Sunday, August 30, 2009

How to Ask for What You Need: A Bottom's Field Guide

I promised I'd get to this before Shadow Lane, and I've been stalling because I've been thinking a lot about this topic. First of all, I am not a bottom and I do not presume to know what goes on in your heads, ladies. But! I'm married to a switch that is highly communicative when it comes to knowing what she wants/needs. I was helped into the lifestyle by a top I consider to be very knowledgeable and in tune with the needs of bottoms and went to great efforts to understand what was going on in their heads and passed some of that knowledge onto me. And my wife was mentored by one of the better, more compassionate empathetic tops in the scene, who's guidance and advice was indirectly passed along to me. Disclaimer over.

So, without further ado (as they say) I present to you:

How to Ask for What You Need: A Bottom's Field Guide
(you may argue about this validity of this post to your heart's content)

As part of my intro to the lifestyle I was taught communication is key prior to a scene. But more than finding out if a bottom has a bad knee and can't stay bent over too long or if a leather flogger is a scene kill for reasons unclear, it was also brought to my attention to find out, if at all possible, what the bottom needs. I'm very keen on delivering the goods for my bottoms. I aim to please. I've said on this blog in the past that I'm very clear on the fact that sometimes--most times!--a bottom is simply looking to play, to feel the pain, to have a good time, to be taken to subspace. But other times, a bottom needs more. She has her own internal monitoring system that has little red lights that go off on the dashboard of her mind to let her know when the time is now for something more intense, something lighter, something different, something specific. But when I sit down for that "interview" before a scene (not negotiation, I assure you!) I discover many bottoms simply cannot articulate what they need, even when they know they need something. I hope I can help, just a little bit.

Some people's minds move at one thousand miles per hour, constantly, all day long. Others are desensitized to emotion, for whatever reason, and need to simply feel. Others are bottled up all day at work, or at home (or both!) and need to emotionally let it go and need "permission" to do so. Some need, as Erica so aptly puts it, to be "centered" (the best description I've heard for a lot of what ails some of you bottoms). Some need to feel unsafe, out of bounds, out of control to push themselves to new heights of awareness.

Here's some things to think about to help you self-assess what you might need:
  1. What makes you tick?
  2. What's driving you crazy?
  3. Do you need "emotional punishment"?
  4. Are you out of control (emotionally, control-wise)? Do you simply need to focus?
  5. Are you feeling bottled up inside and can't give yourself (or don't know how to) release?
  6. Do you need to be pushed? Do you need to go beyond your previous boundaries of "safety" to experience something more "dangerous" (likely as a means to an end relating to one of the #s above)?
I'm not a doctor, nor do I play one on tv. I'm not a therapist, nor do I intend to sound like one. I can't pretend I know what I'm doing as I'm not a lifelong expert. But I am a keen observer of people and I believe I'm a very empathetic person. I think I can suss from a discussion where to take a bottom in a scene.

What makes you tick?
This question presumes you know. If you knew the answer to this one, you probably would be able to answer one of my very first questions: What do you need? But perhaps, indirectly, you can get to the answer by simply taking inventory of yourself. "Hmmm, what makes me tick?" you say. "Well, I'm super-organized, always in control, always on the go, never have time for myself, always thinking about others. That's my life, that's what makes me tick." Okay. Perhaps you need a loss of control, a sense of momentary chaos. This is one of the most obvious reasons why people are in the lifestyle, IMHO (aside from that whole masochism thing). Thinking about what makes you tick might lead you to one possible answer to the question, What do you need?

What's driving you crazy?
"I have so much on my plate I don't know where to begin!" or "I'm always the one in control. I have to be." Great. These issues that weigh heavy on you or frustrate you might just be simple clues to help figure out what you need.

Do you need "emotional punishment"?
Corporeal punishment is obvious (otherwise you probably wouldn't be on this, and similar, blogs to begin with). But emotional punishment? Catharsis comes in many forms. I could never suggest to any bottom that I can tell they need something along these lines. But a bottom can. Nor can I pretend to understand or explain the why of something like this. Emotional punishment is not humiliation and should not be confused as such. I personally cannot go there. It's not within me. But there are buttons that can be pushed, much like a good scolding in a spanking scene, that can assist a bottom achieve their emotional goals.

