We had a really good discussion about basic impact and topping at a recent BDSM workshop, and it reminded me of some things I’ve noticed and learned in the process of starting to top.
When I first started topping publicly, I was almost immediately overwhelmed with requests for me to top people. While I was flattered and most people were very respectful in how they asked, others were (unintentionally) pressuring me in ways that was overwhelming for me at the time. I got requests in person, on fetlife… it’s a lot to deal with when you’re new to it.
Topping can be exhausting and emotionally draining for newbies (and even experienced tops).
It takes a LOT out of me. The more that I have to think about, the harder the scene is. That’s why I usually prefer to stick to things I know I can do safely (such as paddles and spanking vs floggers that I can’t aim properly yet). I also prefer co-topping whenever I’m doing something new.
Every time I do something with a new bottom I need to learn and remember another person’s hard limits, medical concerns, aftercare needs, negotiation/communication style, pain tolerance, subspace potential, and prepare to be there for them days afterwards in case they have sub-drop. And when you top people once, it’s often assumed that you will top them again even if that was never negotiated, which can add unintended pressure for the top afterwards. Plus there is always the chance that a new bottom may get unintentionally triggered and freak out, or medical complications may occur that weren’t prepared for. There is a lot of responsibility involved with topping someone new.
When I’m severely stressed or dealing with mental health complications, I will not top. I am not experienced enough to compensate for that and I will not put a bottom at risk. Plus, it’s not good for me either for many reasons. There are times when I get the urge to dominate someone else in order to feel back in control, but that’s something I can only do with people I am incredibly close to in the right way and have a LOT of trust with.
Tops can be emotionally manipulated or guilted into doing scenes, and that’s not ok.
If you ask someone to top you and they say they can’t or don’t feel comfortable doing it, and then you act very sad afterwards or talk about how nobody ever wants to top you, that can border on emotional manipulation in some situations. If they say no, just accept it. If they want to top you later, they’ll approach you.
Trust goes both ways. Just like a bottom has to trust that their top will respect them and not harm them past what they want, a top needs to be able to trust the bottom too. We need to know that we will not be pressured to do things we’re not comfortable with, and that our boundaries and comfort levels will also be respected.
A better way to do it: When approaching a new top or top-in-training to ask them to top you, you can say something like “Hey! I noticed you’re topping now, that’s great! If you ever want another bottom I’d love to do a scene with you.” This relieves pressure by offering the invitation in such a way that the top can then approach you if and when they feel comfortable topping you.
Summing it up:
- Trust and comfort goes both ways.
- If they’re not comfortable topping you, PLEASE don’t take it personally. It can ruin someone’s day to have to turn you down and see you get very upset because you think they don’t like you.
- If someone only does one scene with you, don’t be angry or hurt that another one didn’t happen. Be happy that you had that one experience with the person. Not every scene will turn into a regular play partnership, even if it was a really good scene, and that’s ok.
- Understand that they may not be comfortable taking risks that you’re ok with. Tops are responsible for your safety; you may be fine with certain things but they’re the ones actually hitting you and they are responsible for harm that might occur. Don’t pressure them to do things they’re not ready for.
- Don’t ever pressure or emotionally manipulate people into doing scenes or activities that they don’t want to do. No means no. Saying “maybe someday” or “I don’t feel comfortable doing XYZ right now” is not an invitation to convince us that we should be comfortable with it, or to guilt us into it. Just because we’re tops doesn’t mean our boundaries can’t be pushed or violated.