Let’s talk about topping from the bottom. If you search the topic online, you’ll pull up tons of articles saying why it’s B-A-D.
This accusation has been leveled at subs, of all types, for decades, but what does it actually mean? Are you doing it without being aware? Is it really a huge problem?
This is a big topic with a lot of facets to discuss so I’ll be breaking it up into two sections.
What is Topping from the bottom?
To be honest, the phrase is so broad that it can be made to mean almost anything the Top wants it to mean, and sometimes that’s an issue. I’ve seen Dominants use it to crush a submissive’s spirit. I’ve seen it used to make a sub feel bad simply for having any needs, and that’s a real problem.
It can make a submissive doubt themselves. Too often it’s used as an insult. I think in general it’s overused by Dominants, and in some cases, there are better phrases to describe what’s happening.
But sometimes, it can be a useful term to describe a situation where the sub is having trouble relaxing, and letting go of the reins so the Top can take control, so it’s not always a terrible thing.
But let’s start with the basics. Topping from the bottom is when the person on the bottom (submissive, slave, brat, Little, etc) tries to force the person on the top (Top, Dom, Master, Daddy, etc) to do what they want either by demanding something, or by manipulation.
It can happen during the scene if the sub is trying to direct the Dom to do what they like: “No, spank harder! Not like that! Okay, now rub a little!” Or it can be related to relationship issues and how they want the dynamic to go.
My personal opinion, and you are welcome to disagree, is that ‘topping from the bottom’ is often just stating needs and wants, which any partner in a relationship should be allowed to do. Now, I do say ‘often’ which definitely means not always, but we’ll come back to that.
My Dom said I do this, but I don’t think I do!
Almost every submissive will occasionally top from the bottom. We are not raised to submit our will to someone else all the time, and never try to break out of that mold. I’ve done it, and I’m sure most submissives reading this can think of at least one time they’ve forgotten their role, and tried to run things.
A quick reminder or correction usually fixes it.
But it’s entirely possible to top from the bottom without being aware at the time. Many of us, outside of our D/s dynamics, are used to being in control of a large portion of our lives. Letting go of that, and sitting in the passenger seat, while someone else drives, can be difficult.
The urge to be a backseat driver is always a temptation. Maybe you have an image in your head of how you want the scene to go, but your Dominant is doing something different. It can be hard not to try to urge them to shift their focus to something you would like better.
And a lot of times it’s how you handle it that makes the difference. “Sir, would you please…” is not topping from the bottom. “Ma’am, please… I need…” is not topping from the bottom. You are requesting something you would like.
Your Dominant can refuse you. They can tease you about the request. They can make you beg and humiliate yourself to get what you want. All of that is perfectly in keeping with a D/s dynamic.
“If you don’t let me come, I’m going to safeword and go do it myself!” is topping from the bottom. You aren’t requesting. You are demanding and threatening. There’s also a level of manipulation to that kind of demand.
When you do that, you take control away from the Dominant. You are now basically the one controlling the scene, which is not typically how it’s meant to go. Remember that a big part of submitting is letting someone else be in charge.
If you’re not doing that, then you’re not really submitting. There are exceptions to this when it comes to Brats and Littles. Their style of submission is a bit different, but we’ll get to that in a second.
So it’s possible that you are topping from the bottom, and if so, it’s a behavior that you need to look at before it gets you in trouble. Some self-reflection time and a conversation with your Dom would be a good idea.
But if you find yourself being shut down when simply asking for things, then the problem here isn’t you. When I see Doms shut down subs who are just trying to communicate that’s a big red flag for me. It doesn’t always mean they are abusive, but it can, so again talking about it is a good idea.
Some other examples of things that are NOT topping from the bottom:
“I really hate it when you spank that hard. It’s too much for me.”
“When you punish me by refusing to talk to me it makes me feel abandoned.”
“I don’t want you to use a cane. They scare me.”
“Some of these rules you’ve given me are too restrictive. I can’t live like this.”
These are expressing limits, needs, or concerns.
If you are saying things like this and your Dom is shutting you down, you might need to take a hard look at this relationship, because none of this is wrong. Submissives are no less submissive just because they have needs and limits.
Is topping from the bottom really a problem?
There are plenty of articles out there explaining why it’s the WORST THING EVER, but I’ve got a different take on it. Sometimes… it’s perfectly fine. Sometimes it’s not fine, but it indicates an issue that needs to be resolved. And sometimes it’s bad.
Topping from the bottom can be a problem when it defeats the purpose of the dynamic. Determining that depends on several factors and the biggest one is: What do you want to get out of this relationship?
