You Need Help: Two Bottoms, One Relationship

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Welcome to You Need Help! Where you’ve got a problem and yo, we solve it. Or we at least try.

Q: A friend and I started seeing each other this summer when a friendly one-on-one camping trip turned hot and heavy real quick. I am a Q cis-lady and they are a transmasculine cutie. Last spring, both of us just came out of serious relationships where the sexual aspect (among other things) was sad/bad. So, we are being gentle and still learning to practice consent while unlearning the fucked up habits from our pasts… After a few months, I think we have both learned a lot and I’m super stoked.

One thing though. It turns out, well… we are both bottoms. I want them to whip me around, and they want me to push them against a wall — but we’re both often too shy to do it! We end up beating around the bush for too long, if you know what I mean, and that’s a turn off when you want it NOW. I see the glimmer of potential for things to get WYLD and I want it to go there.

How can I and/or my romantifriend move past our shynesses to enact what we really want, and still gain confidence and practice consent?

Thanks for helping me develop my flexi-toppiness,

Queer, Quiet, and Quivering

A: Hi Queer, Quiet, and Quivering!

First of all, I’m excited both of you are learning in your new relationship. Many people go through many relationships without learning or exploring at all and fuck those people, or rather, don’t.

It seems like there are two issues here: shyness about initiating actual sexytimes, and you both being bottoms.

If you both have sad/bad histories, unlearning bad habits from your pasts and practicing consent is important and I’m glad you’re doing it. I’m wondering, though, whether some of the shyness in initiation comes from not quite getting there when you talk about consent. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in thinking about all the situations you don’t want and all of the ways there are to say no and set boundaries, without focusing on what you do want and all of the ways there are to say yes. Setting boundaries is obviously important, both with yourself and with partners, but so is building a foundation of trust in which you both know what you want and have communicated it, and in which you both feel not only safe saying no but excited about saying yes.

For example, if you want your partner to whip you around, make sure they know that. Let them know in what situations/contexts you’re most comfortable with having sex initiated, so they can feel more confident in doing so. Talk about what you mean and what appeals to you and the level of force you’re interested in and anything else you can think of, so when the moment arrives no one feels shy because you both know approximately what might happen, you feel safe playing around, and you can just go for it.

The other issue is that you’re both bottoms. This can be a devastating, relationship-quashing problem, or it can be a fun thing that you happen to have in common that might even bring you closer together.

Whether you’re thinking about tops and bottoms in a super kinky sense or a vanilla one, the thing about being a top or a bottom is that it’s all in your head. It’s easy to get caught up in certain acts as being “things that tops do” (penetrate, be physically on top, shove people against convenient surfaces, administer bondage or physical sensation, or whatever) and “things that tops don’t do” (be penetrated, be physically on bottom, be shoved against convenient surfaces, be tied up) and to think of power as emanating or not emanating from those acts. But the great thing about sex is that you get to make it up as you go and the great thing about being queer is you get to have lots of practice rewriting things to make them your own, which is what you both have to do to get the sex life you want.

Just because you think of pushing someone against a wall as something toppy doesn’t mean it has to be. On one hand, you can push someone against a wall and fuck them because you have the agreed-on power in that moment and you want to take what’s yours. On the other hand, you can push someone against a wall and fuck them because they’ve ordered you to and you want to obey and please them. From the outside, both of these things can look exactly the same — the main difference is what game you’ve created in your head. You can both be doing the same thing but imagining something different, rewriting the acts to be what you want them to be as they happen. In other words, you both have to be your own tops.

This is useful in relationships with more binary top/bottom distinctions too. For instance, I love doing all sorts of things but my primary relationship has a power play dynamic in which I very consensually have very little power. This could mean that I never get to be the person wearing the strap on or tying my partner up or getting to hit her, because often those things are seen as toppy, but instead she will “make” me do them. When she does them she is all top, and when I do them I am all bottom, and it lets us both experience a broader sexual palette within the dynamic we love and also have the literal best time.

Discussion will be key. You can kind of pretend you’re the bottom when you’re doing something toppy on your own, and that’s fine, but it’s way better if you talk about where you’re going to be in your heads with your activity partner first. Also, though it’s easy to imagine aftercare and returning to normal headspace is the top’s responsibility, it’s important that you both be aware of your own needs and each other’s and what needs to happen to meet them. (This is actually the case in all types of dynamics. Though other people will obviously affect and be able to help you, take responsibility for your own headspace. For instance, if you know a snack always helps you return to feeling normal, bring your your own so you can come back on your own if you need to.)

It’s okay to be quiet and quivering but it’s also okay to talk about things and then just go for them. Your sex life could get WILD.

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Ryan Yates

Ryan Yates was the NSFW Editor (2013–2018) and Literary Editor for, with bylines in Nylon, Refinery29, The Toast, Bitch, The Daily Beast, Jezebel, and elsewhere. They live in Los Angeles and also on twitter and instagram.

Ryan has written 1142 articles for us.


  1. “Whether you’re thinking about tops and bottoms in a super kinky sense or a vanilla one, the thing about being a top or a bottom is that it’s all in your head….. But the great thing about sex is that you get to make it up as you go and the great thing about being queer is you get to have lots of practice rewriting things to make them your own, which is what you both have to do to get the sex life you want.”

