I have a question that I’m a little embarrassed to ask. My partner is the top in bed, and I would like to try topping her, for a change, but I’m a little nervous and don’t know how to begin. Do you have any tips for a first-time top?
Let’s start by defining your terms. The word “top” can have different meanings based on the context in which it’s used. Some people use “top” to refer simply to the penetrative partner (and, conversely, the “bottom” is the partner being penetrated). Some people broaden the term “top” to refer to the person who administers a form of stimulation, be it penetration, a spanking, oral sex, or a flogging (again, the “bottom” is the partner upon whom the stimulation is administered). Others still use “top” interchangeably with the term “dominant.” In many BDSM communities, it is, at best, a faux pas to use these terms as synonyms, but lots of people, BDSM-affiliated or not, do it anyway, so I’ll assume you might be, as well. In that case, “top” can refer to the partner who has the authority in a power-exchange relationship. In this last definition, the power-exchange might exist all the time (in the BDSM community, this is often referred to as “living/being 24/7,” meaning that there is a dominant partner and a submissive partner or partners who remain in those roles through all activities – mundane and sexual alike), or it might be reserved for only sexual activities. In any case, the relationship should be one agreed to by all parties, a consensual situation that is, ultimately, pleasurable (in some sense) for everyone involved. In all of these definitions, some people identify strongly with their role as “top” or “bottom” and have no desire to switch, which brings me to my first tip: Talk to your partner about it first! Not only is talking about it very SOPP, but it’s important to know if your partner is comfortable being the “bottom” or having you function as the “top.” Maybe it’s something you are interested in, but how does she feel?
If you and your partner decide you want to switch up the roles, it’s time for you to think about how that’s going to work. You need to figure out what you want and what your partner wants. Ask you partner what activities she wants to experience as a “bottom.” Decide if their will be a power-exchange involved in the relationship. If so, what might that include? A good way to generate these sorts of ideas is by reading erotica. I am a fan of Tough Girls: Down and Dirty Dyke Erotica by Lori Selke (editor). You can search Google for other titles that might be more appealing to you and your partner. Be forewarned, however, that some of the stories might be shocking, disturbing, or simply unappealing to you or your partner, and especially if either of you is a survivor of sexual assault or close to someone who is a survivor, you should proceed with caution.
Once you’ve generated ideas, you might still be a little intimidated by acting on those ideas. It can seem especially daunting to accept the responsibility of being a top. I can’t possibly advise you adequately in this short column, so I will refer you again to some books: The New Topping Book by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy is an excellent resource. You can also check out The New Bottoming Book by the same authors. Both of these titles were sold in the Antioch bookstore at one point and might still be there. Peruse a queer bookstore (try Columbus) or the internet for other useful books and resources.
Next, make sure you have the necessary skills. If your partner wants to be whipped, and you’ve agreed to it, but you’ve never picked up a whip (other than the foamy sweet ice cream topping) before in your life – DO NOT DO IT. Seek out classes (try The Chamber in Columbus’ Short North District – they sometimes offer Sunday workshops), individual instruction (Craigslist, maybe?), or simply choose a new activity. It is extremely important to know what you’re doing to another person’s body, whether it’s fisting, back massage, or somewhat riskier activities. When in doubt, don’t do it. What’s worse than broken bones from sex gone wrong? Explaining it to your mother when she gets the bill.
Most importantly, be confidant. Choose activities and scenarios that you feel comfortable with so that you can be confident in your execution. Confidence is the most important trait a “top” can exhibit. It helps your partner feel safe and it helps you assert yourself in your role.
Good luck and have fun! If you need any more help, you know I’m here for you.
Lusting for you,