If you’ve always dreamed of submitting, if you are looking for the stress relief and catharsis of letting someone else take over for a while, then yes, it’s a problem. You’re not going to get what you need if you are micromanaging the experience. Your Dom isn’t going to get what they need if you won’t let them have any control.
If you are doing it because the Top is new and inexperienced, then that’s a different situation. When the submissive is the one with the background in kink it can be awkward in the beginning. The Top doesn’t know what they are doing, so you have to walk them through it.
That’s absolutely fine and to be expected. You should discuss it and make it clear, on both sides, that this is a learning phase, and it won’t always be like this though. Otherwise, you are setting expectations for a relationship which will never grow into what it should be.
A little micromanaging in this case is necessary to teach them. “That’s good Daddy. You can spank a little harder but build slowly. And then you want to stop and rub sometimes please, so it doesn’t get too overwhelming.” This is micromanaging but it’s not a problem.
Consider it training wheels for Domming, but eventually, once your Top has gotten some experience, you will need to ease off. Let them learn to take control, not just follow orders. It can be hard to do that once you’ve established the teacher role in the relationship—so just be aware of it.
Another factor to consider is the type of dynamic. In some dynamics a little topping from the bottom is expected. Brats, for instance, get what they need by deliberately acting up to get in trouble. They are manipulating the situation to get what they want.
But it’s not a problem as long as you know you’re dealing with a brat. That is an expected part of the dynamic. They give you trouble; you give them punishment. Both sides understand this going in and enjoy the results.
Brats can go too far. There’s nothing worse than a brat who gives everyone trouble and then informs them they aren’t allowed to do anything about it. That kind of experience is why a lot of people dislike brats.
They are basically using the title of brat to act badly and escape consequences. No one enjoys dealing with them and that’s not how the brat dynamic is meant to go. If you don’t accept the consequences of acting up, from the people you are being a brat to, then you are just being rude.
As a brat you also need to remember that there are limits. Acting up to get spanked is an acceptable form of topping from the bottom, but if it’s nonstop and constant it can get exhausting after a while. A lot of Doms burn out on brats when they don’t learn where the line is.
Littles are another group that fall into this exception. Like children, Littles will often be demanding when they want things. A certain amount of topping from the bottom is expected from them and it’s up to the caretaker to dole out consequences for that.
When a Little says “I want candy right now! And I’m not going to bed, and you can’t make me!” They are waiting for their caregiver to take control of the situation. They are looking for boundaries and structure for their childlike state of mind.
But if you’re a submissive or a slave, and your Dom is experienced, then there should be very little topping from the bottom going on. Needs and desires should be expressed, of course, but you have to be careful of trying to micromanage things.
Sometimes your Dom is going to give you what they want, and not what you want. That’s kind of the point of submission, to let someone else decide.
Asking instead of demanding will be a big help when it comes to making sure you’re not crossing that line. But sometimes asking insistently can also fall into the topping from the bottom category.
It can be frustrating to have the submissive constantly asking for something you already know they want. Even though there’s nothing wrong with asking, sometimes the Top would like to start something because of their own desire, and not feel like they are just responding to the sub’s request.
If there’s something you want frequently, instead of asking for it daily, it might be better to have a discussion that goes over how often you want something to occur. Some subs like to be spanked (Fill in with whatever kink or need) daily, or more often, for instance.
There are ways to get what you want, that also give the Dom space to initiate first. And if you have the discussion, and are sure they already know you want to be spanked every day (time and life permitting) then you don’t need to ask.
At that point asking all the time can feel pushy, like you’re trying to force them to do what you want.
If they know you want it, and it doesn’t happen, it’s because the Top chose not to give it, regardless of whether you wanted it.
And that’s part of being a submissive. Sometimes you don’t get what you want every time. It’s also part of being a partner. Doms are supposed to fill your needs, yes, but they also have needs of their own. If they don’t want to spank you every single day, then they aren’t required to do that.
Being spanked every day is probably not a ‘need’. If it is a need then that’s something you must be clear about early in the relationship, so there are no misunderstandings. “I have to be spanked every single day.” It still doesn’t mean your Dom is required to do it.
You are allowed to have needs, but you also have to be aware that your partner may not always be able to fill them. Especially if your need is a very frequent thing. Doms are not robots.
It goes without saying that all of this is situational. Relationship dynamics are unique and I’m talking about the broad strokes here. Maybe your Dom wants you to ask for a spanking every day, because it reminds them. And of course, then it’s not a topping from the bottom situation.
Next Friday I’ll continue with this, so we can discuss the difference between communicating a need and topping from the bottom. See you soon!