Topping from the bottom

Recently I’ve read some interesting posts about how topping from the bottom isn’t necessarily a bad thing and how the idea that it is can go horribly wrong. Those posts reminded me of another post I read ages ago about how the phrase “topping from the bottom” doesn’t really mean anything.

So that we’re all on the same page, “topping from the bottom” can be used to mean anything from “my submissive deliberately breaks rules to manipulate me into punishing him” to “my submissive asked me to hit him somewhere else because that spot was getting sore”. It generally implies that the bottom is somehow overstepping his bounds and trying to make the top behave a certain way.

I’ve been pretty attached to that term because I thought (wrongly, as it turns out), that people were generally using it in the “submissive trying to manipulate the dominant” sense, not the “how dare a lowly submissive request anything” sense. In the manipulative or pushy sense, it describes a problem I’ve run into myself and that I think a lot of straight dominant women have run into thanks to the way male entitlement can screw up otherwise fun power dynamics.

However, as important as I believe it is to talk about how power dynamics outside of your relationships affect the power dynamics inside of your relationships, I don’t think “topping from the bottom” is the way to do that. Just like the terms “submissive” or “slave” are so subjective that it’s useless to say you’re looking for a “submissive” without defining what exactly you man, saying someone is “topping from the bottom” hardly tells me anything about what’s actually going wrong.

Even in the most narrowly defined “we have a punishment dynamic and my sub deliberately misbehaves so I’ll feel obligated to punish him” sense of topping from the bottom, there are still so many different things that could actually be wrong. Maybe the sub thought that misbehaving a little was a playful way to ask for a scene and didn’t know the top disliked it. Maybe the sub felt neglected and thought that misbehaving was the only way to get their top’s attention. Maybe the sub was afraid that their top would be bored by perfect obedience and leave them. Like Ferns says in her post, labeling a problem “topping from the bottom” doesn’t help you solve it. To do that, you need to talk about why you’re unhappy with a specific behavior and figure out why the sub is doing it.

Aside from the issue of whatever behavior you call “topping from the bottom” being a symptom, not a root cause, it’s become so broadly defined that it’s kind of useless. The idea that it’s topping from the bottom for a submissive to make a request is just ridiculous. I want to know what my submissive wants! Maybe I’ll give it to him and maybe I won’t, but I can’t make that decision if he withholds information because he’s afraid that I’ll get mad and say he’s topping from the bottom.

By calling anything and everything “topping from the bottom”, we’re setting submissives up to be unhappy and unfulfilled, if not outright harmed. Dominant types are not mind-readers, we can’t fulfill our submissives’ needs unless they tell us what those needs are. Even in the best case scenario, telling submissive people that they can’t express preferences or make requests means that their doms have to flail around hoping they’ll stumble over what their submissives need to be happy. In the worst case, it sets submissive people up to tolerate abuse because they’re afraid that standing up for their own needs in any way means they’re bad subs.

As much as I’d like the phrase “topping from the bottom” to mean something, it just doesn’t. It’s time to let it die.

Go to a munch, go to a munch

Any time I see someone ask for advice on finding a dom (generally in the Submissive men and women who love them group on Fetlife, so I’ll freely admit my results are probably skewed), they always get told to go to a munch, that there’s no reason not to go to one, that it’s the only way to meet people, that they’ll surely die alone if they don’t go hang out with a bunch of strangers who they may have nothing whatsoever in common with aside from an interest in kink.

All of that is bullshit, and it’s incredibly fucking boring. By all means mention that munches can be a good way to meet people, talk about how friendly the community can be to newbies, but once you’ve done that for the love of god let it go. When you start beating people over the head with what you think they should do, you’re both being a douchebag and wasting everyone’s time. Repeating yourself when you’ve already stated your case just means I have to scroll down farther to see if anyone else has something interesting to say.

Perhaps ironically, I actually do think going to a munch at least once is generally a good idea. Which is exactly what you would expect someone who enjoys munches would say, so you’ll have to decide for yourself whether my bias makes my advice useful to you or not. The big reason I recommend trying a munch out once or twice is that the worst case scenario for most people (I’ll expand on that later in this post) is spending an evening feeling awkward and not having very much fun, and the best case scenario is really seeing that kinky people are actually pretty normal, not feeling like you’re the only one who has these weird interests, making some close friends, or maybe even meeting a partner. For me, the potential reward far outweighs the risk. For other people, that may not be the case.

