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.
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    • 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.
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    • 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.
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    • Credit to Xan West for a lot of these thoughts – see Two Footing and Holding the Scene in the essay One Sadist’s Consent.
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    • 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.
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the sexual object vs subject lens, and women

{This isn’t really a post; it’s on here basically for wordpress reasons and that I can’t comment on two posts at the same time.

Content note: I read two posts about marginalized groups I am not in, and ended up with a thought about a different marginalized group that I am in.}

So recently I read Xan West’s post On Internalizing the Cis Gaze When Thinking About Sex and Relationships, which linked back to a different post of Xan’s, Writing Fat Characters In Erotica: Why It Matters To Me. These posts both use a shared lens {I’m not sure what the right word here is?}, which is about being treated as always an object rather than a subject of desire – a setup where the ultimate hope is to be a successful object of desire, while being the subject of desire, having desire, isn’t even – in the room (and about resisting this and claiming desire).

More recently I was listening to an older relative of mine talk about some friends of hers. She was discussing their families, and about one of them said something like – ‘she never married – I don’t know why, she was so pretty’.  And it occurred to me – this is that same thing again, at women. Where the thing that matters, the thing to aspire to, is being an object of desire, meeting some metrics for success in that. While one’s own desire is – not even brought up to be thought about.

(Note, this (the re women part I mean) feels like totally the kind of thing that there’s already lots of writings about out there, that I’ve maybe even run into. But my brain isn’t coming up with specifics right now, and did have this particular thought in this way, and it was a something for me, so.)