Top, bottom, switch (BDSM)

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BDSM couples, with the female tops sitting on the male bottoms kneeling, leashed and in handcuffs, at 2006 Cologne Pride, Germany. CSD 2006 Cologne BDSM 17.jpg
BDSM couples, with the female tops sitting on the male bottoms kneeling, leashed and in handcuffs, at 2006 Cologne Pride, Germany.

The terms top, bottom, and switch are used to describe roles for the duration of a sometimes-sexual act, or may be used more broadly as a psychological, social, and sexual identity, as well as indicating one's usual preference. The terms top, bottom, and switch are also used in BDSM, with slightly different meanings. In both contexts, the terms top and bottom refer to dominant or submissive, or active and passive roles, not to who is physically on top in a particular sexual act. The older term "versatile" is sometimes used instead of "switch".

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There is considerable controversy about the prevalence of tops and bottoms among male/female and straight/gay populations.

Beginning in the 1970s, in some American contexts, people would identify their interests by wearing a set of keys on the side of their belt or a color-coded handkerchief in their rear pockets. This practice, called flagging, began in the gay male subculture.

Top

In BDSM, top can mean either a dominant partner (see below) in BDSM play (such as flogging, binding, being master, humiliating, and sexual play), or a partner who applies stimulation to another, and who may or may not be dominant.

Topping from the bottom is a related BDSM term, meaning a person simultaneously adopts the role of bottom and dom.

A service top is a person who applies sensation or control to a bottom, but does so at the bottom's explicit instructions.

Bottom

A nude submissive female in "Inspection" pose - used when Master / prospective Master has to inspect the submissive's body. Submissive BDSM - Inspection pose.jpg
A nude submissive female in "Inspection" pose - used when Master / prospective Master has to inspect the submissive's body.

In BDSM, bottom can mean either a submissive partner (see below) in sexual play (such as in being flogged, tied, humiliated, or made to serve), or a partner who receives stimulation from another, and who may or may not be submissive.

A bottom in BDSM does not have to be the receptive partner; for example, a female dominant may command her submissive to penetrate her.

Switch

A switch is someone who participates in BDSM activities sometimes as a top and other times as a bottom or (in the case of dominance and submission) sometimes as a dominant and other times as a submissive. This is sometimes referred to as being versatile.

Dominant and submissive

Those who take the superior position in dominance and submission scenes and relationships are called dominants, doms (male) or dommes (female), while those who take the subordinate position are called submissives or subs (male or female). A top filling the dominant role is not necessarily a dominant, and vice versa, and a bottom is not necessarily submissive.

The main difference between a dominant and a top is that the dominant ostensibly does not follow instructions, although they are limited by what the submissive is willing to do. The top may sometimes even be the partner who is following instructions, i.e., they top when, and in the manner, requested by the bottom. Contrast this with the pure dominant, who might give orders to a submissive, or otherwise employ physical or psychological techniques of control, but might instruct the submissive to perform the act on them.

A gagged woman with bound hands sits in a submissive position. Her top holds her with a chain leash tied around her neck at Folsom Street Fair. Folsom Bondage (cropped).jpg
A gagged woman with bound hands sits in a submissive position. Her top holds her with a chain leash tied around her neck at Folsom Street Fair.

The main difference between a submissive and a bottom is that the submissive ostensibly does not give instructions, although they do set limits on what the dominant can do. A bottom is not necessarily a submissive; they may enjoy intense physical and psychological stimulation but not submit to the person delivering it. Similarly, a submissive might not be a bottom; they may enjoy taking orders from a dominant without receiving any physical stimulation. For bottoms who are not submissive, the bottom is most often the partner who is giving instructions—the top typically tops when, and in the manner, requested by the bottom.[ citation needed ]

Many distinguish top/bottom from dominant/submissive by seeing top/bottom as an expression of physical power, while dominant/submissive is an expression of psychological power. In many cases, the dominant/submissive relationship involves the dominant party psychologically tearing down and denigrating the submissive (consensually, meeting the submissive's expressed needs and respecting hard limits). In contrast, the top/bottom relationship is more commonly marked by mutual respect and support.

