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A Top's Guide to Bondage Bottoms

Author: Michael Nelson

Filed in: general knowledge, bondage

1 - Introduction

* Why do people want to be tied up?
* How do their preferences for bondage differ?
* How do you recognize and accommodate their needs?
* Why do bondage scenes sometimes "go wrong" and not work out?
* How do you match up bondage partners?

These are some of the questions answered in this article. There are many resources with advice on basic bondage techniques, safety, knots, etc. There are also some good books devoting a few pages to the psychology of the scene. I haven't seen much practical information, however, that acknowledges the many different kinds of bondage players, how to recognize them and how to best meet their unique needs. While common sense and communication may work with experienced players, what about when one or more are new to the scene? What questions should be asked? In my experience, there are several different "types" of players. The very best scenes happen when everyone involved is well matched or at least understand each other's needs.

2 - The Roles & Definitions

In the fetish world, people often use different words to describe the same thing. Just to be clear, here are some of my definitions as they're used here:

* Bondage - The act of physically or psychologically restraining one or more people
* Players - Those engaging in bondage
* Scene - A specific play session (but many comments apply to an ongoing relationship or lifestyle as well)
* Top - The one doing the restraining (Master, Mistress, Daddy, Domina/nt, etc.)
* Bottom - The one being restrained (submissive, slave, boy, etc.)
* Consensual - Everyone involved in the scene consents to what's happening and derives pleasure from it

This article isn't about why one person is top and another is bottom. Quite a bit has been written on that controversial subject. If you want more information, you can find some excellent references on the web and in books. I'm going to assume you're already comfortable in one or both roles (even if you're a novice).

If you're mostly or exclusively top, reading further will hopefully shed some light on selecting and understanding bottoms. If you're mostly or exclusively bottom, especially a novice one, you should be able to better understand your own interests and communicate them to a top. In either case, the point is to enhance communications making for a better scene.

3 - Basic Psychology of Bondage

You could probably write a book on why people are into bondage but I just want to touch on a few of the highlights. If you look up "bondage" in the dictionary, you might find definitions like "slavery" or "servitude" and indeed that's what the word means to some people. To others, it means simply being restrained in some way. I like to think of it as "giving up some amount of control".

So why are people drawn to bondage? Some might oversimplify and suggest those into bondage want to submit and give up control. For many, however, bondage is just a bridge to take them someplace else they want to go. It might be an occasional dash of spice in an otherwise vanilla sex life or a person's erotic world might revolve around it. In general, bondage is liberating in some way. It allows things to happen that couldn't otherwise happen. It's best viewed as a tool used to enhance sexual or other forms of pleasure. There are many subtle flavors.

4 - Types of Bondage Bottoms

If people are into bondage for different reasons, what are they? Why does a particular bottom want to get tied up? It's a very fundamental and important question but one that's rarely asked and often difficult for the bottom to answer. I've indirectly asked the question of nearly every bottom I've played with over the years. Most of the answers point towards a half dozen specific desires or kinds of players. I've put my own labels on each of these "types" as follows:

Submissive Slave - This person is mainly interested in submitting to the top. The act of submission is their main turn-on and the top is their main focus. They enjoy being "used" for someone else's pleasure (although most also expect to also receive pleasure themselves). For a serious submissive, physical bondage isn't all that important for most scenes, as the "bondage" can just as easily be psychological (i.e. the top orders them not to move from a given position).

Loss of Control Lover - This person is very different from the Submissive Slave. They don't so much submit to the top, as submit to the bondage. They want to feel as out-of-control as possible. They view bondage as the primary means for the top to make them feel as helpless as possible, rather than as an end in itself. They often love severe bondage like sensory deprivation and mummification. They might judge a hood or gag by its effectiveness not what it looks like or what it's made out of. They like the bondage inescapable and may play without a safeword to end the scene.

Bondage Enthusiast - This person enjoys being restrained above all else and often as an end in itself. They voluntarily allow themselves to be put into bondage and usually prefer to have some amount of control over what's happening. The type of bondage, position and aesthetics are often important to this person as they also enjoy the visual aspects of the scene. Many Bondage Enthusiasts are happy to be bound and left alone. The top is usually seen as more of an equal and they differ from the Loss of Control Lover in that it's often a more interactive and sometimes theatrical scene. They may struggle against their bonds but know they can easily gain their freedom. It's more of a game and one they sometimes play with themselves (solo bondage).

Gear Fetishist - This person has a fetish for specific gear. It might be boots, leather, rubber, rope, athletic gear, diving suits, uniforms, hoods, gags, sleepsacks, straightjackets, etc. They'll often get turned on at the mere sight of the equipment or clothing. For them, the interest is more in the gear than the bondage itself or submitting to the top. It's usually about how the gear looks, feels and/or smells that gets them going. Some enjoy solo scenes with their own gear.

Intensity Freak - This person craves sexual intensity. They're after the Holy Grail of sex. For them, bondage is a way to make sex more intense. Perhaps they into tickling and bondage allows them to be tickled far more severely than if they were free to stop it. Bondage is typically one of many things this person enjoys to enhance their sex lives.

