Master Tim Coaching

Posts Tagged ‘bottom’

The Master’s Voice: #21 The View from the Top, Pt. 2

Domination and Submission, the Paradox.

IMG_9443I was tempted to write a quite academic blog post describing the findings of various studies into the whole BDSM scene. A good friend then pointed out that although this would be of interest to one or two of my readers, the remainder would be running for the hills at the first sign of an academic citation! I shall compromise. Part two of my look at ‘The View From the Top’ will be a visit to the findings of those researchers without the need for citations. If anyone is interested I will be happy to provide details of relevant source materials.

In part one we looked at the ideas and variations around the concept of ‘tops’ and ‘bottoms’. There are paradoxes within the perceived wisdom. Why is the sub or bottom, often thought of as the strong one? Why does a bottom submit and allow themselves to be humiliated or even emasculated? Surely the flight/fight response should engage but true bottoms will actually seek this out rather than flee from it. Finally,why is it that so many subs are in “real life” highly intelligent, responsible and even controlling people? This would appear to be at odds with their chosen sexual/BDSM role.

The reason and explanation for most of these paradoxical behaviors will come as no surprise to most practitioners. The very best BDSM behaviors may be a big turn on sexually, but they are not really sexual activities. They are in fact psychological interactions.

The most basic explanation for this is down to the way our brains are wired. We are one of several mammal species which appear to be pre-wired with sub-cortical circuits for both sexual dominance and for submission. Crucially, both circuits are also wired into the pleasure/reward centers of the brain. Many studies have catalogued such behaviors in primates, especially Bonobo chimps. We may more readily see every day manifestations  in dogs. Just think of the apparently perverse and futile behaviour of female dogs mounting other females, or even human legs! Its all down to the sexual dominance circuitry.

Men are generally  assumed to programmed with both biologically and socially dominant sexual firmware. Why then is there so much evidence from the world of online porn which appears to contradict these desires. Many gay men seem to get off on viewing submissive porn where the subject is being humiliated, degraded and “abused”. It could be argued that the dominant men are simply watching things that they would like to be doing to a sexy sub. How then do we explain the fact that heterosexual men are also viewing sites where it is female doms who are abusing submissive men? In fact the evidence suggests that sites depicting straight male submissives are slightly more popular with men than sites focusing on male dominance.

Of course such sites feed our fantasies. It may simply be that what we watch is a million miles away from anything we would actually do and that in itself is sufficient reason.

Some researchers however, have an answer based in neuroscience. They believe that these viewers are tapping into their female submissive firmware circuits which are also wired to their brain’s pleasure/reward centers.

Once we start to examine actual participation in BDSM activities the paradox can be no less confusing. To the outside world, the terms can seem to describe a strange, harsh, or even violent sexual activity. It is often assumed that the scene is all about torture and the giving and receiving of pain resulting from the assertive or aggressive use of power by one person over another. Of course if you believe that, it would be a very short hop to accepting sex of a non-consensual or even dubiously consensual nature.

In reality nothing could be further form the truth. In practice, most BDSM activity is in fact a cooperative and wholly consensual behaviour. Not only is it usually a mutually gratifying experience but it is one on which the submissive willing transfers power over them to a dom whom they trust and respect. For this reason the power exchange is often referred to as “the gift”.

Another surprise for most outsiders is that although many still think of BDSM as a sexual activity, it is not all about the orgasm. Yes, for many, a scene ends with the orgasm. For others that may happen after the scene has ended. I have previously considered the possibility of aftercare sex. For most players however it is the scene itself which generates the erotic psychological high.

For me the strongest evidence for this is the number of straight men who submit to gay Doms for BDSM play. They will seek out Doms who understand the psychological desire and among the limits they set may be a ‘no sex’ rule. Trust is essential for this to work and once that is established the sub maintains ultimate control by way of the safe word. When experienced Doms and subs play together the sub may still display some nervousness but because they still retain control over the scene they should never need to become anxious about the activity.

Anyone who thinks that the Dom has an easy time of it just letting themselves loose on some willing submissive, really does not understand the dynamic. In any good play scene, the Dom is under considerable pressure. First of all the sub needs to be assessed and activities agreed before the scene. Then the Dom must constantly monitor the sub and endeavor to satisfy both parties. Of course you may wish to explore and over time, push limits, but that is always done with an eye on the state of the sub. Only a combination of learning and experience can produce a Dom who will achieve all this and recognise when the sub is approaching their limits.

All this can lead you to think that the sub is the one with ultimate control.IMG_9325 You might wonder what the Dom gets out of it. I like to use an analogy from the world of music. The Dom is the musician and the sub is the instrument. The best music making occurs when the player knows his instrument and his craft intimately. He then pushes the instrument to its limits without breaking it. For me if the sub has to use the safe word then I have failed. If my sub ends up elated, sated, exhausted, but willing to come back for more, then I have maintained control and the View From the Top is supremely satisfying.

