Tops need aftercare too

I’m hardly the first person to mention it, but tops need aftercare too. Quick disclaimer: not everyone, top or bottom, needs or wants aftercare. That said, needing aftercare as a top is actually really common and we should talk about it more. 

First, let’s talk about physical aftercare. Topping often involves a lot of physical effort. Hitting people with things is tiring. I’m not a rope top, but I hear that rope work can be tough on the hands. What I need physically after a scene is to sit down, have a drink of water, and a snack (in my case, something savory with protein and carbs). Once I’ve cooled down, I might also need to put on a sweater.

Emotional aftercare can be a bit more complex. From the time we’re tiny children we’re taught not to hit, not to call each other mean names, not to be bossy or rude or selfish. While violating those taboos can be super hot during a scene, they also make it easy for doubts to creep in afterwards. “What kind of person would treat someone like that?”, we ask ourselves. Or “Oh god, what if my bottom hated the scene, hates me, and never wants to speak to me again?” What I need emotionally after a scene is to cuddle with my bottom, and to check in a day or two later to make sure they’re okay. Physical touch is one of my most important love languages, it goes a long way to reassuring me that my bottom had a good time and still likes me. Checking in a day or two later helps me squash any doubts that might have crept in – I often feel great immediately after a scene, then in a day or two I start wondering if my bottom really had a good time (even when I know perfectly well that they did, I’ve played with people who are really great at giving feedback and setting boundaries) and need a little extra reassurance.

Conveniently enough, my aftercare needs get met by providing my bottom with aftercare. It would be so easy for me to pretend I don’t need aftercare at all, that I’m just giving my bottom aftercare because that’s what decent human beings do. Talking about having needs and feeling vulnerable kind of ruins the illusion that tops are effortlessly in control of all of the things all of the time, so I understand why more tops aren’t shouting from the rooftops about their aftercare needs. However, that’s a big part of why I think it’s important to talk about aftercare for tops.

I really, really hate the idea that ‘real’ doms don’t have emotional needs, never doubt themselves or need reassurance. I’m a person, not a life support system for a whip. I will not deny my own needs just because they don’t fit your fantasy. While I’m venting, I’m also not going to try to measure up to some fucked up ideal of stoic masculinity just because dominance is seen as masculine in our society.

Not only is it obviously cruel and unfair to try to shove me into a tiny, airless box like that, but letting that expectation stand puts an extra hurdle in the way of people trying to get into domination. Just trying to accept that you want to do ‘unacceptable’ things to people is hard enough without also being told that if you ever need someone to hold you and tell you they still like you, you’re a failure as a dom.

How many people have you heard of who looked at the stereotype of the icily perfect bitch-goddess and thought, “I can’t measure up to that, I guess this whole kink thing just isn’t for me.” How many more people would be willing to try adding a little kink to their lives if they knew it was not only okay, but common to need some reassurance afterward?

Readers, let’s talk about aftercare. What kind of aftercare have you or your tops needed? Did you always do aftercare or did it take some time to figure out you needed it?

8 thoughts on “Tops need aftercare too

  1. I’ve actually just been talking about this on both Tumblr and Reddit. With my first experience my top said beforehand that she would need some cuddling/holding post scene to be reassured that everything was alright.

    With Tavi, I’m not sure if we’ve discussed her post topping aftercare needs. I know that I go in for lots of cuddling, that I always make sure to thank her sincerely. We talk often, and I will often remark upon my marks with gratitude…. Now I’m hoping that I’m giving her enough, though I trust that if she needed more she would have told me.

  2. I’m glad you wrote this. A scene can be physically draining for both tops and bottoms, and often both need something–water, food, a cool towel or a sweater/blanket. I am always, always cold, so room temperature water and warm clothes are on order even if I’m sweating from the exertion of impact topping.

    Emotionally, it’s harder. I don’t need it as a bottom. At all. There’s no subspace for me to come out of, and I tend to be antsy and energetic after a scene. Since my husband doesn’t need it as a top either, after playing with him I’ll just run off and do my own thing. My boyfriend, though, needs bear hugs and cuddles and to feel protective. So with him, I’ll stick around and chat (and steal body heat, bwahahaha) until he’s back to his cheerful self.

    As a top, I have a lot of anxiety and need reassurance that I’m not an evil monster. It’s hard to ask for. As you say, doms are expected to fall somewhere between stoic and cold on a general emotional scale. Giving aftercare does a lot of that, but you’re right: a dom is a person, not a life support system for a whip. It’s ridiculous to pretend we’re not human just to prop up an image of what dominance is supposed to look like, especially when that image isn’t even one that makes us happy.

    Anyway, thank you for that. It’s a relief to see someone else say that needing aftercare isn’t some shameful top-deficiency.

    • As a top, I have a lot of anxiety and need reassurance that I’m not an evil monster. It’s hard to ask for.

      It really is. I feel especially silly needing extra reassurance later from someone who told me what a good time they had right after the scene.

      • I feel especially silly needing extra reassurance later from someone who told me what a good time they had right after the scene.

        I know! What makes it worse is that my husband doesn’t get it at all, so asking him if he liked a scene or new toy or whatever the next day over breakfast leads to a lot of grousing and “why don’t you trust me? I already said it was fun!” which of course makes me feel more guilty/bad-personish because now I’m upsetting him… Grr. Can we just get subs/bottoms fitted with a brain implant that constantly monitors dopamine/serotonin/adrenalin levels so there’s no guessing?

  3. I don’t know how much of it is for her benefit and how much of it is for mine, but my partner leads aftercare as much as she leads play. There is cuddling with a lot of skin-to-skin contact, anywhere from some to a lot of communication, and usually some kind of sexual act (most common has been her performing fellatio on me; I’m not sure why, but that’s what she wants after playing). I try to make a point of telling her how much I enjoyed the scene we just finished, along with specific things that were wonderful and how I felt about we had done for the first time. Recently, as our relationship has grown to include more dominance and submission, I have told her how much I enjoy being hers.

  4. Personally, I just need some quiet-ish time for a bit. If it’s at a party, I’ll be antisocial for a while. Water, something vaguely foodlike, and I’m good to go.

    My Master’s aftercare requirements are pretty sparse. Just a bit of cuddling and together time afterward are all she really needs.

    For everyone I play with, whether it’s in a relationship or casual play, I ask ahead of time what they need for aftercare. I also follow up a day or two later, expressing gratitude and seeing how they’re doing. I often offer to get together for coffee if they want to talk or anything.

  5. Dom_Domme posed some interesting questions on twitter that I’m going to answer here because there’s no way I can do it in just 140 characters 🙂

    Also, do *dominants* need aftercare, is it different from top aftercare, and if so, in what ways?

    I haven’t gotten to do as much dominating as I’d like, but I imagine I would need even more emotional aftercare and general reassurance that my submissive likes being dominated, still likes me, and doesn’t think I’m a horrible/selfish/thoughtless/bossy/unreasonable person than I do when I’m just topping.

    For me, if a scene goes wrong I know I can practice more, negotiate better, try a different sort of play. If, say, I gave someone an order and we ended up fighting about it, I don’t know how I’d handle that. I’d feel sort of stuck if I wanted obedience and wasn’t getting it, and I’d probably spend a lot of time beating myself up for being too demanding.

    Does anyone else have an answer for those questions?

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