Skills I’ve Learnt By & From Bottoming

A chalkboard with a mindmap on it, with a lightbulb at its centre. The mindmap is titled "Bottoming Skills" and has six bubbles, which say "boundaries", "self-care", "balance", "processing pain", "communication" and "mindfulness" inside

Last month, I asked my Patreon people what they’d like to see a blog post about for the month of October, and they voted for “Skills I’ve learned or am learning, as a bottom and a human”. So, naturally, I… proceeded to go about three weeks without writing or posting anything. My brain has been on the fritz again and writing about bottoming has fallen to near the bottom of my to-do list (get it?), but at least I can spin it in my favour this time, because one of the most important skills I’ve learned as a bottom is understanding and asserting my boundaries.

Looking after my boundaries comes under the heading of “soft skills”, and it’s a soft skill I’ve had to battle to learn. That’s not a surprise; I’m assigned female and recovering from abuse on top of that, so I’ve spent a lot of time acquiescing on my boundaries for the sake of my safety. In kink, though, the best way to ensure your own safety and wellbeing (and that of the people around you!) is to recognise and assert your boundaries, so that you don’t say ‘yes’ to something you can’t withstand. If you, like me, don’t care much about your own safety or wellbeing, you might find it helpful to reframe it as, “Part of being a responsible bottom is communicating about my boundaries and limitations. It helps my top/dominant if I am forthcoming about what I can and cannot do.” This helps you grant yourself permission to assert your boundaries, and the more times you voice a boundary and have it respected (and even congratulated, with phrases such as, “Good pup for telling me”), the more you’ll train your brain to connect asserting a boundary with having a good time, which is hugely helpful in non-kink contexts, too.

That’s the thing about soft skills like these: I learn or build them whilst bottoming, but they improve my quality of life in vanilla contexts, too. Skills in a similar vein include communication and self-awareness, as well as mindfulness and staying present within my body – something I struggle with, since 1. I dissociate pretty frequently and 2. My brain is usually running at ridiculous speeds and is never fully focused on a single thing. When I’m bottoming, staying present and attentive to my body and brain is essential to my safety as well as my enjoyment of the scene, and this has the pleasant side effect of teaching me that being present inside myself can be a good thing.

Another skill that I practice whilst bottoming and that helps me in my day-to-day life is processing pain. I have hypermobile joints that cause me chronic pain, with acute flare-ups often occurring in cold weather, when I’m ill, when I’m stressed, when I’m not eating right, and/or seemingly at random. It’s hugely helpful to have pain processing strategies to hand for these – things like deep breathing, visualising pain as heat which is radiating from my body, and learning not to freak out because pain is not always equivalent to peril. I’m not learning to ignore pain – in kink, because pain is part of the fun; with my joints, because pain is informative – but I am learning to cope with it.

Bottoming is also teaching me to prioritise self-care. I’m a better bottom (more engaged, more attentive, able to push myself) if I’m well-fed, well-rested and managing my chronic pain appropriately. It’s sometimes difficult to grant myself permission to perform self-care, so, much like with the assertion of boundaries, it’s useful to reframe it as being useful to other people, as well as mixing in the incentive that if I do more self-care, I can do more BDSM.

I have also learned and/or developed “hard” skills from bottoming. Some of these things are as minor and context-specific as coiling my Daddy’s rope for them, but some are bigger – like rope stuff helping me to improve my balance and proprioception. Bottoming-related hard skills are ones I’d like to explore more thoroughly; things like bootblacking would aid my hand-eye coordination, help me to keep my own Doc Martens in good nick and, as a nice bonus, put me into a service-oriented headspace. There are so many ways that bottoming has the capacity to improve one’s quality of life beyond just the bedroom/dungeon/wherever you do kink, and I’m excited to keep exploring them.

How to Have Sex in a Body You Hate

Me, lying on my back, cupping my boobs a little so they look extra perky. I have a couple of wristbands on as well as a collar, and I'm white, slim-ish and, dare I say it, exceedingly cute.

In an ideal world, I would love my body.

We don’t live in an ideal world, though. Specifically, I live in a body which hurts a lot, and which is the site of both my trauma and my eating disorder. Very few people I know actually love their bodies, and quite a few actively dislike theirs – and I’m no exception. Instead of telling you to love your body (because I’m sure you’ve never considered that before /sarcasm), I thought I could give some tips as to how you can have sex even during those times you hate the body you live in.

