The role of a submissive is often misunderstood, especially by people new to kink or those who have made assumptions about kink from popular culture. From the outside, a submissive looks like a person who just lets things happen to them, and wants to be hurt/touched/paid attention to. Good risk-aware kink goes way beyond this. The submissive is actually the one calling the shots. Now before you get indignant, hear me out.
Any scene, relationship, or bdsm related interaction should start with negotiation. During negotiation, a submissive should be saying what they are into, what they want to happen, and what they absolutely don’t want. So really, the submissive/bottom is the one dictating what is going to happen. The submissive is saying that there are certain things they would like done to them, and then letting the dominant do those things. I would relate this a lot to building your playground in poly relationships. You sit down and you build the playground for your scene. So if you don’t want monkeybars, you tell the top you don’t want monkey bars and the playground shouldn’t have them.
Topping from the Bottom
I really hate the phrase ‘topping from the bottom’. A bottom can (and should!) articulate what they can about what is going well in the scene and what isn’t. For dangerous play like rope bondage this is especially important. If your arm goes numb as a bottom, you should let your top know ASAP so he can adjust and so he is aware that his time with you in that position is limited.
I even like it when a bottom has a lot of spunk and fights back. Obviously this isn’t everyones preference, but this again is something that should be mentioned before you start playing. Let your top know that you will be vocal, or fight back. You don’t want them to be totally surprised if you start swinging or swearing at them, because that might not be something they want out of play.
But Good Submissives Would…
I’ve heard the argument that a submissive should let their dominant decide what is best for them. That a true submissive person will just let their dominant decide. I am completely against this. Even in a D/s relationship where blanket consent has been given, some extensive discussion is required. A dominant is not a mind reader, and the way to get the most out of a scene, relationship or D/s relationship is to talk about what you both want out of it and talk about it often. If a dominant person comes to you and tells you that isn’t how it works, be careful. You want to be with someone who listens to your wants and needs!