What Type of BDSM Top or Bottom Are You?

No matter how much some of us might protest that we “don’t want to be labeled or put in a box”, the roles we occupy in BDSM form an essential part of our negotiation. It is not simply about playing a part in a fantasy, though that can be an important element in the turn-on. It is one of the main ways in which expectation can be matched, a scene can be held together when the going gets tough and, most importantly, safety can be maintained.

Fundamental to our identity in this aspect of our lives is the adoption of the role of Top or bottom. BDSM is a game for equals played out in a theatre of inequality. While the game is in progress, the two (or more) players take on the nature of their chosen role and adopt the actions and expectations that come with that role.

I am using the terms Top and bottom in this post deliberately, because other terms are always problematic. Sadists are often not Doms, masochists aren’t necessarily subs, slaves distance themselves from submissives, not to mention the score of other things we call ourselves or identity with: pet, littlegirl, leatherboy, Daddy etc etc. Often the terms Top and bottom are used to signify “in a short-time play-role only”, and I think that is covered here, but also feel free to impose your own words over the top of mine in this post. If you want to think about Master/slave or Dom/sub while you read it, feel free to change the language.

That said, there is a much wider range of types of Top and bottom roles than may at first appear obvious. I have found it is important to establish what kind of bottom I am playing with and what kind of Top he needs and wants. If these prove incompatible, it is probably best not to go further.

THE DOMINANT TOP

The Dominant Top is the archetype from which all other active roles derive. He takes control; he decides what discipline is to be administered, in what manner, how hard and how long. He shapes the scene and dictates its form. A Dominant Top expects the bottom to do as he is told and to take what action is allotted to him. If the bottom resists or talks back, the Top will quell such inappropriate behavior and deal with it as he deems appropriate.

But from the basic role, I have found there to be many variants. These are some I have met over the years:

THE AGGRESSIVE TOP

AIM: To break the bottom down through direct physical force

The Aggressive Top treats his bottom roughly and pushes him hard. He is often cold and aloof  – an arrogant, brutal and, lets face it, frightening figure. He is not affectionate and does not console or encourage his bottom. He lays the strap, paddle or cane on hard and shows little mercy.

Being bottom to this kind of Top is no place for uncertainty or panic. In the right frame of mind, it can be exhilarating, because you have NO choice but to take it and the Top cares little for how much you whimper, beg or squeal. But, if that’s not your hot mindspace, you could come out of a session with this Top feeling like you have been brutally beaten up.

THE ABUSIVE TOP

AIM: To break the bottom down through humiliation

The Abusive Top treats the bottom with distain. The bottom becomes his slave; mistreated, insulted and mentally demeaned. Some such scenes ONLY involve the giving and taking of orders, and He could well be an expert at reducing a grown man to tears just by talking to him, without even raising his voice. Pain play is often secondary to dirty play and verbal abuse. An Abusive Top will commonly piss on his slave, over his face, into his mouth. Spit on him. Force him to undertake demeaning tasks, eat dog food or lick cum from the floor. All the while he pours scorn on his subject. When he does beat him, he will ridicule his responses and mock his tears.

While this is extreme when taken to this extent, there are rituals of degradation that have become formalised into wider BDSM Play, when the action is much more emotionally warm. Licking his Master’s boots, taking his cum and piss in his mouth, kneeling before a leather-clad Top awaiting the next beating: these can all find their way into the broader realm of BDSM Play. They are potent because they suggest or evoke the abject nature of slavery, but usually without the unrelenting and soul-destroying scorn and disregard.

As with all BDSM games, it is very important for both sides to understand in their heart the difference between their fantasies and the things they wish to experience in reality, full-throttle. However, for those bottoms that are into this action, there seems to be a deep calm at the other end of this purgatory which makes the scene deeply fulfilling for them.

THE PASSIVE TOP

AIM: To deliver the discipline decided by the bottom

The Passive Top is perhaps the least expected variant, but they do exist. Here, while the Top administers the discipline, he does so either under the instruction of the bottom or along lines pre-arranged by the bottom. These frequently take the form of being told the number of strokes and the implement. The attraction, I guess, is that it “absolves” the Top from any guilt he may feel about beating the bottom, whilst still affording him the pleasure of the action. The problem with this kind of scene is commonly that the bottom never lets go, and so the electricity of the scene never starts to flow.

THE RESPONSIVE TOP

AIM: To “read” the bottom and to shape the action to the need he perceives and to what he himself desires

The Responsive Top does not do as he is told, but he is sensitive to how the bottom is responding and he does read the situation to ensure the most intense and fulfilling action for both sides. He is certainly not looking for instruction from the bottom. His knowledge, experience and intuition allow him to read the scene, often to the extent that he can see the need to change the nature of the play or complete a beating even when, at the time, the bottom thinks otherwise. The Responsive Top will also be able to intuit when to introduce sensuality or offer affection, and when to play hard and appear stern. A Responsive Top is therefore much more likely to embrace a wide range of moods and characteristics within a single scene, rather than stay within one character type or defined form of interaction.

