(A burden to the top?)
In my last post Trust – The Bottom Perspective I took a closer look at the issue of trust in spanking play from the perspective of a bottom. This is the second part of my ramblings about the topic of trust, this time from the perspective of a top. Because trust between a bottom and a top of course is not one-sided. As Prefectdt pointed out in his comment on my post: The trust bonding element, in play, is one of the most important aspects of spanking interaction. Be it between a couple in a relationship or just between playmates. It has to go both ways as well, a Top must be able to trust the bottom/sub that they are playing with to be honest and not expect crystal ball reading style intuition from the Top. Thinking about this, it is a complicated issue.
I absolutely agree with Prefectdt. On the one hand this is really simple, for any spanking play one needs trust on both sides, on the other hand the topic of trust can become quite complicated once you take a closer look. And as if the issue of trust between top and bottom weren't already complex enough, to my mind there seems to be even more to it than that. I'm of the opinion that tops don't only need to trust the bottoms they are playing with and their abilities to tell the top about their desires and limits, tops must also trust their own capability of guiding a bottom and taking care of his or her safety during a scene.
In order to learn more about the things that topping someone takes and to develop enough self-confidence, even some spankos who are predominantly tops start their kinky exploration on the bottom side. Ludwig chose that way and our reader Ursus Lewis did the same. Knowing how a spanking feels on the receiving end, feeling the emotions that go along with the anticipation, giving oneself into someone else's hands, the spanking itself and the experience of having been spanked prepared these tops for their responsibilities on the giving end.
Others who are predominantly bottoms also start switching after having played on the receiving end for a longer time, when they feel self-confident enough to explore the other side. Leia-Ann Woods talked about this topic when Ludwig and I met her for the football bet clip. She said that she didn't enjoy topping earlier because she didn't have the feeling that she was good enough. Today she has that self-confidence and can now lead others to the places she likes to go to when she plays as a bottom.
Even though I think that I'm a true switch, equally enjoying both sides (but with a strong preference for bottoming in my sexual play), I also needed more than one year before I felt self-confident enough to make my first topping experience. And of course one doesn't only need that self-confidence in general, the feeling of trusting one's leading abilities must be there right at the moment when one starts playing out a scene. I guess that might be a bit more difficult especially for those among us who are predominantly bottoms and only switch on rare occasions. Mija has written a wonderful account under the title Dressing the part about a scene with Paul in which she spontaneously decided to switch into the role of the top. And in her case it was the clothing that helped her to get into the right mood. It all started with Paul getting into his school uniform:
As I saw him changing into it, an idea formed in my head. Perhaps, just for one day, I could watch over his school boy self. Just for one day, I could be in charge. This prompted several quick actions. First, I very quickly wrote up a list of rules that seemed appropriate for a uniformed boy I was watching over. […] Second I decided that I shouldn't be dressed casually, that I should dress as a proper teacher since he was such a proper school boy. What did I wear? My grown-up panties and bra, a silk blouse (which Paul in a very un-school-boy-like moment, mentioned was a tiny bit see through for a teacher -- opps!), grey bias cut wool skirt and black pumps with sensible heels. As I put on my business-y jewelry, I felt suddenly focused and in control. I think Paul was a little surprised to see me dressed up and even more surprised by my rules list. But he gamely agreed. Did he know yet how suddenly sure of myself I felt? I doubt it. I barely knew myself.
So, a top needs to trust into the bottom and into him- or herself. But what about the trust that a top receives from the bottom? What does it mean for the tops to know that someone makes him- or herself vulnerable to them? In his post about his desire to be broken during a spanking, Burl Apsack quoted another excerpt from Julnick's text about the different kinds of spankings. And this excerpt led to a discussion about whether the responsibility that gets along with the trust given to a top by a bottom isn't also a burden for the top. Julnick wrote:
I think that in at least some of the spankings I do, I'm not playing a game, it isn't about enjoyment, or dominance or submission, its about opening up and touching souls. Its dealing in emotion, in very fragile hearts and psyches. After a breaking, and often after a punishment, I will hold the bottom, and they will often cry, and cling to me, for a long time, completely vulnerable. And my heart is open, exposed as I do this, because otherwise I couldn't feel them, I couldn't touch them the way they need to be touched. That is the responsibility I feel. As a top, I can never let go, I have to be constantly aware, balancing many plates that are too too precious to risk even for a moment. I don't want to give that responsibility away, I want to see it through until all those plates are safely down again. But sometimes I envy the bottom, who is given the freedom of having someone else hold their soul for a while.
