Repost: Bottoming as a Step on the Way to Topping

Here’s another blast from the past, this time from July 2012. Sadly, the link to Lily LLoyd’s blog is broken, but I like the think the post basically makes sense without it.


 

 

LilyLloyd wrote this amazing post about how “The whole born dominant bullshit is… well, bullshit”. It’s fantastic and you should read it right now. And it gets better! A Feminist Sub left this brilliant comment:

Really interesting post! I do have to say that I have a problem with the old Leather idea of bottoming as a step on the way to topping, because I think it conveys an idea that topping/domming is more valuable than bottoming/submitting. Like subs are simply people who couldn’t cut it as doms.

I don’t *think* that was the intended message with that tradition, but I do think that it’s contributed to domism in contemporary BDSM culture – I think the “standards” for calling oneself a dom are much higher than for calling oneself a sub. To be a sub, you just need submissive desires – to be a dom, you need credentials. Hence all the ranting about how there are no “real doms.” And I think that’s another reason that it seems like there are so many more doms than subs.

That blew my mind. It makes so much sense, but somehow I just never saw it before. Of course we don’t see submission as valuable in its own right if we treat it like it’s just a stage you go through before you reach the real goal of becoming dominant.

Why don’t we ever suggest that submissive/bottom type people try topping? We tell tops all the time that you should bottom before you top. It’s certainly true that there are lots of things you can learn by bottoming, but there are also plenty of things you can learn from topping. I can tell someone I really do want to hear about what my bottom wants until I’m blue in the face, but if they try topping it might click for them that’s it really is helpful to get some feedback.

Then again, it would totally destroy the dominant mystique if any lowly submissive could pick up a flogger and try it out for themselves. Anyone can bottom after all, it’s only the chosen few who can top. And if you actually believe that, there’s a Nigerian Prince who would like to speak with you, you poor stupid fuck.

Assuming that just anyone can bottom but topping is special is pretty much the dictionary definition ofdomism. With how passionately I hate the idea that I’m somehow more worthy because I decided to call myself dominant, I’m amazed and kind of disturbed that I never saw it before. I should know better, but I just didn’t see until A Feminist Sub pointed it out. This is how ingrained domism is in BDSM culture, and this is why I rail so hard against it when I see it.

4 thoughts on “Repost: Bottoming as a Step on the Way to Topping

  1. But … but … it’s true that you can do a lot more damage as a top than as a bottom! Isn’t that enough to explain a whole lot of what you’re describing?

    I agree that the word “real” is pretty pernicious. There’s also the way plenty of scumbags tell people they’re not real submissives, essentially because they’re not submitting to said scumbag. I’m much more uneasy with “real” as “innate” than “real” as “experienced”. I think we’d both like to see doms AND subs recognised for skill and conscientiousness and experience.

    I was going to add that there’s also more up-side to getting reactions from a first-time sub than having a first-time dom do things to you … but then I realised that I’m kind of a counter-example (caveat: extremely limited experience). I wonder if I am more willing to play with new doms because I’m almost completely wired for reactions, so it is fulfilling to see them experience the awe and power rush for the first time. And I in turn am awed and moved by their caution and conscientiousness.

    I think we agree more than we disagree – as usual – but discussions are better with a devil’s advocate. 🙂

  2. I think the reason you were supposed to at least experience submission isn’t as a stepping stone to dominance but so that you understand the submissive position and mindset. It’s also a valuable tool in learning how to use certain toys. Can you use a whip, paddle, crop or flogger properly if you’ve never felt them yourself? How do you know if you’ve hit someone too hard if you’ve never felt that particular toy used on you? How do you know what it’s like to travel through different levels of submission if you’ve never been there yourself?

    The idea was that you can be a better dominant by having experienced submission. If you truly know submission from the inside out you can better lead your submissive through it as a dominant.

    This is a controversial topic though. I have spoken to dominants who say this is the right path. I’ve also spoken to dominants who say that would never, ever, even consider being submissive for one second, it’s who they are, it’s not their nature.

    It’s a personal choice really. It’s not my place as a submissive to tell a dominant what they should or shouldn’t have done. I will say that I find it easier to trust a Domme with a paddle if I know she’s felt its sting at least once.

    • I realize I might be splitting hairs, but since bottoming isn’t the same as being Dominant, isn’t it still possible to test out the feel of an activity by arranging it with someone, even for Dominants who can’t /won’t be submissive. If their sub won’t do it, maybe a friend will or maybe it’s something they can test on themselves.

    • I think the reason you were supposed to at least experience submission isn’t as a stepping stone to dominance but so that you understand the submissive position and mindset.

      You don’t say. I’m trying not to be a total jerk, but I really hate it when people tell me things I already know as if I’m stupid. I have been in the scene for more a bit of a while now, I’m pretty familiar with the idea that tops/doms should try bottoming to understand bottoms/submissives better. It just pisses me off that we don’t seem to think it matters what subs/bottoms understand about tops.

      While I personally don’t feel comfortable using a toy on someone else if I haven’t at least whapped myself on the hand with it, I think it was perversecowgirl who pointed out that if she hits herself with a toy, all that tells her is what it felt like to her on that day in that mood. What’s more important than knowing how a toy feels to you is paying close attention to and respecting your partner’s reactions to that toy. If a thuddy toy doesn’t bother me, that’s nice but it doesn’t matter at all if I’m playing with someone who hates thud and prefers sting.

      Why on earth don’t we tell bottoms/subs to try topping so they understand tops/doms better? Doms should definitely make an effort to understand bottoms/subs, but when we don’t say the same thing for subs, we’re implying that they have nothing to contribute, that it doesn’t matter what they understand.

      For a concrete example, I think far fewer bottoms would feel as paranoid about giving feedback being topping from the bottom if they tried topping a little themselves. I can tell people I want to hear how the scene is working for them until I’m blue in the face, but I think trying it yourself can be a much faster way to internalize the idea that it is really, truly helpful to give feedback.

      It’s not my place as a submissive to tell a dominant what they should or shouldn’t have done.

      That’s just silly. I’m not special because I decided to call myself a dom, and neither is anyone else.

      I have spoken to dominants who say this is the right path. I’ve also spoken to dominants who say that would never, ever, even consider being submissive for one second, it’s who they are, it’s not their nature.

      To a certain extent it makes sense that someone who has experienced submission would be better at leading others through it (although that completely ignores the possibility of an experienced bottom playing with an inexperienced top), but even if I were capable of submission, I would only know how it worked for me. There are many, many styles of submission and mine might not tell me anything remotely useful about how my partner works.

      If doing any particular thing helps you understand your partner better, great, but the important thing is the understanding, not necessarily how you got there.

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