Endorphin Pig - This person is subtly different from the Intensity Freak. They crave a very specific kind of intensity most of us call pain. They're unique enough to deserve their own category. For them, bondage opens the door for various pain scenes. For example, bondage may be required to hold an Endorphin Pig in place for a heavy whipping which in turn creates the endorphin rush they desire. The endorphins are what drive them while the bondage is often necessary to get there.

Few things are black and white and while you can categorize most bottoms into one of the above descriptions, they may fit one or more others. For example, a Gear Fetishist may also be a Bondage Enthusiast. Recognize that very different things often drive these players. Section 7 contains more details on each of these types.

5 - Matchmaking

So how do you know if someone is compatible with your interests? Many tops have a fair amount of flexibility but it only goes so far. If a top meets a Gear Fetishist and doesn't have the sort of gear they're into, things are not likely to turn out well no matter how hard the top tries. Likewise, some tops may not be willing or sufficiently experienced to inflict the kind of pain an Endorphin Pig craves. Compatibility is clearly important.

Too often, bottoms select a top based mainly on trust, appearances and personality with little regard for exactly what the top's into. For the Submissive Slave, that's probably OK. For some of the other types, however, it may result in both being disappointed. Matchmaking is obviously important in finding compatible play partners yet it's amazing how casually it's often done. You can trust your instincts for some things but that's only half the battle in finding a bondage partner.

Tops usually know what turns them on. They often started as bottoms and even if they didn't, have a good idea of what they're after. Many are still bottoms at heart who, for whatever reason, are mostly in the top role. For these tops, in particular, it's usually important the bottom be into their kind of scene. The closer the bottom's interests are to what they'd enjoy as bottom, the better the scene.

Some tops are genuinely versatile. They're unselfish and enjoy pleasing the other person. They can often accommodate most types of bottoms, but the more they know about the bottom the better the scene's likely to be. Many tops don't ask the right questions. I've often been asked something like, "So tell me about your interest in all this?" Such an open-ended question usually leaves a nervous bottom at a loss for words. A few tops hit the other extreme and give the bottom a detailed questionnaire in advance. While a questionnaire usually helps define specific kinds of play I've yet to see one that covers why the bottom is into the scene in the first place. It's a question that's best asked in person (or perhaps over the phone) but often is never asked at all.

6 - Figuring Out Your Bottom

So let's say you've just met a prospective bottom online or in a bar. Can you figure out which type they are? It might seem obvious to some, but in my experience a lot of players seem to gloss right over many important clues (or they're horny enough not to care). Without even asking any questions, you can often spot a couple of the types:

1 - Does the bottom seem to be mostly interested in you more than the specific play? Did he (or she) address you formally (i.e. as "Sir")? If their world seems to revolve around you, they're likely a Submissive Slave.

2 - Does this person seem to have any obvious fetish with specific things? Did you meet him or her on Rubber Night at the bar? Do they keep mentioning a particular kind of gear or fetish? If so, they're likely a Gear Fetishist and you'd best have what they want or keep moving.

3 - Does he or she seem to like things on the intense side? Do they ride a fast motorcycle, go sky diving or otherwise live on the edge? If so, you may have an Intensity Freak on your hands.

If none of the above are obvious (and even if they are), you should start asking some easy-to-answer questions:

1 - What started their interest in the scene? Look for clues in their answer. For example, if a bottom started out playing mutual bondage games as an adolescent they're likely a Bondage Enthusiast. People change, however, so this question is just a start.

2 - What attracted them to you? If it was that single-tail whip you wear on your left side, you may have an Endorphin Pig on your hands.

3 - What do they think about when they masturbate? This is an especially good question for novices or those with little bondage experience. The answer should hold some strong clues. If they fantasize about being mummified and unable to even wiggle their fingers, they're probably a Loss of Control Lover.

4 - Do they read any bondage magazines or watch bondage videos? Their interest in porn can be revealing. For example, if they love Bound and Gagged or Zeus videos, they're likely a Bondage Enthusiast.

5 - What's the one thing they crave most in a scene? This can be the hardest of these questions to answer but if you push hard enough, the answer will usually point you directly towards their main interest.

The above five questions can go a long way. All of them are easier to answer than, "Why are you into this scene?" Use these, or similar questions, to start a comfortable dialog and find out where a bottom's coming from.

7 - Play Suggestions

Once you've got your partner figured out, how do you cater to their needs? Experienced players know the brain is the greatest sex organ of all and if a bottom's head is in the right place, their body will follow. Bondage can go a long ways towards creating the right kind of headspace. It can be symbolic (a collar around the neck) or very real (total immobilization). It can create strong visuals for the bottom either literally or in their mind's eye. It's a powerful tool and you should know how to make the most of it given the person(s) you're playing with.

