The term service top seems to get kind of a bad rap in the kink Scene. You don’t see a many people advertising themselves as one, maybe because it doesn’t seem as sexy as being a “big, bad dominant!” Also, some people don’t even know what a service top is or might have a misconception about what one is and isn’t.
There’s a term in kink called “topping from the bottom,” which means a bottom who takes control over the scene and tells the top what to do. Usually, this term is a negative one. It implies that the bottom shouldn’t be topping. That’s the top’s job. The bottom is being a bad bottom! Actually, bottoming and topping are acts that don’t necessarily imply power exchange. So, while it would be better if a top and a bottom discussed what they wanted to happen and not happen before the start of a scene, a bottom is well within his or her rights to have a say over what happens in a scene. Tops want their bottoms to enjoy themselves. Admittedly, if you are constantly interrupting your top during a scene to tell him or her what you want to happen next, you’re probably going to make your top feel insecure or break the mood of the scene. That’s where the negative connotation come from with the term “topping from the bottom.”
Actually, bottoming and topping are acts that don’t necessarily imply power exchange. So, while it would be better if a top and a bottom discussed what they wanted to happen and not happen before the start of a scene, a bottom is well within his or her rights to have a say over what happens in a scene.
The reason I mention this is because service topping seems to have the same problem with its image. A service top is someone who tops for the benefit of the bottom. They enjoy servicing the bottom.
Now, this raises all kinds of questions. For example, don’t most, if not all, tops like topping for the benefit of the bottom? Of course the tops get something out of it too. But if you’re a top who plays with someone and you leave them unhappy, well, you’re not likely to play with them again.
Saying that someone is a service top might imply that they aren’t really into what they’re doing as a top—that, for instance, they’re doing an impact scene on a bottom because the bottom wants it but they don’t really like it.
While this could happen, it seems unlikely, since it would probably be a pretty unenthusiastic scene. More likely would be a situation in which a top doesn’t specifically get off on being sadistic but likes the reactions the sadism elicits in a bottom. So, is this service topping? If the top is getting something fun out of the scene, does it matter what that fun thing is?
You might also ask, if a service top is topping at the bequest of a bottom, is the top really a top or a service sub or bottom—someone who is doing something because they enjoy making someone feel good. Is it just “topping from the bottom?” To that, I would say, does it matter? If everyone is getting what they want out of the scene, are the labels really important?
If everyone is getting what they want out of the scene, are the labels really important?
One definition of a service top that isn’t pejorative is that of someone who demonstrates a skill. At a lot of dungeons and kink events, there will be stations set up where people can try out scenes. For example, at a kink event I went to a little while ago there was a cupping station. Someone ran that station, and they would demonstrate cupping on whomever wanted to try it. In that example, you could likely say the cupping top was a service top because they were literally there as a favor to the event space and the community to show off their skills. However, there’s still an argument to be made that the person could also just really love cupping people! In which case, is that service topping or not?
In that example, you could likely say the cupping top was a service top because they were literally there as a favor to the event space and the community to show off their skills.
One way in which this discussion is important to the topic of femdom is that there is a difference between a top and a dominant. A top, service or not, does not necessarily have any power over his or her bottom. There could be an agreement about power within the scene, but there isn’t one in the relationship itself. Some people think they’re looking for a dominant, because that’s the word they are familiar with, when they’re really looking for a top—someone to do kinky play with during scenes but otherwise have an egalitarian relationship. And that can lead to issues when one person in a relationship is under the impression that they are going to have actual control over the other one and one person thinks it’s all a fun role play that ends when everyone is tired of it.
Service tops are awesome! They allow people to try out new experiences without pressure. They are giving individuals who enjoy making people happy. What’s not to like? We need to get rid of the negative associations with the term “service top” and replace it with something more positive…how about saying someone has a “happiness kink?”
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