I’m Femme, Do I Have To Be a Bottom?

Getting pigeonholed into this assumption can lead to frustrating sexual experiences.

As a sex educator, I field many questions from people who are wanting to discover their desires. One question that keeps coming across my radar from queer femmes is “Do I have to be a bottom?” In short, the answer is: Hell no! But in our heteronormative reality, the answer tends to be much more complex for us femmes.

In the queer world, words like “top,” “bottom” and “switch” are often used to describe someone’s sexual affinity. However, because we live in a heteronormative world–the more dominant role in bed is usually assumed to be played out by the more “masc” person in the interaction. To break away from this normative construct around sex and sexuality, we have to really queer up the way we’re taught to think about sex.

First of all, I want to assure you that there is no one way to be when it comes to sex. It’s also important to note that your gender expression and identity don’t have to inform the ways in which you have sex. However, it can hard to unlearn these normative ways of thinking when we live in a society that hardly provides any real sex education, let alone holistic and LGBTQ-inclusive sex ed.

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The confinements of our current conversations around sex too often make their way into our bedrooms (or kitchens, or living rooms, or bar bathrooms 😉  we know you’re getting it on all over the place). For femmes, this means that we’re taught to stick with the submissive role–the bottom, if you will. Getting pigeonholed into this assumption can lead to frustrating sexual experiences. This also gets in the way of femmes actually being able to express their kinky or sexual desires and preferences.

We need more nuanced ways to talk about sex, kink, pleasure, identity and power. Because these binary ways in which we talk about sex don’t really work for the majority of us–femme or not.

Talking about sex can be hard and tbh, most people find it pretty awkward. Being a top or dominating your partner isn’t just about doing what you like, it’s a mutual exchange—a conversation. Sure, what you like counts, but what your bottom desires also needs to be present in the conversation. Topping takes listening to enact out your bottoms’ desires. Sex is never perfect; it’s messy because humans are messy. For those of you trying out this top or domme thing for the first time, here are some tips!

1.  Find inspiration

Dive into your own sex pleasure (yes, masturbation) without any judgements or conditions. What turns you on? Do you want to tie up your partner and dominate them? Do you feel most revved up during role-play scenarios? When you know what brings you pleasure, it’s easier to bring that into a conversation with your partner(s). For inspiration, try out porn site The Crash Pad Series which features queer porn. You can find so much great content here, from badass femme tops to role play inspiration. A great book you might want to check out is “The New Topping Book” by Dossie Easton.

2. Communication is key!

Now that you know what turns you on and what you want to try out with your partner, communicate with them! Ask them what they like in bed and what they’re open to exploring with you. Whether you’ve never topped before or just not with this particular partner, it’s important to have consensual communication before you whip out the handcuffs.

3. Power play takes dialogue 

And I’m not talking about role-play or sexy talk (though absolutely go for that too, babes). When it comes down to it, bottoms have a lot of say about what happens in kink, BDSM or sex. If you’re enacting power play scenarios, it’s so important to listen to your sub and make sure this is what they want, too. This takes constant navigation, communication and consent.

4. Sext–like a lot

While you’re learning all the fun technical stuff that kink and BDSM have to offer, try out sexting with your partner(s). It may help calm your nerves before you get to the IRL moment and you’re like, “Ahh what do I do? She’s right there in front of me!” Test the waters by sending sexy texts back and forth in your domme persona. Try out different things and see what piques your fancy (and hers!). Here are some sexy top styles you may want to try out:

  • Nicknames (ie, maybe you like to be called “daddy,” “my good little ____” with your naughty word of choice)
  • Fun punishment (ie, “You followed my directions so well, I’m going to give you exactly what you deserve,” or “You have to say please. Now I’m going to have to tie you up when I get home.”)
  • Demanding/asking for permission (ie, “You’d better ask nicely before you touch me ____.”)

5. Sex can be messy

It may not go exactly as you had fantasied and that’s totally okay! In fact, it might even be amazing because who knows what else you might discover about pleasure in this experience. It’s also okay to laugh when you’re trying something new with your partner(s). You’re on this sexy journey together, have fun!

6. Find your “top headspace”

In the kink community, it’s recognized that you often have to enter a different headspace for your play. There is no one way to be “in charge.” However, it may be helpful to find your dominant persona and allow space for that while your playing around in this new sexual experience.

7. Go on a sexy shopping trip

Leashes, harnesses, collars, leather and so much more! When you’re starting to explore kink, there’s so much to learn. Have fun with it and go on a shopping trip to your local sex toy store. Bring your girl or your friends along with you and be sure to ask questions. Sex toy store employees have so much knowledge to impart about all these new tools.

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What I want you all to know is that anyone can take these tips in their self-discovery of kink. Any gender expression or identity can be a top or a bottom. You don’t have to conform to what society tells you about sexual norms. Sex is about pleasure, so find what brings you the most satisfaction and go for it (as long as it’s between consenting adults).

Corinne Werder is a writer, sex educator and girl on the move currently residing in Brooklyn, NY. She looks at the world through the lens of a pleasure activist, femme-of-center queer woman. Her background in sex education comes from her volunteer work with RAINN, her work as a sexual assault/domestic violence advocate and she is currently a student at the Institute for Sexuality and Enlightenment. 

Have more sex questions? Leave a comment below or email webeditor@gomag.com and come back for more every Friday! 

The advice offered in this column is intended for informational purposes only and should not replace or substitute for any medical, or other professional advice or help. For concerns requiring psychological or medical advice, please consult with an appropriately trained and qualified specialist This column, its author, the magazine and publisher are not responsible for the outcome or results of following any advice contained within this column.