Service Tops, Bratty Bottoms and Pillow Princesses: Other Words You Use to Describe How You Have Sex

Welcome back to round four of an intense and thrilling journey into a number of terms I thought I could describe very quickly in a single post several weeks ago and it turned out I was wrong and now here we are!

We’ve been going through data for the past few weeks to look at what we mean when we say top or dominant, bottom or submissive and switch, using data and information from a Sex Survey that garnered over 3.6k responses. Today we’re talking about other words that come up when we say those words, which I have called “sub-identities.” I realize that this is confusing because it sounds like submissive identities but you know, what can I do, I didn’t write the dictionary. If I had, “gay” would be defined as “a thing that everybody is.”

The question about sub-identities happened on the kink page, so just the 924 survey-takers who indicated that they identified as kinky were asked: “Are there any other terms you use to describe how you like to have sex or the role you play in sex (e.g, sadist, bratty bottom, stone, pain switch)?” In retrospect, we should’ve asked this of everybody, as not all of these terms are kink-specific!

299 of the kink-identified survey-takers answered the question. Those who didn’t respond cannot, however, be assumed to not ascribe to any sub-identities — maybe they were just… busy. You know?

This isn’t a full glossary of terminology queer people use to talk about how they have sex — it’s just what y’all told us that you’re into. Any stand-alone quotes included as definitions that are not otherwise cited came from your survey responses. Most of this stuff was totally new to me! Also don’t @ me about the daddy section, thank you.

I. Terms Relevant To Both Vanilla And Kinky Sex

Service Top

illustration by Archie Bongiovanni

A top who acts according to what pleases their bottom, which pleases them. “I like giving my partner exactly what she wants even though I’m the one technically calling the shots,” wrote a soft butch lesbian.

Pillow Princess

illustration by Archie Bongiovanni

Someone who receives pleasure during sex but does not actively provide it. Is often used in a derogatory way and should not be! “Pillow princesses are braver than the US marines,” wrote one proud Pillow Princess. One agender biesxual in a relationship with a stone woman wrote, “I’ve kind of adopted pillow princess as a role in my current relationship because I’ve stopped asking if my partner is sure they don’t want me to do anything and it’s a bit of a joke between the two of us.”

Stone

illustration by Archie Bongiovanni

Someone who does not want their genitals touched during sex. “I have no problem pleasing my partner, touching her intimately and making her orgasm,” wrote one soft butch lesbian. “While this does turn my nether regions into swampland, I have no desire for her to reciprocate the intimacy through genital or erogenous zone touching.”

One stone explained: “I don’t want my body to be touched except under my direction or if I have given explicit in the moment consent to a partner I trust and am comfortable with.”

Another described themselves as a “rollin’ stone,” which they defined as: “I’ll sit on your face and tell you what to do for me occasionally and I’ll make you beg to be allowed to … but you’d need to have been pretty damn amazing and gained my trust to stand a chance. Only one relationship ever got to that.”

Due in part to its popularization by the novel Stone Butch Blues, this is often identified as a response to sexual trauma, as it was for the novel’s narrator. However, this is not always the case! Stone identities exist for a number of reasons, like a stone who told us that “it feels too intense and takes me out of the moment.”

Power Bottom

illustration by Archie Bongiovanni

“For me,” wrote one tomboy femme lesbian, “[power bottom means] being really participatory and active in everything that is happening, finding opportunities to tease my partner, enjoy keeping them on their toes in a playful way, and using my sexual power to connect with them from my point of view.”

A kinky power bottom described it like this: “To me it encompasses being dominant by guiding the scene but doing it from a bottoms perspective. (ie: telling my top what to do, where to strike me next, what activity I’d like to do, etc. while I receive the physical aspect of the scene).”

Another take: Power bottom “is way more about the intensity with which one is bottoming,” according to one non-binary queer.

Power Bottom vs. Bossy Bottom

I’ve heard the difference between “power bottom” and “bossy bottom” described like this: if the top is in the driver’s seat, the power bottom is the one in the passenger seat who has the directions pulled up, knows the area, and has her eye out for cops, whereas the bossy bottom is a backseat driver who kinda knows the way but mostly just has input. That description is, obviously, a little negative regarding the bossy bottom. Indeed, in gay male culture, it’s bad to be a bossy bottom. But y’all described “bossy bottom” as more of a good thing! One queer woman referred to “bossy bottom” as “a dominant role in the receiving position of play,” which sounds like a great way to be.

Bratty Bottom

illustration by Archie Bongiovanni

This was a very popular mention — and it’s an identity we’ve written about before. “I love playing with power dynamics but I can’t take it seriously because it’s all contrived,” wrote one brat. “I don’t want to beg you to orgasm or hand over power just because you call yourself a ‘Dom’ just to pander to your ego; if you want to play with power and control, you’d better be prepared to make me do what you say.”

“I think [being a brat/bratty bottom] allows me the ultimate ‘release’ of submission but lets me engage and tease,” wrote a lesbian femme. “I feel like I get to show a greater range of my actual personality and intelligence, and it feels more authentic to who I actually am, in terms of my sarcasm, dark humor, etc.”

