Detangling some different meanings in top/bottom

{I’ve had like, a completely different form for a post on this topic in my head for literally years. Doesn’t look like that one’s getting written at least any time soon, and I had some stuff that caused different thoughts since, but currently had some thoughts in a new form and want to write something!}

(Additional/general/underlying point: It is really, really common for these to be conflated, tangled, assumed to go together, etc, in ways that do harm, interfere with communication and self-understanding, etc, including domist ways.)

  • Who is physically or otherwise actively doing things (vs having them done to them).

  • If there is a power dynamic, who is the d-side.

    • I had a whole thought-set on how a meaning of topping was a kind of ‘semi-domming’. Then I read the beginning of The New Topping Book, where top/bottom are just used to mean d-side/s-side basically entirely, and ran into more posts and stuff, and – yeah it’s in fact often more than that.
    • One issue that comes up is that there’s not actually enough conscious attention to whether or not a scene in fact has a power dynamic. A lot of unspoken defaults and etc mean that things people will sometimes go talk about as ‘only physical topping’ in fact totally have an unspoken power dynamic going on. This is a problem in a variety of ways.
    • I think the combination of these two can get in fact kind of gaslight-y at people.
  • Who is leading/directing action.

    • Note that this is not actually the same as the active-doing meaning, though they’re often conflated. Example: telling someone how to hit/touch/tie/etc you.
    • Again, neither a ‘one person does one and the other does the other’ nor a binary. ‘Fluid (or for that matter non-fluid but say determined by preset signals) turn taking’ and ‘cooperative construction’ are things that can be done.
    • Also variation in how this can be done – ‘person 1 decides what to do and does it’, ‘person 1 decides what to do and tells person 2 to do that’, ‘person 1 has an idea and says to person 2 ‘how about this”, etc, can be possible and different dynamics.
  • Who is responsible for/doing ‘scene emotional work’.

    • I’ve come more to conceptualizing this as a category, and have struggled for a while with how to refer to it. At the moment here using the above.
    • Credit to Xan West for a lot of these thoughts – see Two Footing and Holding the Scene in the essay One Sadist’s Consent.
    • Scene emotional work is the work that goes into keeping things ok and well, noticing if there’s a problem and doing something about it, etc. One example, going to what Xan talked about, is ‘staying present’ in the ‘real world’ to notice things like ‘it is a bad idea to go farther’, ‘something has gone wrong’, etc. Another example is making sure aftercare needs get met.
    • One of the things Xan points out is that there’s often a very strong implicit idea/expectation that the ‘top’ (in the d-side sense and conflated/tangled with others) does this work, and the bottom does not (and that this idea/expectation is a problem).
    • One additional place I’ve seen this: there’s recently been more recognition and discussion of the fact that ‘tops’ can also need aftercare. (Which is very good and important and should continue and strengthen). However, at least I personally have not actually seen much discussion on how tops getting aftercare is conceptualized. I think this is largely due to this bringing up tension with ‘expectation that ‘bottom’ is not doing scene emotional work’.
      (To be clear, wanting to be free from expectations of this scene work and have someone else take it on is a valid thing to want or to need for scenes to work for you. However, like wants and needs in general, dynamics of this ought to be part of negotiations and compatibility, rather than implicitly assumed in a one-size-for-all.)
    • I was going to put planning the scene here, then it occurred to me it could also go under leading/directing, then it occurred to me that leading/directing could itself be seen as under emotional work. I think the best model for me currently is to continue to separate them out, with the leading/direction (where I do think scene planning/genesis/impetus properly falls) being a type of emotional work in the broader sense but in a different category than this one here.

Fun fact: submissives who have specific desires, who have desires, needs, etc about how exactly they want things to happen, etc, are still submissives and as valid as anyone

Just because they’re not compatible with *you* doesn’t mean they aren’t themselves.

(You very much get to not do things with them! You don’t get to try to kick them out of the word.)

(This post is brought to you by me reading posts and being upset.)

Some re negotiation thoughts sparked by a post

{this is a reblog of a post, and I thought WordPress would put the original post at the beginning, but apparently it puts it at the end. Not sure why, but, as such, scroll down to see original.}

[Not an essay or anything, just – some thoughts that showed up having seen this which I am trying to put into words and not doing very well.
Did not read linked article (the Creepy Dom one).]

