The scene went just as you imagined. You were topping, and your bottom followed your instructions to the letter: wearing the outfit you’d picked out, waiting for you kneeling on the bed. Their trembling got you so hot you almost forgot your nervousness as you laid out your toys. You tied them up, teased them, told them how much they pleased you – then tested to see just how much they could handle. An hour of screaming and begging and taking it oh-so-well for you later, they’re snuggled up, sipping some water and wearing a blissed-out, grateful grin.
So why do you feel shaky, scared, and ashamed?
The limitations of aftercare
You may have heard the word “aftercare” for the advanced after-sex cuddling that conscientious kinksters do. The physical, mental, and emotional challenges of scening can cause altered states of consciousness, and often bottoms, submissives, and masochists need help returning safely to ordinary reality. So tops get them water, snacks, blankets, snuggles – whatever they need. But tops, sadists, and dominants sometimes need aftercare, too.
Altered states for tops are different, but they do exist. That intense, narrow focus of driving a scene, keeping it safe, and making it hot can have a crash afterward, like the drop after a hard sports game, or giving an important talk. Sometimes tops play out taboo fantasies, acting the part of the “bad guy” and doing things that are forbidden in normal life. Even if the scene goes well, a top may have feelings of guilt, shame, or disgust at what they’ve done. It can happen right afterward, or hours or days later, and it’s commonly known as “top drop.”
What top drop feels like
Top drop comes in many forms, just as bottoms’ responses do. You might feel shaky as the adrenaline leaves your body. You might feel ashamed of how “mean” you just were. You might feel insecure, worried that you weren’t “good enough.” If the scene didn’t go exactly as planned, you might beat yourself up about not being “perfect.” Or you might just feel generally crappy following a scene, party, or event.
This can leave a top out in the cold, since tops aren’t thought of as needing aftercare. Dominance, as a fantasy, has some “macho” expectations. You’re supposed to be in control, aggressive, always right. Showing a bottom or submissive that you might be human and need something can feel like giving up your power. No matter your gender, it can feel like having to perform the same toxic masculinity that men are pressured to: be in charge, never show weakness, and deal with your problems alone.
The flip side – that bottoms and submissives are vulnerable, emotionally volatile, and in need of correction – is equally toxic. Acknowledging and caring for tops and dominants is one step toward transforming the harmful ways that binary gender expectations repeat themselves in the kink world.
For even more about the psychological effects of BDSM, read our article How Endorphins from Kink Play can Help Depression and Subspace: What It Is, Why It’s Hot and How To Get There.
So what can you do about top drop?
Talk about your needs
First off, talk to your partner. Negotiate what you both need after a scene. If either of you is new to playing, or new to each other as play partners, you may need a little extra time and experience to figure it out.
Feeling held and seen by your partner can help keep top drop from happening at all. Or if it does, receiving aftercare can help bring you back into normal headspace. So before you play, ask these questions: 1. Who needs aftercare? 2. What does that look like? 3. When do you need it (right after, the next day, etc.)? And 4. Who can provide it?
Make a plan to help with top drop
Next, make a plan. This can vary a lot, based on the questions above. Sometimes your needs will match up nicely in terms of timing and style, and you’ll be able to help each other out. But sometimes either partner may prefer to self-soothe after a scene, or to get aftercare from someone who wasn’t involved. Whether you tend to experience drop right after a scene or hours or days later, lay in some strategies ahead of time.
If you’re playing at a party or other place with other people around that you trust, talk to other folks there – people are often happy to help out. If not, there are still ways for both of you to get aftercare. Sometimes, your aftercare ritual can create care for both of you at once.
Aftercare rituals for tops and bottoms
For example, you might feel insecure about your abilities or ashamed of what you’ve done. Your partner may need some loving touch and to hear how well they did. Simply cuddling and reassuring each other about your play can start a virtuous cycle, soothing both partners’ insecurities. But you can also take turns. Maybe they need snacks and water and some petting afterward. Ask them ahead of time to care for you (and tell them how), once they return to more normal consciousness.
If you need aftercare right after and your partner can’t provide, try some self-soothing rituals. The aftercare that’s good for bottoms is often good for tops: drink water, eat something with protein, have a normal conversation with someone, take a little walk. Do things that you find grounding, like writing in a journal, sitting on the ground outside, doing a few jumping jacks, petting your dog, or singing.
Longer-term aftercare to manage top drop
Have a friend or two in place that you can call or text. And if you know you have trouble in the hours or days following a scene, ask your partner – even if it’s not your regular partner – to check in on you.
If you regularly experience top drop, especially if there’s a heavy dose of shame or insecurity and it lasts more than a few hours, make sure you have support. Groups exist for dominant types; check with your local kink groups or Fetlife to find like-minded folks to talk with online or in person.
Remember: this stuff we do is emotionally intense, socially taboo, and sometimes physically challenging! You’re not alone. Take care of yourself – and know that you deserve to be taken care of, too.