Sadist and masochist

The terms sadism and masochism, while reflecting a "do" vs. "done to" distinction similar to top and bottom, are more narrowly defined as the giving and receiving of pain (often referred to as 'sensation').

See also

Related Research Articles

BDSM Erotic practices involving domination and sadomasochism

BDSM is a variety of often erotic practices or roleplaying involving bondage, discipline, dominance and submission, sadomasochism, and other related interpersonal dynamics. Given the wide range of practices, some of which may be engaged in by people who do not consider themselves to be practising BDSM, inclusion in the BDSM community or subculture often is said to depend on self-identification and shared experience.

Dominatrix A woman who takes the dominant role in BDSM activities

A dominatrix, is a woman who takes the dominant role in BDSM activities. A dominatrix might be of any sexual orientation, but her orientation does not necessarily limit the genders of her submissive partners. The role of a dominatrix may not even involve physical pain toward the submissive; her domination can be verbal, involving humiliating tasks, or servitude. A dominatrix is typically a paid professional (pro-domme) as the term dominatrix is little-used within the non-professional BDSM scene.

Human sexual activity Human behaviour that is sexually motivated

Human sexual activity, human sexual practice or human sexual behaviour is the manner in which humans experience and express their sexuality. People engage in a variety of sexual acts, ranging from activities done alone to acts with another person in varying patterns of frequency, for a wide variety of reasons. Sexual activity usually results in sexual arousal and physiological changes in the aroused person, some of which are pronounced while others are more subtle. Sexual activity may also include conduct and activities which are intended to arouse the sexual interest of another or enhance the sex life of another, such as strategies to find or attract partners, or personal interactions between individuals. Sexual activity may follow sexual arousal.

Bondage (BDSM) Consensual sexual binding or restraining

Bondage, in the BDSM subculture, is the practice of consensually tying, binding, or restraining a partner for erotic, aesthetic, or somatosensory stimulation. A partner may be physically restrained in a variety of ways, including the use of rope, cuffs, bondage tape, or self-adhering bandage.

Servitude (BDSM)

In BDSM, servitude refers to performing personal tasks for their dominant partner, as part of their submissive role in a BDSM relationship.

Sadomasochism Giving or receiving of pleasure from acts involving the receipt or infliction of pain or humiliation

Sadomasochism is the giving and receiving of pleasure from acts involving the receipt or infliction of pain or humiliation. Practitioners of sadomasochism may seek sexual gratification from their acts. While the terms sadist and masochist refer respectively to one who enjoys giving and receiving pain, practitioners of sadomasochism may switch between activity and passivity.

Female submission

Female submission or femsub is an activity or relationship in which a woman consents to submit to the direction of a sexual partner or allows her body to be used sexually by or for the sexual pleasure of her partner. The expression is often associated with BDSM, when the woman voluntarily and consensually submits to such activity. Submission usually involves a degree of trust by the woman in her partner. The dominant partner is usually a man, but can also be another woman, or there can be multiple dominant partners simultaneously. The submissive woman may derive sexual pleasure or emotional gratification from relinquishing control to a trusted dominant partner.

Erotic sexual denial is the practice of refraining from sexual experiences in order to increase erotic arousal and/or tension. The prohibited experience can be narrowly or broadly defined and banned for a specific or indeterminate length of time depending on the practitioner. The experience withheld can be any favored or desired sexual activities, such as specific acts or positions, provided it is something the practitioner wants. Erotic sexual denial is commonly used as sex play between intimate partners, but it can also be indulged in as an individual practice.

Edging, peaking, or surfing is a sexual technique whereby orgasm is controlled. It is practiced alone or with a partner and involves the maintenance of a high level of sexual arousal for an extended period without reaching climax.

Glossary of BDSM Wikipedia glossary

This glossary of BDSM terms defines terms commonly used in the BDSM community.

Dominance and submission Erotic roleplay involving the submission of one person to another

Dominance and submission is a set of behaviours, customs, and rituals involving the submission of one person to another in an erotic episode or lifestyle. It is a subset of BDSM. This form of sexual contact and pleasure has been shown to please a minority of people.

