View From The Top: Aftercare For Tops

1.

Everyone will tell you to be stoic. To be strong. That’s what being a top means. To not need comfort, touch, reassurance. You’re harsh, strict, brooding — what would you need with those displays of vulnerability, your soft underbelly?

You will see. You will see.

They may not even tell you with their voices, but with their looks, their expressions, their shoulders turned slightly this way instead of that. You’ll know. You’ll get the message. It is more of an assumed cultural wound than good practice, more collective unconscious manifest through sexism and stereotype.

Tops know secrets like these: the only way to display your softness is if you are strong.

2.

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There is no wrong way to come back from a top trip and integrate the experiences of sensation, obedience, control, ownership, rough play. I spent years in concern, stretching out like a sandbar as the tide went out, before I started asking for things. Will you send me photos of the bruises? (Preferably along with even the smallest of expressions that you liked playing, you are proud of the marks, you don’t think I did something horrible to you?) Will you tell me what you liked? Will you tell me what part of it was the hardest for you to endure? (The part you report is almost never the part that I’m obsessing over in my mind, worrying, the moment that I fear I went too far or did something wrong.) Will you hold me (down) when my heart starts flying out of my chest, bursting from care and concern for you, when really what I need is care and concern for me? It feels counterintuitive. You’re the one who endured so much, who put yourself in a vulnerable position — but after we are both certain you are okay, and your endorphins have settled down, please may we talk about my vulnerabilities? About how much it takes to let my desire be seen so visibly? Because at any moment you could turn and make fun of it, walk away from it, tell me it’s wrong, tell me it’s too much, tell me I’ve gone too far.

Perhaps trust is my biggest kink. That would explain a lot.

3.

I don’t want to tell you how hard it is sometimes to muster up the strength to beat you down. I know you ask for it, beg for it; I know you need it, somehow somewhere in your system desires the intense sensation that comes with bodies slamming into each other, pain bursting on the edges of your body. I don’t want to tell you the monologue in my head sometimes as you take it, harder and harder, for me, as we keep up the illusion — for both of us — that it is in fact for me, that it isn’t something I do for you because you need it. I know I need it, too, and I do, and I seek it, and I crave it when I don’t get it, but sometimes: I don’t want to tell you, but all I want is your mouth on me, your hands on me, those loving caresses, those sweet kisses, and sometimes, I whip you beat you smack you fuck you hard just so we can have those moments of aftercare, where I can break down after coming so hard that I cry, and you kiss my tears and fit right into that spot in my arm against my chest and shoulder, and I marvel at our forms.

Kink is cuddling foreplay, you told me once.

4.

There are so many reasons why we smuggle our desire, why we keep it hidden in secret compartments and rarely offer others a look, but primarily it comes down to fear. Fear of what someone else will think, fear that you won’t get what you are asking for, fear of humiliation, fear of giving someone leverage to hang over you, fear of actually getting what you desire.

Being strong isn’t about having no fear, but about feeling the fear and doing it anyway. Feeling the fear and knowing that no matter the result or response, you will be okay. Feeling the fear and trusting in your own inner strength and inner sense of self and friends and community such that you can risk, you can offer your fragile places even if the result is shattered brokenness, because you know you can put it all back together.

As a top, it would be good to become familiar with kintsukuroi, the Japanese art of repairing pottery with gold, making it stronger than it was before. The breakage or repair then becomes part of the history of the object, making it even more beautiful for having broken. Because there will be times you put yourself out there, no longer smuggling your desire, and it won’t be caught but will clatter to the concrete floor like glass. There will be miscommunication.

And it isn’t just you that can break. To be in the position of potential violation is, for many of us, horrifying. Learn the social and sexual politics of consent. Devour everything you can. Build trust slowly and truly. Listen when someone says they were hurt. Make amends. Do what you can to repair it all with gold.

5.

Listen to your body. Your body will tell you if something you do is healthy for you. Are you calm, serene, elated, thrilling like a bird call the next day? Or are you foggy, mucky, crashed, pining? Pay attention.

Learn everything you can about how to be a top: how to read body language, how to communicate, how to negotiate, how to do the technical skills of kink and BDSM with which you want to play. Learn everything that the queer kinky culture expects of you. But also be willing to source the answers from your own body. They might tell you, in whispers and dust, how strong you are supposed to be, how certain, how unbreakable, but your belly might know better, and might tell you precisely what kind of sensate holding you need after. Maybe you need something delicious in your mouth — brownies, limeade, a caprese sandwich. Maybe you need words of praise and clarity. Maybe you need time, time, time together, riding out the endorphins until the chemical waves settle. Maybe you are fine right after, but you need contact the next day, and the next, even just a brief response to a text, a small phone call.

