Dear Tops: Say Thank You

coachred

Dear tops,

When someone corrects your technique while fucking, set your ego aside and say thank you.

Thanks for telling me.
Thanks for making that clearer.
I like knowing your body better, thanks.

You are lucky that she* spoke up—it is a good thing. It means she is capable of communicating about what feels good for her body during sex! I assume—I hope—we can agree that that is an important foundation of good sexytimes.

It also means that she knows what feels good on her body. Believe it or not, this is not a given. Many folks have not had the trust in a relationship (or their own body, or their gender) that it takes to really be able to show up fully feeling their bodies and just play, just explore. It’s rare.

But it doesn’t always feel like a good thing at the time, does it?

It feels like you were doing something wrong. Or it feels like you were being careless or unobservant. Maybe it was your best move, and now it feels like your mad skillz don’t work on this person, so what if the rest of your mad skillz don’t work either?

Or, if you’re doing some sort of power play thing, perhaps it can feel like she is “topping from the bottom,” trying to instruct you on what to do?

Being corrected or given even a little instruction can cause us tops to spin out in our heads with fear and anxiety so easily.

But it doesn’t have to.

It used to happen to me, more often than I care to admit. And even now, when I’m touching someone and they express some request for something to change or for me to stop, sometimes I feel hurt. But I guess I kind of set that aside (and perhaps, if I need it, request some (top) aftercare later), because in the moment, I remember my rule about it: To say thank you.

Even if I don’t say it aloud, I say it in my head. Thank you for telling me. I can relax in the script of what I’m supposed to say and how I’m supposed to react—based on my own morals, not on some imposed social code. That one little “thank you” can sometimes be a stand in for things like: of course, you know your body the very best and only you are feeling what it’s like to feel that, so I would be honored to know more about what works best for you.

I want it to be okay in sex play situations for everyone to speak up and request some sort of change if they need it. Faster, slower, harder, deeper, shallower, not so much on the nipples, you’re pulling my hair too hard, ow your knee is digging into my thigh, ease off the slapping please—whatever it is, I want to know, and I do not want to be so blinded by my sore ego that I make it seem like they shouldn’t say those things.

So I say an enthusiastic thank you, and I mean it.

Any questions? …

But what if you have some sort of power play in place?

So, in a dom/sub situation where the sub is just supposed to “take it” and you, the dom, are doing whatever you want to them, perhaps it’s a little different. But her discomfort isn’t any less important, and it isn’t running the scene any less: The entire point is that she is going to be uncomfortable.

(Some people are into that, myself included. It’s a game of trust and body literacy and self-knowledge and communication, and I find it exhilarating and fun and sexy as fuck. Not everybody’s into this, of course. And if you’re playing with power like this, play safe—negotiate, use safewords, play with folks you trust, check in after, and make sure everyone goes away from the experience feeling good.)

Why would a sub want to just “take it”? Maybe because they want to really play the part of being a good sub, or a good boy, or slave, or pet, or girl, or fucktoy, or kitty, right? Maybe she loves to feel overwhelmed with sensation and needs that kind of push to get her there. Or maybe because she’s trying to earn jerk off rights for the week, or maybe she wants to encourage you in your own edgy dominant territory.

I’m sure there are some other reasons, too. Feel free to leave them in the comments. What’s hot and sexy about “taking it” from your perspective?

From a dominant’s point of view, especially doms who are still getting their sea legs under them, causing someone else deliberate discomfort, for one’s own pleasure, with the disregard for that other person’s feelings or, gasp, physical pain … that can be so incredibly edgy. And some submissives love to play in edgy dominant territory. Still, it is a hurdle that is so hard to reconcile for many dominants and tops. (I’m not going to go too much into reconciliation here, but it’s related.)

So your job as the top in a “take it” discomfort scene (or at least one possible job—there are dozens of ways to do this, I’m sure!), is to find that edge of discomfort and ride it. And what better way to do that than by listening? Start by finding the places where there is so much pleasure, do all those things that you know her body just adores, and then do them just a little too much, or just a little too hard. Ride that edge and play with it, go from the pleasure into the discomfort and back, see how far you can push the discomfort while still bringing them back into the pleasure.

