Master Tim Coaching

Posts Tagged ‘switch’

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.

The Master’s Voice #15: BDSM is Good For You.

BDSM is good for you.

A bold statement, but for experienced BDSM practitioners it is no surprise. Many researchers have become fascinated with the psychology of the BDSM world and so far their findings have been very positive. Opinions are changing and something which in the past was treated as a disorder is now under serious review. The scientist in me admits that my bold statement is an extrapolation of the findings but it remains a reasonable conclusion based on current evidence.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is often referred to as the “psychiatrist’s bible”. In the latest (5th) edition, BDSM is no longer listed as a disorder but instead is referred to as a paraphilia, or unusual sexual fixation. Even in this incarnation, studies have consistently failed to link BDSM practices to any psychological problems, leading some professionals to argue for its removal entirely from the manual.

Recent studies do in fact tend to range from the ‘does no harm’ variety, to those which appear to suggest that BDSM behaviour lends itself to measurable positive mental health. So, can we truthfully say that BDSM is good for you? Well, yes, it seems that we can.

Elsewhere I have discussed the notion of the ‘sub-space’ or ‘head space’ which many submissives describe. One study (1) in 2013 found that BDSM can give similar results to focused meditation, leaving the practitioner in an altered state of consciousness. It appears that blood flow to the brain may be altered in similar ways to those previously recorded in certain types of deep meditation or in the well-documented “runner’s high”.

Some of the practitioners in the study were ‘switches’ who liked to both give and receive pain. Their role in the study was decided on the roll of a dice and they performed a cognitive test both before and after sex (the Stroop task). It was noted that those playing the ‘sub’ role performed poorly in that part of the brain known as the Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex which is linked to high level functions such as focused attention, working memory and executive control.

This area of the brain has also been associated with such behaviours as daydreaming, various drug ‘highs’ and the aforementioned ‘runners high’. We should not be surprised to learn that activating this area of the brain can lead to feelings of floating, peacefulness and of living ‘in the moment’. It can also give the impression of time standing still as well as impacting on the ability for rational thinking.

More general findings have echoed other studies where it was found that BDSM practitioners experienced fewer feelings of anxiety than the general public. There has also been some evidence to suggest that practitioners have more secure relationships than others. Of course this excludes the very specific anxieties felt when meeting a new BDSM partner and submitting to them.

Another research paper (2) published in 2013, seems to suggest that BDSM practitioners may as a general rule actually be more mentally healthy than the general populace. In this study, researchers questioned 902 BDSM and 432 ‘vanilla’ practitioners without telling them the purpose of the surveys. The questions covered aspects of personality, sensitivity to rejection, style of attachment within relationships, as well as their overall well being.

Interestingly the highest scores were achieved by the ‘Doms’ in the group as compared to the ‘switches’. Of the three groups, the submissives scored the lowest but even their scores were still higher than the vanilla practitioners. In reporting this research, the online magazine Live Science (3) explained the findings as follows:

‘The new results reveal that on a basic level, BDSM practitioners don’t appear to be more troubled than the general population. They were more extroverted, more open to new experiences and more conscientious than vanilla participants; they were also less neurotic, a personality trait marked by anxiety. BDSM aficionados also scored lower than the general public on rejection sensitivity, a measure of how paranoid people are about others disliking them.

People in the BDSM scene reported higher levels of well-being in the past two weeks than people outside it, and they reported more secure feelings of attachment in their relationships, the researchers found.’

More work needs to be done to look into the reasons why BDSM practitioners appear to be more mentally healthy than the general population. Some researcher believe that this may simply be that those practicing such activities are more aware of their own sexual needs and desires. This understanding may well lead to less overall frustration with their physical and emotional relationships.

Wouldn’t it be great to think that our need for anti-depressant drugs could be replaced by a pair of handcuffs and a decent flogger!

References:

 (1) James Ambler, a graduate student in psychology at Northern Illinois University, and presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology in Austin, Texas.

(2) http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jsm.12192/abstract

(3) http://www.livescience.com/34832-bdsm-healthy-psychology.html