    UGH yes this. I had a partner in the past who was very toppy and I was mostly very bottom y and happy having the kind of sex we did 99.9% of the time. But sometimes it felt like “bottom” was a label forced on me. I’ve since gotten to explore my toppier side with other people and am really into fluidity, whether that’s gender, sexuality, or sex roles. So I guess my point is that labels can be empowering but also limiting. You can be a bottom who sometimes does a toppy thing, or maybe that label doesn’t work for you, and the idea of “rewriting things to make them your own” can be SO freeing.

  2. My girlfriend and I also had this issue in the past. We aren’t both bottoms–we’re both switches–but when we started dating, I had 0% experience with kink, girls, actually feeling desire, etc. So for the first few months, my girlfriend exclusively topped me and I was always sub.

    This worked out well for us because I was able to explore my sexuality, learn, and become confident enough to switch while she was able to wait and gain the trust in me she needed to be on bottom. Now I love topping her: flogging, fucking, whipping, humiliating, etc. I’ve been able to embrace my inner femme-bitch-sadist, and she can be as aggressive as she’s always wanted to be to me in return.

    While when we each wake up with complementary moods–she’s feeling sub, I want to top, or she’s feeling dom and I want to bottom–it feels perfect, sometimes we both wake up toppy and sometimes we both just wanna be held down and fucked.

    In these situations, we take turns and do a scene or roleplay that makes it easy to switch in the middle. I’ll tie her up, whip her, fuck her, tease her. I’ll drive her crazy with lust and taunt her about how helpless she is, how wet she is for me, how badly she wants me but can’t have me, and by the time I’m done she’s had all that bottom-ness worked out and just wants to have a go at me. So I’ll “release” her and then I’m the one getting pinned down. Other times, she starts by fucking the hell out of me and then after I have my first katrillion orgasms I just want to flip her on her back and return the favor.

    I think that as your trust and confidence in each other grows, so will your ability to play top and please each other. I agree that a lot of the difficulty in being on top is worrying that you’ll look stupid, that you’ll hurt the other person, that you may inadvertently cross harmful boundaries. It just takes time and practice to clear those mental hurdles. In the meantime, being open with each other, approaching sex as experimentation or play, and maybe writing out your fantasies to each other to get an idea of what the other wants and how to fulfill it might be a good idea.

    • Also, I noticed that I have certain triggers–usually music/songs, porn, erotica, or a sexy visual image–that put me in a dominant or submissive mood. If you could find such triggers for yourself, any kind of media that puts you in a wicked, toppy mood, you could maybe listen/read/watch/look at them before sexytimes and flow more naturally into a more dominant role rather than trying to simply force yourself or act it. For instance, if I know she wants me to use the flogger on her tonight but I’ve been feeling small and vulnerable all day, I may look at some femme domme images or listen to my favorite Halestorm songs to switch my mood before playing.

  3. My partner was a Leo and took the initiative in our sex. She was more of an initiator and I was more a happy follower. I am transfemale and lots bigger. I liked for her to be on top…. and she liked it too….
    Occasionally, she wanted me to be more aggressive, but that was almost impossible for me to do…. simply because I did not feel that way toward her and didn’t want to even pretend those feelings…. I think she understood why…. to me it would have been me acting “like a male” and I could not feel right with that feeling. And I know that may just be me…. but I could not bring myself to enjoy anything that would seem “male” …. that thought totally would have stopped everything!
    Sometimes, you just cannot pretend what you don’t feel….she understood.

  4. Aeee this could not be more relevant to my current situation. I’ve recently started to fully explore my queerness after only having a handful of experiences with women in the past. I’m now seeing someone who let me know the first time we had sex that she was a sub and we immediately entered into discussions about what that meant before (quite frankly) we’d really gotten to know each other.

    In the past I have enjoyed a fluidity of role with my sexual partners, however, my desire for “rougher” sex & kinks was mitigated by personal issues/ concerns about sexual dynamics with cis het men. Now that’s out of the way, I want to have the opportunity to explore both taking control and being taken control of, but I feel I am often “read” as the dominant party.

    With this particular partner there is a lot of chemistry and I want to make it work, despite feeling a little out of my depth. If anyone has any suggestions as to how to discuss or instigate a more malleable switch up without either of us feeling put out, (as well as good resources on queer women & fun BDSM related things)I’d really appreciate it.

    • Afraid I can’t offer any resources but I just wanted to agree with you on the whole sexual dynamics with cis hetero men. Since, I have started having exclusive lesbian relationships after previously dating men, I feel like I’m so much more open to trying different things.

      Sexually, I felt there was a lot of things that made me feel angry /dirty /violated if a man wanted to do certain things with me.Probably because I didn’t have the same level of trust. Yet when I consider those same things with women I feel a lot more like ‘oh yeah, i’d open to trying that’.I think i’m only understanding myself as a sexual person now,I feel like I was a bit repressed before.

      Anyway, apolgies for babbling.

      Good luck with your search!

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