Experiment. Find out what you need. You’ll discover patterns. You’ll discover consistent solutions. You’ll discover all those things about yourself that are waiting, just out of reach, for you to bring them home.


Editor’s note: Kinkshaming will not be tolerated in the comments. If your comment is deemed unproductive to the conversation, it will be deleted.

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.

61 Comments

  1. Jesus fucking Christ. This one resonated more than anything you’ve written before (and I’ve been reading you for quite a while).

    This line. “Perhaps trust is my biggest kink. That would explain a lot.” I’m gonna keep thinking about it for quite a while.

  2. Being able to trust someone is a kink for me. What good is having sex, engaging in play or even spending time with someone if you can’t have some trust. It does go a long way when you trust someone enough to be vulnerable. I just think it’s a shame that we can write and express these thoughts and emotions but still feel like it is a lacking part of our relationships.

  3. I think my comment was deleted because I was critical of this piece. I didn’t make any personal remarks about the author even though this was nauseating to read as a sub. Like seriously, so triggering and infuriating. But okay cool?

    • I think if your comment had been deleted there would be a “This comment has been removed as it is in violation of Autostraddle’s Comment Policy” in its place. Your comment probably accidentally got caught in the moderation queue or your browser glitched and the comment never went through to begin with.

      If your comment doesn’t end up going through and you don’t mind repeating yourself, I’m curious about what you found triggering here. I don’t practice BDSM myself but I resonated so much with the way vulnerability and power exchanges were explored in the article.

    • ‘This was nauseating to read as a sub?’ Are you serious? Why?? Because a Top expressed her humanity, vulnerability and emotional needs? *shock horror* Because it’s all about us subs right? Well I tell you this: this piece brought a tear to my eye and I realised, reading it, what I’ve yearned for for so long. Someone who owns her own vulnerability, desire and responsibility like the author describes. Bloody hot, who wouldn’t want to serve a Top like that? Bravo!

  4. I agree with Mattie, usually if a comment has been removed, there is a place marker left in its stead.

    Also, I too would be interested in your perspective, if you don’t mind writing it out again.

  5. Thanks everyone for being interested in my perspective! I was sure I would be shut down immediately after seeing nothing but positive comments, but I will try to explain why this rubbed me the wrong way.

    Of course I can’t speak for every sub, and this piece is sure to resonate with everyone differently. I think that potentially if you are a Dom(me) or have had very loving and affirming BDSM experiences as a sub, you may be more trusting of this perspective but obviously I wasn’t.

    Starting with the title… “Aftercare for Tops”. Like…. no. The word aftercare is very specifically used in BDSM for how to help a sub come back from a dissociative state they may enter while experiencing pain and/or degradation. To me this author completely dismissed why this is so important, why it is a unique experience for subs, and equating the concept to the kind of affirmation Tops/Dom(me)s need felt like saying “I am uncomfortable when we are not about me?” Like ya, tops should be able to express their feelings and have critical dicussions with their partners but why are you insisting on framing it this way?

    This piece also seemed to equate the pressure to be masculine that butches face to the hardship (sarcasm) of getting off on another’s pain and degradation! Again…. No…! “ I don’t want to tell you how hard it is sometimes to muster up the strength to beat you down.” I can’t even express clearly how angry i am that this was published seriously on autostraddle dot com????

    I know a good sub is supposed to be like, Yes, its a give and take! It’s an equal power exchange, it’s not abuse because of consent, and don’t shame anyones kink, blah blah blah! But D/s relationships are so complicated! A lot of subs have been abused or are using bdsm as a form of self-harm. A lot of Dom(me)s are abusive and don’t know how to give aftercare or refuse to! And sorry that you, a Dom(me) feel self-conscious about your desires, but actually that’s the way it should be because you should be questioning your motives, and making sure that you are not abusing your power.

    As you can tell, I have a lot of feelings about this, and I’m sure that the author did not mean to make these implications, but I implore them to think a little more critically not only about their own happy D/s relationships but about the concept of D/s and BDSM as a whole. To subs reading this who may not be super experiences my advice is to focus on making sure YOU get the aftercare you need, and not settling for someone whose attitude is, are you alive? Are you crying? No? Good, now i need you to support me emotionally.

    I’m sure the author doesn’t practice this in their lives, but as a sub, it is often that we find ourselves with not only physically dominant but emotionally dominant personalities and it often doesn’t leave a lot of space for our own needs.

    Thanks for reading.

    • Thank you for sharing, Lee! First, I’d encourage you to read everything in this series for a complete picture of the author and the history of this subject on AS. I’d also encourage you to read everything by Alaina in the “Bottoms Up” series, both of which combined will present you the whole catalogue of information on BDSM on AS.

      Second, yes, we assume in these articles that a consensual, healthy, positive relationship exists! This is the gold-standard by which all is measured. Abuse exists outside this standard. Abuse is not BDSM. Abuse may exist within BDSM communities, but this is not to blame BDSM anymore than there may be queer abusers who should not be associated with all queer people just because.

