Updated: Aug 23, 2022
So you want to try switching things up. Great! There are a lot of benefits to switching power positions (e.g., a submissive trying topping). You will learn a lot about your own desires and your own internalized perceptions of the side of the slash you occupy. You may also gain a deeper appreciation for the side of the slash you normally do not occupy.
There are a few things to keep in mind if you try switching.
1. Your version of bottoming may not be the same at the person you are now topping.
Submissives and people who regularly bottom tend to be very mean tops. I include myself in this group.
When submissives switch, even if it is just for one private scene, we tend to be meaner and more sadistic than people who do not bottom. Part of this stems from our own experiences. Many of us know that most tops or Dom(me)s don’t push us to our limit. Many of us who have bottomed or subbed for many years have an understanding about how much more we could take in most scenes.
This understanding of our own submission translates into how we treat people who are bottoming for us. I have lost count of the number of times I have been in conversations with submissives who have tried topping and we admit we push our bottoms much harder than most of us have ever been pushed.
This behavior can be problematic. People we top experience bottoming differently that we do. Everyone experiences bottoming differently. Everyone who bottoms has different needs. Projecting our own experience with bottoming onto a partner makes the scene about us and our needs, not our partners. This is bad topping.
When you switch to a topping position, you have to approach it as a top, not a bottom. Talk to the person who is bottoming for you about their needs and desires. Talk to them about how they experience pain. Topping means you create a scene for the bottom, not for you to vent frustrations or to show them what they put you through.
2. Remember your first time.
If you are switching positions with a partner who has not bottomed before or who rarely bottoms, try to remember your first time. The amount of sensation and pain you enjoyed your first time is likely very different that what you enjoy after several years of bottoming. Remember how nervous you were? How much you wanted to please your top? Likely your bottoming partner is experiencing similar emotions.
Listen to your bottoming partner. Pay attention to their verbal and nonverbal language. For many people, bottoming the first time is very intense. There is more need for reassurance and aftercare. This is especially important to remember if you are a bottom who does not need much aftercare. Go back to your early play days and use that as a guide to how to prepare and what to talk about with your bottoming partner.
3. Your bottoming partner might not have your same kink.
If you have sought out someone to try and top with who has a specific fetish you are interested in, this tip is less important. If you are switching with an established partner, it is really important to remember that what people like as tops they don’t necessarily enjoy as bottoms.
For example, you may regularly bottom for impact play. You may love caning and flogging and paddling. Your partner may love caning and flogging and paddling you as a top. When you switch, your partner may not have the desire to be hit. In fact, impact play may be a hard limit as a bottom but a “love it” as a top.
It is important to get on the same page as your partner when you switch. Assuming that because they have done something to you in a scene means you can do it to them in a scene is a quick way to cross boundaries, violate hard limits, and hurt someone.
4. Start slow.
For those of us who have bottomed for a long time, we may not need a long, slow ramp-up to a scene. I know that I have had a Dom where he could drop me into subspace through text messaging even before I arrived at his house. This allowed me to get right into a scene without much build up.
That relationship took several years to get to that point. I got used to scenes starting before I reached his front door. I could not assume the same when I am topping someone.
If the partner you are playing with has not bottomed much, it is good to start slow. People need to be eased into new types of play. If you are new to topping, focus on going slow, gently ramping things up and pay very close attention to your bottom’s reactions.
5. Do your homework.
Just because you have bottomed for humiliation, or impact play, or water sports does not mean you necessarily know how to top in these areas. The skills are corollary and not identical to bottoming.
If you have not learned a skill as a top, take some time to read, watch videos and learn about what you are about to try. Places like O.School and Kink Academy offer a lot of tutorials on different types of topping. Check out DominantGuide.com and specific resources on different types of topping like Princess Kali’s Enough to Make You Blush.
6. Ask for feedback.
It is okay to ask your bottom for feedback during a scene. Questions like, “Do you like that?” and “You ready for more?” can be easily worked into a scene and even be spiced up to make things hot. I know when a Dom says, “You like that a lot don’t you, you dirty little whore,” I find it a very hot way to solicit feedback.
However, bottoms can engage in what I call “Groundhog topping.” This is when, after every action, a top will pop in with a question to make sure things are okay. For a bottom, this can take you out of a scene and become annoying. If after every hard slap a top pops in to check in, I can’t get into the scene. It is one thing to check in with the introduction of a new toy or action or if the bottom has a new or exaggerated reaction to something. Try and avoid the need for constant reassurance as a top during a scene.
If you are switching with someone who normally tops, aftercare can present some difficulties. I have topped several people who are usually in a dominant role. One thing I have come across consistently is shame around needing aftercare.
Several men I have topped feel like they should “man up” and they automatically revert to their dominant roll at the end of play, wanting to provide me with aftercare. If you are a bottom and topping a person who is normally dominant, you need to make it okay for them to accept aftercare.
With each partner this need will be different. Some will be able to relax and enjoy being held or bathed or other gentle care. Others will need to be reassured things are okay, they did a great job as a bottom, you are a happy top. Still others will need to leave and have you check in on them later that day. Whatever the need, make sure you check on your partner to see how they are doing with the experience.