Defined Roles & Pidgeon Holes

I’m not talking about role-play but about the way we present ourselves and how that fits in with perceptions and expectations.

Tops, bottoms and switches. We use the lingo of the scene as a handy shortcut to define our proclivities. Most people who have spent a little bit of time in the scene understand what these terms mean and how they are applied. There are of course varying degrees of fine tuning within each category but for the most part people use these words with a sense of surety. But are these categories debilitating or limiting when a person continues to evolve as they explore the variety and breadth of the scene and their own desires?

Nearly from the first moment any of us set foot in the scene, we are asked to “check a box” and assign ourselves a category as a part of our introduction – in many cases before we’re sure about exactly what it is we desire. In all honesty, this choice ends up being a more momentous occasion than it should be because it seemsĀ  extremely tied into the expectations of the people already in the scene. These folks might or might not use this information to initially decide whether a person is interesting enough for them to bother getting to know. Often enough, these choices that we make when entering the scene become a somewhat indelible stamp.

The trouble is that many folks find that their tastes and desires morph and change as time goes on. A Top may develop a desire to occasionally bottom. A bottom may develop a desire to occasionally Top. People may decide to flip completely from one to the other. It sometimes seems like it’s easier for the individual to decide to experience something new than it is for others in the scene to accept. This is especially true of Tops that want to occasionally bottom. I find that there are so many expectations some bottoms or subs have about Tops being “real” or “pure” that any hint that a person might want to try a different flavor taints them in the eyes of others. They’ve lost their purity. This is why, I think, that people who are openly Tops dabble in the other side of things mostly in secret or at least not completely openly.

Is this merely a perception that is mostly unfounded? Are people in the scene more accepting of shifting desires than I imagine or perhaps becoming moreso? My observation is that there continues to be a stigma attached to Tops who “freelance” as bottoms. I don’t know if there is an answer to this other than tolerance but for my part it’s tough enough coming out in the scene in the first place to then have to worry about continuing to hide parts of you in that community as well.

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12 Responses to “Defined Roles & Pidgeon Holes”

  1. I think that’s why I’m uncomfortable with ever being part of the spanking scene. I like what I like and if that means getting a spanking when I need one, then so what? What I really like to do is spank girls, willing girls. One thing I really detest is labels and being ‘different’ from everybody else as a multiple, I get lots of flak from the DID community. That’s why I write what I want and say what I feel. Every single community sticks labels on themselves. A close friend who has DID, is Bi and is partnered with a lesbian gets that crap from all sides.

    “You’re not doing it right!”

    I’ll do it how I like, thank you very much.

    http://hummingbunny.wordpress.com/2008/07/22/i-detest-labels/

  2. The only way any scene, fetish or otherwise, is going to change is from within. Although it often seems a struggle for people who like to switch, especially people who are predominantly seen as Tops, I think we’re finally getting to the point where people are starting to talk about it.

    Intolerance of any kind flourishes in darkness and silence. Often when light is shined on it, the intolerant people are the ones who are shamed.

  3. Funny… G and I were just having this very discussion yesterday.

    I love the whole idea of resistance and finally submitting to whoever I’m playing with. It’s such a rush for me to give myself in that way over to someone (who I must trust completely of course). Sometimes I’ve tried to imagine myself as the “spanker,” and I just can’t go there.

    So, if the scene require me to have an label, then I am most definitely a “bottom”. And I find it completely fascinating that someone could switch. To me, someone who can switch is even more desirable to play with. They KNOW what I’m feeling and going through and therefore can be much more empathic.

    From our perspective so far, it seems that the community IS tolerant of different points of view and it’s one of the reasons that we want to attend Shadow Lane. It will give us an opportunity to play with others in different scenarios and above all, learn.

    But from your post today, it looks like that isn’t always the case. I agree completely with your comment to Brian, the only way change will occur is from within.

  4. I agree Rad, as time passes what we want does change. Sometimes I’m not even sure myself what I want. There were things in the beginning that I never thought I would do but now, I’m considering trying all kinds of new things. Sometimes “our” minds are the hardest things to change.

