Saturday, May 10, 2008

Topping from the Bottom: What is it really?

Topping from the bottom is considered inappropriate behavior in most D/s circles. It is accurately defined as either a submissive (bottom) attempting to manipulate the dominant (top) into doing what the submissive wants in a scene or situation or a situation in which the submissive becomes whiny, pushy or annoying about their desires, thereby inverting the normative power dynamic so that the dominant feels put upon instead of feeling respected and appreciated. Actual topping from the bottom is most assuredly a control issue and a serious breach of the transfer of power dynamic and accepted D/s etiquette.

I do therefore completely understand why dominants find attempts by their submissives to engage in this practice unsavory and irritating and why they feel compelled to immediately squash it. When a dominant is no longer in control of the situation, their role is diminished. They become nothing more than a participant in the situation or scene. They lose credibility because as the dominant they should always be in complete control. They should project at all times a commanding presence so that the submissive never entertains any notion of attempting to flip them.

As a submissive, I am given neither to manipulation nor to attempts at getting my own way through incessant complaining. So I don’t consider myself one who would engage is any attempt to top from the bottom. I can function in the role of a top sexually if that is something my dominant might desire in a given situation. To me sex with a woman is all about her; her needs, her pleasure, and her orgasms. Nothing is more satisfying to me than to offering my reverent male worship to a woman unafraid to subject me to her assertive touch; directing me, commanding me, controlling me and teaching me to pleasure her in exactly the ways she wants to be pleasured and I happily surrender myself to her authority. For that reason, despite the fact that I do enjoy sexual intercourse, my personal preference in the bedroom, and one for which I feel well suited, is offering a confident, dominant woman respectful oral servitude. The offering, the act and the symbolism of focusing my efforts on reverential oral worship focused on her vagina, the delicate delectable blossom and tangible manifestation of her femininity is to me the supreme expression of my acknowledgment and respect of her dominance and my devotion to her pleasure and the satisfaction of her sexual needs. Yet the fact remains, it is the woman’s prerogative alone to decide what happens in the bedroom and she has every right to require me to do what pleases her at any given moment, regardless of my preferences. So if she wants me to “take” her sexually from behind, pulling her hair and slapping her sexy ass as I thrust, I am most willing and capable to oblige her. But it must not be forgotten, that when I am so engaged, nothing has changed with respect to the balance of power. I am still the submissive and she is still the dominant. She is still in complete control and I am still not in control. I am only serving in the role of a top and not acting as a dominant. Generally in vanilla circles, it is the male who is expected to take the lead and be the initiator when it comes to sex, so my past experiences in intimate encounters with women have made me comfortable in assuming the topping role when I am called upon to do so. Yet I am simply offering pleasure in the way it is required, and I do not become the dominant or assume control in a situation such as I have outlined. I am not a switch and don’t have the ability to lay aside my submissiveness to take up role of dominant. So clearly, acting in the role of sexual top is not topping from the bottom. I remain the true bottom in the relationship dynamic even when in obedience, I submit by filling the role of a top sexually.

Another example of what is not topping from the bottom is when a submissive though open, respectful and straightforward negotiation, communicates to the dominant, his personal perceived needs, with the understanding of course that she will make the final decision about whether to provide scenes and circumstances to address the needs he shares. Negotiation is not topping from the bottom at all but simply the standard process for fostering the level of meaningful communication required in any kind of relationship, D/s or otherwise. I think in keeping with the basic tenants and ethics of the D/s the submissive has every right to negotiate and have the expectation of being taken seriously if he realizes that the relationship as it stands is not working out for him or meeting his submissive needs. If he feels his needs aren’t being given serious consideration or that his attempts at negotiation are swept aside with accusations that he is attempting to top from the bottom, then I think he has every right to ask for release or even simply choose to walk away from the relationship. In the same vein, if a submissive continually presses his dominant for an activity that she does not enjoy or find meaningful, then I would characterize that as topping from the bottom and she has every right to demand he stop pressing the issue or to release him if he continues to insist. No one has the right to force another person into sexual acts that make them feel uncomfortable. That would certainly violate the letter and intent of the consensual tenant.