THE SWITCH

AIM: To take on the role of Top or bottom, depending on the situation

Some Switches play both Top and bottom in a scene, usually with another Switch, but more commonly guys will sometimes play Top and at others play bottom, depending on how they feel and who they are with, and maintain only one role in the encounter.

THE SUBMISSIVE BOTTOM

The submissive bottom is the archetype from which all other passive roles derive. He is submissive, obedient and, hopefully, resilient. A submissive bottom will do as he is told and take what action is allotted to him. He knows that if he resists or talks back in any way that the Top will treat such behaviour harshly.

But again, from this basic role I have found there to be a number of variants. These are some I have met over the years:

THE INSOLENT BOTTOM (ALSO KNOWN AS BRATS OR SAMS)

AIM: To incite increasing amounts of discipline until either he breaks or his insolence wins through

Picture the role of the naughty schoolboy or teenage brat. This is a role intended to attract discipline to the bottom through “inappropriate” behaviour. In fact, it can be a way in which the bottom can, to some extent, influence the action. As long as he is cheeky, he knows he will get what’s coming. When he eventually sees the error of his ways, he might hope that the Top will consider his work done.

THE COMBATIVE BOTTOM

AIM: To physically struggle with the top, eventually to be overcome and dominated

While the insolent bottom resists mentally and in terms of attitude, the combative bottom (sometimes called the resistant bottom) physically fights back until he is eventually overcome. The struggle knocks some of the energy out of the bottom, and the rough and tumble gets both the adrenaline and the endorphins flowing. It is a game of vanquisher and vanquished, very physical and usually resulting in heavy action when the Top has completely mastered the bottom and sets about disciplining him. In some scenes the administering of pain by the Top is very much part of the struggle, in others it is mainly focused on the bound body of the finally overcome bottom. If you’ve seen the film Fight Club, you can probably see the attractions and pitfalls of such a scene.

THE HUMILIATION BOTTOM

AIM: To let go of all self-esteem and plumb the depths of his soul

The natural counterpart to the Abusive Top, the role permits the bottom to let go completely, not only with regard to pain and freedom, but many other taboos. Often involving dirty play and always involving a display of contempt by the Top, the role is one of degradation and debasement. Again, as with the Abusive Top, some of these actions – bootlicking, piss-play and so on – find their way into wider BDSM due to their potent symbolism.

A word of caution about this one. Humiliation play can involve dirty games such as scat and blood play. They carry very real risks. If you intend to play this way, be very sure you are fully informed of the dangers.

THE BOSSY BOTTOM

AIM: To control the action and navigate his own pain thresholds

The bossy bottom is, of course, the natural partner of the Passive Top. While the exact manner in which the play unfolds can vary, it is the bottom that maintains control. Often this is in terms of setting the number of strokes to be administered and the implement to be used. He will take in full what has been agreed upon. To that extent, he can be pushed past his limits, but it is his choice. Sessions with bossy bottoms can be a bit like athletic training in which the bottom sets his targets and the Top simply puts him through his paces, so not all Tops enjoy these sessions.

A variation on the bossy bottom is the “do-me sub”. If you’re on any online profile sites you’ll recognise this guy as the one with a profile that says “i like this and this and i want someone to do this and this to me” and who then sends you a message asking if you are into cum-control, or tying him up with silk scarves. The do-me sub knows exactly what they want, but they need someone else to perform their fantasies for them.

If this describes you, then it will always be best to make it very clear in advance to avoid disappointment or real conflict. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be in control, but not all Doms like it. Do-me subs are quite easy to spot (and a common Dom response is “what’s in it for me?”, so let the negotiations begin), but bossy bottoms can sometimes fly under the radar until incompatibility comes to light too late.

THE RESPONSIVE BOTTOM

AIM: To bring his imagination and emotional honesty to amplify the action delivered by the top.

Being a bottom is about submission and obedience, but it is not about being a lump of meat to which things are done. The power that drives the dynamic of a scene arcs between the imaginations of both players like electrical current. Both players are generators of that imaginative and emotional energy.

It is My pleasure and honour to have this type of bottom in My life. They follow the play with great subtlety and open themselves up emotionally, baring their souls. That intensity is what draws me to BDSM play and makes it so satisfying to be a Top.

I’m not sure that being a responsive bottom is a learned thing. I know that a novice who is just getting the hang of the game can get totally into the action and respond with such uncomplicated honesty that it can take My breath away.

OTHER TOPS AND BOTTOMS

We do not live in a paradigm. The “types” I have outlined above are not real people, but collections of characteristics. Real people are much more complex. They involve mixes of the above traits. They bring nuances all of their own. They change with time and circumstance. But as a guide mapping out some of the main styles of activity, I hope this is useful both generally to anyone reading it, and, particularly to anyone planning to negotiate a scene with someone new.

FURTHER READING

• Quiz – What’s Your BDSM Role?
• Quiz – What Kind of Submissive Are You?
• A Kinkster’s Guide – Types of Dominance
• A Submissive’s Journey – Dominant Types and their Submissive Counterparts
• Submissive Guide – The Many Faces of Submission
• A Submissive’s Journey – 7 Types of Internet Submissives
• dominationsubmission – The Main Types of Submission in BDSM: submissive, slave and pet
• The Submission of Elle – Dominant and Submissive Types

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