14 Knuckles: Femme Top Revolution

Z slowly kissed down my chest like no one ever has before while I sunk into the corner of the sectional. They traced the wet of their mouth all along my skin while I played with their hair, a smirk forming on my lips. “Oh, you want to worship me, huh,” I said.

Their singsong, appeasing voice, mouth finding my hip bone, hummed, “Mmmmhmmmm,” and continued to my belt buckle. “Can I take this off?” they asked.

“Yes,” I said, giddy. “But if that’s the case, I’m not gonna do any work at all.”

I let them peel off my jeans and crouch on the floor between my legs, I let them curl their lips against my still-there underwear, feeling myself get wetter as I observed. I set my feet on their shoulders. Had I ever been served like this? Like I am indeed royalty, worthy of devotion, a precious golden gift treated with care?

They would have stayed there as long as I let them, but I couldn’t imagine their broad shoulders slumped in such a small space for much longer. We made it up to the loft of the cottage and they undressed. Shirt off, revealing their blonde chest hair, ring against pink nipple, and a comforting belly. Pants off, exposing the lacy thong they’d described to me the week prior.

“Wow, you look good in that,” I said, mesmerized. I touched, grabbing their sides, feeling the thong’s sharp fabric against my skin, the way it defined an edge to their body, a delicacy to their strength. I kept pulling and, soon, they were on their stomach. I stroked their ass cheeks, pulling them away from each other, asking them what they wanted me to do with them.

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Z and I have talked about so many things. We’re open to doing damn near everything to each other, but sometimes it’s our switchiness that wants everything and when the moment comes, we aren’t sure exactly what first. Who has power, who’s initiating, who’s willing to be vulnerable right now? It’s constantly shifting, our sexualities as mutable as the temperature, and in this loft it was hot.

“I mean, you can do lots of things.”

I rubbed circles on their asscheek with my right hand and brought my face up to theirs. I want to spank them but, more than that, I want them to tell me what they want. I lean down and bring my lips close to theirs. I whisper, “Okay…but what do you want me to do?”

“I feel like you’re trying to spank me, so let’s try that,” they said, wrapping their arms around a pillow and sinking in.

ABRA played as I sat up, rubbed their ass, and hit them. I started soft, I started awkward. The last time I spanked them, they hadn’t been particularly into it. It’d been six months and many lovers since then and this felt so different, this time they grabbed the pillow and clutched it in their arms and closed their eyes, this time their lace thong gave me guidelines, framed their body into zones, and I hit them harder and harder. Their tender flesh turned pink and started to swell on each ass cheek. I rubbed them slowly and traced the untouched skin.

“How does this feel?” I asked.

“It’s definitely doing things,” they said in the way that queers can put glitter into even the simplest words. “You can keep going.”

I hit them increasingly hard until my own hand stung so hard, but I kept going. The pain I gave felt connected to the pain I was receiving — I can’t usually feel my hands, they’re numb or tingling in a constant state of vague tightness. This pain was different, this pain was from the transference of energy from one fleshy body to another, love moving between us.

Somewhere along the line, I realized that Z was offering themselves to me. I could do anything to them that I wished someone had done to me. Flash, to when I’d gotten spanked recently and my lover kissed my ass and it felt like a blessing, but their lips left my skin too soon. I kissed Z’s ass where I’d left marks. I stroked their asscheeks with my tongue and suckled on tender points like nectar, pulling the pleasure living inside of them to their skin. I massaged, I traced the edges of their thong with my lips, tongue, fingers. I let myself linger, cool down, let the pain drift from my fingers and the energy seep back into Z’s body. My tongue traced down their crease and shifted every single hair, letting them feel what happens when we stay slow. I buried my face in their ass until I felt them open for a finger, I tenderly traced a coconut-oiled fingertip in circles around their hole.

When they asked for things, I gave it to them, and when they asked for a break, I lay beside them. Their eyes remained closed, so relaxed like I’d never seen them. “How are you feeling?”

