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A bottom can be subjected to acts such as flogging, servitude, or humiliation and can be physically restrained by bondage, which can itself inflict pain. This can include feminization as a punishment or as humiliation. A person who relinquishes control for a large percentage of his or her day-to-day life to a top, or who submits within a formal set of rules and rituals, is sometimes referred to as a slave. The top is then often called the Master or Mistress.
The behaviors of bottoms and submissives are similar and in many cases overlap. For this reason, the terms are used interchangeably in some discussions, although there are differences between the two. Behaviors of submissives and bottoms often overlap, with the bottom also being submissive, but this is not always the case. Someone who is "topping" may be doing so at the request, or even the direction, of the bottom partner(s). In such a case, the dominant's function would reside with the bottom(s). Tops who act within this kind of relationship dynamic are sometimes called service tops. A bottom who has dominance over the activities or the relationship is said to be topping from the bottom, even though they are really expressing dominance from the bottom.
Within communities of lifestyle BDSM devotees, there exists a widespread prejudice against both service tops and bottoms that top from the bottom. Both are considered by many to be failing to achieve a "proper" BDSM relationship dynamic – especially if the partners are purported to be trying to achieve dominant-top/submissive-bottom relationship.
Limits to submission
The acceptance of a bottom or submissive role in a BDSM relationship is seldom absolute, often operating within a set of defined limits.
A common means by which a bottom or submissive can signal to a top or dominant partner that their limits are being approached, pushed, or even crossed is the use of safewords; Extreme forms of submission or the practice of edgeplay can remove the safeword option from the bottom or submissive, although, this somewhat risky situation is entered into with the consent of the bottom or submissive.
References and further reading
- Dossie Easton, Janet W Hardy. The New Bottoming Book. Greenery Press, 2003. ISBN 1-890159-36-0.
- Jay Wiseman: SM 101: A Realistic Introduction. Greenery Press (CA) 1998, ISBN 0-9639763-8-9
- Phillip Miller, Molly Devon, William A. Granzig (Vorwort): Screw the Roses, Send Me the Thorns: The Romance and Sexual Sorcery of Sadomasochism. Mystic Rose Books 1995, ISBN 0-9645960-0-8
- William A. Henkin, Sybil Holiday, Consensual Sadomasochism : How to Talk About It and How to Do It Safely, Daedalus Publishing, 1996. ISBN 1-881943-12-7.
- Different Loving: The World of Sexual Dominance and Submission ISBN 978-0-679-76956-9
- Breslow, Norman: SM Research Report, v1.1, 1999
- Janus, Samuel S. / Janus, Cynthia L., 1993 The Janus Report on Sexual Behavior, Wiley, New York
- Thomas S. Weinberg: S&M – Studies in Dominance and Submission (Ed.), Prometheus Books, New York, 1995 ISBN 0-87975-978-X
- Robert Bienvenu, The Development of Sadomasochism as a Cultural Style in the Twentieth-Century United States, 2003, Online PDF under Sadomasochism as a Cultural Style
- Charles Moser, in Journal of Social Work and Human Sexuality 1988, (7;1, P.43-56)