I have been meaning to write a post about topping from the bottom for a while. For quite a long time, in fact. Why? Because it is a term which is bandied around in submissive circles and I often disagree with its use. Technically speaking, topping from the bottom is when a bottom (or sub) takes control and manipulates the Top or Dom into doing what they want. Essentially they lead the scene. The expression became mainstream when it was used by Christian Grey in 50 Shades Freed and I feel it has been misrepresented in other areas too.
What are my issues with topping from the bottom?
Well essentially, it is impossible to give examples of what exactly topping from the bottom is. I did a quick google search on the topic before writing this post and I would argue against many of the examples that have been used to illustrate its meaning. It is a little like trying to explain what irony is. It depends on context, and yes, I did have issue with Alanis Morrissette too! On its own “a fly in your chardonnay” is simply annoying and not ironic. On its own a sub asking to do or not do something is a respectful request and not a move to usurp.
This is why there is a problem. Taking control from the Dom in a power exchange dynamic and what that entails will be dependent on that particular power exchange and the balance of power within it. No two relationships are the same. We each agree on the way the balance of power is divided and so only we can know when that has been challenged. What would be a challenge to one would be an acceptable suggestion to another. And I have other issues with it too.
The top is in charge so how can you top a top?
Basically, I don’t understand it. A Dominant’s role is to lead the power exchange. To suggest that they can be manipulated into giving up power they don’t want to give up in way which is topping from the bottom suggests they are not in control and are not using their own Dominance. Surely if they were, they would assume control and nip things in the bud? And if they don’t and they go with what the submissive has requested or suggested or intimated then it will surely be because they, as the party in charge, have decided that is what they want to do.
Now my attitude and thought process may set me with the liberal brand of new submissive who are so busy topping from the bottom that we are not even aware that our blog posts offend those from the old guard. But no matter how you choose to apply my submissive categorisation, I am only submissive to my Dominant. I follow the rules that he sets. I am disciplined and trained as he sees fit, and therefore no one else is in a position to rightfully measure my actions and behaviour and determine whether or not they are a challenge to the power exchange that we have agreed upon.
So why is topping from the bottom even a thing?
Were I to find myself in a different D/s relationship, I would fully expect to follow a different set of rules and for the exchange of power to be set up in a different way to the way that HL and I have it now. Each relationship has its own agreed terms. These will be set out on a daily basis by the Dominant through the expectations they have for their submissive. They will make sure that the expectations are met in a way which pleases them, but only them. They are in control of this and lead this side of the dynamic. For this reason, there should be no space for topping from the bottom.
Unless of course your Dominant is bottoming from the Top. In which case it gets confusing as I can’t even begin to think about how that might work. Although basically if you are both ok with it,, whatever it looks like or however it works, then roll with it and just don’t make it a thing. And if that is the case and you are ok with it and aren’t making it a thing, then why do others need to make it one. And I think that is my biggest issue. Why is it even a thing?
Pushing boundaries and learning through action
I think that the whole fear, and beleive me it is one for a new submissive, is negative as it can prevent growth and the pushing of boundaries. If we all came into this with vast quantities of knowledge and experience and we were also mind-readers and knew out partners so intimately that we had nothing to learn, then perhaps we could set up the perfect power exchange. But life is not like that. We can never know everything there is to know about another human being and if your job is to manage them and meet their needs through your own control of their behaviour then, sometimes, it will be trial and error.
And when we are learning by trial and error we can help by providing some direction or suggestion. This is not topping from the bottom, it is using common sense. It is what happens when you are invested in a relationship and in its outcome and you are supportive and attuned to the other person. Communicating effectively and being an active part of your dynamic is one of the things that will allow your relationship to flourish and grow. It will allow you to realise shared fantasies and make sure that things are safe.
A couple of points to conclude my rant
I think that the term topping from the bottom is unhelpful. I think it should be quickly tossed onto the huge pile of misconceptions and misleading terms associated with D/s. I think that it is as unhelpful reinforcer of the stereotype of a submissive as a weak, passive person who cannot think for themselves or manage their own issues. It belongs on the scrap-heap of D/s terminology which is nestled in the corner of the library of media which perpetuates unhelpful myths about what a power exchange dynamic has to be. It belong to the book of One True Way and I for the reasons above I feel it is a load of old bollocks.
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