You Need Help: Bottoms Up and Helping Your Girlfriend

Welcome to You Need Help! Where you seek advice and we try our very best to give it.

This has traditionally been done by way of individual Formspring accounts, Autostraddle’s Tumblr and a Formspring Friday column, which has all been very fun and insightful. But, because Formspring has a character limit and we’re wildly optimistic w/r/t our time-management skills, we thought we’d go one further and let you use our ASS private messaging to share advice-related feelings, too.

For more info on sending in questions, see the bottom of this post. Let’s get down to bossing people around on the internet! Today’s contestants include a top wanting to know how to be a bottom and someone who’s partner isn’t what she used to be. Enjoy!

For 2 years my partner was healthy/fashionable/took care of herself beautifully every day. In the past year, she stopped exercising/started smoking/her clothes/hair/teeth are rarely clean. If I decide to talk to her about it, I don’t know how to.

This is really, really tough. I mean, there’s no fail-safe way to approach this, but the first thing you might consider is that your partner could be suffering from depression. Obviously not exercising or starting to smoke or reducing showers aren’t signs of depression in and of themselves, but the 180° shift in typical behavior is.

cat imagery representing 'glass cage of emotion,' but with cardboard and styrofoam

If you feel like your partner could be depressed, look into her options. The goal here is to make taking the first step (seeking help) as easy for her as possible. Assuming she has insurance (which is a ridiculous assumption, actually), call her provider and request a list of approved local therapists. Find out what her insurance covers: will she need a referral; is there a limit on visits; what’s the copay, etc.

If she doesn’t have insurance, find your local Jewish Family & Children’s Services. They offer free/reduced-rate counseling and you don’t have to be Jewish to participate. Some regions even have LGBT-specific programs and options.

So depression aside, I feel like the kindest way to go about this would be to gradually change your lifestyle as a couple. Get out in the sunshine, do laundry together, try new recipes, consider gardening, go to the farmer’s market or something equally positive and fun. Basically anything that seems like the opposite of destructive (e.g. drinking, smoking, falling off of ladders, destroying mailboxes, swallowing nails, etc.) is usually a good way to redirect negative feelings / actions.

It’s worth noting that your partner could be perfectly happy with the way things are and these changes could be here to stay. If that’s the case, it may be time to reevaluate your Sometimes My Girlfriend Isn’t Perfect™ umbrella and decide if you’re willing to stay with someone who doesn’t wear clean, trendy shirts and may die of lung cancer.

So when I hook up with girls, I’m used to giving as opposed to receiving. But I’m getting involved with someone who is very much a top and just super dominant. I’m not really sure how to be the bottom. Is this weird?? How do I do this.

I obviously had to discuss this with other team members because Rome wasn’t built in a day and it takes a village to tell people how to have sex. First and foremost, no of course it’s not weird. Cows with spider legs or like, circus clowns in general — that shit’s weird. You’re just a girl wanting to fuck another girl and that’s really normal.

I’m not super into strict top/bottom, dominant/submissive roles, but I definitely understand the natural predisposition to one end of the spectrum over the other. Going from bottom to top seems to be an easier transition, since most bottoms are actually tops in disguise (bottoms are very sneaky and also very in charge, they just don’t brag about it). But going from top to bottom seems a bit trickier, because the only thing tops are used to submitting to, relatively speaking, is bottoms, not other tops.

no real top or bottom, as both women are clearly vertical.

After a while we concluded that it’s probably easier to fake domination than it is to fake submission. We feel like you’ve got your work cut out for you and we’re very invested in your success, so we put together a list of things people can do to be bottoms. We really hope you find it useful.

“Well, being on the bottom, is one thing.”

“I feel like I concentrate all of my senses on the other person’s body, like reading it? And moving with it? I guess it’s like, you still do a lot of moving around.”

“It’s about being willingly manhandled.”

“Sometimes you sit cutely on top of the other person like at the end of a successful lap dance. That’s an example of bottoming from the top.”

“Getting fucked by the strap-on rather than fucking with the strap-on.”

Power bottom is my favorite sexual term since ever.”

“Being the bottom means never having to say you’re sorry.”

“I think you can probably be the bottom by having someone else get all up on you. I think that’s how sex works.”

Of course my advice is to be really honest about how you like to fuck and figure out if there’s a compromise the two of you could reach. Like, maybe Taco Tuesday can be her day to top and Thirsty Thursday can be yours, and on the other days you either have to wrestle for it (hotter) or base it on who drove that day. (If you drove duh you have to be the bottom because you already got all your topping in by driving. Driving is hella toppy.)

Sugarbutch has some advice that may be relevant to your interests. You could read a f*cking book or two: The New Bottoming Book and/or The New Topping Book. Also we’ve discussed this before, sorta: NSFW Lesbosexy Sunday: Who’s On Top Who’s On Bottom Now?

There’s a chance you’ll like being submissive and just don’t know it yet because you’ve not been with anyone who could dominate you until now. But if being dominated gives you all nine kinds of anxiety and displeasure, what’s the point? Definitely give it a try (or two or fifteen), but don’t discount the importance of sexual compatibility. Maybe you’d be better off with someone more submissive, and that’s totally ok.

To send your question via ASS personal messaging, choose an editor: Riese | Laneia | Rachel
Or ask any team member you’d like: Meet the Team
*If messaging is down, email us! There are so many options, you guys! You could send carrier pigeons!*
For 100% anonymity, contact us through Formspring:  Riese | Laneia | Rachel

Please keep your questions to around, at most, 100 words. Due to the high volume of questions and feelings, not every question or feeling will be answered or published on Autostraddle. We hope you know that we love you regardless.

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lnj has written 310 articles for us.


