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This Practice from BDSM Should Be Part of Everyone’s Sex Lives — No Matter How You Play!

Happy Kinktober! Originally created as an event to share and create art, Kinktober has evolved into a celebration of all things kinky among sexuality educators and various kink communities. And when kink comes to play, there is automatically an understanding for the need of aftercare.

Kink, when it comes to sexuality, is considered any practices, desires and fantasies that are considered “nonconventional.” During these unconventional practices there can be moments of power exchange, dominance, submission, pain and of course lots of pleasure. That’s why, after the intensity of a consensually negotiated experience, aftercare needs to take place.

In the simplest form, aftercare is showing kindness and care to your lover. This is especially important when there has been power exchange, physical/impact play and other heavy scene play. Aftercare, taking place after the sexual play has ended, helps a person return to their normal baseline of breathing, heart rate and mental space. It can involve anything such as having a glass of water, back rubs, extra cuddles, being left alone for a while or even a shower. Some aftercare may be more complicated and involved and for some people it may look totally detached from the experience. Aftercare is an experience meant to soothe and connect when sensual or sexual play takes place — and aftercare is absolutely something that should take place alongside every sexual encounter.

Sexual play, whatever it is for you — making out, intercourse, mutual masturbation — has a cycle that takes place. There is desire followed by excitement, plateau, orgasm and finally resolution. These stages, mapped out by sexuality researchers Kaplan, Masters, and Johnson describe the sexual response cycle.

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Resource: Kaplan, H.S. (1979) Disorders of Sexual Desire and Other New Concepts and Techniques in Sex Therapy. New York.

In the desire phase, sexual play is wanted, during the excitement phase, arousal builds and in the plateau phase pleasurable feelings continue until the orgasm phase is reached. Some people never reach the orgasm phase (as it is commonly understood) and stay at the plateau phase until they no longer desire sexual play. After the orgasm phase or a length of time in the plateau phase, the resolution takes place where the body returns to it’s regular pre-arousal state. It is during the resolution phase that most aftercare takes place in order to help the mind and body calm as a person returns to their regular level of functioning. This cycle takes place in all arousing experiences, which means that no matter the activity, the body experiences various phases and will need to return to its regular functionality. 

After. Every. Experience.

The experience can be the kinkiest time you have ever had or a regularly occurring time of arousal. Both experiences, and truthfully all, need some sort of aftercare for each party involved. All people involved in the arousal process need a time to return to themselves and out of the erotic space. Aftercare gives folks a chance to shift their minds, emotions and bodies back to their regulated selves, versus operating within their basic needs of carnality. The really cool thing about this shift and adding in aftercare is that it can look totally different for each person, and even different for each type of experience!

For example, if a person just ended a session where they engaged in impact play — where something is hitting a part of the body purposely, like, let’s say spanking during intercourse — aftercare might be applying a cool compress to the area, holding the person and giving them affirmations of care, leaving them alone to be in silence or getting them water. As important as aftercare is, it does not have to be complicated or one sided. In the previous example I mentioned the person who received the impact in the impact play having aftercare. The person who performed the impact play also could use aftercare. Their aftercare might look like affirming words ensuring their lover was not hurt, rubbing down achy body parts, cuddles, drinking water or cleaning the tools that may have been used in the impact play. There is a myriad of ways aftercare can take place and it is not solely for times of pleasure deemed kinky.

When there is non-kinky sexual pleasure, the mind and body still go through the various stages of arousal. Going through those stages means the mind and body also need to return to their baseline and another form of intimacy that helps with that return is aftercare. And as important as aftercare is, I also want to note that it does not have to be something that takes a long time to do. It really is dependent on the person and even possibly experience specific.

So, this Kinktober, I invite you to explore what you might like as aftercare from sexual experiences. What would be nice? What would help you feel connected? What do you need to feel prepared to go back out into the world and function? When you have your answers (which can always grow and change) you can explore this with your lover. Asking, “Hey, after this, what would you like me to do to take care of you?” or “How do I help you ease back into your day after we have this fun?” or even “You’re going to have some bruises or possibly be sore, what can I do to support you afterwards?” is a great place to start. 

Dr. Lexx Brown-James shares expertise, advice and wisdom about sex, relationships and more with us each month in her column Better Sex With Dr. Lexx — be sure to check it out! Approaching education about sex as a life-long endeavor — “from womb to tomb” — Dr. Lexx (AKA The #CouplesClinician) is your guide to the shame-free, medically accurate, inclusive and comprehensive conversations for you, your partner and your whole family. 

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