1. Try to forgive yourself for not loving your body.

I know this is hard. When I catch myself feeling shitty about my body, my knee-jerk response is to say to myself, “Fucking stop it! You’re supposed to be body-positive! This simply will not do!”

In reality, this kind of thinking isn’t just unhelpful in your journey towards self-love – it directly undermines it. It’ll take a lot of work, but making the switch from the “Fucking stop it!” mentality to a more gentle pattern of thinking (along the lines of, “It’s okay that I feel like this, even if it doesn’t line up with my body-positive ideals. Everybody resents their body sometimes, especially in this awful diet culture we live in, and I’m not a bad person for falling prey to that,”) will cut short the cycle of self-criticism and free up your emotional energy for the task at hand: sex.

2. Spend more time being naked in non-sexual settings.

You’ve probably heard this one, but it bears repeating. Be naked, or half-naked, while you watch TV, while you cook, while you write blog posts – whenever you can manage it. Get used to the way your body really looks, rather than the way that it looks when you’re taking nudes, stretched or contorted or sucked in or freshly voided of pee. Spend more time around mirrors, while you’re at it, and get used to the way your face looks from unexpected angles. It’s going to be hard to feel great about everything you notice at first, so try making neutral statements, out loud or in your head, instead. “My face looks rounder from this angle,” “My tummy folds when I sit down,” and “My knees are kinda wonky,” are all entirely neutral observations to make. Try, if you can, thinking them in a gentle, neutral voice, and you’ll start to understand that your sexual partners view your body in a way that’s separated from value judgements. (Unless they’re judgemental bastards, in which case, tip 2b is, “Only fuck people who aren’t dickheads.”)

3. Wear things that make you feel cute!

I know that I literally just told you to spend more time being naked, but if sexytime is on the horizon and you haven’t magically repaired your relationship with your own nude form yet, I think it’s an okay short-term solution to wear something that boosts your confidence a little. The primary aim of this exercise isn’t necessarily to cover up (although, honestly, your comfort is more important than some externally-imposed ideals regarding body confidence), but to embolden you by making you feel like you’re putting your best foot forwards. Maybe for you, this means nothing but cat ears and a tail, or maybe it means a long, flowing, opaque nightgown. Whatever it is, the key thing is that you love it! Customising your body with clothing or jewelry can help you feel more in control of it and will draw your own attention to the cute things you’ve deliberately added to yourself, rather than the physical traits you perceive as “flaws”.

4. Voice your boundaries and your needs.

Sometimes, I will ask my partners not to touch my tummy. This is usually when I’ve had a fair bit to eat, or have eaten something that my body firmly disagrees with, and I’m a little bit bloated. Whilst I’d love to be able to embrace my body in every one of its states, I’m just not there yet – and that’s okay! (See tip #1.) Working through my trauma has taught me that there’s no point in knowingly setting off triggers when you’re not equipped to handle them – it only reinforces the stress response you experience, which will reinforce your negative feelings about your body. If you’re having a really bold, self-loving day, you could touch, examine, or ask your partner(s) to interact with an area that you’re usually self-conscious about, but you’re also well within your rights to say, “Actually, I feel a little negative/dysphoric/delicate/etc. about [body part] at the moment, so could you avoid touching it?”

Additionally, you can ask your partners to reassure you about your body. Try to steer clear from things like, “Tell me I’m not fat!” because those will reinforce to you the (entirely incorrect) idea that being fat is bad. Instead, say things like, “Can you tell me that you find my body attractive?” or, “I’d like some reassurance that my body looks nice today.” If you don’t have a partner on hand, you could ask a friend for a boost, or even try to give yourself one by listing all the parts of your body that you do like. You might find it reassuring to look at pictures of other people with bodies similar to yours – chances are, you’ll be able to see their beauty, and that might help you absorb the notion that you’re not so unattractive yourself.

Oh, and posting pictures of your body on the internet, especially if you’re not posing in such a way as to maximise your conformity to Westernized standards of beauty in said photos, can help boost your confidence as well. Like these photos of me, which feel even more vulnerable than that one photo of my entire cunt.

Me, a white, curvy, boob-owning person, twisting my body a little bit so that my back rolls are readily visibleMy curvy white butt, with little red lines across it from sitting still too longMe, a white and curvy boob-haver, sitting a little slouched so my tummy is squishy and foldy


 

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A (Conditional) Defense of One Penis Policies

Stock image of a single banana on a square white plate, with a knife and fork to the plate's left and an empty drinking glass to its right. The table on which the plate lies is a warm brown colour and the banana itself is ripe, but not speckled. It is supposed to represent a penis.