I’m very much one of those ‘communication and negotiation and discussing and etc our kinks with my partner is something I value and really want to do not just for utilitarian use but as its own thing which I love’ people. Like, I’ve had literal communication fantasies and everything.

I often don’t and haven’t felt space for this. From domism, certainly and very much (not going to go further into this right now). But also in general. For talking, for having all the thoughts on myself and sharing them, for the other side of this. I don’t see it represented. I receive the idea that it’s not OK. I receive the idea that talking is a burden and a chore and no one actually wants to do it. I don’t see representations of a positive place for it. (And, to be clear – if someone *doesn’t* want to listen to mine, isn’t interested in/would not want doing that themselves or sharing, I wouldn’t want to do that with them or etc. This is something I’d *only* want to do with someone who also wanted it. But socially received ‘not OK’ for me feels like the idea that no one would want this and it’s bad/imposing/presumptuous for me to think someone would etc. Which is where this hurts me).

And, I definitely get this feeling when I see quotes like this. When things like this are just taken for granted etc. (I also get it when I run into ‘negotiation can be sexy!’ type things that again don’t leave space for wanting not-that. (Like seeing a lot of things going ‘it’s ok, bread can totally be made to taste like pastries’ when I like bread and and would like to have bread. (Which, to be clear, wanting your bread to taste like pastries is *also* a valid want and thing to want materials on.)))

I think there’s fairly clearly a typical mind fallacy thing going on here. I’ve read writings about how things work for them by people who write quotes like this, and this is very much a how-it-works and experience etc that exists and people have and etc, and it is valid to be/have. (Even as my experience also exists and I have it and this is valid). (Note, this is different from ‘negotiation is boring so let’s just do things and I don’t care if I hurt my partner’, which is not at all valid. Or ok. It’s valid for negotiation etc to *not be a thing people are in and of itself into and excited about*. Much like I don’t have to be excited by obeying safety traffic laws, but I very much have to abide by them. If I can find a way to make this fun for me, I can be happy about that, but if I can’t, then I need to either do it un-funly or not drive (general I, not specifically-I-I.))

And I wouldn’t want to do the typical mind fallacy thing in return – much like there are things other people like and are excited by and I don’t and am not, there are things I like and am excited by that other people don’t and am not. And I can and do want more representation and material and etc re how it is for me (the what-ifs of this post give me yes feelings!). But I don’t want to act like everyone is or should be like me in this.

Which makes me think, also, that this can be useful to conceptualize as one of those things where people for whom something is utilitarian have different needs in materials etc than people for whom it’s a/the thing-they’re-into. (Even as there’s the important difference caused by the fact that the ‘utilitarian’ purpose of negotiation is *trying to not hurt or violate your partner*). Just like people who are into bondage don’t have the same needs in materials as people who have found that they keep almost falling off a table when doing their actual target activity and would like to try restraints to solve this. But, for instance both groups need to know things about not cutting off circulation with restraints.

(I also very much want more material with negotiation, and really wish it was out there more and I could find it, because that’s not one of those things I just automatically knew or know how to do, and examples, aside from validating OK-ness, are also really major for that. (And I’ve gone looking before, and haven’t found nearly enough, so.))

The Ace Theist

author of A Field Guide to Creepy Dom*: It can be really hot, at first, because let’s face it– none of us fantasize about negotiations and limits.

me: First of all, speak for yourself, but second of all — what if we did, though?  What if we changed how we think about “negotiations” and “limits”?  What if we were no longer conceptualizing them as an un-fun technical obligation, a thing for getting over with?  What if we centered and celebrated and embraced communication about preferences as a treasured part of getting to know your partner and yourself?  What if that was something to look forward to?  What if that was part of the fantasy?  What if I wrote a flash fiction piece that was just about a couple discussing what they wanted?

