What is Subdrop in BDSM? | Kinky Hookup

What is Subdrop in BDSM?

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If you’re new to BDSM, you might have heard the words “subspace” and “subdrop” without knowing exactly what they mean. Or perhaps you’ve felt really low after a play scene, and someone has suggested you might be suffering from subdrop.

Let’s explore what this is, and what you can do about it.

 

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What is subspace?

Subspace is a specific kind of mental state that a submissive partner may or may not reach during BDSM play. Exactly how it manifests is different for everyone, but there are common themes: some people describe it as “floating” or “flying,” some say they feel calm, their mind goes blank, or they experience an intense feeling of well-being. For others, it’s a bit like being drunk or high. Subspace can be caused by endorphins, by strong emotions, or both. 

So what is subdrop, then?

Subspace is a kind of high. Therefore, subdrop is the low that follows. As my friend, kinkster and BDSM educator Kayla Lords, likes to say: “what goes up must come down!”

If you feel sad, depressed, weepy, listless, low on energy, or even tense or angry after playing, you might be suffering from subdrop.

Not everyone who plays in a submissive role experiences subdrop (or subspace, for that matter.) Those who do experience it will not always feel it to the same extent, or in the same way, after every session. If you experience subdrop intensely sometimes and hardly feel it at all on other occasions, that’s completely normal.

Subdrop can hit straight after a scene, later on that day, the next day, or take even longer. Some people report feeling droppy a week or more after a scene. There’s no exact pattern to it, and it can be different every time even for the same person.

What causes it?

There are different schools of thought on this one and it’s probably slightly different for every person who experiences it.

First, let’s do some science! (Huge disclaimer: I am not a neuroscientist, and the actual peer-reviewed evidence on this as it relates to BDSM is very spotty. Sadly, getting funding to study kink is quite hard.)

The easy physiological explanation for subspace and subdrop is to do with some really cool neurochemistry, particularly endorphins and adrenaline. These are the chemicals that give you that amazing sense of happiness and well-being while you’re doing your kinky thing.

Endorphins are a group of hormones (dopamine and serotonin are two you might have heard of) which trigger specific brain receptors responsible for reducing pain and increasing pleasure. If you’ve ever experienced a runner’s high, that’s endorphins at work. Likewise, when you eat a bunch of sugary food and feel amazing.

Adrenaline is a hormone involved in regulating the body’s visceral functions (e.g. breathing.) It’s also closely tied to the fight-or-flight response and is responsible for things like increased blood flow, a higher heart rate, and dilated pupils. Many people enjoy the feelings brought abut by adrenaline in a controlled environment. It’s one reason why so many people skydive, bungee jump, ride roller coasters… and practice BDSM.

This fascinating essay explores more of the science behind BDSM and brain chemicals.

In a nutshell, then, subdrop can be caused by all those lovely, fuzzy chemicals wearing off, bringing you crashing back to earth with a bump.

Other possible reasons you might experience subdrop, aside from the brain chemistry side of things, include:

  • You played too hard or went further than you really wanted to, and are feeling stressed or upset or even violated as a result.
  • You didn’t get sufficient aftercare (more about aftercare in a minute.)
  • You’re separated from the person you played with and missing them.
  • You just wanted that amazing experience to go on and on and on forever and are sad that you have to return to the real world.

One phenomenon that is often likened to subdrop is “event drop.” Have you ever been on a really amazing trip or vacation, or been to a party or conference that was just so wonderful you wanted to stay there forever? Have you felt a sadness, listlessness or lack of energy when the event inevitably ends and you have to transition back into the real, day to day world? Subdrop, for some people, is very much like this.

Whatever the reason for your subdrop, it’s valid and normal. Even if you can’t identify exactly why you’re feeling this way, that’s okay! In the next section we’ll look at how to mitigate subdrop before it hits, and how to make yourself feel better when it does hit.

How can I stop myself feeling droopy after play?

The sad thing is that you probably can’t entirely, except by deciding not to play at all (and let’s face it, that’s no fun!) But there are things you can do to prepare in advance so that your drop isn’t as bad, or at least isn’t as unexpected.

Knowing that you tend to drop is a valuable piece of information in and of itself. Communicate this to the Dominant you’re playing with. They’ll probably ask what you need from them, and this is where you can talk about your aftercare needs.

You should also check in with yourself before playing. Are you already feeling depressed or down, or have you had a bad day? If so, you might drop harder and should prepare accordingly. Are you sufficiently hydrated and have you had something to eat? Not taking care of your basic physical needs can also make drop worse.

If you’ve got a big scene planned and you know you’re likely to drop really hard, can you take the following day off work (or at least not schedule any big meetings or presentations?)

