I’ve said this before but we treat bottoms and subs like toddlers instead of full functioning adults who can think on their own. Yes I think some knowledge is needed for first time players, but not all Tops have all the answers and to put everything on the shoulders of Tops and Doms is ignorant. I would much rather see a list on how to better prepare yourself as a bottom for a scene than a list of red flags which is the equivalent of telling girls “make sure he has/uses a condom” instead of teaching them to carry one themselves. Imparting knowledge and empowering people is much more effective than a one size-fits-all list of red flags, some of which aren’t even red flags at all.
Disclaimer: This list is not gospel and is only my opinion of what I feel could better prepare and inform a bottom in a scene and the negotiations leading up to it. With that being said, let’s dive in!
- Do Your Own Research – Join groups, have conversations with experienced people, ask questions. Get informed on kinks and fetishes so you can set limits. Don’t leave it solely up to the Top to know everything because guess what? We don’t know everything and you may learn something in your research we didn’t know or might have forgotten since we’ve never experienced it or it hasn’t ever come up.
- Set Healthy Boundaries For Yourself – This goes for any relationship whether it be professional, vanilla or kink. I’m not going to list what boundaries to set for yourself because everyone is different and your boundaries will be unique to you. Once you have set them don’t be afraid voice them and stick by them. Don’t be afraid to draw a line in the sand on what you will/will not put up with.
- Put Your Top/Dom Under YOUR Consideration – Consideration is a two way street. The Top/Dom (if they practice this) is putting you under their consideration and you should do the same thing. You are going to be putting your trust into this person so you should watch how they are as a person and put them under the same microscope they have you under.
- Communicate Important Things – If you have medical conditions that prevent you from doing certain scenes you need to voice that. You need to treat a Top/Dom like a doctor or a prospective boss. They may simply overlook this question. It’s then you’re responsibility as an actual adult to bring any concerns to their attention.
- Carry A First-Aid Kit – You’re the one receiving the play as the bottom. Why on earth is it the Tops responsivity to provide a first aid kit? Am I saying that Tops shouldn’t carry one? No, but what I am saying is it shouldn’t solely fall on them to provide one. I have one on hand myself, but shit happens and supplies run out and now neither of you is prepared for the chance of injury. It’s nothing to throw some bandages, some alcohol wipes and some antibiotic ointment in a Ziploc bag and carry it with you.
- Aftercare Is An OPTION, Not A Requirement – I see this thrown around a lot, “if the top doesn’t provide aftercare, run girlfriend! #redflag” Sorry to break it to you but aftercare isn’t a requirement. There are some bottoms that don’t require aftercare and there are some Tops that don’t provide it. If you’re someone that needs it than you need to communicate that during negotiations.
- Meet In A Public Place And Have A Safe Call On Hand – Meeting in a public place may be a preferential thing. I for one like to meet in a public place even if it’s a local park or at Walmart, somewhere where other people are present. It makes me feel a bit safe and makes the other person feel safe. Safety makes us more relaxed so we can discuss and negotiate and make informed decisions without feeling anxious of nervous. Having a safe call could simply be having your favorite cabby/Uber driver on speed dial. A friend of mine frequents cabs and had such a rapport with a few cab drivers that she invited them to her baby shower. It could also be your best friend, a family member, but let someone know where you’re going to meet that way if things aren’t gelling you can exit safely.
- Don’t Rely On References – The kink community isn’t perfect and just like in every community you have those pillars of the community that everyone reveres as a good person. My grandma’s father was such a pillar. He was revered as a guy that would give the shirt off his back to you. Little did anyone know her was an abusive alcoholic. He beat his wife and kids on a daily basis, but to his community he was an upstanding individual. Reputation and references are only half the story. Use your judgement in all situations and if you don’t feel good about something voice your concern and go from there, don’t blindly accept that the Top in question is good merely because they’re in good standing with their community.
- Safe Words Are Also Optional – Safe words are not mandatory and are an optional replacement to “no” and “stop”. I use safe words myself I feel that a bottom has to think about the safe word and whether or not they need to use it. I also feel that safe words cover a wider range of feelings than “no” or “stop”. Maybe the bottom likes the impact being given, but not the intensity so they say “yellow” or “gazeebo” or whatever is agreed upon to indicate “not so hard”. But this isn’t mandatory and is up to BOTH parties to discuss if it is needed during play.
- Not Being Part Of The Local Scene Is Not A Crime – Neither you nor the Top is required to be part of your local scene. Where I’m at the local scene is between an hour and 3 hours away. The town that I live in has active kinksters, but doesn’t have an established community (but there are a few of us who are trying to establish a solid community. Neither of you need to be a part of your community in order to be actual kinksters. You and/or your Top might be introverts and the thought of going to a munch or event is an anxiety inducing experience and maybe this is why they scene privately.
In any interaction, both parties should have something to ring to the table. Both parties, being fully functioning adults, are responsible for their parts equally in any situation, including kink. We put far too much responsibility on the Tops and not enough on the bottoms. You are seeking out the play; you should be responsible for your own safety and well-being first and foremost, not the Top.