*cw for rape and abuse narratives

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Specific Narrative Kinks: You do it to yourself

What do I mean by this:

This is situations in which the constrict has to put their own effort into their own torture. The key is that whatever torture they will be enduring, it will not happen if they don’t do this. (Something else might happen, but not this). Some examples from my own stories:

  • The constrict has to hold onto the pain inducing device being used. (If they let go, the pain would stop).
  • The constrict has to cast an agony-beam type spell on themselves.
  • The constrict has to perform sufficiently well at a different task in order to ‘earn’ the torture (sometimes the task could be ‘asking for it’, as long as the possibility of not doing well enough is existent).
  • The constrict has to do something physical to themselves (say, stab themselves, or touch something hot enough to burn).


This generally happens in situations of nonconsensual consent. In nonconsensual consent, the constrict, in a situation that brings then suffering, genuinely prefers that situation to the other options they have. Here, this is also the case – that is why the constrict will do what they will be doing – but rather than the situation then just happening to them, they have to put their effort behind their choice. For category 1 nonconsensual consent, this is generally a case of threat – often in my own stories the principal has threatened to torture someone else instead of the constrict, and the effort is required to have that not happen. For category 3 nonconsensual consent, a constrict who, for instance, feels they should be tortured as punishment might be required to give this effort to ‘earn’ their atonement.

A lot of my emotion-type kinks show up in this one. Struggling against yourself; pouring anything and everything you can into something with the threat of failure hanging over you; the vehemence feeling of it; the tension between willing and able and having to confront how wanting something, no matter how hard, will not necessarily make you able to do it, and that even when you are able it’s not going to come free.

Actionable counterpart:

At the moment, this falls among the things that I either can’t do, or have to navigate a psychological minefield around, because that’s a problem I’ve been having. However, looking not at that, in terms of appeal, yes this is absolutely something I would want to try having in a role-play. (The ‘performing task well enough’ version seems the most practical to be used that way). Actionably, it would be the vehemence, and the getting to put myself in that space, that would be/is the greatest draw.

Specific Narrative Kinks: Antidehumanization

[I don’t think I’m going to be able to describe this very well yet, as it’s one where I still don’t have the full understanding of what it is for me, but I want to put it out there anyway, so.]

What do I mean by this:

The idea of dehumanization is generally that the principals are not seeing and not treating the constrict as a person. The idea of my antidehumanization kink is that the principals are not seeing and not treating the constrict as a person, but the point and the focus is that the person is there. Inside the situation where they are being treated as an object (in whatever sense) or as nothing, they are there. And, for hitting this kink for me, they’re also collected. However awful whatever is happening might be for them, they’re managing it, and they’re going to keep managing it and keep being there. And it’s this contrast between their person-presense being disregarded, and being there and that kind of self-intense/self-indomitable, that is the thing for me.


———-[cw: rape]———-

The place this has shown up a lot for me is gang rape. I have a character that happens to a lot, and this is always the point – to them she’s basically a party favor, so to speak, but the focus is that she’s there and they can’t shift that or erase that or overcome it.

———-[end cw for rape]———-

This would also show up for me if, for instance, someone has been made a statue, and so everyone is ignoring them as part of the furniture, but they’re actually there, watching everything.

And I mention here how it comes up in ‘uniform worlds’.


Like I said, this isn’t one I have entirely figured out. I need some way to think about more setups and more mindstates and what works for me and what doesn’t and why and how. I’m not sure if this might be properly placed as an expression of my kink for certain mindstates (for instance, my character in the first specific I gave has a very particular one). Etc. But, I know it’s something. So.

Actionable counterpart:

As tends to happen with kinks about mindstates, I’m not entirely sure how to make this work actionably. But I would be quite interested in trying. (Not with sex, though. It doesn’t appeal and I’m very certain it would be bad for me.)

TV Tropes Kinks

As I said in my about page, one way to quickly characterize my kink interests is to say that I’m more likely to find my kinks on TV Tropes than anywhere fetishy.

I’ve therefore decided to keep a running list of the things-from-tv-tropes in question. And now to have it here, too.