The Master’s Voice #20: A view from the top Pt.1

Although there are still quite a few new topics waiting in the wings for this blog series, it has always been my intention to interact with my readers and to respond to their needs. Each posting seems to generate a good deal of feedback and many very good questions. Recent postings have led to some great comments and questions about the sexual dynamics of so called ‘tops’ and ‘bottoms’ so now seems to be a good time to address the issue.

First of all comes my usual disclaimer that there are no rules. Every person is different. Every couple has their own dynamic and yet, within that context, there are a lot of assumptions made. There is however a perceived wisdom and a set of generalisations that most people accept as true:

  • Being Dom usually means being ‘top’.
  • Being sub usually means being ‘bottom’.
  • Top and bottom usually refer to a persons role in penetrative sex.
  • In gay male sex the top is usually referred to as ‘active’
  • In gay male sex the bottom is usually referred to as ‘passive’.
  • Switching between roles is often referred to as being ‘versatile’.
  • Versatile players are often referred to as ‘switches’.
  • Some switches measure their versatility in terms of a percentage top or bottom.
  • e.g. 90% Top means mostly top but will “bottom for the right partner”.
  • Completely versatile switches use the term ’50/50′
  • Not all couples like or engage in penetrative sex
  • Terms such as ‘domination’, ‘control’ and ‘power exchange’ are also used in this context.
  • In gay BDSM scenes the Dom/Master is usually top/active.
  • In gay BDSM scenes the sub/slave is usually bottom/submissive.
  • In heterosexual BDSM scenes, Male doms are almost always top/active.
  • In heterosexual BDSM scenes, Female doms (dominatrixes) are often bottoms sexually.
  • In heterosexual BDSM scenes, Female doms will often use sex toys including strap-on dildos to allow them to take on the top/active role in penetrative sex.

This is not meant to be an exhaustive list but there should now be enough options for your fertile minds to start filling in any gaps. Just make sure that you also factor in other gender options such as lesbian and transexual or non-binary couplings and also group dynamics such as bi-sexual threesomes (m/m/m, f/f/f, m/m/f or f/f/m). Nor should you forget that BDSM can be an asexual activity too. Possibly the newest classification to cross my radar is MSM/NGI. Any ideas? Well it’s one which I will personally confirm as very much on the increase – Men having Sex with Men/Not Gay Identified.

For those of you who are BDSM practitioners, much of this list will have little relevance where it strays beyond your own needs, experience or curiosity. For my writing colleagues however, I’ve just delivered a whole menu of potential new fictional interactions with endless possibilities for fun and/or drama.

For some people these choices and options can be difficult to comprehend. As an example, let me quote from one dear reader who wrote a well thought out response to a recent blog post:

I guess I am slightly confused because whether you read fact or fiction about the BDSM lifestyle you are “taught” that submissives/slaves are to be respected because they are so strong and giving and trusting etc. Point being they are the strong ones but if that is so isn’t it like Master Tim said, throwing stones while in a glass house, to saying that Dominant men don’t bottom because it is considered weak/less male/not done because men in control don’t get a dick shoved up their butt?

Actually I thought this particular reader was less confused than they claimed to be. It is true that subs are strong. It is also true that most male doms refuse to bottom because they think it somehow weaker or less masculine.

A good friend of mine was once being teased by his straight workmates along the lines that he was less of a man they were because he admitted to being a bottom. They all got very uncomfortable however, when he suggested that very few of them would be strong enough or man enough to “take one up the bum” without running to their mothers in tears.

There are cultural differences involved here too. In the UK for example, it is my experience that British men are much more polarised about their sexual preferences. Others, such as Americans, tend to be far more flexible and versatile without challenging their masculinity. For those of you who are writing about these things, it often leads to transatlantic confusion. One big difference for example is that European doms see the activity known as ‘rimming’ (look it up) as being something being done by the sub or bottom as a sign of submission to the dom. Many American tops however see rimming as something that they do to the bottom prior to penetrating him.

Many subs prefer to engage only with doms who are 100% top. For them it is essential to be able to think of their dom as an exclusively dominant, top, active, sexual partner.

Attitude, self confidence and even arrogance all have a part to play in these choices. Before I leave you, lets look at one more set of options.

Some guys do change sides for various reasons and tops may become bottoms or vice versa as a life choice. This also leads to the thorny question of experience. We often see or hear it said that the best doms or tops, have at least spent some time experiencing the role of a sub or a bottom. This is where many doms get very flustered and defensive claiming that it is not true. This premise appears damaging to their status and should be denied at all costs. It is true that many great doms have never experienced life as a sub or bottom. Of those who have at some point broaden their experience however, I have yet to meet one who denies that it made them a better dom.

Next time : Today has been all about sweeping generalisations and it would be foolish of me to put them out there as pure opinion. In Part 2, I will explore some of the studies which have been done around ideas of power exchange and the roles of dominance and submission.