Ask An Educator: Nervous Top

24 Aug

Dr. Ruth Neustifter gives advice for a nervous top.


I have almost no experience with being a top during sex.  I have tried it, and it never works out, making me feel insecure, inexperienced, embarrassed and terrified to try it again.  Any advice, tips, tricks, must-dos, etc., that could be offered would be so very much appreciated.  Thank you.

on topThis is such an important topic and I’m very glad you asked. First, being a top could mean a lot of things and I hope that I’m guessing right. I’m guessing that you might want to penetrate your partner and also be the more assertive/dominant partner. I’ll do my best to answer for all genders; I hope that you find this helpful. Please let us know if my guesses aren’t helpful here and I’ll try again!

Bottoms and submissives have many responsibilities to themselves and to the date/scene, including clear communication, safety knowledge, and self knowledge. Tops share these, and are also often assumed to be the person who will plan and facilitate the play date, provide some or all of the gear (including safer sex supplies), coordinate negotiation of boundaries and expectations, and initiate play. Of course, a bottom can also do these things but the stereotype is that the top usually will.  If you have a penis you may also be expected to magically get and maintain a superhuman erection, according to erotica and porn industry myths. Doing all of this requires quite a bit of confidence and swagger, as well as a dedication to strong communication skills and active consent. Plus, it takes a lot of planning and a fair amount of creativity. And as for those magical erection superpowers, well, penises are fickle things and that’s ok. Although you might try a quality silicone cock ring for some added help with that!

It can be erotic to think of tops as these big, bold, gruff, grunty, and powerful figures who magically know exactly what their partners will want and how to wield power in sexy ways. Instead, I would encourage you to consider ways to communicate with your partner before or at the beginning of play to exchange your mutual expectations, limits, and more. You might also take some extra time to focus on what would make the date hot for you. If you’re unsure, try reading some erotica and marking the words, phrases, or activities that turned you on as inspiration for planning your own date. Keep it simple and within your skill set if you’re reading or watching more intense kink. Remember, you can always use dirty talk and toned down versions to evoke the same excitement without risking activities you aren’t safe or that you aren’t knowledgeable about performing at higher levels. Once you have some sexy ideas in mind, run them past your partner to see what they think. You might even share those stories and videos to get their thoughts, too!

safety first I also want to take a moment to mention being responsible with your power as a top. It can be exciting and arousing to call the shots, and that sense of power can get heady very quickly. However, it is the top’s responsibility to make sure that their bottom/s can feel safe, comfortable, and effective at giving necessary feedback and on-going consent. If you don’t believe that your partner/s can give you the feedback you need, or that you can provide that kind of ethical safe space, then this is not the time or partner for you.

Being a top means a lot of things, and is different for everyone. I invite you to take what’s useful here and reinvent the rest. You might also look into some resources on exploring ethical BDSM if that is your interest, such as the fabulous book Playing Well With Others by Lee Harrington and Mollena Williams. You might also look to see if there are any reputable educational social groups in your area that cater to your gender/s and sexuality/ies.

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