What on earth is a dominant bottom?

Some time ago now, I mentioned that dominant bottoms are a thing. I think it’s worth going into a little more detail about just what I was talking about, because that’s kind of an oxymoron for a lot of people.

First of all, credit where it’s due: I got the idea of human sexuality & kinky interests as a number of separate spectrums from Midori, who teaches fantastic classes and who you should definitely go see in person if you get a chance. She presented a really interesting class on the idea that if you were to graph any given person’s position on the spectrum of sexuality/kinkiness (because not everyone links sex and kink), you would need far more than just one axis for kinky/non-kinky and one for gay/straight. You would also need axes for interest in kink in general (don’t forget, there are plenty of kinks that don’t have to involve power exchange), interest in power exchange, interest in pain, interest in bondage, etc, etc. For example, a person might be could be very interested in giving pain, but that doesn’t mean they care at all about being in charge, and they might or might not have any interest in bondage.

To bring that back to the idea of dominant bottoms, there’s no reason that a person couldn’t be very interested in receiving pain, very interested in receiving bondage, and have no interest at all in actually giving up any control. That might seem completely contradictory if you’re stuck on the idea that actions have any inherent meaning, but if you can let that go it makes perfect sense. If, for example, a dominant woman with a masochistic streak orders her submissive to give her a spanking where and when she wants, exactly as hard as she wants, for only as long as she wants, she is clearly the one in charge. Receiving pain doesn’t magically make you submissive if you’re telling the person giving you pain exactly what to do, and giving pain doesn’t magically make you dominant if you’re doing exactly what your dominant tells you.

As long as everyone knows what they want and can express that, everything is great! But where things get complicated is where people don’t think through what it is that they really want. To use an example terribly common in the female dom community, if a dominant man with a fetish for bondage and pain play assumes that means he’s submissive, he’s going to irritate the shit out of every dominant woman he tries to order around and will probably end up lonely and frustrated because he can’t seem to find a “real” dominant woman. That doesn’t mean he’s a bad person (although I do sincerely want to smack that guy upside the head and tell him to be honest about what he wants already), and it doesn’t mean that the doms who get fed up and dump him are bad people either, it just means that a lack of self awareness makes it really difficult to find good relationships.

To complicate things even more, it’s totally normal for even really submissive people to want to act out their fantasies just the way those fantasies have gone in their heads. I mean, would you go into a scene thinking “Oh, you know that thing I think about all the time? Let’s do a scene where we don’t do any of that!” I know I wouldn’t. Having a bit of a fixation on acting out a certain scene in just the right way doesn’t mean the person who wants to bottom to that scene can’t possibly be submissive, but it does mean they’re going to have to work harder to convince me they really are interested in my needs too.

If you’re a dominant bottom, great! Good on you for figuring out what you want and looking for people who are compatible with you. I might even be willing to service top you if we have compatible kinks and you can make it through a whole scene without trying to order me around. However, that only works if you know what you want. If you’re a dominant bottom who doesn’t know it or won’t admit it, well, it’s going to suck to be you until you figure your shit out. Best of luck with that!

17 thoughts on “What on earth is a dominant bottom?

  1. I wish I had found an article like this years ago. For a long time I id’d as a switch, but the implication that I submit and dominate never felt right to me. It took a long time (and a few pokes by some experienced folks on Fet) for me to sort out my kink “alignment”. And I still get defensive about being a dominant woman who enjoys pain and being tied up.

    • Oh, hey, fistbump! More and more I’m starting to think that my identification as “switch” might be more accurately described as “dominant bottom.” Because (in addition to the wicked dom side) I really like some forms of bondage, and mild forms of pain (mmmm spanking yes plz), but the submitting to what someone else wants to do part…is something I’m less sure about. It’s still something of a jumble in my head, but every time the idea of a dominant bottom comes up, I go, “Hmm…”

    • Oooooh, yeah. Started out as a submissive, because I am a woman and like spankings, so that was my place, right? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. I still identify as a switch because I top and bottom, and was still surprised when I ended up on the left of a d/s relationship, but separating out top and bottom from dom and sub has helped me clarify things massively.

