Vancouver
2 min

Only if the shoe fits

Do you need to bottom to top?

“You can’t be a good top unless you’ve bottomed first.” I overheard someone saying this last week. At the time, I reflected that this must be the 15th anniversary of the first time I’d heard this statement.

Even as a newcomer, I was a non-switching top, which is a shorthand way of saying that I like to play with intense sensation from the end of the paddle that you hold in your hand, not the ow-ow whacky end. I’m all S and no M, you might say. Not that I’m defensive, but I thought perhaps we could examine the above commonly held belief.

Asking that a top experience what she’s dishing out sounds okay at first blush. I’d imagine you’d want someone to know what you’re feeling while in bondage, or understand how awful that clothespin really feels on that tender place.

The theory is that before we play we should know how our partner will experience the game. I’m willing to accept that, so long as in the spirit of equality, a bottom must first top before being allowed to bottom. The boy must understand his daddy, the slave must learn what the master feels, and the masochist must find the pleasure in someone else’s pain.

It’s all nice and egalitarian that way. The bottom must experience a top’s use of power or sadism before he can bottom, and the top must submit or attempt masochism before she may top. Pretend with me that I haven’t created a logical loop wherein we spend a few days trying to top before we bottom before we top before we bottom before we give up in disgust and live perfectly vanilla lives.

Let’s examine the ideal more closely.

If the reason that we are asked to walk a mile in another’s shoes is so we may understand exactly what our partner is experiencing, I would ask whether we’re overlooking the fact that sometimes other peoples’ shoes simply don’t fit us. To work the shoe analogy to death, sometimes the shoes are pinchy, pink satin pumps and sometimes they’re big, sweaty, galumphing rubber fireman’s boots. One can’t always learn anything useful from forcing oneself to do a thing that’s entirely incongruent with one’s desires.

Just because a top allows herself to be bound, or accepts painful sensation play, doesn’t mean that she’s likely to be feeling what her bottom might be capable of feeling-perhaps freedom within captivity, or the pleasure of pain. The top may be more likely to be bored or annoyed and if so, how much do you suppose she’s learning about her bottom’s cherished viewpoint?

Luckily, some folks really do understand things from both sides of the fence. Gee, that’s a switch.