      The point Sinclair is trying to make is that being the D in a D/s relationship isn’t easy. Not every Dom can easily engage in behaviors that challenge them, even if the sub has not only consented, but encouraged. Doms aren’t all-powerful, emotionally invulnerable robots and no one should expect them to be. In NO WAY (emphasis, not yelling at you) is Sinclair saying that aftercare for the sub should not exist or that the Dom’s needs take priority. That is absolutely not what is being said here. Sinclair will be the first one to tell you that being a Dom is a serious responsibility and their series focuses on a lot of the difficulties an informed Dom faces, such as internal challenges to their feminism.

      Sinclair is masculine by identity and does not feel “pressured” to be who they are. The pressure comes from being able to DO the things a Dom does. Inflicting pain, for instance, is something that Sinclair can struggle with despite consent and encouragement. This particular article is focused on Doms specifically, but believe me Sinclair also knows when not to push limits and back down because they aren’t comfortable with the situation, even when given consent. If anything, I’d hope you’d be encouraged by the fact that a Dom is seeking permission to get off on being a Dom!

      So again, abusive relationships are not BDSM, they are abuse. An abuser who wants to play the role of Dom is not a Dom: they are an abuser. Their victim is not a sub: they are a victim.

      Third, Sinclair’s articles are all ABOUT feeling self-conscious and critically self-examining themselves, their relationships, their feelings, and their encounters. That’s all Sinclair does. That’s what this article is. You’re basically encouraging Sinclair to write an article… well, like the one you’ve just read. This IS a critical examination of their own experiences and BDSM as a whole. All of their articles are.

      You say, “To subs reading this who may not be super experiences my advice is to focus on making sure YOU get the aftercare you need, and not settling for someone whose attitude is, are you alive? Are you crying? No? Good, now i need you to support me emotionally.” This is not Sinclair’s attitude, what they were saying, what they were talking about, or what the article is about in any way, shape, or form.

      All that matters to Sinclair is being a responsible Dom that sees to the needs of their partner… and there is absolutely nothing wrong with Dom’s being recognized as human-beings with difficulties and needs of their own.

      Consider Sinclair’s words here, “And it isn’t just you that can break. To be in the position of potential violation is, for many of us, horrifying. Learn the social and sexual politics of consent. Devour everything you can. Build trust slowly and truly. Listen when someone says they were hurt. Make amends. Do what you can to repair it all with gold.”

      If Dom’s don’t take care of themselves, don’t critically examine things, don’t acknowledge their feelings… you’ll be left with an abuser. Sinclair essentially preaches the gold standard of what you want in a Dom. They remind me very much of mine, who is a human-being and sometimes THEY break down crying and need MY care. That is OKAY. I would be a terrible, terrible person if I ignored my Dom’s emotional needs and cared only about myself.

      But if you are with a Dom who isn’t making space for the needs of the sub and refuses to change if confronted? Then the sub needs to leave that relationship. That’s not normal. It’s not healthy.

      A big problem Sinclair faces when publishing their articles is that people read and make snap-judgments and never have the whole picture. The biggest complaint I see is that Sinclair needs to be self-critical and analyze things… but that’s ALL Sinclair does! That’s all this article and this series do. There is literally no way to do it better. If someone’s doing it, I haven’t come across it online. In that regard, I completely understand your concerns, but if you’re well-informed on the author and this series there shouldn’t be a problem because all your concerns and desires are met and then some!

      As always, as an abuse survivor myself, if someone is in an abusive relationship I encourage them to leave immediately and find HELP. BDSM is not abuse. It cannot be blamed for abuse because there’s some bad people in the community. Every community has bad eggs. No community should be punished for them, especially when that community actively rejects that sort of behavior and does everything in its power to educate others and prevent it from happening.

      Thank you very much for posting your thoughts and feelings! I hope you will again! :)

      • Hi Joanna, thanks for your response! From your defense of this piece and Sinclair’s work in general, it sounds like you either know them or are a fan of their work. I have no plans to read any more “View from the Top” as I found this one super upsetting, and I am not interested in judging their work as a whole at this point. I’m speaking as a first-time reader analyzing the troubling implications that are present in this particular piece that it sounds like other people saw too. I am not interested in Sinclair’s personal life or their intentions.

        Why should I need to be well informed on the author to decide whether or not the language used in this piece makes me sick to my stomach? Why is criticism from people who aren’t familiar with the author invalid? Why, can’t this piece stand alone? Why are you feeling the need to assure me over and over that the author doesn’t feel this way, that this was not the author’s intention, that the author Definitely practices Only healthy and consensual BDSM?