“I’ve heard bratty subbing be compared to or called ‘topping from the bottom,'” wrote a queer femme, “and I don’t really identify with that — I still definitely want my partner to have control and power and make the decisions.”

Brat

Bratty bottom but without the bottom part! “I’m a brat, whether I’m topping or bottoming,” said one of these people.

Brat Tamer

One who deals with the bratty bottoms or “the dom who has to deal with the brat and usually punishes them for their disobedience.”

III. Kink-Specific Terms

Sadist

“One who derives pleasure from inflicting pain, intense sensations, and discomfort on someone else.” – The Ultimate Guide to Kink

Forty-three respondents identified as sadists, and about half of that group also identified as masochists, with another eight identifying as sadomasochists. Sadists, as per the dictionary, get pleasure out of causing another person to suffer regardless of whether or not that person is enjoying themselves or wants to experience that kind of pain. But, in sexual practice, a key element of sadism is consent — the one receiving pain has consented and communicated what they’re into. Pain inflicted by the sadist can be physical (e.g., spanking, biting) or emotional and psychological (e.g., humiliation, orgasm denial).

“I feel a sense of sick joy and glee when someone is crying, screaming, or otherwise physically hurting,” wrote one sadist. “Some of it has to do with me enjoying being in power over someone, but that is only part.” But sadism is a delicate art, and can feel conflicting, too: “I will admit I have a difficult time accepting the sadistic side of myself, even if the pain I cause is consensual. I’m a caring, empathetic person, and I’ve always been taught that good people don’t hurt others, and they certainly don’t enjoy hurting others.”

A ‘soft sadist’ might enjoy giving some pain but not too much. ” “I like to inflict a little bit of pain on my partner,” wrote one, “and also enjoy denying her orgasms, which is kinda torturous for her.”

“I’m definitely more of a ‘sweet sadist’ or ‘sensual sadist’ where there’s a lot of reassurance and embarrassing/cutesy sayings thrown in,” wrote a lesbian domme. “Sometimes I’ll laugh at them in a gentle way. It’s not from a place of cruelty, ever.”

Masochist

“Someone who enjoys receiving pain or intense sensations, being made uncomfortable, or being ‘forced’ to do something they don’t enjoy.” – The Ultimate Guide to Kink

Most masochists described their affiliation as “getting pleasure from pain.” “I fucking love being hurt (leather belts are my favorite),” wrote one lesbian genderqueer woman. “I like being bitten and spanked and I get aroused because of that,” wrote a bisexual woman.

“Receiving pain isn’t as much about D/s for me as it is about sharpening sensation so I can get out of my head and be present in the moment,” wrote one gay woman. “It feels like turning off my brain, and grounding myself, via my body.”

Sadomasochist

Although some respondents said they identified as both sadists and masochists, some used “sadomasochist” specifically, which refers to those who enjoy giving and receiving pain. Sadomasochism, wrote one femme top, “describes the amazing pleasure I get from delivering consensual pain as well as the pleasure I get from controlling the way certain types of pain are delivered to me (like how I LOVE to have my bratty bottom partner bite me really hard when they’re inside me and I’m spanking them at the same time).”

Pain Switch

Turned on by pain — giving it or receiving it. Similar to sadomasochist, perhaps more comfortable for those who don’t necessarily feel affinity to those terms for any assortment of reasons, like maybe not being into the psychological element or preferring the pain recipient to be visibly enjoying themselves (as in; no consensual non-consent). To each their very own!

Daddy/Mommy

These terms, considered part of age play, came up in 35 answers, either mentioned as somebody’s identity or the identity of their partner. Generally in heterosexual kink, a man taking on this role would identify as a Daddy and a woman would identify as a Mommy, but we’re queer, so actually Daddy was mentioned twice as often as Mommy on our survey.

Of course, “Daddy” can sometimes just be a word you say during sex that has certain power dynamics or some element of age play, but for others, it’s a more concrete identity. It is a form of domming that incorporates “parental” behaviors: protecting, leading, exerting authority, being nurturing or caretaking, and also delivering scolding and punishments for misbeheavior.

“I’ve recently become a Daddy to my boy (who is a butch cis woman),” wrote a queer femme. “As a chronicly ill/disabled person, domming my lover in this way has given me so much more than just pleasure for both of us. It’s given me a new sense of confidence, and of having some control in my life for the first time since I became ill. While I’ve always leaned more towards being a sub in the past, I feel like I’ve really flourished by becoming more dominant. There is something so nourishing about being in charge again after three years of being so physically (and financially etc.) impotent. And when I’m Daddy, it’s all about taking care of someone else, instead of being taken care of, which is very empowering right now. I love that my boy is so turned on by me, feels taken care of and is desperate to please me.”

“It means that while I want my partner to submit to me and while I want to be in control of the situation,” wrote another self-identified Daddy. “I also want my partner to feel taken care of and fulfilled.”

One “little girl” defined “mommy domme” as “where instead of a domme in the masochistic way, the domme takes on a more caring, nurturing role. Gentle femme domme, if you will.” Another said, “I just like the mommy dynamic bc submission takes on a warmer and patronizing flavour, if anything it’s the feeling of being taken care of and condescended to that makes being a little so hot.”

