Expert Blog Compelling advice, stories, and thought-provoking perspectives straight from YourTango's lineup of Experts to you

Masochists, Bottoms & Submissives


One of the many challenges upon entering the realm of
alternative lifestyles is finding out what works for you. Labels are
restrictive, and yet human beings tend to exhibit a natural pull to
classify life, including people. Yes, it makes conversation faster,
like any industry-specific jargon, but in a domain where there are SO
many variables, and SO many crossovers, it can be a challenge to find
the terms that best suit you.

is, of course, on top of the challenge of determining what works for
you – which regularly includes failure. It often takes something not working to shine the light on what would have worked or will in the future. Those who cannot learn from failure are not well suited to these lifestyles.

Accordingly, let me take a moment to share some of the lifestyle distinctions as I have come to know them, and some of the experiences that have illuminated the differences for me.

physical pain excite you sexually? Does a partner with an evil grin and
the willingness (or rather, the desire) to hurt you make you hot? If
so, you may be masochistic. Those inflicting the pain are sadistic, and
they are a wonderful breed of creative evil-doers. I know a
particularly evil sadist out northwest who will find out how you enjoy
being hurt and then do it in ways you won't enjoy. Needles, knives,
canes, whips… heck, hands, pressure points and kitchen implements…
sadists are wickedly wonderful fun if you enjoy feeling the pain.

am not a masochist, nor a sadist. I don't get excited by pain, nor do I
enjoy inflicting it, but I love to watch those who do. I suspect that
it's very important for sadists to have a rather good understanding of
human biology, as they need to know how to hurt you without damaging
you. Chew on THAT one for a while!

so maybe pain isn't your thing, but you'd love to be on the receiving
end of the implement anyway. Does the thought of being tied up and
spanked send you into La La Land? If it's not spanking, insert the
delivery method of your choice. Flogging, punching, wax play,
electrical play, sharp things, bondage, etc… all are available to
she/he who wants them. If this sounds like fun, you may be a bottom.
Tops wield the instruments with the intention of helping their bottoms
to achieve an altered state of consciousness, sometimes referred to as
"flying" or "subspace". A bottom responds to the physicality of the
play as well as their connection with the Top.

you enjoy the implements, or maybe you don't, but what really drives
you nuts is being controlled… restrictions on your actions (don't move,
don't make a sound), being restrained or teased, being directed or
commanded… whatever allows you to know that your partner is absolutely
in control. If this is the case, you may be submissive. In my personal
situation, if we wrestle and you cannot completely restrain me, forget
it. Dominants are the ones who want to be in charge and in control, to
varying degrees and the practice is known by the acronym D/s.

you want to serve your partner – be the maid, do chores for him/her,
take on given responsibilities for the pleasure of knowing that you are
contributing to his/her life – you may be a service bottom or service
submissive. This is D/s that you can take in a highly mundane
direction, make into a kink-fest, or combine in whatever way suits you.

is the dynamic that's most easily taken into public unobtrusively. Many
a hot scene can occur when a Dom/Domme has a sub securely under their
control. Heck, partner dancing (swing, salsa, ballroom, tango, etc.),
given the leading and following aspect, is an excellent example of
public D/s. Even remotely controlled vibrating panties, while certainly
a fun sex-toy, can fall under the category of D/s as one party is in
control of the other's physical sensation. Bedtime curfews are a common
D/s form. Think about it.

course, submission must be given willingly, and all of these lifestyles
fall into the domain of safe, sane, and consensual (SSC) or risk-aware
consensual kink (RACK). But what if you like… both? That's called
switching, or being switchy. Switches go both ways (not necessarily
sexually). They top sometimes and bottom others, or they dominate some
people and submit to others. Couples who are both switches sometimes
have to negotiate who's going to be in which position at which time!

aren't the only ones who play both sides. Some submissives also bottom,
some top, and some tops are also sadistic. There are as many varieties,
definitions and degrees as there are people to experience them. I am
submissive and I can bottom, but bottoming isn't going to get me hot.
The hottest scene I ever had involved being tied up and restrained in
public, spanked and flogged – all of which is bottoming. What worked
for me though was the physical proximity of my partner while spanking
me, and the knowledge that I had disappointed him (by disrespecting my
curfew). THAT is D/s. I eventually broke down and cried, giving up the
last bit of my resistance (which takes a lot for me), and it was the
hottest, most emotionally fulfilling scene I've ever had. Who knew?

all of these dynamics, negotiation is very important. You cannot get
upset at someone for crossing a boundary about which you did not inform
them. (Well, you can, but
it'll get you nowhere good.) It is therefore of utmost importance to
share with a potential partner what turns you on, what turns you off,
hard limits they must not test, things you've never done but are
willing to try out. This level of communication is one of the most
attractive aspects of "The Lifestyle."*

situations are sure to arise that you didn't anticipate, and boundaries
will show up about which you were unaware. Most players use a system of
safe words – often green for go, yellow for caution, and red for full
and immediate stop – that allows the receiver to communicate his/her
comfort level in a completely clear manner. Let's face it – in this
scene, screaming No and Stop loses its meaning! The willingness to
forgive mistakes, and to look deeply into your own physical, mental and
emotional workings is imperative. I find this aspect of these
lifestyles to be the most interesting and rewarding.

That said, to learn more, go to Google, baby. These days your can search and find just about anything anywhere. I will
say that, given the variety of kink, fetish, and alternate proclivity
in The Lifestyle, the people I've met there are some of the most
accepting people ever. Your thing may not work for me (the term Squick
specifically means some activity or preference that creeps you out big
time, EX: "needles squick me"), but given MY methods, who am I to judge
yours? It's all about self-discovery and expression, people. So go,
find out what suits you, and have at it!

For my purposes, The Lifestyle includes all alternative sexuality
lifestyles – polyamory, swinging, all BDSM arenas (Sadism/Masochism,
Bondage&Discipline, Dominance/submission), and others of which I
may not be aware.

M. Makael Newby, 2009 - All Rights Reserved -


Expert advice

If you keep finding yourself in heartbreaking, dead end relationships, listen up.
Several key behaviors stand out in order to help couples create a healthy relationship.
It seems like you can't do anything right.

Explore YourTango