Love & Sex Magazine

Topping from the Bottom

By Maggiemcneill @Maggie_McNeill

Readers whose sexuality is primarily vanilla may be unfamiliar with the kink term “topping from the bottom”, but it isn’t difficult to explain.  A “top” is the dominant or active partner in a scene and “topping” is acting as a top (ie dominating, putting the other in bondage, inflicting pain, etc); a “bottom” is the submissive or receptive partner and “bottoming” is the act of being tied up, having pain inflicted, etc.  “Topping from the bottom” is when the bottom keeps trying to run the scene, sometimes by sabotaging the top’s efforts (such as by fucking up a task on purpose so as to draw down punishment) and sometimes by volunteering what they want to do in faux-submissive language (“Let me please you by…” etc).  Now, obviously an ethical kink interaction is a mutual one in which both partners get their needs met, but the place for that is in the negotiation before the scene; if things during the scene become too intense or otherwise go south, the partners usually have a prearranged “safeword” which acts as a panic button.  For a bottom to “safe out” or express their needs and desires before or after a scene (eg “next time I’d like such-and-such”) is not topping from the bottom; the term is reserved for those who say they want to let go of control, but in actuality refuse to.  Sometimes it’s a subtle behavior and sometimes an overt one, but it’s always annoying, and I find it’s much more common in male bottoms.  Maybe that’s because guys are less able to control their sexual impulses, and maybe it’s because they’re used to making sexual demands of women and can’t let that go even when their sexuality is masochistic or “submissive”.  But whatever the reason, I know it’s not just me because I’ve heard many complaints from dommes about such behaviors, and every freaking week I see guys on Twitter with “slave” or “sissy” or “submissive” or whatever in their handles attempting to “correct” or argue with me or even with clearly-declared professional dominatrices.  Another (and IMHO even more egregious) form of this is the behavior Matisse calls “bottoming at” someone; this is when a self-declared bottom violates a top’s boundaries by enacting “submissive” behavior toward her without any kind of prior negotiation or consent (Matisse has told the story of a complete stranger who once came up to her in a very public place, got on his knees and started loudly addressing her as “Mistress”; needless to say she was mortified).

The reason I’ve explained all this is because of the recent mess involving the “Shitty Media Men” list, an attempt to create something like the DNS (“Do Not See”) lists used by sex workers, only for amateurs.  Unfortunately, because amateurs do not understand the need for discretion as pros do, and because the circulation of the list included female reporters, the list went public and its originator was outed within twelve hours despite the instructions “Please never name an accuser, and please never share this document with a man” clearly appearing at the top.  Even then, the damage might’ve been limited to some argumentation and finger-pointing which would’ve died down and sank into the greater “Me Too” pool within a few weeks if not for the antics of one of the men on the list, a writer named Stephen Elliott who attempted to defend himself in an essay thus:

My entry reads: “Rape accusations, sexual harassment, coercion, unsolicited invitations to his apartment…”  I was shocked to find myself accused of rape.  I don’t like intercourse, I don’t like penetrating people with objects, and I don’t like receiving oral sex.  My entire sexuality is wrapped up in BDSM.  Cross-dressing, bondage, masochism.  I’m always the bottom.  I’ve been in long romantic relationships with women without ever seeing them naked…I’ve never had sex with anyone who works in media.  I am not seeking to come out about my sexuality as a means of creating a diversion…I’ve always been open about my sexuality, and I have even written entire books on the topic

Topping from the BottomI don’t know Elliott, and I’ve never met him, but a number of sex workers I follow on Twitter have, and apparently he’s infamous among American professional dommes for…well, shitty sexual behavior (including bottoming at them).  But even had I not heard any of these stories, I’d still be inclined to point out that his “I can’t possibly have sexually harassed women because I’m a bottom” holds about as much water as the average colander.  As I described in the first paragraph, “submissive” men are quite capable of being creepy, pushy and even threatening, especially for vanilla women who don’t understand the dynamic; Elliott writes “I am not seeking to…creat[e] a diversion,” but that’s exactly what he’s trying to do; like so many bad male bottoms, he’s trying to get his way by being manipulative and then retreating behind “but I’m a slaaaaaaave!” when called on it.  But Mr. Too-Submissive-To-Be-a-Creep wasn’t content to just whine about how he’s a victim; he decided to weaponize that victimhood:

Stephen Elliott…is suing Moira Donegan, the creator of the Shitty Media Men List for libel and emotional distress…and is seeking at least $1.5 million in damages…According to the suit, Elliott also intends to sue other women who contributed to the Google spreadsheet (who he names as “Jane Does”), which briefly circulated last October and contained the names of over of 70 men who were anonymously accused of sexual misconduct, ranging from rape to harassment…Elliott intends to subpeona the Google metadata for the list in order to obtain this information…Elliott has acquired attorney Andrew Miltenberg…who has made a name for himself defending men accused of sexual assault…Elliott’s suit is the only legal action to have taken place in the aftermath of the controversial spreadsheet…

The New York Times story on the suit adds the telling detail that “Mr. Elliott is asking the court to order that the defendants ‘issue a written retraction to each and every person to whom they originally published the false and defamatory statements’,” a demand which only makes sense when one notes its resemblance to punishwork that a teacher might inflict on a misbehaving student (or a domme on a sub in a school role-play), a pointless and repetitive task intended to accomplish nothing but humiliation.  Elliott’s every action, from the tales I’ve heard of his behavior in person to his article to this lawsuit, looks like a strategy to cloak sexual demands behind a veneer of submission, weakness or victimhood.  It’s like a real-world version of topping from the bottom, and what he’s trying to accomplish is nothing less than scaring amateur women out of warning each other about shitty men like him.


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