If you enter into the discomfort slowly, each time you cross back into it, you can explore farther, and then you can both get off on how much she is “taking it” just for you.

So when she expresses some sort of discomfort or makes a request—assuming she’s not saying, “Okay stop this, I want out of this scenario now,” or red or yellow or other some such safeword, of course, because you’re not a jerk—you aren’t obligated to do the change she is requesting, but it is always good to have the information about her body and how she expresses. This is a sensitive place for a very careful, calculated move, however, and it takes a lot of confidence and trust in each other to play with this edge. If I’m in a D/s scene and they make a specific request or correction, I usually ask myself, is there still pleasure going on with what I’m doing? If I lose track of the pleasure, most of the time I have basically kinda sorta I have lost the scene. It’s not ruined, but it needs some mending.

So I’ll follow the pleasure, and possibly go back to what I know is very pleasurable for us both. Or, I might keep doing what I’m doing for a couple more blows or heartbeats, just to prove that I can, and throw some dirty talk in to make remind her that she’s mine and I get to do what I want, at least for right now. Y’know, if that’s the dynamic. But I can’t not hear what she said, still. And I do care what it was. So I often still say “thank you,” if only in my mind.

Because see, you don’t just want her to “take it” from you, you also want her to trust you. Building trust is probably the most important thing in a D/s relationship. All that power we’re playing with is based on trust.

But regardless of whether it’s D/s or a one night stand, when she is expressing discomfort or has a request to do something different … set aside your ego, and say thank you.

To All the Tops Who Are Afraid to Make a Move

One of my biggest challenges as a top—and as a feminist dominant, and as someone who is well versed in and vehemently requires agency and consent in my sexytime play—is making assertions of what I want. This is especially hard if I’m meeting or playing with somebody new. I want to be bold, domineering (in good ways), bossy (also in good ways), sexy—toppy. I want to demand and take and get just a little more rough than expected.

But: I won’t do that, until I have consent. Until I have a very, very clear green light that my advances—my dominance, my toppy-ness—is wanted and desired.

Nothing wrong with that, right? I want to do dirty things with the people I date and play with, and I want them to want me to do those things, otherwise I don’t want those things. In fact, one could argue (and I do) that my wanting to do those things is contingent upon them wanting me to do them. I won’t get it up for somebody who doesn’t want me.

But see, sometimes because I am not making big bold moves, or acting with brassy ballsy swagger, people think I am not flirting with them, or don’t like them, or aren’t interested, or am “not that dominant.”

(Well, in terms of that last one, they can suck it—I believe in consensual dominance, and I don’t believe doms (or anybody) has a right to go around spewing their swagger on anybody they come across. I take up my space, you take up yours. Unless we’re in a explicit power dynamic, I don’t assume that I get to be dominant with you. I guess that’s called boundaries.)

But those other things … that depends. Sometimes I really, really, really, like somebody, and I want to do things with them to them for them, but I am not getting a clear green light, so I do nothing.

And this can be crippling! This can mean that a perfectly good top wrings their hands and wonders, wonders, wonders, whether or not they should make a move, but that the other person is simultaneously thinking, I thought they were a top? Aren’t they going to do something?

That sucks, right? Here’s a few ideas.

1. Make it clear you are (kinda sorta completely) inclined to topping

Talk about it. Bring it up. “I tend to like to be in charge in bed.” Talk about topping and bottoming. Talk about the kind of things you like to do. Do you like rough sex? Extensive amounts of bondage? Strap-on sex nine times out of ten? Always being the one who orders at a restaurant? Opening doors? Holding someone down while they struggle?

And … ask them what they like. Talk about it. Get their Fetlife fetish list from their own expressive mouth. Ask again. Ask about specific things. Be fascinated by their answers. Listen closely.

This might be elementary for you, but I find that just about everybody doesn’t talk or communicate about their own desires enough. ‘Cause here’s the thing: They change constantly. Most of us don’t want the same thing all day every day. So it is a constant practice to be in the moment, figure out what we want, and communicate it clearly.

2. Make it clear you are waiting for a green light

Or, explicitly ask for a green light. Many people who are inclined to bottoming or submission, or, often, those who would be into going out with a top, are frequently waiting for the top to make the move. Perhaps they think that the way they’re batting their eyelashes, or the way they shined their leathers, or the way they are rubbing their thighs together, is so fucking obvious that of course you know they want you. But still, you are waiting for that green light.