The One Penis Policy is exactly what it sounds like: it’s a rule within a non-monogamous relationship that (usually) dictates that the vagina-owning party can only be sexually and/or romantically involved with one penis-owner. Usually, this happens in relationships with cis people, where the vagina-owning lady partner is bi, and usually it’s brutally criticised by other non-monogamous people for being phallocentric (that is, for putting the penis on a pedestal) and for diminishing the validity of vagina-on-vagina or otherwise sapphic relationships by virtue of deeming them less threatening, less jealousy-inducing and/or less “real” than penis-on-vagina or otherwise heterosexual relationships.

And I totally understand those criticisms. I do. “It doesn’t count if it’s with a girl” is an icky sentiment which manages to be misogynistic (in that it positions women and their relationships as less important than men) and manages to dismiss female sexuality (in that it suggests non-phallocentric sex acts are less important than phallocentric ones) in one fell swoop. Your penis-owning partner deeming your relationship(s) with women less important than your relationships with him (because he’s usually cis, let’s be real) can really hurt, so a lot of people avoid One Penis Policies in their relationships. And that’s their boundary and their right, and I respect that.

But.

We can’t wash societal bullshit out of our brains. (This is why I still have an eating disorder, Impostor Syndrome about my depression, and freshly-shaven armpits.) Even if we know it’s societal bullshit, even if we’ve read all the books and blog posts and hot takes and we’re logically aware that our feelings are being influenced by external structures, we still have the emotional responses that society has wired our brains to have. So even if a dude desperately wants to discard society’s phallocentric bullshit, he’ll still feel hurt and threatened and the rest of it when his partner interacts with another penis. It would take a lifetime to undo that societal programming.

Phallocentrism also means that an alarming amount of a dude’s identity is connected to his dick. In much the same way as my identity is tied to being a blue-haired autistic sex nerd with big boobs and lots of facial piercings, a lot of dudes’ identity is tied to their dicks – so in the same way I’d be hurt and insecure if my partner started seeing another person with blue hair and big boobs and so on, dudes are hurt and insecure about other penises entering your life. It’s much easier to draw comparison when there are similar traits to compare, and living in a phallocentric patriarchy means that the first place a guy is going to look to draw comparison is genitally. Again, he might be fully aware of how bullshit that is, but that won’t stop him from feeling anxious about you replacing his penis (the part of him that society deems most important) with another, “better” penis.

As for the diminishing of female or sapphic sexuality, that depends on the person. It can be hard to untangle phallocentric bullshit and the bullshit that suggests vagina-related sexuality is less valid, but frankly, if you’re dating someone homophobic enough to state or suggest that “it doesn’t count if it’s with a girl”, the absence or presence of a One Penis Policy is not going to save your relationship and you should run for the hills. If your partner, phallocentric bullshit aside, respects and values your relationships with women, it should show, regardless of whether or not he feels threatened by them. His behaviour as a metamour, the things he says to you in private and how readily he objectifies you, your girl partner(s) and your sapphic experiences are all things to take into account, but that’s a conversation for another day. Simply put, if your partner is homophobic, you’ll know, regardless of penis policies.

So do you have to instate and abide by a One Penis Policy because your partner can’t shake off society’s phallocentrism and misogyny? Of course not. I personally weighed up the hurt and insecurity my partner might feel about other penises against the desire I had to interact with other penises and decided, in the kindest way possible, that my encountering new dicks wouldn’t be worth the emotional labour for either of us. My partner didn’t explicitly veto other penises; he told me that he’d have a lot of difficult feelings about them, and I decided I’d rather spare him those feelings and leave other penises alone. That might change in the future, but it might not, and I’m truly happy with that: I feel like I can ask my partner for contact with his dick, or for penetration, or for any other unique experience that penises offer, and he’ll provide it at my earliest convenience, so there’s very little I’m missing out on in abiding by an unofficial One Penis Policy. And that’s the ideal setup.

All 800-odd words of this was to say: if multiple penises are important to you, you have every right to only enter/maintain relationships that are absent of a One Penis Policy. But if you have a partner whose feelings might be shielded by a One Penis Policy and multiple penises aren’t that important to you, there’s no shame in sticking to an OPP. There’s no right way to do non-monogamy, you and your dude needn’t feel bad for being susceptible to millennia of patriarchal brainwashing, and your boundaries are always, always allowed. Regardless of what they are, I hope you enjoy the genitals you interact with, or that you enjoy non-genital-related activities, to the fullest extent possible, and I hope to see y’all next week for another blog post.