        To respond to another point: To say that BDSM is no more inherently tied to abuse than queer people are is completely offensive to me. Even in the most caring and consensual practice of BDSM as a whole is inextricable linked to abuse. Queerness and abuse are completely separate entities that may intersect in a relevant way to someone if they are in a queer relationship that is abusive. BDSM has always and will always be in conversation with abuse, because BDSM mirrors, plays with, and redefines the same actions present in domestic abuse.

        I know a lot of people in the BDSM community feel that since they have redefined dominance and submission as a consensual practice for themselves, they can extricate themselves from being accountable for how BDSM practice interacts with life and culture outside of “scene”. I’m not about that, and I know a lot of other people feel the same way.

        Regardless of how critical you personally choose to be about the “BDSM community” (in scare quotes because I have a ton of thoughts about “community” and how we talk about it that aren’t perhaps relevant here) I feel like the first part of my response is justification enough for how I felt about the way this piece was framed.

        Thanks for reading!

        • I think this work does stand on its own, but I think you’ve also missed the point and/or are foisting your own interpretation on it. Because the things you want and are worried about are here, in the text! It doesn’t get any better!

          You’re totally allowed criticism! I’d… just like to understand the basis. Make a connection somehow. There’s a total disconnect between what you’re worried about and what this article is.

          To say that BDSM is inherently tied to abuse is VERY offensive to ME. I consider such a remark baseless, hurtful, and very confused. To me, it shows a complete lack of understanding or experiencing what BDSM really is. Abuse is abuse. Believe me, as a survivor I know the difference.

          You may not agree and may know others who share your view, but that doesn’t mean that you truly understand BDSM or should be speaking for it.

          Absolutely, if this work is triggering you for some reason, you shouldn’t read it. At the same token, you shouldn’t condemn healthy, consenting adults for engaging in behaviors that we choose to. Nor should you denigrate an entire community.

          Yes, I’m a fan of Sinclair and Alaina’s work (no, I don’t know Sinclair personally in any manner, yes I’d like to think Alaina is an online friend), but I’m not defending either of them on that basis. I’ve survived abuse. I’ve survived sexual assault. My only point is that I have a right to my voice too and not to be shamed for healthy, consensual activity.

          You’ve explained your reasons. I’ve explained how I believe you’re in error. If you’d like to explicitly explain how Sinclair isn’t being critical and isn’t being a positive influence, point by point, then please do so. However, so far you’ve only accused them of saying things they haven’t and when that’s been explained you only dug in your heels without further elucidation. We can agree to disagree and respectfully go on our ways or we can try to understand one another. Up to you. :)

          • I feel like I’ve been pretty respectful in my comments, and that you’ve been continually condescending. You haven’t seemed to try to understand where I’m coming from (”if this work is triggering you for some reason…”) but I’ve been clear that I’ve never been about dissecting Sinclair’s actual views and practices or yours for that matter. I don’t think I’ve accused them of saying anything, just tried to explain how I interpreted/reacted to what I read.

            Intent =/=impact and all that, right? I’m interested in impact in this instance, and I think that’s valid.

            My beef as I already kind of said if specifically with the framing and language used in sections 1-3 of the piece, and I’m mainly concerned with how it will be read by BDSM newbies and people who may have had bad experiences with Dominants. You read it as woke and loving? I read it as self-centered, taking space and language away from subs, and nauseating. But that’s just me, and I’ve never insisted that’s how it has to be read. Just adding my 2 cents. Additionally, I think a piece on Dominants processing emotions could be great if framed differently.

            BDSM is inextricably linked to abuse in the way that both are at their core bringing up questions and theory about power, control, and physical harm to another. I am not saying BDSM is abuse. I’m saying that (as a someone who has experienced both consensual and non-consensual control and violence from another) *I* believe that advocates of BDSM have a responsibility to continually be in conversation about these topics if we hope to get abuse out of D/s friends, circles, and communities (abuse that is not rare, not the odd bad egg).

            I also don’t agree that if BDSM is abusive, it no longer is BDSM. Just like if a feminist doesn’t care about anyone but white women, I’m not going to say she’s not a feminist. I’ll just say that she’s a shitty/racist feminist. Sure as laypeople, we don’t have to be always thinking about abuse while we’re having the kind of sex we prefer, but it’s not really a matter of opinion that BDSM is about power, control, pain, and TRUST…. Those elements are often present in abusive relationships (an abusive person abusing trust or punishing another person for not being trustworthy, etc.)

            I’m getting pretty tired now and I don’t know if I’ll come back to this page because i feel like i said everything I wanted to say. I didn’t come here to attack anyone personally, just share why the intro to this piece was troubling to me. I didn’t even come here to get theoretical about BDSM and how I practice/think about it, but I hope that this column and fans of it can be receptive of BDSM-critical thought (especially from practicing subs.) It sounds like, from your own words, Sinclair is critical of the nature of being a D and BDSM, so maybe we have a lot to agree on. But again this one rubbed me the wrong way.