If there’s something you find comforting – perhaps a blanket, a soft toy, or a favorite snack? – it’s a good idea to know where it is and have it accessible so you can reach for it if you need it.

It’s also okay to decide not to play if you’re in a space where dropping would be really bad or problematic for you! The nature of informed consent means that you get to opt out of a particular experience at any time for any reason, and deciding to skip playing this time because you don’t want to deal with drop can be a smart way to take care of yourself.

Okay, what’s this aftercare thing you keep talking about?

Aftercare is what happens after the end of a scene or play session. It might involve hugs or cuddles, verbal reassurance, or just sitting quietly together until you both feel okay again. For some people, sex is their aftercare. Others need a glass of water or a sugary snack to help perk them back up.

Aftercare is generally something that happens between the people who have played together, but it doesn’t have to be. Some people prefer to play with others and then return to their primary partner for aftercare. Some even prefer aftercare to be something they do for themselves, alone.

The important thing is to work out what aftercare looks like for you. Cuddles and fluffy blankets won’t work for you if what you really want is to eat some chocolate and be left alone. Trying to get aftercare from a third-person won’t work if what you need is aftercare from the specific person you played with.

Remember: aftercare needs should be negotiated up front, just like you’d negotiate the kinky activities you were going to do. Tell the Dominant you’re going to play with about what you need, and ask what they’re likely to need (yes, Doms need aftercare too!) If you’re on wildly different pages, either make sure you have other means to get your needs met or consider not playing with that person. Incompatible aftercare styles can be just as problematic as incompatible kinks.

Aftercare doesn’t necessarily have to be contained to what happens immediately after a scene, either. Aftercare can also involve things like agreeing to check in with each other later in the evening, agreeing that you’ll spend the night together in the same bed, or a phone call or text message the day after.

Good aftercare does not necessarily prevent subdrop entirely, but it can keep it in check and prevent it from ruining your night, week, or memories of the awesome scene you just enjoyed.

One last tip: if the Dominant you want to play with says they don’t do aftercare or is otherwise disparaging about your needs, do not play with them.

Help, I’m dropping really badly! What now?

I wrote a post about subdrop remedies three years ago and to this day it’s by far the most popular thing I’ve ever published on my blog. In it, I outline my top 25 ways to deal with subdrop.

In short, my favourite recommended remedies fall broadly into these categories:

Distraction. This is simply doing something to take your mind off how you feel. Reading a book, doing a hobby, listening to a comedy podcast, watching Netflix, or getting creative are all great options.

Tending to your body. Looking after your physical self can be very soothing. Cook and eat a healthy meal, make a cup of tea or coffee and sip it slowly, dance around your room or go for a run, take a hot bath, or masturbate.

Enlisting other people. If your partner or the person you played with is around, this is a great time to ask them for a cuddle and some attention. If not, can you get a hug from a friend, family member, room-mate, or even your pet? Talk to a kinky friend and tell them you’re dropping. Call someone you haven’t seen in ages for a chat. Even going out of your way to help somebody else can really pick up your mood.

Just sit with it. Sitting with powerful feelings, acknowledging and accepting them without judgement is a great way to help them seem less overwhelming. You might want to try a mindfulness meditation, yoga, or breathing exercises to help you do this. You might also like to just sit quietly and tell yourself “I feel shitty right now, but I know why and it will pass.” Other options to help you accept your feelings include writing in your journal or speaking to a therapist.

This is far from an exhaustive list, and it’s not intended to be prescriptive. The most important thing is to find what makes you feel better. It might be something completely different that I never would have thought of!

When to seek help

Subdrop is not a sign that there’s anything wrong with you. It’s certainly not a sign that you’re weak, less of a submissive, or shouldn’t be doing kink. It’s just an indication that you’re a human being who is dealing with complex brain chemistry, strong emotions, and the intense physical experiences that often go along with BDSM.

With that said, if your subdrop lasts a long time or is really debilitating, it might be time to seek outside help. If you think you may be suffering from an underlying mental health condition such as anxiety or depression, or that subdrop is making an existing condition worse, you should speak to a qualified professional. A kink-aware counsellor or psychotherapist is an ideal place to start. The Open List is a great resource if you’re in the USA. If not, do a Google search for “kink informed therapist + your city.”

Subdrop is normal!

Again: subdrop is a really normal and common experience. You might be lucky and never experience it, or only experience it mildly. Or you might suffer from it really badly.

The main things are to pay attention to your feelings and know yourself, be honest with your partners, ensure you’re getting the aftercare you need, and know how to take care of yourself if the drop becomes overwhelming.

Stay safe out there in kinkland!

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