Considering how much of kink is entirely subjective (quick, define what makes a scene “heavy”), you would think we’d have a better grasp of the idea that people may experience the same event in vastly different ways. My enjoyment of nerdy, theoretical discussions about kink has nothing to do with whether J. Random Submissive feels comfortable talking about his kinks with anyone besides his partner. For J. Random, going to a munch may be a complete waste of his time. He’s not at all likely to have a good time if he doesn’t want to talk about kink with strangers, and he’s not terribly likely to meet his ideal partner there since she’s going to be uncomfortable with munches for the exact same reasons he is. If you wouldn’t decide for someone else how much pain he can take, why the fuck would you decide for him how much he will or won’t enjoy going to a munch?

The idea that there’s no valid reason not to go to a munch is especially frustrating. If you work with children or vulnerable adults, or in politics or any particularly visible position, or have a morality clause in your employment contract, or are dependent on people who don’t approve of kink, you have an extremely good reason not to risk going to an event. If you have a disability, going to a munch may take more energy than you have to spare, be so much hassle that it’s just not worth it to go, or physically impossible to get to (credit where it’s due, that idea is from Namaah’s comment on Tomio’s post about how not everyone wants to be out as kinky). If you work the wrong shift, it may just be impossible to go to a munch (and for fuck’s sake don’t say “Oh, just switch shifts with someone.” People ask questions when you do that, and I don’t know about you, but I’m a shitty liar). If you live in a small town, you might be hours away from the nearest munch. If you just really dislike hanging out with large groups of strangers that’s a good enough reason not to go, dammit!

Lots of people talk about munches like they’re the only way to meet people, which is stupid and wrong. There’s only an entire industry based around online personals, which you would think would be a difficult fact to miss. It’s possible that a few people meet each other that way, not to mention all the people who meet in entirely vanilla contexts and happily discover that they’re both kinky. While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend hoping that your date turns out to be kinky as your sole partner-finding strategy, I can’t deny that it does happen.

Aside from personals, sites like Fetlife have some pretty good forums. I actually get most of my nerdy-kink-discussion needs met on forums and kink blogs, since for me munches mostly involve catching up with friends. There’s no good reason to act like munches are the one true way to make friends or meet people or have interesting discussions about kink.

There are plenty of good things about  munches if you’re the kind of person who enjoys them, but can we please stop fucking badgering people to go if they don’t want to?


To quote from a post on Beyond The Valley of the Femdoms:

Something that gets lost a lot in conversation about female dominance is how we feel. There’s a lot of talk about “using subs for our pleasure,” but our pleasure is rarely talked about. No one talks about what it feels like. The model of pleasure in female dominance is centered in male fantasy. We’re so often actors and objects in submissive male fantasy, rather than subjects of our own.

Sad but true. We hear so much about what men want, what turns them on, what they wish dominant women would do, what we don’t do enough of, but so very little about what actually does it for us. To be fair, when I’m reading porn I’m generally pretty focused on the bottom, but the dom’s reactions to him are a big part of the story.

And part of it, of course, is not enjoying feeling vulnerable. Talking directly about what I want is scary. What if people think I’m weird or creepy or boring and pathetic? It’s still important, though. If we ever want the scene to be more welcoming to potential doms (like potential slayers but pervier), we need to talk about what they get out of the whole kink deal.

So, let’s talk about sadism. It’s easier for me to describe since I have so much more experience with sadism than I do with dominance, and I haven’t gotten to play for a while and oh god I want to hurt someone who wants to suffer for me.

It’s kind of physical hunger. The longer I go without getting to hurt anyone, the more I think about it. Not unlike obsessing about food when you skipped breakfast and lunch is still hours away. I get restless, and I feel something like an itch in my teeth that can only be soothed by sinking them into someone. Yes, I read far too many vampire books as a kid 🙂

There are a lot of reasons I enjoy sadism: reactions, power, trust. I absolutely love the noises people make when they’re in pain. My very favourite place to bite someone is the place where the neck meets the shoulder because it puts my ear where I can hear even the tiniest whimper or catch in their breath. I love the way people squirm and struggle when they’re hurting too.

Aside from the obvious hotness of whimpering and struggling, it’s a rush to have the power to hurt someone. To break such a fundamental taboo and be thanked for it afterwards never gets old. It’s not nice, and not easy to explain to people who don’t feel it, but having that kind of power over someone is as satisfying as it is dangerous. Inflicting pain is just such a visceral way to show who’s in charge and who isn’t.