          • “I’ve been clear that I’ve never been about dissecting Sinclair’s actual views and practices or yours for that matter”

            I think that’s what I don’t understand. I’m sorry you feel condescended to. Your words aren’t computing and I’m trying to process and comprehend, not put you down or make you feel inferior.

            I believe abusers are abusers. I won’t dignify them with more. We can agree to disagree. Of course I’ll also say a white, racist, transphobic “feminist” isn’t really a feminist. ;)

            I hope you have a good day, Lee. Thank you for sharing and I’m sorry I didn’t understand.

    • Hey Lee, I’ll try to write out a more detailed response to this later, but I just wanted to say thanks for adding your voice to this. I recently became an A+ member as a sort of delayed response to the Toast shutting down and the election; I wanted to see spaces for queer womyn to continue to thrive! One of the reasons I didn’t do that sooner was this column, or more specifically, the Autostraddle response to it. I’m a switch and willingly engage in BDSM, but I think there’s a lot in Sinclair’s work to be critical about. I’ve been following their writing on here since the beginning, and although you can’t ever know anyone’s life, some troubling themes seem to emerge over and over. I feel like there is definitely a way to critique some of the claims put forward in this series without kinkshaming, but the moderators and the comment threads often seem to say otherwise. I thought you offered some really valid points here and I’m glad you took the time to re-type them so we could engage with them. Thanks for adding your voice!

      • Thanks for replying Courtney! Though I have not read anything else in the series and dont plan to after reading this, I’ve heard some similar opinions from people on Tumblr.
        It’s disappointing to hear that Autostraddle may not be friendly or receptive to those who are interested in being kink-critical/BDSM-critical because I think that discussion is needed for the community to feel less like a cult, which it often does to me as a submissive queer person.

    • hi Lee, i’m curious about some of your points.

      i think your biggest bone to pick comes from a (possibly regional?) difference in language.

      you said, “The word aftercare is very specifically used in BDSM for how to help a sub come back from a dissociative state they may enter while experiencing pain and/or degradation” but i know for a fact that is not how Sinclair uses the word. what you are describing, we would call a “trauma response plan,” which is v. important for bdsm players to have no doubt, but they have written about that elsewhere.

      rather, what they mean when they say aftercare is more like, “the loving reconnection and grounding time that happens after every scene/sex act” (not after traumatic/dissasociative ones).

      i know for a fact they value aftercare for subs because i am their sub and i am absolutely spoiled by affection and care.

      • Hi Rife, thanks for replying!

        That’s an interesting way to frame it, and helps me understand their intention. I still stand by what I said because the word aftercare usually refers to the care subs need, and a quick google search pretty much only shows me results on aftercare in the context of a sub’s needs while they are in or exiting subspace.

        As for your last comment, I am glad to hear that, but I also have no interest in the author’s personal life or intentions. That may be hard to accept as valid as someone who cares for them and wants to explain their motives, but I’m really only interested in analyzing the implications of the writing in front of me. I talk more about this in my reply to Joanna’s comment above.

    • Lee, thank you for taking the time and energy to respond again! I don’t want to come across as arguing with you about your reading of the article, so instead I’m going to try to explain more how I read it and related to it. Apologies for the length.

      • I think the biggest reason I relate to Sinclair’s pieces is because of how I relate to consent. I was raised in a Christian heteronormative culture where consent meant waiting until marriage to have sex. I assumed that I would marry a boy and that said boy would have a higher sex drive than I did. I assumed that when I dated I would have to be wary and say no and be on my guard to make sure I was never sexually assaulted. What actually happened is that I have the higher sex drive in my relationship. It was so hard for me to learn to ask for sex because I never thought I would have to. It’s so hard for me to hear my partner say “no” sometimes because I thought my partner would only ever say no if they weren’t attracted to me. And every time my partner says no it sets off this cycle in my brain of “oh my god they said no I must be abusive I can’t believe I violated their consent by asking for something they didn’t want to do!!” My partner and I have figured out that I react better when I am given a response like, “No, but I really love you”, or “No, but I think you’re sexy”, or, “I don’t want to have sex but come here and let me cuddle you”, or “ I don’t want to have sex today but I’m happy to hold you while you masturbate.” Unfortunately, this sometimes STILL causes my brain to go “but you’re the one who just said no and I need to make sure you’re okay and how dare I tell you HOW you should say no to me when I need to learn to just accept your no and be okay with it!” So this is what I see in this article, this tension of dealing with society’s expectations and baggage vs. who you actually are in your relationship, as well as the balance of making sure everyone’s needs are met. My partner tells me that it’s okay that I need to hear a soft no and that I need to be emotionally taken care of even when they say no. They tell me they’re happy to meet my needs in other ways when they don’t want to have sex. I still have trouble believing that, though, and assume that I’m a bad person and should be more focused on my partner and what they want/need. My partner, on the other hand, tells me that it’s not my job to assume what their needs and wants are. My job is to respect my partner and trust my partner. This means trusting my partner to tell me when I have overstepped boundaries instead of always being afraid that I’m blowing their boundaries out of the water.

