6 Things That Aren’t Topping from the Bottom
Ahhhh, topping from the bottom. That time honored tradition that either means a submissive has a lot to learn or one in dire need of reconfiguring their D/s relationship. Of course, unfortunately, sometimes the accusation or fear of topping from the bottom isn’t that at all.
So what does it mean to “top from the bottom?” In short (and there’s room for a lot of nuance and subtlety here), it happens when a bottom or submissive attempts to control a scene or a power exchange relationship.
While there are plenty of ways to top from the bottom, it’s also too common to be accused of doing it when you definitely aren’t. For submissives out there who aren’t sure, here are very specific things you can and/or should do that aren’t topping from the bottom, no matter what your “dom” says.
Having a Safeword
Not every kinkster plays with a safeword. For some, it’s a philosophical decision. While I may not agree with them, it’s their right. Here’s your right: if you want and need a safeword to feel, ya know, safer, you get to have one. The person who doesn’t want to use one doesn’t get to get kinky with you.
Having that as a hard and fast rule (which I recommend, especially when you’re new to kink or new to this D/s relationship) isn’t topping from the bottom. It’s taking care of yourself in one singular way. Having the safeword and believing it will be honored is a mark of your trust in your Dominant. Frankly, they should be happy you want one and willing to prove to you that you’ll be safe with them.
Using a Safeword
Ending a scene because the pain is too much, something doesn’t feel right, you’re terrified, a bad emotion has been triggered (and the list goes on) are all plenty of reasons to use your safeword. While good Dominants look out for cues that let them know something isn’t right, they’re not perfect. They might not see your distress at first. Using your safeword protects you both. The “dom” who thinks you’re trying to control the situation is the problem, not you.
Side note: using your safeword to get out of things you don’t want to do, avoid punishments, or skip hard conversations isn’t a responsible use of your safeword. That’s a moment when you need to be a grown-up and have hard conversations about what’s really going on.
Everyone has limits. Doms, subs, switches, everyone. Your limits will change over time. You’ll have experiences that teach you what your new limits are. Whether in the initial negotiation process or in follow-up conversations and renegotations, submissives should and are absolutely allowed to have their own limits. You can and should say you won’t do certain things or what you will do instead.
The “dom” who doesn’t respect those isn’t a Dominant. They’re an asshole, a potential or actual abuser, who could hurt you in too many ways. While Dominants are wary of the submissive who says they have no limits, you need to be careful, too. The “dom” that says their sub isn’t allowed to have limits is dangerous.
Expressing Your Needs
In a D/s relationship, the first conversation you have about what you need and want isn’t the last one you’ll ever have. Throughout your relationship, your needs will change. Sometimes they’ll change in a new and exciting way that allows you to explore a new kink. Other times, life will kick your ass with illness, a sick parent, a death in the family, worries about your kids, and money problems.
During those times you have every right to express what you need (or don’t) to your Dominant. Letting them know you need help or space is allowed. Asking for more kink or less of it is also okay. Remember, your Dom has to consent to it, but you should always have the freedom to share what you need and want in the moment and in the relationship.
Side note: How you express your needs may vary from relationship to relationship. The method you use to bring up an issue will be based on your protocol. If you find that method isn’t working, it’s time to talk about the protocol, too.
Renegotiating Your Dynamic
“Renegotiations” are a nice, fancy word for having conversations. We tend to use the term when we set up D/s relationships and then when we change things in a noticeable way. When John Brownstone and I went from being “Sir and pet” (yes, there was a time that was us) to “Daddy and babygirl” we had to talk about it (I mean, renegotiate). How would things change and what would it mean for us?
These conversations are normal parts of a growing, healthy relationship. As a submissive, you’re allowed to want or need a change and ask for it. Your Dominant has to consent to the change but wanting it doesn’t make you less submissive.
Discussing Rules, Protocols, and Punishments
In the beginning of your D/s relationship, you and your Dominant set up the rules, protocols, and punishments. Some of this was based on previous experience or personal preference. No plan stays the same forever. What you thought you wanted or need will likely change. Maybe you discovered that certain things have a negative impact on you. Hell, maybe you totally accept punishment as a concept but want to understand why it’s happening now.
All of these (and many other) conversations about your rules, protocols, and punishments are your right to have. Your D/s relationship isn’t a dictatorship; it’s a partnership. In order to continue giving your consent, you can and should talk about every single part of your dynamic. Yes, even the rules and the punishments you don’t love.
Side note: Once you consent to the rules, protocol, and punishments, you should adhere to them as best as you can in a way that keeps you safe and healthy. Don’t refuse to do something “just because” if that’s not part of your dynamic. But also don’t keep doing something that can cause potential physical, emotional, or financial harm. Talk to your Dominant immediately instead.
Ultimately a D/s relationship is what the people involved make of it. While some dynamics may require higher protocol or stricter rules, no relationship should ignore open communication, the sharing of needs, and changes that will help you both grow together. The kink may be what a lot of people focus on, but D/s is about helping two (or more) people become better, happier, more satisfied versions of themselves. Communication, safety, and expressing your needs as a submissive are part of that. Whatever else those things may be, they definitely aren’t topping from the bottom.
Now it’s your turn. Are there other things that have been called “topping from the bottom” that you think are anything but? Share in the comments below or on Twitter!