Glove fetishism

Glove fetishism is a sexual fetishism where an individual is sexually stimulated by another person or oneself wearing gloves on their hands. In some cases, the fetish is enhanced by the material of the glove. Often, the actions of a gloved hand are as arousing as the glove itself, because the glove provides a second skin, or in other words a fetishistic surrogate for the wearer's own skin. Medical gloves and rubber gloves provide not only a safer sex environment, but also give a latex glove fetishist great pleasure. Subtle movements by the gloved fingers or the hand as a whole can provide the individual with a great visual stimulus and ultimately sexual arousal. The act of putting gloves on, or slipping them off the hands, can also be a source of glove fetish fantasy. Smell is also a factor when it comes to latex, rubber, and leather gloves. This is also often an extension of hand fetishism.

Erotic humiliation Consensual use of humiliation in a sexual context

Erotic humiliation is consensual psychological humiliation performed in order to produce erotic excitement or sexual arousal. This can be for either the person(s) being humiliated and demeaned or the person(s) humiliating, or both. It is sometimes performed before spectators, including pornography and webcam viewers. It may be part of BDSM and other sexual roleplay, or accompanied by the sexual stimulation of the genitals of one or both parties in the activity.

Erotic sensation play is a class of activities meant to impart physical sensations upon a partner, as opposed to mental forms of erotic play such as power exchange or sexual roleplaying.

Chastity belt (BDSM)

Chastity belts in BDSM may be used as part of a practice of orgasm control, to prevent the wearer from engaging principally in sexual intercourse without the permission of the dominant, who acts as "keyholder". A chastity belt will also prevent other sexual activity such as masturbation and oral sex involving the wearer's genitals. Chastity belts may be worn by both men and women as part of BDSM play. A chastity belt may be worn for the duration of a sex play, for a limited period or as a long-term arrangement.

Male submission

Male submission or malesub is a situation in BDSM and other sexual activities in which the submissive partner is male. A woman who dominates a male submissive is referred to as a dominant, domme or dominatrix. Sexual activity between a male submissive and a dominatrix is referred to as femdom.

Top, bottom and versatile Positions during sexual activity

In human sexuality, top, bottom, and versatile are sex positions or roles during sexual activity, especially between two men. A top is usually a person who penetrates, a bottom is usually one who receives penetration, and someone who is versatile engages in either or both roles. These terms may be elements of self-identity that indicate an individual's usual preference and habits, but might also describe broader sexual identities and social roles.

Master/slave (BDSM) consensual authority-exchange structured sexual relationship

In BDSM, Master/slave, M/s or sexual slavery is a relationship in which one individual serves another in a consensual authority-exchange structured relationship. Unlike Dominant/submissive structures found in BDSM in which love is often the core value, service and obedience are often the core values in Master/slave structures. The participants may be of any gender or sexual orientation. The relationship uses the term "slave" because of the association of the term with ownership rights of a master to their slave's body, as property or chattel. While male "masters" will usually be referred to as "Master", whether or not female Masters are referred to as "Master" or "Mistress" may depend upon whether they identify as following the leather subculture or BDSM path, or simply preference.

Facesitting

Facesitting, also known as queening or kinging, is a sexual practice in which one partner sits on or over the other's face, typically to allow or force oral–genital or oral–anal contact. In addition to oral-genital and oral-anal contact, the position also leaves the bottom partner's hands free to stimulate other erogenous zones. The top partner may be facing either direction in this position. It is common for this position to form part of BDSM, involving dominance and submission, though this need not be the case. Within a BDSM or D/s context, facesitting can be a form of erotic humiliation.

Index of BDSM articles

This is an index of BDSM articles. BDSM is a variety of erotic practices involving dominance and submission, role-playing, restraint, and other interpersonal dynamics. Given the wide range of practices, some of which may be engaged in by people who do not consider themselves as practicing BDSM, inclusion in the BDSM community or subculture is usually dependent on self-identification and shared experience. Interest in BDSM can range from one-time experimentation to a lifestyle.

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