      • I hear you! There was a guy on fet, background in the gay leather scene, who said that in some parts of the scene they used switch for folks who dom and sub, and verse (versatile) for folks who top and bottom. I really wish verse had caught on in the wide BDSM community, just for the additional clarity.

  2. Yes.

    Perhaps, in areas as complex as gender and sexuality, the whole notion of simple binary categorisation (‘masculine/’feminine’, dom/sub/, sadist/masochist) is misleading.

    Viewing these categories as a scale or spectrum, and using fuzzy logic or probabilistic reasoning as the means to guide our discourse about them might save us from a lot of grief and confusion.

  3. As a boring old masochistic submissive, I’m finding this both fascinating and really hard to wrap my head around. For me absolutely everything seems to feed back into the one kink of emotional masochism. Well, that’s where arousal comes from; safety comes from submission. So I’m trying to imagine what pain feels like to a dom who enjoys it. Can you enlighten me?

    I mean, would you go into a scene thinking “Oh, you know that thing I think about all the time? Let’s do a scene where we don’t do any of that!” I know I wouldn’t.

    Actually, I kind of do. If my exact fantasies start playing out, I become ridiculously paranoid that the whole thing is happening for my benefit, which actually messes with my arousal. I’m sure this second-guessing is incredibly tedious for the poor dom in question. 🙂

    • what pain feels like to a dom who enjoys it

      Hmm, well, from someone who might fall into this category (but is still figuring it out), it just feels…good? I mean, I’m not into serious pain, more into strong sensations. But I actually really, really love getting spanked. It just feels fantastic! Hurts a bit, especially if my partner really puts her arm into it :P, but oh just wow, I like how it feels on a physical level. Not just for the endorphin rush after, but the actual sensation while it’s happening. I haven’t tried consciously thinking of it as something I’m doing as a dom, but my partner does do it for me as a gift because she knows I like it. So, I guess–sensation I like, being given me by someone who adores me, at my request? It’s not that much different from the amazing backrubs she also gives me, and if one of those sensations can be coded as submissive, both can, eh?

      (But I’m curious to hear from others who have more experience with this.)

      • Fascinating. Pain doesn’t do anything for my kink unless I’m getting sadistic vibes or it reaches the unbearable-but-I’ll-take-it-for-you-aahh! level. It sounds like that’s not the way you experience it at all?

        • I think you may experience a very different kind of masochism than I do. I am a physical masochist–that is I get physical pleasure from pain. To the point that I can’t even get close to an orgasm if pain isn’t involved.

          It sounds like you enjoy pain the was some submissives I’ve spoken with do–not enjoying the pain itself, but accepting the pain and taking pleasure in being about to give your partner what they want?

          Yeah, I don’t care if my partner gets off on my pain, I don’t care if they are a sadist or just along for the ride. A spanking, a nipple clamp (oh, I love nipple clamps!), a good scratch, a flogger…they go right to my clit then I’m having a real good time. The past few years I’ve enjoyed more pain play in my masturbation than with a partner, actually.

        • My boy doesn’t like pain, but takes it for my pleasure… which is hella hot, but I digress. I, on the other hand, will happily demand a spanking from him for the feeling of it, or use nipple clamps while I masturbate. It’s purely sensory for me, though I will say that since he doesn’t grok enjoying pain, getting him to the point where he understands that the same level of biting I enjoy during sex is not what I can take during a fun makeout has been a bit of a job. Some masochists who enjoy pain are zero-to-60 MPH, I need warmup.

          • Hey, at least you’ve gotten him past the I-can’t-top-my-dom stage. That’s a FetLife essay by Raven Kaldera that I should probably have mentioned earlier in this discussion.

            And this purely sensory thing is extremely interesting.

  4. Just for some perspective, there used to be a Yahoo group for Doms in Chastity, or something like that. And over on chastityforums.com, once in a while we have someone that stops in to mention that they enjoy the feeling of being sexually restrained, but are tops in all other respects.

    Human sexuality is pretty varied, and maybe it’s time that we stop using Dom & Sub as a way to explain some of the concepts, and come up with something more descriptive.

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