View From The Top: Dividing Acts and Power

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I went out to have drinks in a backyard on a hot summer night with three friends, all of whom are also dominants. “I just get so exhausted!” I blurted out while we were all taking our first sips of our drinks. “I want to feel enlivened by it, but I just give and give; it’s tiring.”

“Do you get her to fuck you?” asked one friend, a ruthless femme top.

I tilted my head, a little puzzled. “Uh, no. Mostly because of that stone thing.”

“But you do come, right?”

“Not… often.”

“Uh huh. Honey, you can’t just give and hold. You have to take in, somehow, too. Even if it’s not physically. How else can you start doing that?” She crossed her legs and flipped her hair, and I blinked. Right. It would be a good start to have more orgasms during scenes and sex. Even if I have to do it myself.

In the service topping mode, encouraging and supporting the bottom’s orgasms was my focus. Touching them, torturing them, using objects to heighten their sensitivity and sensation and release — I would go through all of my tools and toys for their pleasure. My own orgasms were elusive. I rarely come during strap-on sex, as much as I love it; when it does happen, it’s surprising and vulnerable and catches me off guard, and it makes me feel immediately guilty, like I have taken too much for myself.

“Is it… horrible?” I whispered to a lover one night, hiding my head in the pillow with the cover of snuggling.

“Horrible!?” she laughed. “Oh my god, it’s the best. It’s my favorite. The way your hips move when you’re about to come, it’s different, it’s not the same as any other time you fuck me. I love it. I wish you could do that more.”

I breathed a sigh of relief, still feeling exposed.

Later, another lover said: “Nothing turns me on more than when you use me. When I may as well not even be here, it’s just you and what you want. When your desire completely overwhelms me.” I can still see the way she tucked her hair behind her ear and looked at me just a little sideways, shyly, under her eyelashes, like she wasn’t sure if that was too much to want, if it was wrong, if it wasn’t okay.

But these phrases are etched on the insides of my ears. If I close my eyes and breathe I can call them back to me, I can still hear their echo. They, and a thousand others, helped to form my dominance.

Another hot night in a backyard patio with mojitos and the same dom friends, we stumbled on to this idea: no particular act is inherently dominant or submissive. In topping and bottoming, the action is what defines those roles — the top wields the flogger, the bottom gets hit with it. The top penetrates, the bottom is penetrated. The top ties the knots, the bottom gets tied up. What if the person who is strapped-on is tied to a bed, blindfolded and ridden, not allowed to come? Who is really in charge then?

“Well, what is the power then, if it’s not the acts?” Someone challenged. We brainstormed. I scrawled on a bar napkin:

Ways to play with acts vs power

  1. levels: being higher or lower than the other
  2. dirty talk
  3. constant clear direction
  4. control: orgasm, breath, speech, restriction, bondage

When I got home to the girl I loved and cherished, the one with whom we’d established highly negotiated and intentional D/s roles, I took a seat in our big chair and told her to come kneel in front of me.

“Put your fingers in your mouth,” I said. She did. Two fingers, index and middle, sliding down her tongue. “Get them all wet.” She nodded around her fingers, moving them back and forth. I stood and unbuckled my belt, unbuttoned my jeans, took down the zipper, and pushed them and my underwear to my ankles. Then I sat back down in the chair.

“Slide them inside me,” I said. Already wet, already hard, already terrified. And — eyes wide, kneeling, beaming up at me — she did.

Sinclair Sexsmith (they/them) is “the best-known butch erotica writer whose kinky, groundbreaking stories have turned on countless queer women” (AfterEllen), who “is in all the books, wins all the awards, speaks at all the panels and readings, knows all the stuff, and writes for all the places” (Autostraddle). ​Their short story collection, Sweet & Rough: Queer Kink Erotica, was a 2016 finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. Sinclair identifies as a white non-binary butch dominant, a survivor and an introvert. Follow their writings at Sugarbutch Chronicles.

Sinclair has written 40 articles for us.

20 Comments

  1. “When I may as well not even be here, it’s just you and what you want. When your desire completely overwhelms me.” JFChrist! Can confirm! I’ve seen it from a few different angles, but witnessing that moment, espesh when it doesn’t happen everytime, is like seeing a deer in the morning, or some other not-often-seen-animal.

  2. “No particular act is inherently dominant or submissive.” Yes! Thank you! I’ve been feeling this a lot recently, and looking back on past relationships and realizing I was dominant in bed even when we weren’t in explicitly BDSM territory. I’ve started reframing it in my head as something more about headspace and energy than about acts.

  3. “Nothing turns me on more than when you use me. When I may as well not even be here, it’s just you and what you want. When your desire completely overwhelms me.”

    Ohhhhhh my god, yes. Except this is my rationale for being of service. How do you always find the words to perfectly describe my life?

    • Yes! Agreed, loved this part of the essay.

      It almost—okay, it totally does—makes me tear up to think about the partners that I’ve had who trust that this is what I want, and that in return, I can trust that even while playing out a scene in which my desire doesn’t matter at all that they honor my needs/limits.

      The level of trust needed to navigate that isn’t something I ever had in relationships before I started really embracing my kink. It taught me that open, explicit communication was the only path to getting what I wanted (in AND out of the bedroom.)

      So good, Sinclair! Let me echo everyone who said that the only bad thing about this piece is that it’s not longer. Can’t wait for more.

  4. “No particular act is inherently dominant or submissive.”

    I wish more folks got this. Who is moving and who is in control are completely different beasts. E.g., I’m most definitely submissive, but one of the things I love most is when my partner tells me to worship her— I’m the one doing “the work” but it’s all about serving her needs. Ain’t nothing contradictory in being a stone bottom.

  5. I’m a flip flop when it comes to roles in sex, but when I was in a relationship where I was submissive, one of the hottest moments in our sexual relationship was him sliding his feel-do into me and sucking it off. Not for a second did it feel like our roles were reversed.

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