Are you out of control?
I hear this from one of my favorite bottoms. Her head becomes chaotic. She can't focus. She can't start a project. It's not motivation, it's that needing to be centered thing again. Sometimes, it seems, a good, intense session has a way of calcifying all that chaos and blasting it away. The more intense, corporeally, the better the focus (or the worse the chaos has been prior to the scene). Gaining control, gaining focus, becoming centered--whatever you call it, can last a few minutes, hours, days or weeks. But from my conversations with bottoms, it is a precious commodity that cannot be bought, manufactured or consumed in any other form than the intensity of a scene.

Are you feeling bottled up inside and can't give yourself (or don't know how to) release?

I personally get this one. I don't have to be a masochist to understand these feelings, as throughout my life I've been one to bottle up my feelings, push my emotional issues way, waaaay down in the Trash Compactor of Life. I went to a therapist to gain understanding of how to release all that shit. But sometimes, for a bottom, the only way to achieve that release is with a good whuppin'. Maybe it's as simple as that. This also seems to be a highly common reason for a scene. Simply the bliss of that release.

Do you need to be pushed? Do you need to go beyond your previous boundaries of "safety" to experience something more "dangerous"?
"I can't really explain why, I just need to go beyond my boundaries" or "I need to feel unsafe even though I know I won't be." Again, I can't pretend to understand the why of this need, but it comes up. For a regular play couple, this is often a hard one to deliver. After a while, the top begins to intuit the edge of a scene, the boundaries of tolerance from the bottom. Going "beyond" could get into scene-kill territory, so playing in this realm can be a challenge. With all things in the lifestyle, communication is key, and checking in during this kind of scene is extraordinarily important.

Some more disclaimers: I realized after writing this that it sounds like I know what I'm talking about, that this borders on some form of psychoanalysis. I don't know what I'm talking about. I'm no expert of the mind or of corporeal punishment. I shouldn't be quoted, referenced or Wiki'd. I'm dangerous in that I analyze the shit out of everything and formulate my own conclusions based on my own experience, research and observations. But in the grand scheme of things, I'm no expert.

I've been asked a number of times by different bottoms, "What do you mean by 'what do you need'?" I have been thinking about this for a few months, how to answer that question more articulately. I hope this post has achieved that goal. The rest, my fair bottom darlings, is up to you.


  1. Craig -- there are those (including you!) who would say I'm a wee bit prejudiced, but I think this blog is awesome. It's intuitive and thorough, and yet unassuming. I don't think anyone would read this and anything like "Sheesh, what a know-it-all." However, I can't think of any bottom who wouldn't appreciate all your forethought and how conscientious and caring you are. :-)

    I can be sort of a maddening bottom, because I'm one who often isn't in touch with what I really need. I know I need SOMETHING, but in my fantasy, the top just knows what it is, without my saying. Just like in the stories. But of course, that's not realistic. So, I am learning to articulate a little better (I hope!) -- Erica

  2. The top can intuit it sometimes, but others...? I certainly appreciate those times when you KNOW what you need, even if you aren't specific. When you know you need to be pushed, you say so. When you need to be centered, you tell me. Other times, a light, fun scene is in order and you suggest that. I think you communicate pretty darn well.

  3. Thanks for writing this, Craig. Once again, I find it very useful to get an insight into what at least one Top is thinking in terms of scene preparation. Before my relatively few party experiences, it wouldn't have even occurred to me to have answers to these questions, but I consider the time spent considering my own answers to them to be a valuable investment in my scene fulfillment.

    So, armed with your field guide, I will set out on a great journey and brave the wilds of the Shadow Lane party this weekend. I make no guarantees that I will suddenly turn into a great communicator or anything, but I'll give it a try. Thanks again for your thoughtful and thought-provoking post.

  4. You're welcome. Your comments are very articulate and much appreciated. I hope it helps in Vegas this weekend and on into the future.

    Good luck!