I’ve been sick lately, but not just with migraines (which have me avoiding screens and all light and sound), so I have finally been able to break in my new (free!) TV, and DVD player ($16!) with a double feature:
Pride and Prejudice (1940 version)
and Bride and Prejudice (2004 Bollywood-style musical parody by Gurinder Chadha)
Re-watching both of these reminded me of the first time I watched Bride and Prejudice, as part of aftercare. Still coming down from intense play, we lay on the couch together watching, and laughing, and eating delivery Chinese food. It was a lovely time, and part of what made it so for me was the slow ease back into the real world, the grounding nature of the food and the movie, snuggling close with the bottom, and doing something mundane that we enjoyed together, grounding the connection in more than just sex and play.
When I teach about aftercare, I often suggest finding a way to ease into the real world by shifting the energy of the dynamic, especially with intense D/s scenes. After engaging in intense control and power exchange, moving into a more power neutral dynamic can be a challenge. I offer several ideas for shifting the dynamic, including grounding in the mundane: figuring out your personal equivalent of watching cartoons and eating Chinese food in your pajamas (I first heard this tip referenced in a kink class with that concrete example, but unfortunately I can’t remember who referenced it). Watching Bride and Prejudice and eating Chinese food was our way of doing that, and it worked particularly well for me.
At that time, I knew that I would need an easy re-entry into the world after play, and did more pre-negotiation of aftercare than I had done in the past. I was still somewhat fragile, after the end of a relationship that fucked me up pretty badly, and created a lot of self doubt in my own dominance. And I was playing with intense D/s for the first time since that break up. So, easing out of D/s intentionally and carefully was particularly important. Since then, my own experience has taught me that this kind of slow coming down is actually something I need all the time.
I’ve had a number of experiences with rougher re-entry, jarring endings, and sometimes no aftercare at all, as both a bottom and a top. Sometimes they are simply unavoidable, despite our best efforts. We are interrupted by an emergency, someone calls the scene and is not up for doing closure, etc. And then there are the other times… Some of the folks I bottomed to in my early days of play did little or no aftercare, and this often correlated with casual disregard for me and my needs and limits, carelessness in general, and some rather intense misogyny. (That is solely based on my experience, but the correlation was worth mentioning.) That play was bad for me in a lot of ways, but one of the most stark was the impact of abrupt endings to scenes. No aftercare generally fucks me up pretty badly, on both biochemical and emotional levels. Despite stereotypes, I have aftercare needs as both a top and a bottom. I still get scene drop, even with aftercare, but I am not nearly as fucked up as I get when scenes end abruptly and there is no aftercare at all.
In recent years, I’ve seen a trend towards folks being derisive about people’s needs in play, which I’ve discussed before in a post about warm up. I lean firmly the other way, not just because of my own needs and experience, but also because of my ethics and my disability politics: I want to support folks to vocalize and advocate for their needs in play.
On a related note, I’ve been thinking recently about what it means to end a story abruptly, to leave in the middle, to not bring to a clean close, to not end the scene, so to speak, or provide aftercare. I find it challenging as a reader, and lean away from this as a writer. I want to bring my characters through a scene to the other side, and especially with edgeplay, to give the reader as well as the characters a chance to float back to earth a bit before the story is over. This is part of my endeavor to represent kink responsibly by including representation of aftercare, but it is also about my clear knowledge that the aftercare (or lack of it) can deeply affect the way we think about a scene. I generally end erotic stories with either an explicit description of aftercare, or a hint towards continued connection and affection between the parties involved, often both. I’ve gathered a few aftercare moments that have appeared in some of my recently published stories. One thing I’m struck by is how romantic and sweet they feel.
From “What I Need”, printed in Best Lesbian Erotica 2014:
“We float together for a good long time, holding each other, our bodies stuck together, wrapped up in each other. I savor the feel of you next to me, your skin against mine. When we are back on earth together I meet your eyes, and hold them, smiling.
“You are so good for me. You feed me in exactly the ways I need. I am proud to claim you as mine.”
You nestle close to me, place your hand on the center of my bare chest, my hand holding you in the center of your back and we hold each other, content to be connected, safe and close, intertwined.”
From “Missing Daddy”, printed in Best Gay Erotica 2013
“He turned me over, and slowly removed my gag and my blindfold. His arms enfolded me, and I was gripping him so tight, sobbing. He rocked slowly, just holding me as I sobbed. When my tears subsided, Daddy licked each one from my face. My eyes were still closed as he stroked the space on my forehead above my nose, grounding me. I heard his voice asking me to slowly open my eyes. And then I saw the men surrounding me. They were grinning and their faces were warm and familiar and then I was enveloped by this tribe of men that I knew and cared for, with my Daddy’s proud smile joining theirs. I was home. I belonged.”
From “Ready”, most recently printed in Coming Together: With A Twist
“He released the bondage and brought me down slowly, holding me, rubbing my freshly shaven head, licking the tears from my cheeks. I felt lighter, like I was filled with bubbles, and yet more solid, taller. I met his eyes.
“Thank you Daddy.”
“You are most welcome, boy. I’m glad we waited until you were ready. It was worth it, don’t you think?”
“Oh, yes Daddy.”
I fell asleep that night in his arms, his naked chest against my back, his t-shirt cuddled in my arms.”
From “How He Likes It”, printed in Best Lesbian Erotica 2012
“And after we came, we broke into laughter, falling all over each other, sweaty and joyous, limbs all confused and tangled, eyes smiling.
My Sirs wrapped me up that night between them, holding me as we slept, hands gently stroking me, heads resting against mine, slow steady breath on my skin. They had found each other again, and we all knew that they would not let go this time. It was what we all wanted, needed. They were big enough, powerful enough, and cruel enough, to hold all of my aching desperate need, wring every ounce out of me. And I was glad to be held by them, used by them, claimed by them both.”
In a lot of ways, writing a story is like topping a scene. I want to create stories that have aftercare for the reader, where the reader gets reassurance and connection and that slow return to earth. I respect that other writers may have different goals, but for me, an erotic story that ends abruptly is just too jarring, and I don’t want to create that kind of experience for the reader.
One of the aftercare tips I talk about in my classes is about changing the environment or the music, as a way to come back to earth, and signal a shift in the dynamic. So, in the interests of that, I leave you with the Doubleclicks, “Oh Mr. Darcy” (to continue the Pride and Prejudice theme). Their music can help shift my mood, in general, often with laughter and irreverence.