BDSM, SUBSPACE AND SUBDROP
You may have already came across the term subdrop, or you may have felt the downward swing after a session. If you haven’t yet, it doesn’t mean you’re immune. Subdrop is neurochemical (biological) as well as mental, and we are all bombarded by neurochemicals during BDSM. Reactions to this can be outside of your control, so this writing may be useful for you to understand it better, to prepare for if and when it does happen.
subdrop is an extension, or residue of subspace. We take a brief look at subspace in this post.
Like riding a roller coaster, we go all the way up to the space, but inevitably we have to come back down again. subdrop is the BDSM-lingo for the rapid and sometimes unpleasant downward ride back to reality.
Generally, subdrop can be understood in two different ways – mentally and biologically.
Mentally, subspace is a trance or hypnotic experience that can encompass spirituality, sexuality and human intimacy, and usually involves a dissociation from reality. After entering that hyper-space, a submissive may feel reluctant to exit the space and come back into reality. It often takes some time to ease back, and the process can be unpleasant.
subdrop affects submissives in varying degrees, probably relative to the degree of submission they feel and the intensity of the scene.
What does it feel like? Some may feel extremely mentally troubled – sadness, loneliness, negativity, a sense of depression etc. This is where a high level of aftercare may be required, and what that means will depend entirely on the individual. Some people want cuddles, a warm blanket and a beverage of choice. Others want to be left alone to take a hot bath.
Others may not be affected at all. Some people feel the drop, but they’re able to handle it with a few deep breaths. Like always, the rule of thumb with BDSM is that there are no fixed rules, it always depends.
As we discussed in our post on Subspace versus Bottomspace, subspace is largely an endorphin high, mixed with feelings or emotions brought about by the mind processing these intense signals. During a BDSM scene, the body is blasted with neurochemicals. Adrenaline kicks in fast, followed by endorphins, dopamine, oxytocin and a variety of others. The brain processes these neurochemicals into emotions and the whole package blasts us off into a bliss (subspace).
Our body needs to restore itself and we can moderate the feelings and ease that rebalancing with aftercare, but we can’t prevent it. Some experienced kinksters suggest that night-time is best for BDSM activities so that sleep can help with the recovery.
Three of the major chemicals that flood our body during BDSM are probably the main contributors to the drop – adrenaline and endorphins. Pain, fear, anxiety and excitement will easily trigger adrenaline, which causes the brain’s “fight or flight” response. Adrenaline is the feeling of heightened awareness and focus. It enhances the ability to focus on stimulants (like pain) and deal with them. It’s the brain feeling the whip and dealing with the sting, processing the sensation and coping with it. When the brain has processed what is happening, endorphins are released. These are a type of morphine, helping us turn pain into pleasure and fear into anticipation. It helps us turn bad feelings into good ones. Dopamine, the reward response, has been providing injections of intense pleasure throughout the process, making us crave more of the feel-good responses we’re getting from the activity.
COMING DOWN WITH AFTERCARE
As you can imagine, when you switch the adrenaline and morphine taps off, and the levels start to rapidly drop, not only do physical sensations start to quickly change, but the brain also needs to scramble to cope. Negative emotions can swing in to fill the void, or a feeling of loss that the “feel good” chemicals have suddenly stopped.
That’s why aftercare is so important, and why it needs to be both physical and mental. It’s common to need touch, warmth and soothing during the come-down, but whatever it is that a sub needs now (a cigarette, a drink, some chocolate, soft lights, silly TV shows) is the brain’s way of coming back to a regular balance.
Aftercare is also a very important and effective time for partners to bond. Recent research is suggesting that oxytocin, a love hormone that enhance bonding, could be released during this time. Many Doms will have been on a similar empathic journey to their subs, and emotions are raw and open. It’s a great time for love and affection.
Dopamine has also been very active in the brain and is at very high levels at the end of a BDSM scene. This is a neurotransmitter that is present in nearly everything that we do and present with us all the time. It’s the reward-seeking response we feel when we do something that pleases us, from cracking a crossword puzzle to cooking a nice meal. It’s the reward that explains addiction and is responsible for sexual arousal.
Dopamine, eased back down with affectionate aftercare rather than left to drop suddenly, helps to create the “that was amazing” feelings and memories that strengthen bonds and help us create strong and rewarding relationships.
Most kinksters recover from the subdrop within hours, but it shouldn’t be worrying if it takes days, or even weeks. Aftercare shouldn’t be a 10 minute thing. Good responsible Doms monitor their subs and keep monitoring them, so they always know how they’re feeling.
• Submissive Guide – The Emotional Side of Sub-Drop
• Chico Munch – BDSM 101: Subspace, Aftercare, and Sub-drop (and sometimes Top-drop)
• Rose Colored Asses – The Science Behind BDSM
• FetLife – Subdrop Clinic