Coming Down: Why Do Some Doms Experience Top Drop? And How Can Their Subs Support Them?
Think about a time when you experienced a huge rush of positive and exciting emotions, like riding a roller coaster or finally standing up for yourself in an argument. These experiences often create an intense whirlwind of feelings that make us feel powerful, strong and almost invincible. But those feelings don’t last forever…
Just like you’ll finally come back down to earth after an exhilarating ride or will have a moment to process the things you have finally been able to say, someone who identifies as a top can also experience this high high and low low. This is known as a “top drop” or “dom drop”.
To be more specific, top drop is defined as: “an after-effect that may be experienced by a dominant after they have finished with their submissive. This effect is usually characterized by a feeling of guilt or depression”.
It is when a top or dominant experiences a slew of feel-good hormones during a scene with their bottom or submissive, but once the scene is over, there is a significant drop in mood.
They may feel irritable, tired, melancholic, guilty or mentally and/or physically exhausted. This change in mood may not happen immediately. In fact, it could even be experienced hours or days later and is similar to that of feeling burned out.
What Causes Top Drop?
While every person is unique, here are a few reasons why a dominant may be experiencing top drop…
Chemical Changes in the Body
Besides the release of feel-good hormones during a scene and a substantial drop thereafter, there are other bodily processes that could explain the occurrence of top drop.
For example: during physical activity (like exercise or engaging in an intense scene), our bodies gain energy by tapping into our sugar content. This could lead to a lower level of blood sugar some hours or even days after said-physical activity, which creates feelings of fatigue, weakness and irritability.
Not only that, but it was said that if one exercises late at night, they’re 50% more likely to have low blood sugar levels. Of course, this isn’t true for everyone, but for some, sexual activity tends to occur after dark.
Vanilla Life, Society & Negative Emotions
For many in the BDSM community there is a definite divide between their everyday lives and what they enjoy behind closed doors. And when it comes to everyday life, society has a way of telling us that certain things are bad.
Being a sadist, for example, can appear to be abusive or violent to some, and others may go as far as to call it a mental disorder (it is none of those things). But that still leaves an impact on the sadist, one that may have found a deep connection with another human who also loves to give and receive in a power exchange between sadism and masochism.
Despite this consensual and nurturing relationship, it can be hard to drown out the noise of what others or society may think, such as, “Why would you want to physically hurt someone you care about?”. This can lead to a negative internal voice and a lot of doubt, anxiety and guilt, which is essentially what top drop is.
Pride & Responsibility
Doms, in general, are often seen as more powerful in a dom/sub relationship (which is not true). Still, they’re the ones who are responsible for the wellbeing of their sub and have to know what and how they’re going to administer everything before, during and after a scene.
And while this could bring about a sense of pride for a dom, it could also hinder them from admitting that it may just be too big of a commitment or responsibility.
At the same time, the dom may feel as though their own needs and aftercare experience aren’t as important and that the sub requires aftercare more than the dom. They may be too proud to admit this or to talk about it, which can further enhance feelings of burnout and guilt.
Triggers During a Scene
Every single guide to BDSM and dom/sub relationships will tell you that trust and communication are extremely important. When there isn’t effective communication or trust, there can be intense psychological (and physical) consequences.
For example, a top (or a bottom) experiencing a negative trigger during a scene can lead to intense emotions afterwards, similar to that of top drop. And a lot of the time, this trigger can be avoided or nurtured in a caring and loving way if there were better communication.
So yes, this is yet another guide to BDSM stressing the importance of trust and communication.
6 Ways to Help Prevent Top Drop
While there is no one-size-fits-all, one’s mental and physical health is always important, no matter what the endeavour. Which is why one, a few or none of these suggestions may help.
We highly recommend giving them a try, as they could diminish or help prevent the effects of top drop.
1. Have Open Communication
Again we’ll stress the importance of communication. It’s too easy to engage in new adventures and different kinds of play without talking about needs and wants first, but in doing so, you can prevent traumatic and hurtful experiences.
If you are a dom and you feel that you’re not getting enough out of self-care, communicating those needs with your sub is the best way to prevent negative emotions after a scene.
