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.

=========================================

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

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

Does the BDSM Community Enable Abuse?

In a post entitled Evidence that the BDSM community does not enable abuse, Clarisse Thorn posits that the existence of several different initiatives outlining the differences between BDSM and abuse indicates that we do not enable abuse.

While many such initiatives and lists demonstrating the difference between wiitwd and abuse certainly do exist within our “community” (and there are a number of others listed in the Links section on this blog), I have to conclude from my own experiences, observations, and the experiences and comments of many others that we may not actively condone abuse, but the very nature of BDSM relationships encourage it.

This is not a conclusion I have come easily to, but has become inescapable the more I talk to others about their experiences, the more I read on various social networks like Fetlife, and so on.

Unfortunately, the very nature of wiitwd, in this day and age, encourages and provides a haven for abusers.

No, it’s not officially sanctioned.  No, properly done, BDSM by itself is *not* abusive.

However, the very structure of a power exchange-based relationship and SM play sets up a situation in which abusers do indeed thrive, hiding much of what they do behind that cloak of D/s or SM, TPE slavery, etc.  It’s a perfect cover, for those who are inclined in an abusive direction. Continue reading