I used to identify as ‘mostly dominant’.
This probably comes as a shock to anyone who has known me or known of me (in real life or online) for longer than about 20 minutes. I’m collared. I’m in a 24/7 power exchange dynamic wherein I’m the submissive one. I’m very often cruisin’ for a consensual bruisin’ and I love bottoming in humiliation scenes. Nowadays, I identify as ‘a sub-leaning switch’, but the things I actually do paint me as a sub with an occasional willingness to do some service topping.
Well, for one, I actually tried submission. When I was insisting that I was the Dommiest Dom™, it was on a purely theoretical basis – I’d not yet done any kink except some weird (and sometimes ethically dubious) text-based roleplay. I picked out the label of ‘dominant’ when I was fifteen or sixteen, absolutely bubbling over with teenage angst alongside my fascination with kink. When I started playing in real life, I gave submission a go “for science” and fell in love with it instantly.
I didn’t lose my love of topping and domming, though. When my first serious relationship became non-monogamous I almost immediately sought out cute subby humans to flirt and sext with. When that relationship fell apart, I ended up in my first triad, dating two other switches.
It was a disaster.
The thing is, some of the play was awesome. I did more impact topping, power exchange, butt stuff topping and humiliation topping than I’d ever done before, and some of it was amazing – hot, exciting, addictive. But some of it wasn’t.
The girl from that triad I’m no longer seeing was the person I beat up more often, spat on more often and more often demanded she call me ‘Sir’ (and, on occasion, ‘Mummy’ – but that’s another post altogether). This was partly a matter of logistics; our other partner (whom I’m still dating) was living a couple hundred miles away, whereas we were often within an hour or two of one another. It was also because she initiated play a great deal more often, in person and over messages, which eventually turned into pressuring me & our girlfriend into things… which is, again, another matter altogether.
She was my first sub, though that power dynamic wasn’t 24/7. She was also the person I’d impact topped most intensely, the first person I’d topped in a CG/l scene and the first brat I’d ever tried to top. The emphasis is on “tried”, because I wasn’t very successful.
I’m a Slytherin and a Leo. I don’t know how to process being unsuccessful. It’s something I’m working on, but if I’m unsuccessful at a non-essential activity or skill (like bowling, swimming or domming), I’ll usually drop it and conserve my energy and resilience for being unsuccessful at things it is essential I master – like referencing in MHRA format or crossing roads safely. When faced with a bratty sub, who was resistant to punishments and obsessed with backchatting me, I felt unsuccessful – especially since this was my first real-life experience of power exchange and topping. So, for quite a long time, I dropped it.
The problem is not with bratty subs. I love bratty subs – I love watching them interact with their dominants in play spaces, I love their energy, I love the idea of them challenging a dominant partner and helping that dominant grow. My personal style of submission leans away from brattiness, but I wouldn’t have a problem with topping or domming a bratty sub – except in a situation where the brattiness was unexpected. The above-mentioned girl I was playing with would sometimes be impeccably obedient and eager to please, and then, with no warning or negotiation or indication of why, she’d switch to brat mode and I’d get overwhelmed. The problem was one part me (a baby dominant, insecure at the best of times and very often riddled with Top Impostor Syndrome, struggling to understand brattiness from a sub’s perspective) and three parts lack of communication. If she had conveyed to me what she liked about being bratty, that I was doing everything ‘right’ and/or that she still respected me as a top, a Dom and a partner, I would almost certainly have relished topping/domming her in Brat Mode as much as I did in Obedient Mode. As it stood, scenes would end with me confused and frustrated, unable to understand what had gone ‘wrong’ and why I couldn’t get her back into Obedient Mode, and I didn’t feel able to voice any of it. I thought I was just a bad Dom.
So now I’m a little scared of topping or domming. I still love it as an idea, but I’m worried about having that same sense that I’ve done it ‘wrong’, leaving scenes hurt and insecure instead of happy and uplifted. It sucks to feel that you’re not good enough in any context, and topping/dominance is a particularly vulnerable context to feel that in. I’m especially intimidated by the thought of topping brattier bottoms, even though I’ve seen firsthand how much fun they can be, because I’ve somehow conflated brattiness with a lack of negotiation and even a disregard for my consent – just because the first and only bratty bottom I’ve played with was being bratty without my consent (and violated my consent in plenty of other ways to boot). That’s a whole bunch of My Problem, of course, and I recognise how illogical and unfair it is that I have this unease around bratty bottoms – but I wanted to write about it, in case any other tops out there had played with bottoms who were unexpectedly bratty and/or behaved non-consensually, and who felt or feel the same way I do. It’s pretty normal to mis-attribute feelings of unease, insecurity and hurt, but I know from hanging out with them that there are plenty of bratty bottoms who are good communicators, consent-conscious and respectful.
At least, they’re respectful outside of a scene. 😉