When attempts to top from the bottom actually occur, what motivates a submissive to try to do this? It could be for any number of reasons. Some suggest that it is simply the submissive trying to get attention from the dominant because he feels he is not getting enough attention and that this is his only option for seeking more attention. Some say that it is to act out against the dominant because they don't want to submit to control. Some times the submissive is naturally more dominant than their dominant, so it comes natural for them to bottom top. How can a submissive be more dominant? This isn't really all that uncommon, especially among those new to the lifestyle. Some think that they want to be the one in control and feel if they aren't they will lose their identity to the relationship. Many submissive men are alpha types and strong dominant personalities in their work and public life. Newly initiated into the lifestyle they may not have fully self-identified as a submissive and haven’t learned to appropriately behave in that role. Others still haven’t really learned who they really are with respect to the D/s lifestyle, and may actually be a switch, someone who is both a dominant and a submissive and can be in either role and be comfortable. The role they choose depends on who they are with and how they are feeling at the time. Sometimes it results from an inability or unwillingness on the part of a submissive to make the “fantasy versus reality” distinction. They focus almost exclusively on the sexual submission component and do not give the needed attention to the lifestyle submission part. There are to be sure the “bratty” submissive type, but one can be a bratty submissive without being a bottom topper. Bratty behavior in most cases is simply a submissive expressing the playful part of his personality and is not an expression of insubordination or disrespect.

In summary, I think it is important that the submissive understand that negotiation and the respectful communication of perceived needs is a right and the expectation of having your needs and concerns seriously considered is a valid one. For the dominant, if you feel attempts to top from the bottom are taking place, assess the situation on a case by case basis and diagnose the issues. If you still feel that it is a case of topping from the bottom, then by all means register your irritation, strongly state that it will not be tolerated and demand that it be stopped immediately. By effectively addressing this important issue, most submissives can be trained out of this annoying habit, and in cases where this is not possible, the submissive should probably be released.
Photo Credit: Chris Simpson
Coming Monday, May 12:
Interview: Fire, Ice and Everything Nice…Meet Kitten

One of Kitten’s talents lies with her ability to be absolute, honest, raw, never equivocal, supercilious, or acquiescent... This Kitten doesn't meow! You won't want to miss it!


Anonymous said...

Hmmmmmm....this has me thinking. I often bandy about the term 't from the b' and that I myself do this. Maybe I am using the wrong phrase. There are two sides to my sex play: One is “do X to me” and the other, is the more 'kittenish' behavior ***as though*** being submissive, however, I've been the one to come up with the scenarios, action plans, etc., in order for him to ***seemingly*** be the aggressor. I want him to do X and want it to be ***his*** idea.

Do I need a new phrase? Sheesh.

joe said...

I’m far from an expert on the dynamics of power exchange relationships, but my opinion is that if you are a dominant then by definition you are always the “top”. Following that line of thinking, even at those times you choose to fill the role of “sexual bottom” you are still technically not the “bottom” in the relationship. You continue to direct and control the “scene” or circumstances so that your male partner is actively engaged in pleasuring you in the specific ways you wish to be pleasured. So no, I think you are not bottom topping in the scenarios you painted, you are still actively topping or dominating. To further cloud the issue, if you were say a “switch” and felt equally comfortable while either filling a dominant or a submissive role, and while in the submissive role you directed the “scene” or circumstances as you described, then I suppose that would be bottom topping. Clear as mud? HaHa


Anonymous said...

One can argue if these submissives who like to 'top from the bottom' are really submissive...
Yes, if they desire to experience humilation, pain, certain restrictions, etc. they apparently enjoy the PLAYROLE of a submissive, but ARE they really submissive? In my opinion: no. If they are the ones deciding about rules and activities, if they are the ones in control, they rather seem to be switches or even dominant persons and not subs. Even if they are not holding the whip.

Well, nothing wrong with that. I do not have anything agains these play-submissives (= kind of dominants) and it's also perfectly okay to be a service-top (= kind of submissive), IF both partners agree to this play. If this helps them to live an interesting, fulfilling relationship - great. They simply confuse the right dom-sub-terminology, in my opinion.
And of course it is disrespectful to 'top from the bottom' in a non-consensual manner. If the "submissive" partner likes to control the session and the other partner is a real dominant, this will cause problems. In this situation we have, technically speaking, two dominants (one in the submissive role, the other in the dominant role) - it might easily go wrong. *g*

Therefore: Know who you are, know what you really want, don't claim to be X, when you actually feel like Y...