        • Here are some more specific thoughts on each section.
          1. Deals with the (often unspoken) social expectations that if you’re a top or a dom you will always be confident. I hear Sinclair writing about how tops aren’t supposed to want comfort or the emotional parts of sex. It’s all a complicated jumble because society makes assumptions about men and then assumes that men are doms and then ends up plastering those assumptions about men onto tops too even though not all tops and doms are men. This reminds me of how I sometimes feel ashamed for enjoying the foreplay and the cuddling afterwards and the emotional intimacy of sex. Society tells us that only women enjoy those parts and society tells us that women are lesser-than. I identify as nonbinary, so what I enjoy about sex sometimes makes me feel like I’m more feminine than I want to be, but at the same time I don’t want to classify those things as feminine anymore. I feel like saying those things are only feminine is part of toxic masculinity. Similarly, it’s not okay to say that doms don’t want those things in sex too.
          2. The parenthetical captures this section for me, “Preferably along with even the smallest of expressions that you liked playing, you are proud of the marks, you don’t think I did something horrible to you?” I think Sinclair makes it very clear that they are still putting the needs of their sub first, “after we are both certain you are okay…” and it seems like they’re talking about real care, not just a cursory “are you alive?” Sinclair wants deeper reassurance that their sub really, really enjoyed it. And I get the feeling that if their sub didn’t, Sinclair would want to talk about that too. What I’m hearing is that it’s not enough to only talk about the sex play if things went wrong; it’s okay to want praise and reassurance when things go right too. It’s okay to want to hear explicitly that your partner enjoyed it instead of just assuming that since they didn’t say it sucked they must be okay. And for me, I love that what I see as the crux of the paragraph is inside a parenthetical, as if the author is still too afraid to put that desire in writing even though that’s what this section is about. This paragraph is the one that makes me feel like I could understand BDSM? This paragraph is the one that makes it seem like BDSM is about BOTH people involved and is a mutual balancing of desire and need.
          3. I think I read 3 the opposite of how you did? I think that Sinclair is saying that with BDSM the people involved play a game where the dom is in charge and in control and the dom is there to take it. I hear Sinclair saying that in reality, it’s often the other way around. It’s completely a game because in fact, in reality, the dom sometimes does it because the sub wants it. In reality, the dom often just wants the closeness they feel at the end. The ending of this section is so sweet. It reminds me of how it feels when my partner and I fight or have an intense conversation that leaves us feeling emotionally drained and turning to each other for support. It reminds me of how it feels when my partner and I are feeling frustrated in a way we can’t put into words, not necessarily with each other but with the world, so we wrestle. We push each other and roll around in the bed and pin each other down until we collapse into each other’s arms. It’s this feeling of both adrenaline and exhaustion and of needing and wanting to be needed. If people use BDSM as a way to recreate that closeness, then I get it.
          4. This section literally ends with the directive to go and learn about consent, build trust with your partner, and learn how to communicate.
          5. I feel like this section applies to everybody. It’s about listening to your body and what you need.

        • And if I wasn’t clear, the societal messaging was wrong in assuming that all men have higher sex drives than all women, for assuming that all people are either men or women, and for assuming that all relationships have one man and one woman.

        • Are you me? You just explained the same discrepancy between what I was taught about sex and relationships growing up and how my reality actually plays out that I have been struggling with but unable to articulate. Thanks!

    • You know, I’m actually kinda happy to read through this conversation and see that it is kink critical, without the amount of aggression that I’ve seen in the comments section of some of the past articles from other commentors.

      That being said, I think that if a sub is feeling uncomfortable or triggered, it is very important for them to speak out about it, and for others to listen and not dismiss them.

      But just to get a basic understanding of your prospective; it’s not necessarily the dom themself that you take issue with or their intentions or where they’re coming from, but you are more worried about the possible cultural implications of these pieces due to the way things are phrased, and how they may be misconstrued by newbie subs and doms with ill intentions?

    • Lee, I agree with you. I’m actually a long-term reader of Sinclair, and have consistently found their writing about kink and about their relationship partners, to be extremely self-involved and super hostile to criticism. I once made a post suggesting they be more considerate about airing their issues with their ex and relationship publicly (since it was not clear their ex had consented to have her sex life and relationship dissected on a blog for strangers) and they responded with a ton of defensive and hostile anger.

