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Being An Asshole, or Topping From the Bottom?

Thank you to Devastating Yet Inconsequential for permission to repost this post.  My comments are below the double line.

topping from the bottom

Can we please, please retire this concept?

Listen, there is such a thing as being an asshole in bed, no matter what kind of sex you’re having.  These types of behavior might make you an asshole (depending on context):

  • constantly insisting on getting your own way
  • not letting your partner finish the sex equivalent of a thought before correcting them
  • trying to force your partner to do things they don’t like and don’t choose
  • pouting or whining that things aren’t exactly to your liking
  • giving your partner long lists of changes you’d like them to make
  • refusing to play along with any idea you haven’t thought of yourself

When bottoms do things like this, it’s sometimes called “topping from the bottom.”  But the behavior listed above is equally obnoxious from a top or dom.

Listen to your partner.  Give them space to try things.  Be “good, giving, and game” (as Dan Savage puts it).  Be willing to try things yourself.  Prioritize your constructive criticism and give it at a pace your partner can handle.  Recognize your partner as a fellow human being with their own needs and desires, which have an equal claim to be fulfilled.

And, whatever side you are on, don’t worry about “topping from the bottom.”  If you’re worried that you’re impossible for your top to satisfy, work on that.  If you’re distracted by your bottom’s constant comments, talk about that.  But let’s get rid of this concept that I’m pretty sure causes a lot more stress, grief, and reluctance to communicate than it could ever possibly be worth.

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First of all, I quite agree that the whole concept of topping from the bottom needs to go away, largely because of what Dev says, namely how badly it (and the fear of being accused of doing it) interferes with communication and the ability to resolve problems.  Even in a D/s relationship, you have a right to have your needs heard and respected, and that means you’ve got to be able to communicate them to your top without fear of this kind of nonsense.  Even in the most extreme M/s, TPE, etc. relationships, you ultimately still have those rights as a human being, even if you’ve negotiated them away.  A smart dominant will listen to them and take them into consideration no matter what the form of the relationship, just as any intelligent partner in a vanilla relationship will.

On the face of it, and without context, this list of behaviors can indeed be quite obnoxious.  I’d argue, actually, that many of them are considerably less appealing when a dominant does them than when a submissive does – and they are very much part of where BDSM may, and often does, cross the line right into abuse.

What the concept of topping from the bottom does is obscure this distinction, and that’s part of why it’s such a bad idea, because far too many people on both sides of the slash cannot tell the difference between topping from the bottom and protecting their own selves from abuse, between a healthy interchange of thoughts and respect for limits as well as attempts to accommodate a partner’s needs and desires, and outright abusiveness.

The notion of topping from the bottom is often pulled out by abusers to justify running roughshod over their submissives, and used as a bludgeon to shut them up and beat them into greater submission, even when so doing is clearly harmful to the sub.  It’s also used as a measuring device to compare one’s own submissiveness to that of other subs, by both subs and doms, when the reality is you simply cannot compare two people or situations, because of differences in individual needs.

Topping from the bottom is a concept that is not limited to what happens in bed, but is also often pulled out by dominants to justify all manner of abuses of their submissives in the rest of life as well, and to stop the sub from objecting.

If we remove the concept and term from our vocabularies altogether, the realities of what may be happening in a given situation are much easier to sort out.

Here are some examples of things that might look like TFTB, or being a jerk on the bottom, but aren’t – and are in fact much more abusive on the part of the top than anything else. Continue reading

It’s the Internet, Stupid! How the Online World Encourages Abuse in the BDSM Subculture

I received a private message from someone who was commenting on how BDSM per se doesn’t inspire abuse, but that “…people watch vids on the internet, get it into their heads that subs are just human punching bags that will do anything for anyone and that misunderstanding of everything does cause abuse”.

Yup, you’ve hit the nail on the head, guy.  No, it’s not BDSM per se that is the problem, but all of the rest of the crap – and I include the books, including the Story of O and all of the older books and videos, not just the new crap and the Internet influences – that cause the problems.

Or, more precisely, giving them too much weight is what does it.  There’s nothing wrong with getting ideas from these sources, but one has to understand the limits of that.

I’ve found that the ability to separate fantasy from what’s viable in real life is sadly lacking in many, and it is the use of these books and videos essentially as “how to” manuals instead of recognizing them as pretty purely wank fodder that leads people astray.

Couple that with the emphasis on secrecy and confidentiality, and a whole lot of really bad – and nonconsensual – stuff gets swept neatly under the rug where it never sees the light of day, and the perpetrators get away with it with more and more people.

Those who eventually wake up to the abuse they are suffering are often too embarrassed to be open about it for many reasons, including embarrassment that they fell for it in the first place, plus fear of being ostracized for breaking the code of silence, especially if the perpetrator is popular or friends with the local community’s leaders, or is powerful in some other way perhaps outside the scene altogether.