Is the responsibility that goes along with being a top a burden then? In some cases it might be. A good friend of ours once lived in a kinky relationship with a woman who was some years younger than him. She did not just want him to top her during their spanking play, but needed someone to guide her in her real life as well. Consequently, their relationship was not one between equal partners. There was a permanent imbalance of power. Their relationship was closer to a father – daughter relationship than to one between equal adults. As a result, he had to stay in top mode almost all of the time because he felt like he had to be strong for her and that he was the one who was responsible for both of them. The relationship only lasted six months.
But quite frankly, I don't think that this was due to their kink. To my mind the problem was their lack of equality as mates. And I'm not sure whether this is more likely to happen in kinky relationships. I don't know enough about 24/7, FLR (female led relationship) and HOH (head of household) relationships to have an informed opinion about whether the pressure on the leading partner in these kinds of relationships might be similar. But I think that there's an imbalance of power in many vanilla relationships as well, so I guess that this is not really a kink-only issue.
What can be difficult for a top, though, is the question how to deal with desires expressed by the bottom, with which the top doesn't feel comfortable. Respecting Mistress wrote about such a problem in his post Punished to breaking point: One aspect of punishment that intrigues me still after all these years is a desire to be punished to the point that I break down and weep. [...] I’ve still not reached that breaking point, though Mistress does seem to take me closer and closer to the edge. The only thing it seems that stops me teetering over it is Mistresses thoughts for my welfare. Although she loves wielding the power over me, she’s still only capable of pushing me so far before her natural instincts kick in and she stops beating me.
Again, I can see that this is a difficult issue. But to my mind the fact that a bottom gives his or her trust to a top doesn't mean that the top has to feel comfortable with all of his or her desires and that the top can fulfil them. I'm of the opinion that both, top and bottom, have the right and the duty to be open about their limits and to respect both, their own and their partner's boundaries. To my mind the responsibilities of tops and bottoms are quite similar concerning this aspect. Interestingly, as the desires of the author of Respecting Mistress go - writing about them and talking them through with his Mistress encouraged her to try out a more severe scene about which you can read here.
And during a certain scene? Is the responsibility of the top that gets along with the trust put into her or him a burden? I can imagine that it can sometimes be one, especially if one plays very often as a top and if the scenes are on a deep psychological level. But quite frankly, to my mind being trusted enough to be chosen as a top is much more a positive thrill than a burden. I think that this feeling of being trusted and maybe even chosen for a scene which has a special meaning for the bottom is something that many tops seek, something that is part of their kink and part of what they get out of topping. Taking the responsibility that comes along with it might be a challenge (like submitting to a spanking is a challenge for many bottoms), but it is also part of the thrill. Ludwig beautifully captured that in the post about our preparations for my introduction into the world of kink:
Losing one's spanko virginity is such a Big Event. For most of us, it is bigger and more life-changing than losing our "vanilla" virginity. It certainly was for me. The same weighting of importance applies for me when it comes to the helping-to-lose part: I never obsessed over "deflowering" a girl (an ugly term, in my view!), the way many men apparently do. However, being the first to spank a girl was an idea that held immense appeal, both as an erotic fantasy and in terms of more general values and emotions. Being the first to chastise her with the dreaded cane, my favourite implement, was an alternate fantasy that seemed almost as good.
If you asked me to state, in one simple sentence, what I really want as a top (in private play, not in filmmaking mode), I would say: "To give a special experience to the spankee." Well, what more special and memorable experience could you possibly give someone than their first ever spanking? Conversely, what greater gift could you receive than the trust that you are the right one to administer it? Granted, not all first spankings take place after such careful considerations (in other words, not everyone is a perfectionist control freak like Kaelah and me). But many do, and there is something romantic about the idea.