      As a femme sub, I’m exhausted by the number of masculine leaning tops who demand so much right after play, and attempt to co-opt “aftercare” and “drop” for themselves. It’s not all about you, all the time. Part of why I do kink related play is to have a moment where I’m not catering to someone else’s emotional needs, where I can experience power exchange without needing to babysit someone’s every feeling. I get that tops want to process their feelings, but that’s just NOT AFTERCARE. You don’t get to make aftercare about you.

        • Just because someone interprets things differently from you does not make them dishonest.

          Your comments are so dismissive to valid feelings and criticism.

          Did I call you dishonest, even though I can’t imagine feeling the way you do about this article? No. Maybe you can ask to find out why A Femme felt that way if you don’t understand.

          • Someone can’t say something that can be proven wrong and expect me to accept their feelings as truth. Feelings may be valid and not true.

            Sinclair did no such thing as Femme accuses them of. They replied calmly and informatively. They did not “air issues with their ex” and were using a fictitious character. If Femme wants to ignore that and say the opposite… no… it makes no sense to me.

            Similarly, I’ve tried to understand your perspective, but… you believe BDSM is inherently tied to abuse… which makes me think we have irreconcilable differences. BDSM is inherently tied to CONSENT… so once that line is crossed, it ceases to be BDSM and is only abuse.

            Sinclair and their sub are in a loving, committed relationship with exceptional trust, communication, honesty, and vulnerability. I can understand that. That’s the same relationship I have with my Dom. This is a critical examination of feelings IN that loving, safe relationship. It is not a carte blanche for Doms to become abusive. Again, abuse is abuse and Sinclair shouldn’t HAVE to say that because anyone who thinks otherwise, frankly shouldn’t be involved in BDSM. If you’re willingly subjecting yourself to behavior that you think is abusive, then I think you lack the ability to consent and should seek professional counseling.

            A lack of trust in a Dom, be it your first time with them or a lifetime, is not healthy. It means everything should come to a hard stop and not go any further. Willingly subjecting yourself to something you consider abuse is not healthy. It should stop immediately. Not only should you get professional counseling, but any Dom who would be with you is unethical and sucks at being a Dom. What you’re describing is self-harm. When I was a teenager I would engage in risky and harmful behaviors too. I justified and rationalized it, but in reality I needed serious help.

            So, please, Lee… don’t take this as condescending or dismissive. Take it as serious concern. You can say and think whatever you want about me, but at the end of the day nothing matters more to me than protecting vulnerable people. Sinclair’s article becomes meaningless if you are suffering. It has nothing to do with Sinclair being right or wrong or critically examining healthy, consensual BDSM, but of making sure you’re in a safe place and that you have people to talk to.

          • Sinclair rarely responds to comments on Autostraddle and has never been hostile on Autostraddle. Sinclair has previously clarified that the “ex” frequently written about in View From the Top is NOT A REAL PERSON, but is instead made-up based on Sinclair’s real experiences and also fantasy. So no one’s being written about against their will and Sinclair politely clarified that both in the original text and in comments when asked. To say otherwise is dishonest.

            Lee, are welcome to your own interpretation of this piece, but you have already stated that you’re unfamiliar with Sinclair’s work beyond this piece. If you want to have an opinion, go find the pieces in question and read them. Sinclair has never been hostile on Autostraddle.

        • I’m referring to Sinclair’s personal blog, Sugarbutch – not the column for Autostraddle. Sinclair wrote extensively about Kristen, their ex, in ways that were disturbing to me.

          Perhaps you should read and clarify befofe assuming.

      • Thank you for your reply, A Femme! I have heard similar things and can understand why you would see those implications and feel that way.

        Femmes are often expected to do emotional labor for MOC people and that is definitely an important part of this conversation.

    • Hey, Lee! I just wanted to say thank you for being so open and honest in sharing your feelings and thoughts about this piece. I know you probably feel like you have to defend yourself here, and I’m sorry you have been in that position. Unfortunately, I think previous commenters have created something of a toxic environment in the comments sections of this column — wherein we are somewhat used to having to be really guarded and defensive. That is absolutely not an excuse, but a way of asking you to give us some time to figure out how to create a positive space here where everyone’s thoughts are valued.

      So, thank you, again.

      I am a longtime reader of Sinclair, and while I could jump to their defense based on what I know about them, I think your interest in discussing only the article at hand is super valid. I also think, as a writer myself, it is very important to get this kind of perspective. Being familiar with the body of a writer is one thing, but I agree that each piece should stand on its own.