  • Self Restraint (not breaking out of prison despite absolutely being able to)
  • Play Along Prisoner (remaining a prisoner for some amount of time despite, again, being absolutely able to break free at any time)
  • No Matter How Much I Beg (I’m into the version where a character is about to be Not Themselves in a dangerous way, or is about to try doing something they absolutely must do but might not be able to hold their will against, and needs other people to restrain them during this)
  • Don’t Make Me Take My Belt Off (corporal punishment)
  • A Taste of the Lash (whips)
  • Cold-Blooded Torture (“Subjecting people to severe pain either for information, as punishment, or out of sadistic pleasure.” I think this one’s pretty self-explanatory, I just like that quote)
  • Agony Beam (torture method involving pain without bodily harm)
  • We Have Ways Of Making You Talk (a form of threat)
  • Torture First, Ask Questions Later (I’m into the “This is when the torturer wants information, they think the victim has it, and they want to torture the victim first to soften him up or inflict punishment before getting to the questioning” version)
  • Forced To Watch (a torture method involving being forced to watch someone else being tortured or harmed)
  • I Will Punish Your Friend for Your Failure (threats to others as a coercion tactic)
  • Take Me Instead (offering/asking to be the one something bad happens to so that it doesn’t happen to someone else)
  • Kneel Before Zod (demanding bowing, kneeling, etc while having power over someone)
  • Ain’t Too Proud to Beg (being willing to beg, kneel before them, etc, to the person in power instead of being defiant)
  • Defiant to the End (refusing to stop being defiant toward someone powerful, regardless of what they do or might do)
  • Get It Over With (being defiant when facing death, by demanding it)
  • Too Kinky to Torture (having qualities that are not conducive to successful torture)
  • Fight Off the Kryptonite (“Overcoming Kryptonite Factor with Heroic Willpower.”)
  • Come to Gawk (public humiliation as punishment)
  • Mark of Shame (an easily noticed mark to identify someone as something condemned)
  • Be All My Sins Remembered (“Character believes self to be unworthy of praise because of misdeeds.”)
  • The Atoner (trying to do good in the world, feeling this as a duty after realizing guilt for misdeeds of the past)
  • Go and Sin No More (telling someone to go be The Atoner)
  • Boxed Crook (doing work for the government as an alternative to being punished for crimes)
  • Villain Respect (demonstrating a sincere high opinion of an enemy)
  • Villainous Valour
  • Poisonous Friend (a ruthless and dangerous character who is completely loyal and devoted to a dedicatedly moral and idealistic character)

Real time pain memory tracking

So, it’s a thing I know about myself that I have a very bad memory for the reality of pain. Like I noted all the way back here, I cannot remember pain I have felt when I am not feeling it. Among other things, this means that being hit with any sort of severity tends to produce an ‘ow, this hurts way more than I could hold in my mind!’ effect. In a pretty interesting experience in a scene I had yesterday with Spiral, I got to observe this effect in real time.

One of the implements I own to get hit with, and pretty much the most severe one I have, is a glowstick. I also have a rubber paddle, which is about second in severity.

In this scene, I’d asked to start by getting straight out hit very hard maybe 10 times with something, and requested these two implements, paddle first, as the somethings. It took only a fraction of the paddle part (which very much produced the above mentioned effect) for me to decide that the glowstick part would be way too much for me and we shouldn’t do it after all.

Then, at nine and with one left to go, we had to take a break for external reasons. And it took literally minutes of the break before I was right back to thinking I did totally want to do the glowstick afterwards.

Then the break finished and number 10 promptly swung me the other way again.

(In the end, I did decide to get hit with the glowstick, but not in the ‘very hard 10 times’ way. It was still entirely sufficient for me to feel incredibly bad for all the characters in any story I’ve read or written who had a switch used on them (which I imagine is similar). This ends up being further demonstration of the memory effect, because it’s now a day later, and while I remember having that feeling/thought thread, I absolutely can’t recapture it. I’m also trying to figure out if there’s a way in which I can obtain a switch, because as it turns out the glowstick, being curved and therefore hard to aim, can’t actually be swung that hard, and I imagine something straight would fix that problem, so that I could try out the 10 thing more properly. Which I will clearly stop thinking is a good idea as soon as I actually try it, but knowing that doesn’t change things for my brain right now.

I don’t know if this is masochism, the bodily mechanism that’ll later help me with childbirth meanwhile working on this, something that’s actually pretty common and I just haven’t read about it, or something else.

But brains are weird).