“I like Mom or mommy,” said a trans lesbian. “Largely this is just the somewhat cathartic thing where folks get to be beaten up by a nice lady. I’m anti-daddy, and not a huge fan of mommi, but I’m all the way here for a fist full of mommy.”

Finally, this: “I’m a femme, and I have a femme daddy and that’s pretty hot.”

Little Girl/Boi / Babygirl / Good Girl/Boi / Bad Girl/Boi

Usually described as part of a Daddy/little dynamic. “I identify as a babygirl,” wrote a femme lesbian. “I enjoy feeling cared for and cherished by my girlfriend, who identifies as a daddy. She provides a feeling of safety and security for me when in this role that I have never had with previous partners, and enjoys the feeling of nurturing me when we play.”

Another wrote, “I have a Daddy and engage in age-play and D/s. This means I’m a slutty little princess who submits to my Dom and receives a lot of fucking and pain and care. I also carry out tasks and activities outside of sex to please my Daddy.”

“I’m exploring ‘little girl’ since I’m nonbinary and haven’t thought of myself as a girl/woman in years,” said a queer person. “But in bed, I really enjoy being called ‘good girl’ and ‘pretty girl.’ ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Who the fuck knows what gender is anyway?! I just wanna have some awesome orgasms without thinking about that ugh.”

“Good girl,” “bad girl” and “bad boi” were also brought up as words used frequently in scenes involving Mommy/Daddy and little dynamics.

Finally, another little/babygirl added to her description: “In little-space I don’t have to worry about student loans.”

Temptress

“I like creating an environment in which someone can choose their response and the illicit thrill with knowing that they did this to themselves.”

Goddess

“Being in charge of the scene and topping the other person but through light and love. Deities disappear without followers so for me this is a place where I honor my partner worshipping me by sharing my power with them and lifting them up. ”

Pet / Owner

“When we take away out human masks to become more animalistic,” writes Lee Harrington in The Ultimate Guide to Kink. “Sometimes core parts of our identity come to the forefront in ways that we were unintentionally hiding from the world at large.”

Some survey-takers wrote of their interest in pony and puppy play or identifying as kittens. One described their identity as a “service otter.” Some described providing service to their owners, others of engaging in “primal play” (“playing more animalistic / rough and tumble”), others in more of a lifestyle situation. Like many elements of BDSM, there’s not always necessarily a sexual element — the focus can be more on cuddling or service. For example, this comic about puppy play explains that a “mosh,” or “puppy play meetup,” can be “a safe space… to receive cuddles and sensual touch without the expectation of sex.”

Prey

“I like feeling like I’m being hunted down.”

Predator

Hunts down the prey. Part of primal play, which can include playing with fear in dominance/submission and “animalistic” raw/unfiltered play.

[Pain or Humiliation or Etc] Slut

“Slut” hooks up with other words to reflect, basically, a bottomless appetite for something. Pain sluts want pain and torture, humiliation sluts want humiliation, sensation sluts are into a variety of physical sensations — floggers, canes, whips, hands, chains, rope, electric shocks, etc. “Impact slut” was another term mentioned, but not described by the person who mentioned it or within any kink reference materials I have access to. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say it’s being super into impact — getting hit, spanked, punched, kicked, etc.

Hedonist

“I enjoy pleasure overall more important that playing a specific role,” wrote a queer trans woman. Another hedonist opined, “let’s all just have beautiful orgasms, hopefully together.”

Pleasure Dom

“Dominating in order to do what you know will make the other person come hard, which is the turn on for myself.”

Service Sub

Not necessarily sex-related, often part of a 24/7 D/s relationship, where one’s submission is oriented towards doing helpful things for someone else. “I get pleasure from serving my dom in almost whatever way she wants me to,” wrote a queer woman. “This includes things like foot massages, cooking and cleaning for her, repairing her clothing, opening doors for her and generally following orders.”

Service Switch

“I enjoy being of service as much as I enjoy being served.”

These are just some of the many ways people identify, and probably just some of the many definitions for the terms included here. C U Next Tuesday for our final look at the data as a whole! In the meantime, don’t forget to feed your service otter!

Riese is the 37-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key Jewish power lesbian and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2658 articles for us.

38 Comments

  1. THANK YOU FOR EXISTING, RIESE, thank you for doing this survey and all this work always (despite people being all pass-agg in the comments and in the survery responses! wow so much emotional labour on your part!) (i keep forgetting to comment on these posts #jetlag but they are all excellent)

  2. I was honestly 100% emotionally prepared for this entire comment section to be people debating the ethics of kink and using the term “daddy” and instead it is ACTUAL PICTURES OF PUPPIES and people thanking me for doing the work. What a delight!

  3. This is a really good write up. It is extensive enough (I learned a few new things) but also accesible and easy to read. I can really see this becoming a resource for people who are starting to figure out their sexual identity. I also like that it’s about how people describe themselves (rather than dictionary style definitions), so it leaves room for your own interpretation of a term. Excellent!

    I Iove the illustrations by the way.

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