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.

Proposing Rules In A D/s Dynamic

Image is a screenshot of a Google Form titled "Puppy's Rules Proposals". It asks "What is the rule?", "Why is Puppy proposing it?" and "Are there any proposed consequences for breaking the rule?" and it appears there are more questions not visible onscreen.

I fucking love Google Docs, Google Sheets and Google Forms.

I have a Google Doc outlining my D/s protocols. I have a Google Sheet tracking my sex toy collection (with pie charts for materials, colours and method of acquisition). And now I am bizarrely excited to announce that I have a Google Form for proposing new rules and protocols to my Daddy.

I love Google Drive for all the obvious reasons (its ease of use, its availability anywhere at any time, the fact that it is impossible for me to misplace important documents) but I love using it for D/s in particular because typing up rules or proposing new ones can feel like an act of service in and of itself. Creating the Google Form for my rule proposals felt servicey; updating my rules document feels servicey; formatting everything consistently and neatly feels servicey. And proposing rules through a Google Form feels great because of how formal (pun not intended) it can feel: this method seems to carry more gravitas than just dropping into conversation that I’d like my nicotine intake monitored more closely, or making any other proposal verbally.

I’m going to provide an outline of the Form that I’ve created for my D/s dynamic that other people could theoretically use as a template or jumping-off point for something similar that suits their own purposes. Naturally, you might find that you’d like to include more detail, to ask different questions or to tweak the phrasing of a section, but this is how I’ve structured my Form to make it as useful as possible to me and my dynamic.

Question 1: What is the rule?

This is the most obvious question to lead with, and it’s where I outline the rule that I’m proposing (for example, “Puppy may only ask permission to use Daddy’s vapes once per week. They may not ask again and they unequivocally may not pout if the answer is no”). I like to input these in the third person for ageplay reasons (using my nickname of “Puppy”), but again, this is a tool to help enrich your existing D/s dynamic, so you can do whatever suits you and your partner(s).

Question 2: Why is Puppy proposing it?

I feel that this section is important even if the rule seems self-explanatory, because it can highlight any needs that I feel aren’t being fully met in my D/s dynamic and demonstrate a self-awareness to my Daddy that I sometimes have to work hard to achieve. It also prompts me to stop and think about how the rule is going to benefit me, so that even when I’m grumpy about having my substance use limited or a bedtime instated, I can look back at my own explanation for the rule and recognise its perks.

Question 3: Are there any proposed consequences for breaking the rule?

This question only requires me to tick a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ box, because an outline of the proposed consequences is requested in the next question. As a service-oriented sub with PTSD and not a bratty bone in their body, punishments are often quite challenging for me on a psychological level, so if I propose a consequence, it’s usually the removal of a fun thing (for instance, having permission to orgasm withdrawn for a number of days) rather than my Daddy actively applying an unpleasant stimulus. For the most part, though, my particular D/s dynamic benefits more from rewards for good behaviour than punishments for bad behaviour, which is why I have the option to select ‘No’ in answer to this question.

Question 4: If yes, what are the consequences?

This is where, if you are a submissive who benefits from punishments/consequences, you can outline what they might be – as long as your dominant knows you well enough to recognise when you’re cheekily suggesting a “funishment” rather than a punishment. (Funishments are allowed in this category, of course, but it’s worth talking to your dominant about what they’re hoping to achieve by setting you rules with consequences. If you’re trying to quit biting your nails and the ‘consequence’ for an infraction is a pleasant beating, you’re not going to be motivated to leave your nails alone. Like every other D/s tool out there, this should be used to facilitate conversations about your dynamic rather than to avoid them entirely.)

Terms and Conditions

This is probably the most optional part of the Form, but it’s my favourite. In order to be able to submit the proposal, I have to tick a box specifying that I understand that the purpose of our D/s dynamic is to keep me safe, happy and healthy, that I recognise my Daddy’s right to suggest changes to all or part of a proposed rule, that I accept responsibility for updating the Google Doc which details all of my rules and that I love and appreciate my Daddy very much. A nurturing, ageplay-centric D/s dynamic can often lead to ‘tough love’ situations wherein my Daddy has to say a firm no to late nights, booze, extra caffeine or any number of other things I want but don’t need, and ticking this box reminds me and him that I understand why he says no and that I appreciate it even whilst I’m pouting and whining and trying to explain why staying up til 3am on a schoolnight isn’t that bad, really, in the grand scheme of things… (I may not be bratty, but I am the first to admit that I’m cheeky as fuck.) Of course, you can rework this section or give it a miss entirely, but it works really well for the purposes of our dynamic.

And that’s it! Unfortunately, this post was not sponsored by Google, but if any of their people want to hit me up, they can find my details here – which is also where you can find me if you’re not a Google employee, so you can follow me on Twitter, email me with questions and, if you really want to boost my ego, let me know that you’ve used information from a blog post of mine to enrich your own kinky lifestyle.

