Ever since Christian Grey told Ana that she was “topping from the bottom” in Fifty Shades Freed, there has been a lot of discussion around what the term actually means. Many people were only familiar with the term ‘top’ and ‘bottom’ when discussed in relation to gay sex, not BDSM relationships. In this blog post, we’ll explain what the phrase means, why it’s bad, and how it can be avoided.
What does topping from the bottom mean?
Topping from the bottom is a BDSM expression. It occurs when a submissive actively tries to exert control over their dominant. This could be through acts of disobedience, or a dismissive attitude towards requests.
Why does topping from the bottom happen?
Topping from the bottom usually happens because the submissive either doesn’t respect the dominant, or wishes to be dominated more intensely. Rather than discussing their feelings with their dominant (out of play), some submissives decide to rebel in the same way that a child does if they don’t get what they want.
What are the signs of topping from the bottom?
1. The submissive disagrees with decisions
Before engaging in a new dom/sub relationship all of the boundaries, punishments, preferences and limits would have already been discussed. If, after this discussion (and follow-up discussions) the submissive continues to disagree with the dominant then this is a form of ‘topping from the bottom’. One example of this could be the submissive trying to convince the dominant to use a different paddle during spanking or not be willing to use the BDSM sex toys that the dom has laid out.
2. The submissive ignores requests
A submissive should always submit. The word submit is derived from the Latin word submittere which means “to lower, reduce, yield.” By ignoring requests from the dominant, the submissive is clearly failing to submit. The submissive may ignore requests in the bedroom, or intentionally show up late during your dedicated sessions. Remember, topping from the bottom can also be non-verbal.
3. The submissive might try to negotiate
A dom/sub relationship isn’t a business partnership. However, a submissive who is trying to top from the bottom might try to treat it as one now and then. This is often referred to as ‘conditional submission’. An example of this is a submissive saying “If you do X for me, I’ll do Y for you because I know that you like it’. This is not how a dom/sub relationship should work. A submissive should enjoy pleasing their Master regardless of what they do, or do not do in return.
4. The submissive pulls away from the dominant
In a dom/sub relationship the submissive surrenders fully to the dominant – mind, body and soul. This means the dominant can touch the submissive anywhere, any time, and any place. It is their right to do this for as long as the relationship lasts. If a submissive is topping from the bottom they might pull away, or expressly state that they do not wish to be touched.
Why is topping from the bottom bad?
Topping from the bottom isn’t the cause of a bad BDSM relationship. It’s usually a symptom. Usually a submissive will try to top from the bottom if the rules of engagement were unclear from the outset. This is a problem because clear rules are necessary in the BDSM relationship to ensure that both sides enjoy their time together, in a safe and trusting environment.
Furthermore, topping from the bottom is a type of manipulation when done frequently. Manipulation in any other relationship would be viewed poorly and a BDSM relationship is no different.
Why do submissives top from the bottom?
1. They want to test the boundaries
If the submissive is in their first dom/sub relationship they may wish to test the boundaries. The submissive could become quite bratty and temperamental too. The dominant should try harder to keep their submissive in check if they can handle this behaviour. If not, they should choose to dissolve the relationship.
2. The dominant is a novice
Sometimes the idea of being a dominant can be more appealing than the reality. An experienced submissive may take advantage of the leniency, or inexperience of a new dominant. Here, the dominant should use expert guides to ensure that they become a better dominant.
3. The submissive isn’t really submissive
The submissive may enjoy being submissive on occasion, rather than long term. A person who has an interest in power-exchange relationships might realise that although they’re interested in submission they would be a better dominant. It might just come more naturally to them. If this is the case the relationship should end and the submissive should find a new partner.
How can you stop topping from the bottom?
Training means encouraging behaviors you like and discouraging the undesirable actions. Following your conversation, if it seems like the submissive isn’t completely sure how to act and what rules to follow they should voluntarily agree to training. Training can be highly beneficial for submissives, especially if they are new to BDSM relationships.
To stop topping from the bottom, communication is key. Some submissives may not want to start a conversation about how they are really feeling so we recommend that the dominant kicks things off. Never get angry and ensure that these conversations take place before, or after play – never during.
These are some of the questions that you may wish to ask:
- Why are you choosing to behave like this?
- Is there anything that could be done differently in this relationship?
- Have your desires changed since the start of the relationship?
- Would you like the BDSM contract to be reviewed?
- Would you prefer to be a dominant, or be with another dominant?
After talking through these questions, and actively listening, you may realise that this partner isn’t for you and instead seek out a new partner.
If you loved this blog post, you’ll love our blog on how to be a good submissive.