“I think maybe it’s just, it makes sense and it’s so obvious but maybe it’s just my Taurus — I’m so comfortable and taken care of. The music, the temperature, everything is cozy, I don’t have to do anything, and I think that was the first time I’ve gotten anywhere near subspace, like I’m so relaxed and I don’t even know what you were doing and I don’t really have words, but yeah, I feel good.”

I felt a rush in my chest and almost started crying. “Babe!” I exclaimed. I took them into my arms and held them until they opened their eyes and returned to adoring my body.


Later, Z told me they were startled when I pointed out that they wanted to worship me. They said that I voiced the pure earnestness of what they wanted without shaming them for it. I gave them permission to step into devotion. Their reverence helped me claim my place — a new place, as a femme top worthy of worship, capable of inflicting pain and exchanging love, and responsible for their wellbeing.

In an email, they wrote, “I inherently assumed that for someone to get me into subspace, it would take some wearing down (possibly in rough physical ways that I wouldn’t enjoy) for my defenses to soften enough to reach that sort of submissive space. But what happened with you was that all my concerns and needs and considerations were tended to, the worrying nerve endings clamped off for the evening. I saw it as the femme-daddy-top long game: I’d been fed, we’d chatted, you’d put music on, the loft of the Airbnb was warm (perhaps even too warm, but in a pleasant way), I felt safe, etc. the anxiety stilled to nothingness…I realized it wasn’t so much that I couldn’t move as I couldn’t imagine why any part of me would want to. Where I imagined an overcoming, I got an easing into.”

God. When I got this email, I was speechless for weeks. I’ve been through a sexually abusive queer relationship; I’ve had casual encounters where people pushed my boundaries; I’ve topped people in ways where I’ve lost my sense of self and ended up really hurting people. After all that, I am so, incredibly concerned with not transferring my own sexual trauma to other people, and with making sure my bottom feels safe and empowered. Reading this email made every cell vibrate in gratitude for Z’s openness and vulnerability. And it’s weird, I don’t really feel that “I want to buy you a black matte Audi” energy with Z — that energy that became so all-consuming and toxic with others. I’d do so much for them, but that’s not what they need from me. They don’t want me to give up my life for them. Instead, they want me to know that I am deserving of their service, they want to know that they’re doing a good job, they want me to experience power.

If I fully step into my power, they can know that their role has been fulfilled. They know their work, as a white masc queer, is to uplift people of color. When our friendship first started to deepen, they talked about how they see themselves as a stable support to facilitate the art and lives of people of color in their personal world. They know that part of their creative and sexual existence is in service to their POC lovers.

After that night, we talked about our race and sex dynamics in ways we hadn’t before. By having a sexual role that is in service, they can transmute the energy that would otherwise be guilt, shame, or anxiety, into a kind of action that tangibly uplifts the people of color in their life. They do this with me by worshipping me, with other lovers by topping them hard, and with their husband by continuing to explore how deep their husband’s dick will go down their throat. Z is a shapeshifter, enabling transformation through deeply, but temporarily, becoming what their lover needs to grow their power.

And because we’re both switches, I feel them returning the femme top energy that I give them. They check in about how they take up space as a masc person within our dynamic and I tell them something I’ve felt since day one: “I’m so used to doing emotional labor in relationships, but in our dynamic, you were the one who first reached out vulnerably. You were the one who offered gifts, information about yourself, who asked questions and listened intently even when I wasn’t easily reciprocating. You were the one who was consistent and, I know you present as pretty masc, but I just want to acknowledge that throughout our relationship, you’ve been doing a lot of femme labor, especially when I was in a place where I couldn’t be vulnerable.”

There’s a kind of femme-top long game that they’ve reciprocated back to me, in curating the kind of soft, slow, consistent intimacy that has allowed us to grow closer over time. I can feel their femme top energy in those moments of worship: they, too, are claiming their ability to care for another as power. In offering themselves to me in these nuanced ways, I can own a piece of myself that is deeply powerful and actually decide what I want to do with that power. There’s a difference between domination as a way to take control or claim power over another person — the way certain lovers have done with me — versus domination as a way to provide comfort and care, and to grow one’s power without harming anyone else. With Z, there’s space to explore how we claim and release power in a way that honors the multiplicity within each of us.