Help Wanted: How Does Service Space Feel For Me?

Image is a green Philips brand iron lying on top of a white item of clothing.

This post is part of a miniseries exploring the nuances of different headspaces I access through kink! You can find all the other posts in this series by clicking here, and I hope this one serves you well. (Get it? …I’m sorry.)


I grew up assigned female, disabled and queer in a misogynistic, ableist and queerphobic society. I also attended a fee-paying high school solely because of some inherited money that was tucked away in a trust fund, which did not automatically equate to living in a wealthy (or even, uh, financially comfortable) household. Society and my peers made it clear to me from day zero that there were aspects of my life and my identity – of the very foundation of my being – that were undesirable, unworthy or wholly unacceptable.

This did not make for a very sturdy foundation upon which to build self-esteem, as I’m sure you can imagine.

One of the most harmful concepts that our capitalist society presses upon us is that our value as human beings is directly and inextricably linked to our “productivity”. I’ve read a lot of leftist theory and done a whole lot more psychotherapy, but I don’t think it makes me a bad anti-capitalist punk to admit that it’s going to take me a very long time to truly unlearn this particular faulty concept. It’s everywhere.

I’ve already talked a fair bit about the relationship between my disability and my service, but I haven’t actually unpacked what service space feels like for me, or why I enjoy it. It starts with all of the above: in a society that values “productivity”, whatever that means, and with disability already holding me back from being productive in any sort of traditionally capitalist manner, I was desperate to be worthy.

This manifested in my vanilla life first. Some of the things I was doing were all well and good, like donating blood regularly and knitting for charity… but others, not so much. I continued emotionally draining, outright harmful friendships wherein I acted as an unqualified therapist and/or crisis worker because I was desperate to make a difference. I took on responsibilities I couldn’t or could barely carry out because of my disabilities, like staffing a bake sale (which my joints, anxiety and autism all prevented me from doing) and helping my mum redecorate her house from bottom to top. As a pattern of behaviour, it was unsustainable.

Enter service submission. I stumbled across the term during one of my many blog binges and realised I was already kinda-sorta enacting it in the relationship I was in at the time – when I visited my then-boyfriend, it made me feel a great deal less anxious and burdensome to tidy up a little, do some dishes or massage his back. I slowly came to notice that I was deriving a sense of satisfaction from these acts of service that was similar to that which I experienced when doing helpful things in vanilla life – but it felt more profound.

When I’m in service space, I often hyperfocus. In other settings, hyperfocus is a double-edged sword, because I can end up overexerting myself, or forgetting to attend to other things. Under the watchful eye of a dominant partner, though, I can hyperfocus for the length of time it takes to complete a specific task, and then be gently pulled back into reality. It borders on hypnotic. I can immerse myself in the minute details of a task with the safety net of being ordered to stop if it seems like I’m at risk of exhausting or hurting myself.

Within a 24/7 dynamic, my Daddy and I have been able to account for my tendency to hyperfocus even when he isn’t supervising. Sometimes, this involves him being very specific about the level of energy he wants me to put into a task – he might explain that he wants the kitchen “quickly cleaned”, which means that I load the dishwasher and wipe down the countertops – but only the countertops, not the microwave or the toaster or the cupboard doors, etc. Sometimes it also involves him reminding me to check in with myself about whether my joints are hurting and how many spoons I have left, and he specifically tells me that stopping when my mind and/or body want me to stop is included in the service task.

I feel useful when I serve, in the exact ways I was seeking to feel useful in vanilla life. Service space also feels a lot more psychologically safe because it’s so predictable and the parameters are so clear: I am given a task. My job is then to complete this task to the best of my ability, and/or to communicate with my Daddy about any difficulties I’m having with its completion. My Daddy commends me for my execution of the task and/or my insight and communication, and I glow with pride at having done a good job. My experience of service space is almost entirely psychological – the sensory components (like wiping things til they shine, or the smell of citrus dish soap) are a bonus, but entirely incidental to the headspace itself. With a partner giving me specific, achievable goals, I feel like the embodiment of that capitalist myth: a cog in a well-oiled machine. And because my service submission is entirely removed from capitalism, I feel like I’m at liberty to set boundaries and I can even run the risk of “failing” without worrying about the loss of my livelihood. I feel intensely, deliriously safe in service space.

I also feel genuinely pleased with myself for my tangible impact on my dominant’s life. Formalising acts like a back massage or loading the dishwasher by doing them within subspace can help to keep their significance in the forefront of both our minds, meaning that my partner rarely overlooks my labour and so I rarely feel taken for granted. My tangible impact on him and his praise in response to it starts to fill in the cracks in that foundation I mentioned earlier. It’s not a substitute or a replacement for self-worth, but it gives me somewhere safe and reliable to start rebuilding my self-worth all on my own.