There are many forms of exchange between a Dominant and a submissive in a D/s dynamic. The most common being communication, with that comes its own world of complications that you could run into. One of the more popular ones mentioned and discussed is Topping from the bottom and how to correct that style of behaviour as a lot don’t realise they are doing something wrong. To know how to correct this behaviour we must first understand it.
What is Topping from the Bottom?
Topping from the bottom at its most simple form is when a sub tries to take control of a scene to get what they want, and force the Dominants hand into doing so. With this topic comes controversy, mainly due to its definition. There aren’t hard set and defined parameters for this phrase. A Lot of the confusion around its definitions are due to what behaviours are classed as Topping from the bottom. This is mainly due to ‘bratting’. Bratting is the term for subs who consciously disobey or test their partners to get a reaction out of them. Usually, bratting occurs if a sub wants a spanking or some sort of attention. It can be frustrating for Dom(me)s, who only see their sub acting unruly and disrespectful.
In some dynamics, bratting is accepted and not seen as Topping from the bottom. However usually in these instances there has been a lot of communication to define what is and is not acceptable within the dynamic and is specific to them. So when bratting happens in a dynamic where it wasn’t agreed on, it falls directly into the Topping from the bottom category. If there has not been any communication about those terms, it is seen as very disrespectful to the Dominant.
Examples of Topping from the Bottom
As discussed before Topping from the bottom can be seen in many different ways, some more subtle than others. We will look at some examples to better understand what it can look like so it is easier to spot.
- Refusing to obey orders
- Ignoring commands
- Questioning orders
- Trying to change a scene so it is more favorable to the sub
- Making suggestions as to manipulate them into doing what you want
- Telling the Top what to do
- Intentionally making mistakes as to gain a punishment the sub enjoys
Now not all of these will be done by one sub necessarily, but all of these actions have the same result. In any D/s dynamic, there is a power exchange, the sub is entrusting the Dominant with control over them and not to abuse it. When any of these examples are acted on, you immediately break that exchange of power by trying to take control. This defeats the whole purpose of the power exchange, also ignoring any of the Dominant wants or desires as well. It is as if you don’t think that the Dominant has your best interests at heart. Which will make the Dominant feel very disrespected and out of control.
Let’s set the scene a bit to dive a little deeper into some of the examples. A Dom(me) and a sub are doing a scene where the sub has to maintain a pose for 10 minutes. If the sub fails they get punished. Let’s say the sub intentionally fails the scene, you might think no harm, no foul because the sub still gets punished right? Wrong. In this instance the sub enjoys pain and punishment, so all they have really done is forced the Dominant’s hand into giving them what they ultimately wanted without trying to execute the original desires of the Dominant. Again breaking the power dynamic that was established, it comes across as selfish, as the sub is simply only caring about their own needs and wants and once again neglecting the Dominants.
Another scenario would be one of manipulation. With this one, we shall do a text exchange to better see the words used and further understand how it can easily go under the radar.
Dominant: Do you have any plans for the day?
Sub: Yes, I have a few bits on today. I am meeting a friend for a walk, and later on, I am heading out to the shops to grab some food. Should I be wearing something for my journey? What do you have in mind?
With this one, it can seem like the sub is offering their service and might even seem nice. However, this is a good example of Dominant manipulation. If the sub had already wanted to wear some panties or a plug of sorts then what they have done is try to put an idea into the Dominantes head to give them an order which the sub will follow achieving what the sub wanted all along, while also gaining potential praise for fulfilling an order from their Dom(me). It’s sneaky, manipulative and disrespectful. With all of these examples, they break the exchange of power and make the entire dynamic pointless as the sub is trying to take control. At that point, the sub may as well go off on their own and do what they wish, as they seem to have no regard for the Dominant, the dynamic or any desire for power exchange.
How does this make the Dominant feel?
With subs showing these acts of defiance and manipulation to take control to get what they want; it takes a toll on the Dominant. First and foremost, by taking away that exchange of power the sub makes the Dominant feel like they are not in control. Which is one of the biggest and key points of a dynamic. Any of these actions can also cause a Dominant to feel like a kink dispenser, untrusted, not respected, unwanted, deflated, unloved, sad, angry and used. These are not ways in which you would want to make anyone feel, especially not your Dominant. They go through so many pre-scene checks and make sure to know the subs wants and needs and cater an entire scene to involve some kinks the sub enjoys along with the Dominant, so everyone has a great time. Not only this the Dominant also makes sure all safety precautions are met so the sub will be comfortable and not injured in any way for a fun smooth scene. These kinds of things take a lot of time, effort and creativity. So when a sub tries to change that scene to just benefit them, it’s as if you are telling the Dominant they did a bad job, you could have done better, it should all be about me. This makes a sub seem very selfish, and in full disregard for the Dominant needs, wants, feelings and emotions.
Why is this bad?
Trust being the key element to any successful D/s dynamic makes Topping from the bottom incredibly bad. The main thing that it displays is that the sub doesn’t trust their Dominant enough to give commands they feel will be safe and looking out for the subs needs also. A Dominant and a sub should have already discussed acceptable behaviours and what is to be expected from both of them. So when a sub becomes defiant even after this it sends big red flags to the Dominant thinking things like ‘is this something they want?’, ‘what has caused them to act this way?’ ‘Am I just a kink dispenser to them?’ ‘Who is actually in control here?’ Do my wants and needs not matter?’.
Manipulation isn’t a part of any healthy relationship so the same goes for a D/s dynamic also, there should never be a case where manipulation should be used from either side to get what they want as it is unsustainable and in the end will only hurt all those involved.
Now an offence or two here or there isn’t necessarily a reason to bring the dynamic to an immediate end. If there is possible redemption and behaviours can be corrected to where all parties are happy and can form stronger bonds, then that is always the way to go first.
Ways to correct this kind of behaviour?
First and foremost get those lines of communication open and address the fact directly with the sub as to why they felt the need to use such actions with yourself?. It is a great way to get things started and potentially reevaluate some aspects that maybe hadn’t been addressed in the past.
Once all communication has been had and all understandings are met, the Dominant can try to train and correct the behaviour out of their submissive, by encouraging the behaviour they like and discouraging behaviour they don’t like, and calling them out when it happens. Just be careful not to set punishments that could be seen as a reward of sorts in the sub eyes. If they enjoy pain, impact punishment might not be the best option, maybe the opposite and ban a couple of kinks that they do enjoy or a research and writing topic on Topping from the bottom works wonders at helping them connect and identify their behaviour. I won’t dive too far into correcting and training a submissive as that is a very large topic on its own.
To wrap things up nicely lets go over the few key points; Communication is key from both sides at all times. Subs keep an eye on your own actions and words to make sure you are not falling into any of these categories, Dom(me)s keep a watchful eye and make sure any punishments you give won’t be an incentive to fail for that sub. Always be open with each other, if something is wrong don’t hide it, that’s what you are both there for. I hope you all learned a few things about Topping from the bottom and what signs to look for moving forward.
Contributors: This article was researched and written by princessg and edited by Mistress Michelle..
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