First times are life-changing, but not always in a good way. They are delicate moments. A lot of potential joy can be ruined, or even worse, a lot of long-term damage can be done if things go wrong somehow - if it turns out that that you were with the wrong person after all, or if the circumstances are not what they should have been. So, giving someone their first spanking is also a challenge for the top. As the top, even more than usual, you want everything to be just right, just about perfect. You want to reward the trust that has been given to you. […]
Predictably, I was delighted at the delicious prospect [of being the one to introduce Kaelah into the world of erotic spanking]. […] But more than excitement or gleeful anticipation, I just felt an overwhelming sense of responsibility. Above all, I was flattered by Kaelah's trust and openness. I wanted to be absolutely sure, probably even more than she herself, that it was justified. I was going to meet her, and if I had any doubts that I was the right guy, I would back out. Rare as these opportunities might be, I was going to do what was good for Kaelah and place my self-interest strictly below that.
I think that as a top I tick similarly. Erica Scott wrote in her comment on the first part of this post: It really is amazing, the places we can go with those we trust. And most important, that trust can never be demanded -- it must be earned. The idea of having earned someone's trust like that is definitely one of the thrills topping has for me. When I think about topping Ludwig, there are of course a lot of egoistic joys involved: Dressing up, being in control during the scene, a certain feeling of power, wielding an implement, perfecting my abilities as a spanker, the meditative mindset during the spanking, provoking reactions from Ludwig, watching the marks develop and so on.
But right now, as I am in the process of planning a special scene between the two of us, the most important thought is the question: What might push certain triggers that will make this an exciting experience for Ludwig? What works for him and what doesn't? I guess that I couldn't enjoy one of the things I mentioned above if it wouldn't work for Ludwig. If you asked me what would be the best possible thing that could happen during or after that scene, the answer would be as follows: The absolutely greatest thing that could possibly happen, would be that Ludwig gets so much out of the scene that he wants me to top him again some time in the future. I'm not sure that this is going to happen, because Ludwig already was at a point where he strongly assumed that he might outgrow his desire to switch at all any time soon. But it is at least my goal to create a scene that is exciting for both of us and becomes one of the positive memories of our adventures as a kinky couple.
So, what is the bottom line? Trust seems to be a very complicated issue, especially from a top's point of view. As a top, trust comes along with a responsibility to take care and to protect. Being responsible for leading a bottom and for his or her safety during a scene can go along with different emotions. It can be a challenge, maybe even a burden at times. But to my mind being trusted is also a wonderful gift! And I assume that it is part of the thrill and the positive outcome of a spanking for many tops.
In my opinion the discussion shows one ultimately important thing about spanking (and life in general), though: Talking openly is a must! No matter whether one is a top or a bottom, whether it is a spanking between friends or partners, whether it is a fun or a deep psychological scene and no matter whether the spanking is soft or severe: There is always a lot of trust involved. Open discussions about desires, limits, mental images and responsibilities help to build up trust. And of course feedback about past scenes as well.
Sometimes negative feedback might reduce the self-confidence of a top. Long before I made my real first topping experience I once took over control during a more sensual scene between Ludwig and me. The scenario didn't involve any spanking because I didn't feel ready for that yet and I didn't have the feeling that I had Ludwig's permission to spank him at that time. The scene didn't work for Ludwig because switching only works for him with a partner who is in a completely toppy mindset. I managed to find the right tone some time later in another sensual scene where I talked to him about my toppy fantasies. But still, Ludwig's feedback on that very first try made me feel insecure for a while, until I realised what was missing and had built up the self-confidence that I could give that to him once I had his permission to spank him as well.
And again it had been our talks which enabled me to understand Ludwig's desires better and better and finally gave me the self-confidence that my desires as a top fit very well to his switching fantasies. So, my conclusion is: Trust might be a very complex issue concerning both, spanking play and kinky relationships. But it is something very precious as well. As are open talks which help to build up trust between people and to reduce the complexity of the issue.
Wow, now this has become another monster post... Thanks for bearing with me! What are your thoughts about trust and kink? Tops, bottoms, switches, observers – you're all very welcome to share your ideas in the comment section!