Topping from the Bottom: What It Means

In BDSM relationships, there is usually one person who identifies as the dominant (Dom/Master/top) and another person who identifies as the submissive (sub/slave/bottom).

Both top and bottom (Dom and sub) have roles and expectations that are generally agreed upon and created by the top. Topping is how a Dom carries out his or her role, through instruction and care. Bottoming is how the sub acts out his or her role, by following the instructions of their top.

Playing the top or bottom can happen in a single BDSM scene or it may be part of a full-time 24/7 BDSM relationship.

What does Topping from the Bottom Mean?

Topping from the bottom occurs when a sub comes out of their role to attempt to take control of the scene or situation they are in with their Dom/me. This action can be seen as manipulative from the sub and isn’t usually appreciated by the Dom.

Topping from the bottom can happen unintentionally or subconsciously. The more rules and boundaries are discussed and negotiated, the less likely topping from the bottom will occur.

Why Some Subs Try to Top from the Bottom

The Sub is New to BDSM

We all start somewhere! If someone is new to BDSM, there’s a lot to learn. Most casuals have never heard of the term “topping from the bottom,” so may not know if they are doing it.

Topping from the bottom is all about power exchange dynamics, and if the sub is new to BDSM practices or scenes or is with a Dom who is also new, there are going to be inevitable slips and slides in their roles and relationship.

Read: BDSM Education: How to Learn BDSM Online

Submissive Woman on Leash

The Sub Wants to Test the Dom

This is where the behavior of topping from the bottom is more problematic. Generally a Dom/me wants their sub to behave, follow their rules, obey their commands.

If a sub is purposefully disregarding the rules of their role agreed upon, it can lead to a breakdown of communication. It can also be seen as a serious breach of trust and cause bigger relationship issues.

Read: Brat BDSM and the Brat Kink Explained

The Sub Isn’t really a Sub

Topping from the bottom may be simply happening because the sub or bottom is not a real sub.

Many people who identify as submissive have an underlying streak of dominance that is there true self. And some of us happily switch from sub to dom, and don’t want to be pinned to one identity or another.

Someone who can’t help but top from the bottom might be a reluctant Dom.

Read: Ways You Can Benefit by Being a Switch

The Sub Doesn’t Trust Enough

Topping from the bottom can be a flag that other things aren’t quite in place for a serious BDSM relationship or scenes to be acted out.

A sub needs to feels a high level of trust to remain in their role, especially for any hardcore play. If there isn’t enough trust and a sub feels unsure, uncomfortable, or unsafe, they may attempt topping as a way to change or stop the scene.

Read: How to Build Trust in Your Kinky Relationships

Young Submissive Woman with Wrists in Rope Bondage

4 Examples of Topping from the Bottom

1. Ignoring the Dom’s Orders or Commands

Topping from the bottom might include ignoring what you are told to do or what has been agreed upon. This may be something like cleaning up after your Dom or something specific like sucking his cock for two minutes straight.

2. Questioning the Dom’s Actions

Talking back to your Dom is usually not in the submissive’s how-to guidebook.

The Dom/me makes the rules the submissive is to follow. If the sub doesn’t like something suggested at the time when rules are being made and negotiated, that is the time to speak up, not when the scene is in play.

Read: Submissive Rules and Tasks for Subs

3. Negotiating the Scene

Nothing breaks the magic of a sizzling BDSM scene more than a sub who starts topping by negotiating their role and actions.

If a sub breaks a scene while laying over the “principal’s” lap during a disciplined spanking, to say “I’m not really into this, can we start over or maybe I can spank you?” the Dom isn’t going to be too happy.

BDSM couple

4. Telling their Dom What to Do

This kind of topping from a sub is a no-no in the world of BDSM, unless backtalk is part of a kinky roleplay. In this situation a sub may tell their Dom what to do before receiving punishment such as spanking or confinement or some other form of discipline.

Telling a Dom what to do isn’t what submissives do.

Read: Submissive Rules and Tasks for Subs

How to Avoid Topping from the Bottom

Be clear on roles and communicate expectations.

When you just jump into a BDSM scene with a new lover or into a serious BDSM relationship, there are bound to be mishaps like topping from the bottom, especially if you have not built the necessary foundation of communication.

Dom and sub roles are very different, but lines can easily be blurred if expectations and views of these roles are not shared. Get on the same page.

Read: BDSM and Total Power Exchange Relationships

BDSM couple lying on couch with dominant woman on top of man.

Practice patience and build trust.

When a sub tops from the bottom, whether intentionally or not, the worst thing a Dom can do is become angry. Those who are new to BDSM and/or the role of sub need guidance and patience from their Dom to build trust.

BDSM relationships that flow well have mutual trust where mistakes are allowed and learned from.

Read: How to Be a Good Dom for Your Sub

Train the sub to stop topping from the bottom.

Learning from mistakes may include some kind of discipline. This can be especially helpful in new relationships or with BDSM newbies that are learning what it means to be a submissive.

A sub’s tendency of topping from the bottom can be curbed with a specific action from the Dom, either corporal punishment or by taking away something temporarily that brings pleasure to the sub.

Read: BDSM Training: A Guide for Beginners

Sexy Blonde with Whip

Put safety first and use safe words.

If topping from the bottom is happening more subconsciously when the sub feels unsafe or uncomfortable, the Dom needs to encourage the sub to use a safe word instead.

A safe word can end a scene immediately, followed by a frank talk between Dom and sub about what’s really going on—the root of the discomfort.

Read: Safe Words: A Guide to Choosing and Using Them

Provide aftercare and reflect together.

BDSM relationships are very complex and require reflection to stay healthy and happy, for both Dom and sub.

Topping from the bottom can happen for many reasons, as discussed, and proper BDSM aftercare can include time to discuss why both partners think this is happening, how they feel about it, and how they want to address it as the relationship progresses.

Read: Sub Drop Care for BDSM Submissives

Do you have experience with topping from the bottom in your BDSM relationship? Please share!

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