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Topping from the bottom

Topping from the bottom versus communicating needs and expectations.

I have been a Dominatrix/Domme for over 20 years. I have practiced in person play-both lifestyle and professionally, I have played via cam, via phone, and via text. Each of these have pros and cons as well as details in the way they are done. One thing that is common across all of these platforms is the necessity of clear communication between Top/Domme and bottom/sub.

There is a common saying in the world of BDSM and that is “topping from the bottom”. It is generally frowned upon and extremely frustrating for the Top/Domme to deal with. Topping from the bottom is when the bottom/sub in the scene is telling the Top/Domme what to do, how to do it etc. 

When this happens it messes with the power dynamic in the scene or relationship. Many people getting involved with kink and BDSM will hear how awful topping from the bottom is and go so far the other way that they are afraid of speaking up at all. There is a need to find a balance and the communication between each pairing will be unique.

It is incredibly important that people understand how necessary communication is in a power dynamic whether this is in lifestyle play or professional play. There is a huge space for miscommunication and misunderstandings. Here are some of the expectations and responsibilities of Tops and of bottoms before, during, and after play time.

Before play the Top is responsible to discuss expectations of the scene (scene is the play time), the tools being used, safe words* being used, hard limits**, soft limits***, interests, likes, dislikes, and they must be able to trust that the bottom will answer and communicate honestly as play progresses. Bottom is responsible to answer all questions honestly, to voice what they are excited, curious, or scared of. To communicate their limits and understand the safe words being used.

During play the Top is responsible for sticking to agreed upon limits, checking in regularly both with safe words and with asking about specifics depending on the activities being completed. They are also responsible for checking on body responses and safety measures (ex. Rope play not cutting off circulation, flogging not hitting organs, cutting not hitting veins, etc). The bottom is responsible to maintain an awareness of their body responses, honest answers to check ins of safe words, and not be afraid to stop play at any time. Too often a bottom wants to be “tough” or show they can take anything but this is dangerous both during play as well as how it can lead to a tough drop during after care. It’s so important to honour your body and its responses.

After play the Top is responsible to make sure that there is proper food and drink options available (natural sugar, water, protein) as well as a safe and comforting space (blankets, warm shower etc), a debrief conversation of the scene and as much time as it takes for the sub to be ok. The bottom is responsible to take some time, eat and drink, be honest in debrief about what they liked and didn’t like. There is no set time to after care, it can take 10 min, it can take 2 hours. It depends on how high the adrenaline levels hit, how intense the play was, how long the debrief takes. Both people have to be invested in as long as it takes. Professionals have to find the line of paid time and clients who just want more for free.

Now that we understand what the responsibilities and expectations are of each party throughout the time, we can discuss specifically how laziness, unwillingness to communicate and topping from the bottom are different. We talked a little about how people are afraid to communicate their needs, desires, expectations, etc because they don’t want to be seen as topping from the bottom. Expressing something like “oh, I don’t like how that toy hits, can we please not use it” is very different than “NO, not like that, you have to hit like this...” It really is about the intention behind the words and the words themselves. Speak with respect to the power dynamic as well as be honest.

The other point I see a fair bit of, only in online play, is just pure laziness. Laziness in not understanding the power dynamic or how BDSM works, laziness in communicating needs and interests. These are the people who say things like “just Dominate me”, “I like everything”, I want to do what you enjoy”. This is sheer laziness and always gets them quite the lecture. Domination is an umbrella term that covers about 1000 different things, so details are required. Usually, these guys are just looking to be told how to play, some JOI or something nice and tame. My reply is usually, you can tell me what you really want or you can grab a hammer and some nails and we can have some real fun with your balls! They suddenly are able to find the words to describe what they want~

So be confident in speaking your needs and be respectful of the power dynamic. Going about it the right way can ensure an amazing experience for all involved.

*Safe words are words exchanged between Top and bottom as to how the scene is going and when a pause or stop is needed. Commonly used are Red-stop completely, Yellow-that’s the max, no more, Green-yes, keep going. Each pairing of Top/bottom will have agreed upon words prior to play time.

**Hard limits are techniques, tools, or practices that either the Top or bottom are firmly against and are not to be done under any circumstance in this scene. Both parties maintain the right to change or alter what their hard limits are from one scene to the next.

***Soft limits are techniques, tools or practices that either the Top or bottom don’t have a lot of

experience in but are interested in trying. Expectations are low and there is an understanding that there will be extra check ins and more detail in the debrief

~I would never actually have someone drive nails through their balls, it’s simply an extreme example to make a point on the importance of communication.

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