Finally, someone letting me hurt them is the most incredible display of trust. It would be so easy to go to far, or make a mistake and really damage someone, but they trust me to take care of them even as I hurt them. To me, it’s one of the most intimate things I can do.


Or, yet another followup on the subject of submission and masculinity.

This post will make much more sense if you’ve read my last two posts, where I talked about how we tend to conflate submission and femininity and the horrible consequences that has, particularly for submissive men. You might also want to have a look at this post by Rachelcq, this one by Peroxide, as well as Bitchy Jones’s and maymay’s entire blogs, as they’re already said everything I’m going to.

Now that we’re more or less on the same page about all the shit that submissive men go through outside of the scene, let’s talk about what happens when they get into the scene.

The BDSM scene likes to promote itself as a utopia where everyone is welcomed with open arms. That’s a nice idea, but how young, female, and attractive you are makes a lot of difference in your reception in the scene. Whether you’ll like the (quite possibly predatory) attention is a separate issue, but in the kink scene some people are more equal than others.

Submissive men are definitely some of the ‘less equal’. They post in a group on Fetlife or another forum, or come to a munch or a workshop or a party, and discover that the welcoming committee they were told to expect has no interest in them. Whether you’re a top or a bottom, if you have tits everyone in the scene wants to be your new best friend. If you’re a male top, you can impress people with how hard you play or how intricate your rope work is or how strict of a master you are. But if you’re a male sub, you’ll slam right into everyone’s discomfort with men who don’t fit neatly into the man box. Rather than deal with their own issues around gender, it’s not at all unusual for people to either avoid dealing with male subs or to subconsciously push them away.

That’s bad enough, but male subs are also considered a dime a dozen. Like I’ve said before, I don’t believe for a second that there are that many more submissive men than there are women who could enjoy dominance if it didn’t have such a horrible image problem, but that doesn’t stop people from saying that there are tens or hundreds of submissive men for every dominant woman, or make it easier for any particular submissive man to find a partner. Hear enough stories about how hard it is to find a woman who actually likes submissive men, especially when those stories line up with everything you’ve ever been taught about what a man should be and how you’ve failed, and of course you’re going to believe you’re destined to die alone.

Then, like TomCatoNineLives commented on my last post:

The point is that these ideas, rotten as they are, aren’t out of accord with the lived experiences of many, if not most, sub guys. And one of the worst parts is that they’re self-perpetuating, because when you can’t believe that someone would be attracted to you, if and when it that does happen, you’ll easily find ways to screw it up. (Not reciprocating for fear that I’d look stupid; getting jealous, possessive, needy, or suspicious; or having a fatalistic “it won’t last so I won’t get too attached” attitude are all things I’ve done in the past in those circumstances.) When that does happen, it only becomes further confirmation of how undesirable you are.

Tell someone enough times that they’re worthless, that they could be replaced by any hundred other people, and of course they’ll start to believe it. Then it comes true, thanks to self-loathing being such an incredible turn off (at least to anyone who isn’t a predator). And blatant scammers  like “fidoucheiary dommes” (to use FelixSulla’s term) being the only ones to show an interest in male subs can’t be helping matters.

Another horrible consequence of the idea that there is such a surplus of submissive men is the “submission olympics”, the need to prove that you are the most submissivest of them all if you ever want to find a real live dom of your very own. Given the issues I’ve already talked about with submission and masculinity, this seems to result in this awful race to the bottom with men competing to display the most self-loathing possible and do everything they can to turn off women who actually like submissive men. When that inevitably fails to attract a partner, it’s just more proof that being a submissive man proves you’re unlovable.

To quote from my own reply to TomCatoNineLives’ comment above:

I hate to say it, but one of the things I really like about how my boyfriend doesn’t identify as submissive but acts submissive toward me is that he hasn’t been chewed up and spit out by the scene.

As much as I love submissive men, the idea of being wanted just because I’m the first real live dom to pay attention to them does nothing for me. Desperation and self-loathing are also huge turns offs, as understandable as it is that submissive men would end up that way. I just want someone who likes me, not someone I have to convince that they’re a worthwhile human being. Sad to say, it was easier for me to find that outside of the scene than within it.

God only knows how much more damage I’ll do by saying that, but there’s no use lying about it. The kink scene can damage submissive men so badly that not even dominant women find them attractive. It’s not fair, it’s not their fault, but it happens. And without a magic wand to wave to get people to let go of  everything they’ve ever learned about gender roles, I have no fucking idea how to fix it.