And if you feel as though you’ve got too much of a responsibility, or would simply like to check in with your sub to make sure that both of you are happy, that isn’t any indication of a lack of power. It’s putting your and your sub’s needs first, and that’s more important than pride or power.
2. Hold Unwavering Trust
To be able to fully experience and immerse yourself in the true dom/sub relationship, it’s all about having unshakable trust.
As a dom, you would need to know that your sub is happy, and has given full consent to the scene you’re about to enjoy.
When you are 100% certain that your sub trusts you and the relationship you two share, it can reduce feelings of guilt, depression or anxiety, as it becomes an experience that both of you feel safe and content in.
3. Talk About Limits and Hard No’s
We are human and we make mistakes. But once a line has been crossed in a dom/sub scene, it can be hard to come out of it.
Knowing your sub’s ultimate list of things they want, don’t want, enjoy and absolutely won’t tolerate will help you to understand your sub better, which can result in both of you walking away from a scene feeling satisfied.
It also leaves less room for feelings of guilt and anxiety around topics such as: “Did they have a good time?” “Did I cross a line?” “Did I hurt them in such a way that they did not enjoy it?”.
4. Set Clear Boundaries
Boundaries, while including limits and hard no’s, also include things like consent, safe words and being completely transparent with one another. Surprises can be fun, as long as both of you stick to what feels comfortable and agreed upon beforehand, so there won’t be room for misunderstanding or any ill feelings.
5. Discuss Triggers (and Trauma, if Comfortable)
Just as you would discuss limits and hard no’s, talking about triggers and trauma can be a healing experience for both a dom and a sub. There is, of course, no rule that says one needs to talk about these things, but it’s important to remember that you should only engage in something that you and your sub feel comfortable doing.
Talking about your triggers and/or trauma in a safe and trusting space, is a great way to remove any bad feelings. It can also reduce the chance of experiencing negative or hurtful emotions after a scene.
6. Aftercare, Aftercare, Aftercare!
Did we mention aftercare?! Aftercare is the perfect way to end a scene as it encapsulates feelings of happiness, togetherness, caring and comfort.
A scene can be a wild ride full of positive emotions and new sensations, but when the ride stops spinning, top drop (and sub drop) can sink in and one could be left with bad feelings. Of course, no one wants to experience negative emotions after a great session.
So, by implementing acts of empathy after a scene (aka aftercare), you can both walk away feeling more grounded, appreciated, cared for and respected.
Some examples of aftercare include:
- Physical comfort such as cuddling, hugging, holding hands or kissing
- Bringing your partner a meal or a drink of water
- Caring for any wounds or injuries
- Having a nap together
- Talking and laughing
- Taking a bath or shower together
- Watching something together
How to Support Your Dom During Top Drop
- Check in with them: it can be hard to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, but sometimes someone may just want to be seen and acknowledged. A simple, “Are you feeling okay?” can go a long way.
- Don’t assume. Instead, ask how you can help: assumptions can lead to a lot of misunderstanding and conflict. Instead, if you notice your dom is not feeling or acting their best, ask them how you can help. This may open up a dialogue in which they feel safe to talk to you about what they’re experiencing, want or need.
- Have respect: if you’re prone to anxiety, it can be tough to stop yourself from continuously asking someone what’s wrong because you may believe it’s something you’ve done. Instead of assuming the worst and perhaps badgering your dom, try to be respectful of their wishes, patient with their time and move with them at their pace.
- Not every problem can be fixed: sometimes we have bad days. This could be for a specific reason or for no reason at all, but if your dom is having a rough time, they may just want someone to talk to. They may not have any reason for feeling the way they do, but a supportive shoulder is always encouraged.
A final note? We acknowledge that doms have a lot of responsibility and they need to be especially careful with their subs, but we also acknowledge that doms, just like subs, have the ability to experience negative emotions after a scene, or may just have rough days like everyone else. Being kind and respectful goes a long way, regardless of your role.
Helena is a sex-positive freelance copywriter in her early 30’s from Cape Town, South Africa. She’s travelled and lived in various countries in Asia and Europe for almost a decade, and continues to live her dream — traveling the world independently as a copywriter. Having written for various companies and magazines within the industry, she has extensive knowledge in the field of sexual health, the escort industry, and sex toy marketing.