Experienced players can usually draw from their past experience, but a novice cannot. They haven't tried most things and may not even know many of the possibilities. So what to do as top? If you're a bottom and like surprises, you may want to skip this section. If you're a top and looking for ideas, here are some things to explore either verbally beforehand, or to actually try during a scene with each of the types defined earlier:

Submissive Slave - Remember bondage is usually secondary to this bottom but symbolic bondage can be very welcome. For example, you might try locking a collar on them from the beginning. They're mainly into being told what to do and knowing they're pleasing the top. The verbal aspect of the scene is usually important. Some are into humiliation, being treated like an animal, etc. Most are into being used sexually in one way or another. Others want to be tested and pushed--proud of having pleased you and living up to your expectations. Bondage can be useful when pushing their limits (consensually). It may help them psychologically give into what's happening. It can also be used for punishment or enforcement.

Loss of Control Lover - This person wants to feel as helpless as possible. It's best for the top to take control physically, mentally and verbally from the start of the scene. Sex may or may not be involved. Consider taking the bottom into the scene blindfolded (or hooded) so they cannot see their surroundings and are kept guessing as to what's going to happen. Surprise them--try to guess what they're expecting and do something different. The bondage should not only be inescapable but oriented toward making the bottom feel as helpless as possible. Consider mummification with saran wrap, restraining the head, binding fingers and toes together with duct tape, etc. Very effective gags such as inflatable ones or those that hold the jaw shut can be employed to prevent the bottom from communicating with words (never leave a bottom unattended even for a few seconds with a gag that can interfere with their breathing or cause choking). A safeword (or signal) to indicate a problem the top is unaware of is always a good idea (i.e. an arm going numb, etc.) but otherwise consider a "no-way-out" kind of scene. Consensual kidnappings are another option.

Bondage Enthusiast - Bondage is the main theme here. Bondage Enthusiasts may be more interested in bondage than sex and some don't want any sexual contact. Especially with a novice, consider using classic kinds of bondage such as spread eagle, hog-tying, chair bondage, etc. The position can mean a lot and perhaps try several in one session. Some are into challenging positions like being forced up onto their toes as a test of endurance. The act of being put into bondage itself can be a big turn-on so have everything ready to help the scene flow smoothly. Bondage Enthusiasts may like to see themselves and having one or more mirrors in the play area can be useful. Others may get off if they know they're being video taped and get to watch it later. The look and feel of the bondage can be important as well. Keep in mind even if they can't see themselves, they'll likely be imagining what they look like so aesthetics and symmetry can be important. They often like to struggle hard against their bonds so take that into consideration. Can they hurt themselves or break anything? Some like to be (safely) left alone or kept in captivity. Reading Bound and Gagged magazine provides a lot of insight into their mindset

Gear Fetishist - You have to find this person's "hot buttons" and play them. They may have fairly wide interests in many things or very specific interests in primarily one area--i.e., being covered head to toe in rubber. In general, they all like trying new things within their area of interest. They love new gear and experiencing new things. It's best not to tell them about everything in your collection in advance and only introduce new things once they're already in bondage (or even save some for future scenes). The visual and sexual aspects are very important to some and less so to others. Ask lots of questions in advance.

Intensity Freak - Here you want to use bondage as one of your tools to push their limits and take them to new places. It's hard to make suggestions because it all depends on what the bottom's into. They often crave going a little bit further each time and setting new "personal bests". Variety and creativity are very important. Controlled breathing, being "milked" for multiple orgasms or being kept on the edge but denied orgasm for an extended period are all examples of intense kinds of play that usually require bondage to accomplish. Likewise, immobilization and/or sensory deprivation can also be very intense but may not be what your particular bottom is after. They usually expect at least one mind-blowing orgasm.

Endorphin Pig - It takes special skill to safely play with most of these bottoms. They're after a chemical high that can require administering fairly heavy pain to induce. Some get off on many different kinds of pain, while others are into more specific things--whipping and flogging being some of the most popular. The bondage should generally allow for some freedom of movement, as the bottom will often use body language (knowingly or otherwise) to communicate with the top. A heavy endorphin scene can go far enough to where the bottom is largely incapable of intelligent speech. It's beyond the scope of this article to get into the details of really heavy pain scenes. They're best left for experienced players. Sex is usually not part of a heavy endorphin scene.

The above are just some ideas for each type of player. Obviously, the possibilities are almost unlimited. Variety is the spice of life and creativity will usually be rewarded. There are many resources on the net and in print regarding play ideas, specific techniques, etc. Try to put yourself in the bottom's place, envision what they might be thinking and act accordingly. If you also have experience as bottom, and they share your interests, you can often simply do what you'd enjoy most as the scene progresses. Pay attention to their feedback during the scene (verbal and otherwise) and discuss the scene with them afterwards (even if you don't think you'll play again). There's something to be learned from every scene. This is as much an art as a science.

8 - Have Fun!

Hopefully this article has given you some new insight into the various kinds of players. Sometimes it's the subtle things that matter most. Consensual bondage is all about you and your partner(s) enjoying what's happening. Talk about it, ask questions, look at pictures, share past experiences, try new things, check out other resources and above all have fun!

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