene, then you should step up and mention them. Submissive or not, when playing with someone new, you have a duty to inform them about any specific needs or triggers you have– for your sake, but also for theirs.

Also Tops/Doms you ALSO have a duty to inform play partners about any triggers or specific needs you have before a scene. I know, shocking concept, Tops are allowed to have needs also.

As I said, for a responsible Dom these things are just wrapped in as part of playing. I can honestly tell you, after years in the scene— play parties, clubs, events, no one has ever asked me, ‘Do you need aftercare?’. I’m not even sure what I’d say.

Probably “No thanks, I’m fine,” because that tends to be my normal response when asked if I need anything. But because aftercare has always been around, unstated, unspecific, but there… typically what has happened is… a hug. Hanging out on a couch together. Laughing.

So no, it’s not new. And if you’re talking to someone and they don’t recognize the term, take a minute to explain it before you assume they don’t know what they are doing.

Because while aftercare isn’t new, the term only started popping up maybe 15-ish years ago, and it only became super common in the last ten. You may have learned it as a newbie coming in, but not everyone did.

The scene is flexible and always changing, but language and terms can sometimes lag behind.

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