What is the difference between a Dominant and a Top?

What is the difference between a Dominant and a Top? Is there a need to make the distinction? Isn’t everyone a Top or Dominant?

It is important to understand and make the distinction between a Dominant and a “Top”. The two are not the same!

The definition for a “Top” comes from the Gay community and basically referred to the “giver” from a sexual standpoint; the person who performed the penetration.  The “bottom” was the “receiver”.

As the Gay Leather community intermixed with the straight BDSM community, the term Top/bottom was adopted within the BDSM straight culture.  The use of Top/bottom then came to signify someone giving or receiving.

A “Top” is not necessarily a Dominant or Master/Mistress. However someone acting as the “Top” can be dominant over others yet be submissive to their Master/Mistress.  There is a hierarchy in BDSM. If someone is constantly “topping” and then is submissive to another, they are basically your Switch.

To further add a twist to the possibilities, a slave can “Top” someone—for instance another slave or submissive because that person doesn’t have a Dominant of their own. In this case, the slave/sub doing the “topping” is “being of service” to the other person.  This does not make the person topping a Dominant.  It just means they were being “toppy” at that time.

Yes, I know that it might seem a little convoluted when you try to address all the nuances in the BDSM lifestyle.

People call & identify themselves in the manner which resonates with them most.

The bottom line is that there are only three main personalities within the hierarchy of BDSM:  the Dominant, the submissive or slave, and the Switch.




What is the difference between a Dominant and a Top? — 2 Comments

  1. I have to take exception to the last line of you article. I am a Sexual Sadist. I am not interested in dominance at all, or any form of hierarchy. My partner does not need to show any particular signs of submission, she simply needs to be willing to accept pain, or find enjoyment from same. The social aspects of BDSM interest me not at all. Using the title of Dom would imply aspects that simply do not exist in my personality or desires.

    Since “Top” refers to a particular mode of action and is not a defining personality trait, it does not serve as a suitable descriptor either.

    I also personally know people who simply enjoy receiving sexual pain, but who have no interest or desire in being dominated in the BDSM sense.

    Therefore, Dom, sub, and Switch are not all inclusive.

    • Hi VW,

      I’m pleased to have you visit our website and comment on the articles.

      To address your comment; based on your statement above, you are in fact acting as a Dominant when you are sharing your sadism with your partner and she is acting in the role of the submissive. The fact that you do not use those titles, does not negate the roles you have stepped into. You do however bring up a good point, in that, not all Sadists or masochists step into the construct of a D/s relationship. The most profound beauty of BDSM is that it is different for each person and can be tailored to their needs and desires.

      Live with passion,

      Dr. Charley Ferrer

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