Bottoms Up: Earn It

I typically think about play on a very basic level. I don’t typically think about how I want a scene to make me feel afterwards, what I will feel like I’ve accomplished when one is over; I just know I like to be pushed around and beaten and told what to do. Recently however, I’ve been thinking about how how much I enjoy a challenge, and the satisfaction I feel when I accomplish a challenge. I’ve been thinking about how much I hate when things are just given to me, and how much I appreciate really earning the good things that come my way.

Last month in an effort to read more than what I’m assigned for class, I bought Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy’s The New Bottoming Book as some light reading. For all of its super dated references (referring to the internet as the World Wide Web or the ‘Net, for example), The New Bottoming Book is a really useful tool, and one that I’d suggest reading regardless of how long you’ve been bottoming but especially for folks who are newer at submission.

I was especially drawn to the questions that the authors asked of people who bottom. In one chapter, they spend a lot of time talking about setting up a scene with a play partner. They ask, “What’s in it for me? What is the reward I would like to get out of this scene?… Who am I as a bottom? How do I want to feel?” Reading those questions made me feel weird, and silly, because as much as I talk about what I like and what I’m into, I’ve never really thought about bottoming in those terms.

At the most basic level, I do this thing called kink because I get more excitement out of it than I get out of vanilla sex. It’s also an opportunity for me to practice vulnerability with another human in a space that, because it requires so much conversation and boundary setting, makes me feel safe. But in the sense of a reward? I haven’t really thought about that.

I guess in the perfect scene, my reward would be receiving praise after working through something challenging. As a result of being a “smart kid,” I love finding and besting a challenge. Finding something that’s not easy for me is, in itself, not an easy task. And while submission is a thrill for me, it’s not always easy. Sometimes I want to move when I’ve been told not to, or get a little pushy about how I think the scene should go. Sometimes, even though my body’s saying yes, my mind says no, push back. And so the challenge then comes from quieting my mind and letting myself experience the moment in a more primal way. It’s not that I don’t want to submit, it’s that submitting is so different from how I have to conduct my life that it takes effort to turn off that HBIC part of me so that I can relish letting go.

Just being able to let go is a challenge itself, and working through that makes me feel amazing. But words of affirmation are how I know I’m loved best, and what attracts me to submission so much are the opportunities to be told “Ya did good, kid.” I love knowing that what I did wasn’t easy for me, but it made someone else happy. Maybe I’m a bit of a martyr in that way, but challenging myself in the bedroom and looking for praise there feels a lot healthier than doing it in my everyday life.

So when I’m thinking about who am I as a bottom, I think I’m a server. I’m a person who wants to know everything someone wants from me so that I can do it to the best of my ability. I want people to ask a little more of me than I think I can handle, because I love a challenge. I want to feel like I’ve earned every bit of praise that I get, every reminder that lingers on my body, every orgasm. That’s who I am as a bottom: someone who earns the good things that come their way.

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Ari is a 20-something artist and educator. They are a mom to two cats, they love domesticity, ritual, and porch time. They have studied, loved, and learned in CT, Greensboro, NC, and ATX.

Ari has written 330 articles for us.


  1. You might enjoy the challenges of “anticipatory service” – providing what your top needs, before they need it. I’ll never forget the moment I first succeeded at it. (the reward was pretty sweet, too ;)

    Of course, that assumes you want a long-term relationship with a service component. Ignore me if that’s not your cup of tea.


    Though my spelling was off, this article reminds me of A-Camp last May when we made shirts about how we identify, and mine (was supposed to) read “eager to please”. As someone who is also HUGE on words of affirmation, the greatest reward for me as a bottom is to being told I’ve been a “good girl”, because it means I pleased my top and did whatever they asked of me to the best of my ability. I’m a perfectionist in my “real life”, so of course I strive to be my most perfect and most bottom-y self during kinky fun times.

    As always, I super love and appreciate this column. Thank you!

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