Mary Ann Thomas is the queer brown daughter of Indian immigrant parents, a travel nurse, bike tourist, and writer. They have bicycled over 10,000 miles: in 2014, she bicycled from San Diego to Montreal; in 2017, she biked across India from the Himalayas to Kerala, the state at the tip of the subcontinent where her family is from. Their writing has been featured in literary and travel platforms, such as The Rumpus, On She Goes, Panorama: The Journal of Intelligent Travel, and She Explores. They are working on a travel memoir about bicycling across her homeland towards sobriety and queerness.

Mary has written 9 articles for us.

11 Comments

  1. This is a very powerful essay, thank you.

    “There’s a difference between domination as a way to take control or claim power over another person … versus domination as a way to provide comfort and care, and to grow one’s power without harming anyone else.”

    This is what I’ve always felt in my heart but was never able to put into words.

    I really appreciate this.

  2. ‘They check in about how they take up space as a masc person within our dynamic and I tell them something I’ve felt since day one: “I’m so used to doing emotional labor in relationships, but in our dynamic, you were the one who first reached out vulnerably. You were the one who offered gifts, information about yourself, who asked questions and listened intently even when I wasn’t easily reciprocating. You were the one who was consistent and, I know you present as pretty masc, but I just want to acknowledge that throughout our relationship, you’ve been doing a lot of femme labor, especially when I was in a place where I couldn’t be vulnerable.”’

    I find the implicit equation of masculinity with toxicity and fem(me)ininity with softness and vulnerability here so, so deeply weird and troubling. Why do we insist on treating butches like men – acting surprised that they ask questions or listen on dates – because of how they “present” stylistically? There is no reason a ‘masc’ queer would be any more or less likely than a femme one to be vulnerable, generous, or emotionally open. And to call it “femme labor” makes me feel wildly uncomfortable (as a femme). Firstly because I don’t think it’s “labor” to be interested in my partner. Secondly because I don’t think it’s synonymous with fem(me)ininity.

    • Yeah, I don’t know that the author’s partner’s gender is actually stated, but Autostraddle does have a consistent problem with differentiating cis butch women from men, and I don’t appreciate the misgendering.

      Like, if I was on a first date with someone, and she acted surprised that I cared about her life because I’m butch, there wouldn’t be a second date. That’s just insulting.

      • Have you all read the other pieces in this series? I’m genuinely curious what you think! I think this gender dynamic might be more complex than than is being read here, ie, it’s not about a cis butch woman partner, it’s about an amab non-binary partner who feels masc & femme and wants to be in conversation with the author about all the ways they show up, especially as a white person, in their gender.

        and while I appreciate the critique that there is nothing inherently masculine and feminine (real, I agree) that’s not, as the noodlesforever mentions below, always the reality of how people behave in sexual dynamics and relationships, for all kinds of reasons. a lot of this series is about this author figuring out how to interact with and own the many expectations she and her partners have of her, related to what it means to be a “femme.”

  3. I’d love to see the author’s response to this, but I have a take! This part was really interesting to me because I have a lot of conversations with my transmasc partner about how we each relate to “expected” genderized roles. It’s important for us because sometimes we unconsciously expect certain behavior from one another or from ourselves even though neither of us are particularly interested in conforming to our genders. Sometimes my partner worries that they will enact some negative masculine stereotype that they’ve been subjected to in the past and it has a chilling effect on our dynamic. It’s possible to acknowledge the role gender expectations have without accepting them unconsciously (and accepting the ones you like or whatever). Neither of us seem to be those people, but there are a lot of femmes who for whom their labor is colored by their femininity. There was an discussion about that here a couple years ago. I would be interested in other peoples’ takes on that.

  4. “…when I pointed out that they wanted to worship me…They said that I voiced the pure earnestness of what they wanted without shaming them for it. I gave them permission to step into devotion.”

    “I realized it wasn’t so much that I couldn’t move as I couldn’t imagine why any part of me would want to.”

    These are such intense feelings put so well into words, thank you (both) for sharing this experience!

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