“Topping from the Bottom”: what it is NOT.

I cringe and bristle when I hear the phrase “topping from the bottom” It is often used as a pejorative within the Leather and BDSM community to denote one who is in the position of receiving sensation (the bottom) directing or “topping” from what “should be” a subordinate place.

The problem I have is this: the term top and bottom Do not OF NECESSITY denote a relinquishing of power, or submission to another’s will.  One can “bottom” without being submissive. Bottoming really just means that you are the one on the receiving end of the whip, bondage, flogger, etc.

A bottom has EVERY RIGHT and, I’ll add, the RESPONSIBILITY, to make sure that the scene is as they have called, because they are there to get their fucking rocks off.

And how they get their rocks off may be very particular.

If they leave that shit up to guesswork on the part of the top, and the top doesn’t get it right, who bears the responsibility there?

Often the term is also used to smack down “pushy” or “unsubmissive” slave or submissive types. 

I will agree that passive-aggressive behaviour isn’t sexy. Whining and puling and moaning to goad a partner into the type of behaviour you want isn’t the essence of submitting. 

It is lame ass fuckery.



It isn’t always about that.  For some, the “bratty sub” who pouts and resists is hot. And for others, pleasing the bottom or submissive is PRECISELY what gets them off. And the folk’s I know who are “Compassionate Sadists” [i.e. a person whose sadism is dependant on the masochistic pleasure of their partner] are secure enough within their kink to accept guidance from their bottom and relish the feedback. It is an excellent mark of healthy communication.

And all too often, people look at the components of a behaviour and miss the soul of service within.

Years ago, back when I was still in Formal Leather Service to my first Trainer, I was out with him, 2 other subs in his House, and a group of about 20 kinky people.

The local Kinky Flea Markethad been the amusement for the afternoon, and we were catching our collective breath prior to heading to the CastleBar (RIP, CastleBar!) for the kick ass ass-kickings that were sure to follow an afternoon shopping for floggers and bindings and whips. (Oh. My.)

We went to Timo’s (RIP, Timo’s!) a Tapas restaurant that was well-known to me. Now, having 24 people at one long-ass table at a restaurant, especially a Tapas place, is a recipe for “Check, please!” epic disaster.

People started discussing who had cash, who had credit, who was not drinking, who was vegetarian…I felt this tremendous anxiety building. I wanted everyone to just be happy and have a nice meal. Plus, too many tops spoil the damned supper. Fo’reals.

I spoke aside to my Trainer and asked if he’d approve me handling this. He nodded and said “Of course.”

I stood at the end of the table, clapped my hands to get everyone’s attention.

I advised the group of the fact that, unless we had some consensus, this was not necessarily going to be a pleasant experience. I took a quick survey to see how much cash everyone was comfortable spending. I asked who had that amount in available cash, and who might need to put it on a card. I gathered those who were vegetarian in one section, those who were drinking in another, with enough overlap to break down the checks fairly. I re-arranged the seating to take these factors into account. I ordered for the table, assisted the waiter in disbursing the plates as the kitchen cranked them out, made sure everyone was fed, and when the check came I made sure that everyone paid their fair share, and that the waiter was well taken care of.

Several “dominants” at the table seemed nonplussed. They asked my Trainer if I was actually in service training, since I’d spent most of the evening telling people what to do. 

“Kinda bossy topping from the bottom type, isn’t she. She must be a handful.””

He smiled.

“Was she topping from the bottom? Telling people what to do, or relieving you of the annoyance and burden of worrying about what had to be done? When was the last time you went out with such a large group, ate your fill, knew what the check was going to be, and then had everything fall into place? That is what a well trained slave or submissive does for you: they make your life that much easier. They smooth the path. And they take pride in it.”

I’ll tell you this…more than one dominant was second-guessing their assumptions that evening.

Plus I love the “Awwww snap!! In your FACE, bitches!!” aspect of the thing. And I appreciated that he acknowledged the heart of the work I’d done.

Serving someone can often don the wolf’s hide of dominance.

A personal trainer is your employee, but they bust your ass to insure that you meet your desired goals. A person in service can often fulfill that role.

The trick is to do it with joy, and from a place of willingness, and because it fills your heart.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


  1. lalana on November 18, 2008 at 3:30 AM

    Love it… most in our vanilla world assume that I’m “in charge” for the simple fact that I do the organizing, the planning, the executing. But they’re not seeing that I do it to please Master, to relieve him of a burden he has no desire to shoulder. Those that know the slave me know that I’m doing it in service to him, that it’s part of my responsibility, part of my submission. Working on letting people know gently that while I may appear to be the controlling one, everything I do is driven by Master… without sharing too much info. What a fine line that is!

  2. lea_lesclave on November 18, 2008 at 8:33 AM

    “Was she topping from the bottom? Telling people what to do, or relieving you of the annoyance and burden of worrying about what had to be done?


  3. Katie on November 18, 2008 at 11:55 AM

    perhaps we should think of another name for the bottom, it sounds degrading sometimes

  4. Coy Pink on November 18, 2008 at 3:19 PM

    BRAVA! An excellent, excellent piece.

    “And the folk’s I know who are “Compassionate Sadists” [i.e. a person whose sadism is dependant on the masochistic pleasure of their partner] are secure enough within their kink to accept guidance from their bottom and relish the feedback.”

    That part describes my husband almost to a tee. Sometimes I feel like I don’t want to describe any of our play as D/s related because it seems there are too many “rules” and always someone out there waiting to tell us we’re “doing it wrong.” I’m a firm believer that if it works for us, we’re not doing anything incorrectly. Your post just reinforced to me that there’s not ONE right way to be dominant and submissive. It’s a spectrum.

  5. Eliot on November 18, 2008 at 8:28 PM

    Thank you for writing this, Mo! I get pretty sick of someone calling out a sub for “topping from the bottom” over being a little bratty or what have you. I LOVE to be bratty on occasion, but I never forget who is the dominant and who is the submissive.

  6. dominadoll on November 19, 2008 at 6:58 AM

    Excellent explanation of topping/bottoming. I wish everyone looked at it this way. I find, many peeps in the D/s community (at least where I live) are very hung up on labels and whose in charge, and don’t realize the value of communication and the sharing exchange in a relationship like this. I think it has to do a lot with “Tops” being afraid that they really have no “power” or giving up what they perceive as their “power”. It really comes down to confidence I think, cause a true Top can give as well as take.