How to Be a Good Top

It’s important to remember this applies to yourself, as well — as we talked about above, tops also have limits, and can also be triggered or harmed during sex. You have the right to stop or withdraw consent from sex at any time, and also have the right to feel bad about something happening during sex; if that happens, you’re entitled to support and space from your partner as well.

How to Be a Good Top

You know what topping, bottoming (and even switching!) are now — and maybe you’re feeling super excited to top (or to know more about the vocabulary for something you’ve already been doing for years). But there’s more to sex than knowing the right terminology. You know you want to top, but how do you make sure you’re a good top?

Sex and romance are subjective, and every encounter with every person is a little different; what makes the dreamiest, most mindblowing sex of one person’s life might be a total snoozefest for someone else. While there may be no objective standards for “good sex,” I do think there are some ground rules for what individual people can do to be good in bed — and if you’re choosing sex with a power dynamic, here are some of the things you can do to work toward being a good top.

Do your homework

One way to think about topping someone else during sex is to imagine you’re going on a road trip: as the top, you’ve volunteered to take on the task of doing (most of) the driving. That doesn’t mean you’re doing “all the work” — the person in the passenger seat is likely navigating, organizing snacks and drinks, changing the playlist, and finding new routes when the exit you needed is closed; they may well have done all the research and planning for this trip, called ahead, made motel reservations, etc. But inarguably, taking on the bulk of the driving is a huge task with a very specific set of responsibilities, and the stakes for not taking them seriously are high; there are things on this trip that could go seriously wrong.

Topping means that you’re taking on the logistics and skilled labor of the sex act, and also that you’re committing to having some knowledge and skills up front. After all, most of us wouldn’t feel comfortable on a road trip if the driver disclosed in the first ten minutes that this was their first time driving.

Thinking about what’s potentially on the menu for you and your partner — any activities, toys, or kink activities you’ve talked about trying or know you or your partner are into — how confident do you feel about taking charge with them? This isn’t about being the best or most impressive top in the history of sex, but about basic competency skills as best you can build them. Some of this has to come with practice, but a lot you can practice and be as comfortable as possible with on your own. If you want to try using a harness and strap-on, you can practice taking the harness on and off at home, inserting and taking out a dildo, and even walking around with it on to get more comfortable. If there are any impact toys you want to try in a kink scene, you can practice trying them out on a pillow or on your own thighs to get comfortable with using them and figure out how much force you want to use. Even though you may not have ever driven the route of a particular trip before, you can at least familiarize yourself with the car you’re driving: the dashboard, signals, handling, and even basic repair. Your passenger will be glad you did.

Communicate even about your communication

Most of us know that communication is key in any kind of romantic and sexual context, especially with any kind of kink scene. But even when communicating is our intention, it’s harder to do clearly than we may expect. Especially if you’re with a new partner, the ways that each of you communicates about what you want or don’t want may not be obvious or easily legible to the other person. Think of a sudden fork in the road that you don’t expect, and having your navigator in the passenger seat shout out that you should go “north” when you were listening for left or right.

If you’re topping, some of your jobs as a communicator are to let your bottom know what’s happening and what to expect, and to ask them about their choices and capacity for what you want to do with them. For the former, think about the ways you might be used to partners checking in or asking for consent in a sexual encounter without a power dynamic. “Can I kiss you?” might become something more like “You were a good girl at dinner, so you get a kiss,” or “if you want a kiss, get on the bed on all fours.” You can also alert your partner to what you’re planning to do with/to them: “I’m moving you to the edge of the bed so I can spank you now.”

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