So tell them that.

“I would so love to kiss you, but I’m waiting for the right sign / you to ask me / the perfect moment.” “I know I said I’m a top, but the only way I get all … toppy with somebody is if I am clear they want me to. Are you into that?” “I have this thing about consent—it’s super important to me. So I tend to wait until I get a really really clear green light to make any sorts of moves. But after I get the green light … ”

(Then do that sexy-ass sly top grin you practice in the mirror. Come on, I know you do.)

And then, pay attention to their reaction.

So if you growl, “I really want to throw you down, right now,” and their eyes get all huge and they start thinking about all the grass stains they’ll get, and they say, “Uhhh…” you will know that is not consent. But when they take a step closer to you and say, “I have a really good mattress at my house,” you’ll know they are at least interested.

I hesitate to talk about how consent can be expressed non-verbally, through physical communication, though I do believe that it can be. It’s just harder to pinpoint and talk about, and much easier to misconstrue, miscommunicate, or mistake. For the sake of nervousness or fear or making big bold topping moves, it is always, always safer to get enthusiastic verbal consent specifically.

Regardless of how much explicit consent they give you, always be paying attention for hesitation in their body language or speech. That probably means it’s time to back up, and slow down, and check in.

This can be used when escalating all sorts of play, by the way, not just the first kiss. It could be useful for that moment when you want to get your strap-on out, or when you want to put them in spread eagle bondage, or when you want to hold them down and rough them up, or when you want to ask them—tell them, demand them—to go into the bathroom and take their panties off and give them to you. Sometimes you just don’t know if it’s the right time to do something new, or to escalate, and you don’t know if you have their consent for it. So ask. Make it clear what you’re looking for, so they can give it to you (or not). They just might not know that’s what you’re waiting for.

Sometimes, when I start getting the feeling that it’s time to move in for a kiss or to escalate physical touch with somebody, I make a move kinda like I’m about to do the thing I want to do, but then I catch myself, and say, “Oh, sorry—I really want to kiss you / put my hands on your stockings / grab your belt / take you down right now. That okay?” (Sometimes I say this in a sexy growly voice near their neck or ear while I decidedly do not touch or kiss them because I don’t know if that’s okay—yet.)

And I wait. For their reaction, response, and enthusiastic consent made clear.

3. Still afraid you’re being an asshole?

Here’s the thing: Asking somebody for something, or asserting a decision or a preference, is not being an asshole. You’re not being an asshole when you say, “I’d love to take you out. How about we meet at this great cafe I love on Sunday for brunch?” You’re not being an asshole when you’re on a wandering-around-the-park date and you say, “I’d love a coffee. Want to duck into this coffee shop for a bit?” You’re not being an asshole when you point at a shady spot under a tree and say, “Let’s go sit there.” You’re not being an asshole when you get back to your place and they are on your couch all sexy and biting their lips and you say, “I can’t wait to play with you.”

You absolutely are being an asshole when you don’t honor their response to your suggestion or offer or preference.

If you say, “Let’s go to this great steakhouse!” And they say, “I’m a vegetarian …” When you say, “Great! Meet you there at 7,” you are being an asshole.

Wah waaaaah. Sad trombone. Don’t do that.

But making the offer? Not an asshole. Suggesting a change in place? Great! Shows your flexibility and thoughtfulness. Requesting a date at a particular place? Not too much (until, you know, they tell you otherwise).

Sometimes, being assertive and suggesting things is a relief to the other person. We often defer to each other (especially people we like), saying, “Whatever is fine!” And we mean it! But when someone drives the social decisions, it can be very useful. What’s not useful (have I made this clear yet?), and is firmly in asshole territory, is overriding what someone else expresses they want or don’t want.

So make suggestions. Request—and get—the green light, so you can be confident that your glorious toppy-ness is fully desired and wanted.

PS: I hope this is clear, but just in case it isn’t: This has absolutely nothing to do with getting someone to do what they don’t want to do. Fuck that. This has to do with communicating enthusiastic consent. Okay, clear? Cool.