Subspace, Subdrop & Aftercare
BDSM is just as much a mental experience as it is physical. A submissive can enter into subspace, can experience subdrop and, although it is fine if you do not need aftercare, most submissives treasure and need aftercare with their Master.
Subspace in BDSM is an altered psychological state entered into by a submissive in a scene. Every submissive’s reaction to BDSM play can be completely different, and even one submissive’s reactions can vary from scene to scene. Even if you did the same scene twice, the submissive could react and feel differently in each one!
There are physical aspects to BDSM play with all the impact toys and rope etc, but there are also huge mental aspects to a scene. It’s a bit like a hypnotic trance where the whole world can disappear and you have an ‘out of body’ experience. Your mind might progressively be focusing more and more on the physical sensations of play and you go into a surreal state.
It is beyond the control of the submissive when it happens, as during a scene, the intense experiences of pleasure and pain combined trigger a response from the sympathetic nervous system which causes a release of epinephrine and endorphins and enkephalins. This release of natural chemicals has the same effects as a morphine-like drug and increases the pain tolerance of the submissive as the intensity of the scene grows. This is also what causes the ecstatic, euphoric, floaty feeling. Subs can, in the height of subspace, lose all sensations of pain or become incoherent which means they are unable to use a safeword. It can last from hours to days after play!
Because it impairs the ability to make decisions and have rational thoughts, it is really important for the Dominant or Top to monitor the submissive to keep them mentally and physically safe. The submissive might be continuing to ask for more play even when it could injure them, which is also why it is important for the Dominant to be aware of when they are in this state so they can stop play when they need to in order to keep their submissive safe.
Subspace is a very powerful natural high and subs love learning to fly in it! BDSM allows them to explore desires they have hidden from themselves and experience sexual related play full of pleasure and pain that involves such a high level of explicit communication and trust, and with that comes incredibly high subspace experiences!
But what goes up must come down!
As the sub’s body stops producing the natural chemicals and the parasympathetic nervous system keeps in, the submissive may go from feeling like they are out of their body and detached from reality, to a deep exhaustion and coldness as well as being incoherent and un-coordination. This is what is known as drop or subdrop and is a bit like a ‘come down’ from drugs. The drop like state is not just felt in BDSM, but also to people after high stress situations where they feel out of sorts and unsettled.
Drop can happen not only after a scene has ended but also if play is stopped abruptly. The sub can feel very down and abandoned. Another type of drop comes from feeling the contradictions between what is ‘normal’ and accepted and what the sub has just done in their scene, which may go against pre-conceptions of moral codes. They may feel guilty on top of feeling abandoned and unsure of their worth after an intense, heavy scene.
Sometimes the submissive can recover in a few hours, whereas others can show signs of drop for weeks after an intense session. The risk of a bad drop can be minimised with aftercare, although sometimes despite the best and most wonderful aftercare, a sub can still experience a drop.
Aftercare is the special time that a Dominant and submissive spend together after a scene. No matter how softly or how roughly you play, aftercare is important. As a submissive, you may become aware of what type of aftercare you need and you can talk to your Dominant about it. Tops and Dominants may also need aftercare, and often the time spent looking after you is also helping them.
There is a greater need for aftercare in private play as many boundaries are pushed. Basic aftercare recognises the immediate physical needs of subs, such as wrapping them in a blanket or robe and having somewhere comfy to sit or lie down for some gentle contact and physical comfort. This is especially important if they have become unsteady on their feet. Their cognitive functioning may also be slow or disjointed to begin with, so straight after play is not the time for any deep conversations. It may also be beneficial and important to have drinks of water or fruit juice available, and some sugary snacks like chocolate. It is also important not to drive too soon afterwards as while subspace is perfectly legal, the aftereffects are similar to being under the influence.
Stay with your partner as long as they need for them to feel safe, restore the emotional equilibrium and don’t feel so clingy. Make sure that when it is time to leave, they are emotionally okay and not going to feel abandonment or loss.
If you do not live with your Dominant, it is also a good idea to assemble a self-care kit with some aftercare things for when you are by yourself. Some ideas are relaxing music, comfort objects like soft toys or favourite blankets, scented candles, bubble baths, a book or movie or just something to remind yourself that you are special and cared for and you can then bask in the post-play glow with beautiful memories of it.