Interestingly enough, at the class that Midori and I both attended, when asked how many people in the room had been raped, half the hands went up – and when asked how many of us had reported the rape, all but one went down.  The pressures to not report it are strong, even in the kink world.

Sadly, those who will not or cannot keep their bottoms safe on various levels tend to screw things up a lot for everyone.  I cried when reading an excellent post this guy wrote about why we do wiitwd, going into depth about the passions invoked and the challenges of taking a hard scene and coming out safely on the other side with a trusted dominant, because I do so crave being with someone who can do that with me.  Continue reading

A Submissive’s Needs

Wants vs Needs

(author unknown)

We often confuse these two things: I WANT and I NEED. Although they may seem to be the same at first glance, there is a huge difference in the two. We want a lot of things in life; money, new cars, a beautiful home, success, and hot fudge sundaes, just to name a few. But how many of them do we really need? Very often the things we want are not always things that are the best for us and are usually self-indulgent wishes that change as fast as the top ten hits on VH1. “Needs” are a different situation. They are the fundamentals we require to remain mentally and physically healthy and allow us to grow spiritually and emotionally. I may really want a hot fudge sundae but survive quite well without it. But, I cannot thrive without my basic needs being met.

We’ve had many encounters with unhappy submissives who bemoan the fact their Dominant does not give them what they need. As we listen to the list of complaints, we sometimes find a lot of “wants” mixed in with a few valid “needs” in the charges against their Dominant. Sorting them out isn’t always easy for either the submissive or Dominant in a relationship. Each person is unique and comes with their own special requirements. Without a doubt, this is one area that requires communication skills and time before either party can confidently determine what they want or need from the other. The Submissive Owner’s Manual may help you to understand some of the complexities of the Dominant/submissive relationship.

Submissive Owner’s Manual

I need to feel safe

  • Before I can begin to open my submissive nature to You, I need to feel safe and have reason to trust You. To let down my walls and give You control of my will may take time and testing before I feel safe enough to permit either of us to go beyond the initial stages of our relationship. Even after I’ve given myself to You fully, I need to be reminded I am safe with You. I may like to feel the thrill and excitement of fear and the unknown, but I need to be sure no matter how You stimulate those emotions during an intense scene or situation, I will remain safe in Your care.

I need to know You accept me for all I am

  • I will be many things to You as our relationship grows and I need to know You accept me as a person during each transition along the way. I need to know You accept me as a friend, lover, companion, and Your submissive but also accept me as parent, child, employee, community member or other roles I fill in my obligations to family or society.

I need to have clearly defined limits

  • I need to know exactly what You expect of me and know that You also understand my limits. In some ways I am like a child that needs a fence around my play area so I know how far I can go and feel secure inside those limits. I need You to reinforce those fences by correcting me when I try to climb them without Your approval.

I need You to be consistent

  • I need to know You mean what You say and that today’s rules will apply to tomorrow’s behavior. Nothing confuses me more than giving me mixed signals by allowing me to break rules that You’ve given me. From time to time I may test You to see if You are capable of accepting control of my life by consistently bringing me back to the path You’ve chosen for me. It’s not done to try Your patience, but is my way of finding reassurance You are paying attention to my progress. Very often it’s not done consciously and I promise I’ll not use it as a method for provoking Your negative responses. Continue reading

Having a D/s Relationship – Why She Wants to Be Submissive

I did not write this, but found it out in the blogosphere.  Apparently it’s going around, but it is not known who wrote it.  I don’t agree with every single point, but for the most part, it rings true, and is full of excellent ideas on how to create a successful – and mutually fulfilling – D/s relationship.

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HAVING A D/S RELATIONSHIP

Like all my writings, this is more for myself than anyone else. Dominance and submission (D/s) has always been a part of my life, both my greatest torment when not understood by either myself and those I shared my thoughts with, and finally the source of greatest contentment and pride when I finally realized how beautiful and loving an exchange it is.
In a way, it is impossible to describe or explain it to another unless that person has the creativity and capacity to see its full potential to draw two people so close together that *everything* they have inside of them can be revealed and that is when they can be loved unconditionally and completely.

The only rule to d/s is that there are no rules. What each sub wants is different and takes varying forms. I am writing this with a particular sub in mind, and that is the kind of woman who is so full of love that she longs to give herself unreservedly to her Master. It is written for those women who want to be a full-time slavegirl, who enjoy the sensual pleasures of being spanked (and more!) and who want to be disciplined when they do not meet their own personal goals and the guidelines for behavior set by their Master.

WHY SHE WANTS TO BE SUBMISSIVE
The Importance of Submission
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In my conversations with submissive women, one thing stands out prominently and that is very very few men realize the importance that submission holds for her. It is far more than a physical experience, it is an emotional connection with you so meaningful that it contains her very soul. Continue reading

Threatening to Leave

The only time a threat to leave is valid, IMO, is when there is a serious problem that is or will become a deal-breaker if not dealt with.