  1. I love the sense of humor and caring infused into these responses.

    Thank you for having such a website! (Even though, yes, the target audience is not me, I think I can recognize the good it does.)

  2. I disagree on it being easier to start topping than start bottoming… I find topping so hard! I just like being told what to do so damn much. My bottoming tips? Give it a chance– just once allow her to tell you exactly what she wants. If you like that? go for it. If you hate it? Then try to make her agree to take turns.

    • I’m a top who likes being told what to do. Is that weird? Like, I want suggestions, I want to do what this hypothetical girl wants me to do, I want active participation, sometimes in the form of yelling ‘do that touch that more there’ whatever.

      I think service top is the right word here.

        • service top (n) :
          1. a queer woman who enjoys receiving guidance while giving sexual pleasure to other women
          2. a queer woman wearing an oil-stained jumpsuit – opened at the top for maximum distraction – and willing to fill up your gas tank, free of charge. Seldom found outside of New Jersey
          3. a queer woman wearing cute prescription glasses and working at the Genius Bar. Knows how to find your motherboard and is guaranteed to make you pay

          hmmm, they all sound good to me :)

      • No that makes perfect sense. I think being a good bottom is about giving feedback and often instruction.

      • i am by nature pretty switchy but when i am toppy i ALWAYS want a bossy bottom and i find it really challenging sometimes when the bottom-y person just wants me to like ‘take’ or ‘use’ them, even if it seems all sexy. i’m always still paranoid of people not liking it / me not doing what they want / them not being vocal about it not being what they want right at that moment etc… i can’t read minds! people have different moods! it is difficult! i know it’s not ‘sexy’ to demand that whoever i’m fucking is bossy like that, but it stresses me out hardcore to not have any input.


        • Yes. This. I think part of it is also that I’m sooooooo into consent that I want to do exactly what she wants and often at least like, the first time, there’s a lot of ‘is this okay’ ‘are you sure’. Also, I’m still developing confidence. It takes time, y’all.

      • I agree about good input. I didn’t mean that the bottom shouldn’t do anything, just that the point of the exercise would be to try to follow what the top decides… I think? This whole thing makes sense in my head until I try to explain it.

  3. wow all the advice that i would have given was given word for word.
    but laneia why u hate circus clowns? where’s the beef?


    I just had the urge to say it and I am turned on by this discussion.


  5. I have actually been a ‘bottom’ for the first time EVER last week (in 5 years of sexual history) and once I got over the vulnerability, I have one thing to say…HELLO!

  6. There’s letting yourself go a little bit because you’re comfy in your relationship (not trying to look hot anymore, gaining ‘relationship weight’ etc) and then there’s dropping hygiene altogether.

    The last one’s a total depression sign… I’d try and talk to her to see what’s up, before doing anything drastic (like calling mental health profeshs, even though this is a really good idea and a step to be taken later on probably). Maybe say you’ve noticed she seems less happy lately or something of the kind, to get the conversation going on her side?

  7. Yes! This discussion makes me very happy. :3
    I’m a bottom but you have to reeeeally work to top me..I fucking stubborn and shy.Not a good combo..

  8. okay sorry guys but baby dyke here. when someone says that theyre solely a top, does that mean youre always giving and never receiving? simply having sex to pleasure others, aka those on bottom? assistance. please and thank you.

    • I don’t think so :/ I recently discovered that I can be top-ey but it’s more about being the most ‘dominant’ (I don’t like that term) or directing things in bed than not receiving at all

    • it totally depends on the person, and for the most part, from my experience girls are more flexible than boys about this — for a lot of the gay men i know, being ‘top’ or ‘bottom’ is a part of their identity and something they rarely change. (not universally, but often true.)

      some girls get off when they’re topping with a strap-on, some girls are super aggressive but can only get off when being a bottom, some girls are just really aggressive and will usually initiate but still insist that the ‘bottom’ go down on them but stay bossy throughout that, some girls don’t want their partner touching them at all, and some girls are all of the above on different days. some girls are really ‘toppy’ with their random hookups but will ‘bottom’ in a relationship, or vice versa. some girls are bottom-y for their first few years of hooking up with girls until they develop more confidence in bed, or vice versa as well.

      i think here for the most part it ends up being about initiation and roles, and also varies between relationships. some girls i’ve been with it’s mostly oral and very like reciprocal / we both would get off when we had sex, etc — other girls it’s more like whoever is in the more aggressive mood usually kind of accosts/seduces the other and spends most of their time getting them off with toys involved, etc. finding someone with a compatible dynamic in bed is half the fun of figuring out relationships i think.

      i think here for the most part it really ends up being about initiation and roles, and also varies between relationships. some girls i’ve been with it’s mostly oral and very, like, reciprocal / we both would get off when we had sex, etc — other girls it’s more like whoever is in the more aggressive mood usually kind of accosts/seduces the other and spends most of their time getting them off with toys involved, etc. figuring out the dynamic is half the fun.

  9. I think the important thing to remember is that, as long as you’re being considerate of your lover, and they of you, that anything you want goes. If you’re branching out to taking on a different role than you’re used to, I applaud your courage. Perhaps she should at some point do the same thing. But if you find sex from this new angle completely uncomfortable or unenjoyable, don’t be a martyr. And it can always be more complex than bottom/top, giver/receiver, or switch/any of the above. I always have a hell of a time answering the “which are you?” question when a friend asks me. Because when someone says “bottom,” my mental image is almost synonymous with “pillow queen”…which I most certainly am not. At the same time, however feisty I might get, I don’t want to be the big aggressor. Perhaps this is some version of the “power bottom” people are mentioning?

  10. I’m a top because receiving hurts. and also it’s more fun. but idk if i’m just weird.

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