    Thanks for another great article.

  5. D: Perhaps I should have made clear that it’s a segment of the scene that thinks this way (although sometimes a vocal one) – most folks are what they are and are not really concerned with what others are up to.

    Lynn: It can seem confusing when your tastes shift or you find that you’re constantly expanding what it is that you like to do. Rather than worry about it, I just go with it. Less stressful that way.

  6. In any community/group/subculture there are those people who really want labels and categories and really want them well-defined and for everyone to stay in their own box. I’m not sure where it comes from – a need for structure, maybe? Whatever it is, it reminds me of actors who has been typecaste as only being “suitable” to play a certain role. It’s annoying but I don’t figure it will really go away – we just can’t let the “label lawyers” convince us to drink their Cool-Aid.

  7. I agree with you Rad. I remember when I first joined SL and started exploring my spanking interests I was told NEVER to play with a switch…and it wasn’t just by one person. Believe me…I listened to people at first, and when I was more confident, experimented on my own. I found I enjoyed playing with switches…and that our roles in the scene can be as fluid as sexuality can be at times.

  8. radagast Says:

    Shiny: It can work both ways as well. People who are openly judgmental vis a vis labels may find themselves on the outs as others might see them as too critical to want to play with.

    bella: I Top women who in turn Top others – I have never found them to be anything but bottoms when in that role. I really think people can compartmentalize a lot better than others give them credit for.

    All in all, I understand some of the feelings certain folks have because they’ve had the misfortune of playing with someone they thought was a Top and having that person suddenly want to switch gears in mid-scene. If I was Topping someone and all of a sudden they started getting Toppy with me, it just wouldn’t work unless I knew ahead of time it was going to happen. My headspace does not work like an on/off button.

  9. Wow, Bella – someones said to never play with a switch? Amazing. I’m glad you went ahead and did your thing, ignoring such a ridiculous ultimatum. I mean, if you don’t want to for your own reasons, fine, but for someone to just lay it out like a law? Humph.

    I started out as a bottom. Then a dear friend suggested I might be a switch (his term is “versatile”). He was right. I enjoy bottoming, I enjoy Topping, and I’ll do whatever I’m in the mood for, thank-you-very-much. It totally depends on who and what and why and when and how…

    I think the most common scenario I’ve read is a young female bottom/sub who wants only a “true” Top/Dom or she will have trouble “believing” in him as this macho man who can take control of her. Sort of a D/s knight and princess routine. If that is what works for their headspace, well, so be it. I think many of us don’t have that mental issue and are able to play with someone without worrying how they play with others. As long as I and my partner have worked out what we are going to do, and who will Top who, then that is what matters most.

    I’ve also read the thing about male bottoms who pretend to switch because they fear not getting play otherwise. The ones who will supposedly give a spanking, then turn around and say, “my turn!” I’ve not encountered it myself, and no one I know has related such a personal experience, but I’m guessing it happens. Hopefully the worst thing that happens in such an instance is a learning experience.

    If someone would not want to play with me because I switch, then I’m guessing I would not feel the need to play with them. Their loss. Then I can go play with the people who value me for who I AM, as opposed to what box got checked on my name tag.

  10. Oh, I meant to add that it appears to be more an issue for men who switch than for women who switch. Back to that “macho guy taking control” thing, whereas a situation where a woman who Tops submits to a spanking might even be considered MORE hot (that whole “giving up control” thing).

    As you said, Rad, the ability to compartmentalize is key.

  11. Dolly good point! And yes, I do much better when I am doing what feels best for me. I have had good experiences with switches!…hmmm and I would like to try some litleral switches some time…ok I digress.

    You are a great switch to play with! I enjoyed playing with you a lot. There is also something about being topped by a woman. I am trying to find the words to describe it but it isnt coming to me; right now. But it is a wonderful experience.

  12. Why thank you, Bella! I look forward to next time… you were a delight, both as a person and as a spankee.

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