There are threats, and then there are threats.

It’s one thing to just threaten to leave in order to fuck with someone’s head, or to threaten to leave over petty disagreements.

It’s a whole ‘nuther ball of wax when critical issues are at stake, to then tell someone specifically that if X doesn’t happen, or if Y happens again, then you will leave, that that would become a deal-breaker, and that you wouldn’t be able to stay in the relationship at that point. That’s a warning that something is seriously wrong that you haven’t been able to resolve, and an alert that if resolution is not found, you will not be able to stay.

That’s called setting boundaries – and healthy boundaries are essential things to have in life and in relationships.

It’s then just a statement of fact, of what is true for you.

It may mean you’ve got one foot already out the door, but it may also mean that you don’t really want to leave at all, but you’ll have to if whatever the problem is continues.  It’s a warning in that case, and a partner who values the relationship would do well to take it as a wake-up call that they are seriously fucking things up and attend to the issues in question if they want to keep their relationship.

Some things are just dealbreakers, and a threat to leave in the face of such is actually still offering the offender an opportunity to save things.

Incompatibility vs Uncaring/Abusive?

Dominants, how would you handle a sub/slave who acts this way or in a way you don’t like when you play with him/her but is someone you want to keep on your chain?

@redcheeks, I’d start by making sure I fully understood what was driving it, both in himself and my own self.  A savvy dominant will start to assess behavior he doesn’t like by first looking inside himself to see what he himself may be doing to cause it.

Then you go from there.

I’m not sure why I get so angry at him.

Anger at someone who is not respecting your needs and desires like this is perfectly normal, especially when it happens repeatedly.

Why do you have to figure out who’s at fault? How about just figuring out what’s wrong at the core? Blaming people isn’t productive. It’s actually very damaging.

@_Aine_, if you don’t identify what part of the problem is in your own hands vs what is not, then it’s much harder to address issues effectively – or to do anything about whatever your own role may be.

While it is usually true that it takes two to tango, the reality is that sometimes problems are much more clearly the fault of one party or the other.

I’m not saying that’s the case here, but it’s true in general.

Even when it is clearly two-sided, it’s still important to know who owns what part of the problem – and for both parties to recognize this.

Blame in the sense of locating the responsibility where it rightly belongs and not taking on someone else’s bad behaviors as one’s own responsibility is important to maintaining good boundaries, in BDSM as well as in the rest of life.

You are not less submissive if you can’t give him what he needs; you’re just not a pain slut and unable to take the level at which he’s able to give.

I could not have said that better myself, @MistressOrlando.  And objecting when a dominant continues to try to administer a level of pain which one cannot take, particularly after communicating that to him repeatedly, is an entirely reasonable response.

It may also be a compatibility issue as others have already mentioned, but it’s definitely a violation of limits for that particular sub if that same behavior and level of pain administration continues after the submissive has made it clear that she cannot take it, and particularly if she also makes it a new hard limit.  At that point, and particularly if it continues, then it’s just abusive.

If it really is a compatibility issue, and it’s something that the dominant cannot live without, he should end the relationship if a mutually acceptable solution cannot be worked out.  If he continues in the relationship, though, he has an absolute obligation to respect those limits.

Continue reading

I Miss… I Don’t Miss

12/22/09

Every morning I still awaken with the thought of how much I miss you, how much I want to be with you again, how much I miss being in your arms.

And then my mind changes course, and I correct it with the new thought what I miss is the good parts, not the bad. And I try to remember what they all were… Continue reading

On the Use of Labels in the BDSM World

This has become more and more of a pet peeve for me over the past several years.

No one fits neatly into any of these little boxes, in my experience. Even those who most seem to always have elements that don’t fit what someone else sees as “the definition”, once you get right down to it.

The older I get, the more I realize this – and the crankier it makes me to see everyone else and their cousin still wanting to stuff everyone into the same little boxes, and to make those boxes and labels mean the same thing to everyone – or more precisely, the same as it means to them. I’ve ranted about this publically for years in a variety of locations, but I’m crankier than ever about it.

We are much too complex to be reduced to one or two word definitions as labels to fully describe who we are, whatever those labels may be – at least any of us with more than a few functioning neurons who aren’t so completely damaged that we let anyone kick us around any way they want. The more neurons, the more complex, and the less well these labels generally function as definitions or descriptions.

Even doormats have limits and issues that may often belie whatever simple label anyone might hang on them. And God knows that even the most fully M/s-identified people certainly do. It’s never, ever as simple or clear-cut as it may look from the outside.

These labels are, at best, starting points for a discussion. Shorthand, if you will. Continue reading