      I don’t know that I, personally, have anything to add to this discussion. I’m more toppy but am very very new. It has been my understanding that aftercare is not limited to one side of a partnership — it is specific to each relationship and should meet the needs of both parties involved. For that reason, I found this particular column to be assuring. I am also MoC, and I think there is a lot of pressure not just in the kink community, but everywhere, for MoCs to be as stoic as humanly possible. Any emotion, any seeking of connection, is seen as feminine. Which in our current society is considered a weakness or shortcoming in MoC folks. In my mind, this column was an exploration of the multifaceted nature of performing the dom role and the emotional weight that can come with it — not a condonation of co-opting care for subs.

      That was my takeaway, and I recognize that I have bias. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts, and I will consider your perspective with the seriousness that it deserves.

  6. Lee, thank you SO much for saying what you did. I’m a switch and feel you on everything. Sinclair’s piece made me wince in a lot of places re: consent and power and I’m comforted to know I’m not the only one who was kinda triggered by this… like and I’ve been on the toppy side (usually am these days) and find it HELLA concerning learning how much space some tops take up and how little aftercare for subs happens (most after-sex stuff being the top getting reassurance from the sub that it was ok). anyways… thanks for saying what you did.

    • Hey Tyler! In NO WAY is Sinclair advocating taking up space away from subs or suggesting there be little to no aftercare for us. This entire series is about critically examining the Dom’s role, feelings, and needs in order to better provide for those in their care. It is balanced by the series “Bottoms Up” which is written from the sub’s perspective by another author. This one article is not meant to be an all-inclusive guide to the responsibilities and ethics of being a Dom.

      • I don’t understand why you get to determine what this article is about or how it will be received. I also don’t get what some other unrelated article has to do with how subs reacted to this. When multiple subs say this is tone deaf with regard to aftercare and is co-opting a term and a space that is not appropriate, why not listen and think about it? Sinclair doesn’t need you to defend them, and I’m not clear on why you apparently believe you’re in a better position to know what this piece is “really about” than anyone else.

        • Really? Because I’m a sub too. Why is it that because I disagree with you I’m “defending” Sinclair, who you’ve lied about previously? Why is it inappropriate to suggest readers do research about their reading? That’s fairly elementary. Why is it I’m the only one who has to listen and be challenged? Why assume I don’t listen just because I disagree?

    • All this talk about tops taking up aftercare time is confusing and even hurtful. Tops are people too and there is so much self analysis can accomplish. Talking helps. So, when is a top supposed to get reassurance that everything is okay? Dominants preform acts that do have a psychological effect on them and that does require aftercare. And i dont care of that word is associated with subs either. The word is “after”+”care”, it doesn’t have any indication that it is for subs only and that it applies only for certain types of play. Am I missing something? Subs get a lot of attention that varies but to say that dommes take up that after care attention is unfair and very disturbing. Bdsm should involve communication and aftercare for both parties. How that aftercare time is allocated should depend on the relationship but at no point should anyone be denied what they need after play. If you feel like your top is taking up too much time, communication will help. If you feel like you are taking up too much time as a top, communication will help. Communication is a form of self analysis. That is what the author is doing essentially in my opinion. I just don’t see why some subs would have a problem with a top vocalizing what happens internally.

        • Yeah I am trying really hard to not cross the line and disregard the feelings of the subs here because those feelings are valid and stem from their own experiences. However, I feel like they are missing the point that tops have needs and there are some tops (me when I do top) that do not get any care and do have these kind of thoughts. The inablility to receive after care can lead to resentment and even potential harmful play since these thoughts and feelings are essentially being suppressed at the expense of “taking away” aftercare time from a sub. As a switch I understand the need for both sides to give and receive. But everyone is allowed their own opinion.

    • Yes, but a big part of my problem with this is how, to ME, it feels like equating “top drop” with the after effects of receiving domination and pain.

      I feel that the lack of complexity in this article perpetuates dismissal of the emotional and physical labor femmes (and specifically subs) perform for MOC people (and specifically Doms.)

      TW:

      I think the “endorphins settling down” line pissed me off the most. Of course, BDSM can be varying degrees of roughness, but reading this, my gut reaction was imagining I was the sub in this situation and thinking, “oh yeah I’m bleeding, bruised, aching, and have to go to the bathroom, but I guess my endorphins have settled down so let me help you feel better.”

      It made me so mad. And even though I know tips have emotional vulnerability and need to process, imagining myself or a sub in a situation like that was super triggering and felt like it could get manipulative or abusive real fast. Regardless of how the author meant it or what kind of perfect magical BDSM scenario they were trying to describe.

  7. This was interesting. I feel like overall this series is getting more thoughtful and nuanced and context-aware. Fewer clickbaity headlines, less of that horrible is-this-an-essay-or-is-it-just-porn writing style, less macho posturing… Thank you editors.

    That’s not to say the criticisms above are invalid. It’s good to see people take their own experiences seriously and validate them–even if that contradicts the overwhelming pressure to echo the party line of “consent makes everything magically ok.”

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