Aftercare – whose job is it?

This past month, I attended one of my favorite monthly play parties. There, I always have a grand old time surrounded by many who I consider to be part of my large chosen family. I began my adventures with a scene with a dominant identified male who primarily engages with feet. A half hour and lots of attention via mouth, hands, and implements later, we are snuggled with my legs around his head as we stroke each other’s skin. We alternate between chatting and basking in the delicious buzz, listening to the conversation and scenes happening throughout the house. Before we parted ways to move onto our next scenes, I offered him a hand massage, which he gratefully accepted. After all, I knew he always had a full dance card and would have very busy hands that day. He smiled in gratitude, eyes closing as I began, commenting on how he rarely gets such an offer and sometimes doesn’t even have cuddles or connection past the scene itself.  

                Fast forward ahead a few hours – I have jumped in on a handle of tickling scenes as a top, endured one of my favorite sadist’s attentions, and then suffered further at the hands of two more of my favorite sadists. It had been a difficult season for me as I moved from Boston back to Philadelphia and a ton of emotion needed an outlet. Emotionally and physically exhausted, my focus swam in and out. High as a kite and floaty as a cloud, the topic of negotiation came up in some fashion. I mentioned I would be writing up a brief article on aftercare for the booklet of an event we would be attending in the spring and that I felt the need to insert something about top aftercare. My two tormentors commented that that is not the bottom’s concern and that the top is and should be perfectly capable of getting what they need via communication or another person. They made the point that the bottom is often in no shape to make any decisions or deftly perform motor function immediately after a scene, which I knew to be true for myself.  

Alright, so if you’ve had any length of conversation about kink and negotiation with me, you have probably heard me rant about the importance of aftercare. Maybe because it is a very powerful need in my own care, maybe because I’ve heard so many complaints from others about the lack of aftercare, particularly from tops. As an individual often more concerned for others, I am of the mindset that this is a wrong that should be righted. I have made it a habit of adding the topic of top care to my negotiation checklist, particularly with those engaging in pickup play. By and large, the tops presented with that topic were taken off guard, thought it was sweet, didn’t state much in the way of requiring additional care, and would then segue into what kind of care I would like. At worst, the top may deem it a silly or unnecessary question and you move on. At best, the bottom learns something about the top they may not have otherwise known.

                 Now I find myself wondering – have I been doing it wrong by trying to be considerate? Should I simply trust that personal responsibility is assumed and that they will speak up for what they need? As someone who doesn’t always have the courage to ask for what I need, I can easily see others having the same problem and would like to avoid an unspoken need going unfulfilled, if I can help it. I know, I know, I can’t read minds. I can’t make somebody else ask for what they want or need if they are really too afraid to or don’t realize that the need is there. That’s why I saw asking in the negotiation process as the best way to attempt to avoid that all too common pitfall. However, just as I need to learn to trust my knowledge of my own body and its limitations, I need to trust that others will be their own spokesperson as well. It doesn’t mean I will ever stop caring. It doesn’t mean I won’t check in once my right state of mind has returned. It does mean that I will try to place more faith in the universal importance of personal responsibility and in others.