Extracts from Easton and Hardy's 'New Topping Book'

Here are some extracts that particularly resonated with me from 'The New Topping Book' by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy, which I recommend unreservedly. All of the following words are direct extracts except those in [square brackets], which are my comments.


"Top" is an umbrella term that includes people who like to play on the giving end of sensation and pain, bondage, control and discipline and all the other activities that make up the universe of BDSM. And "bottom" is the umbrella term for all those who like to be the lucky recipients of such attention.

...The reality is that the joys of topping are often more abstract than those of bottoming, and that its responsibilities and burdens are great.

S/M is play, theatre, communication, intimacy, sexuality. It combines the child's urge for make-believe with the adult's ability to take responsibility and the adult's privilege of sexual reward.

So what's in it for you?

... Empathy... the 'contact high', the turn-on we feel in empathy with the bottom's response to the physical, emotional and sexual intensity of the scene.

... Creativity

... Nurturing... is a big part of what we do, and the combination of kindness and cruelty is one of the fastest ways to take a bottom down the deepest.

... Competence

... Self-knowledge... developing an S/M persona can become the process by which we learn more about who we are.

What about bottoms?

Many of our activities enable us to use our bodies' ability to produce naturally occurring morphine-line neurotransmitters called "endorphins" in response to intense stimuli... sensations can be processes through the body to create an endorphin high, and ecstatic experiences of intensity and openness transmute strong physical and emotional sensation into an altered state of consciousness that we experience as extreme pleasure.

...We believe it is a requirement for a skilled and supportive bottom to be able to tell you about her desires... Good tops learn to support bottoms through the embarrassment of revealing their fantasies.

...Once again, we see this as a collaborative endeavour, in which we play with power that is shared.

...The structure we build around our play creates a 'firewall'... we learn a lot about where the boundaries are between scene space and the rest of our lives.

Do you always have to have a role? ... even if you're not into playing roles overtly, it's important to be clear about what flavour of scene you want.

Rights and responsibilities

...You are entitled to receive as much information about your partner's needs, wants and limits as he is capable of giving you. He doesn't get to withhold information for fear of scaring you off, to exaggerate his abilities, or to pretend not to have limits... Asking you to top without as much information as you can get is like asking a contractor to build a house without seeing the blueprint.

...Accessing your shadow, as a top or as a bottom, can put you into a state of tremendous emotional vulnerability.

...You have the right to get your needs met... whatever it is that you need to feel like topping has been worthwhile for you.

...You have a right to responsiveness... Ask for what you want.

...You have a right to constructive feedback.

...BDSM is ritualised co-dependency... We think that a top should take the lead in discussing what kinds of stimuli are likely to trigger emotional trauma for a bottom... We think tops should expect to provide plenty of support, praise and affection.

You are responsible for knowing and stating your needs, wants and limits.

You are responsible for your own, and your partner's, physical and emotional safety.

How do you learn to do this stuff?

...When it starts getting good, when you start getting response... keep on doing it.

Soaring higher

As you grow more experienced, the details of technique become like the details of driving... It's at this point you may be able to open up to the less intellectual, more visceral joys of BDSM... "just knowing" what to do next, and being able to anticipate your bottom's desire or fantasy without being told.

...As you top, pay attention to what's happening in your own body and heart.

...Some cues we like to look for to tell us about our bottoms' state of mind:

  • muscle tension
  • breathing... a trick we like is to establish eye or physical contact... then simply breathe in the rhythm you want your bottom to breathe.
  • posture and movement
BDSM ethics

Consent is only meaningful if it can be withdrawn without risking undue criticism, judgment or rejection.

...When we blame, we also disempower ourselves - if it's your fault, then I must be impotent.

Things that might require specific consent:

  • Sex
  • Marks
  • Pain
  • Humiliation
  • Phobias and turnoffs
  • High-risk play
  • Limits of scene space
  • Emotional limits

...Underplanning is a sure-fire recipe for "blankpaperitis" - that brain-dead feelings when you look at the bottom and can't begin to imagine what might be a good thing to do next.

...Just about any beginning can work, as long as it serves the dual purpose of connecting you and your partner and turning you on... Is there something physical that you know turns you on, makes you feel toppy? ...Be bossy, be forceful - it's okay if it doesn't feel "natural" at first.

...One top we know taught us another excellent strategy for this moment: do nothing. Simply stop and re-center yourself. Take a deep breath or two. Look at yourself and your bottom. Wait. Inspiration will come. The bottom isn't going anywhere. This can seem like a very long moment, but really, it's usually only a minute or so... and many bottoms love suspense. [HD: This para made me cry, I think mainly with compassion for my former self, who believed I was the only one who didn't 'just know' what to do (sexually), all of the time.]

Keeping it going

Taking control. An important thing to remember is that your goal is to "turn off your bottom's brain" - to enable her to melt into a malleable, will-less state of arousal and hypersensuality. The more control, verbal and physical, that you exert, the easier it will be for your bottom to relinquish control to you... It is a good idea to offer your bottom as few choices as possible.

Checking in ..."Still with me?" or "Do you still remember your safeword?"

Calibrating your bottom...

Closure ... You need to signal to the bottom that the scene will end soon... avoid suddenness. We like to respect and enjoy the general incompetence of warm fuzzy endorphined-out bottoms, and share in that state ourselves.

...grooming behaviours feel good here, and are a nice way to indicate caring nurturance

...talking gets us back into our heads

...supplying a snack to elevate blood sugar and a beverage to rehydrate is very smart.

Toys for tops

Rope... restraints... blindfold... clamps... candles... impact toys... sex toys... emergency supplies

Choosing the right bottom


  • Responsibility for one's own actions
  • Ability to give as well as take
  • Discretion
  • Self-control
  • Supportiveness... a good bottom will also be supportive when you're not acting like a top - when you're feeling tired, vulnerable
Shadow-play: Darkside S/M

Jung thought the function of the Shadow was to shut away thoughts, memories, and feelings that we had forbidden to consciousness for one reason or another... Forbidden emotions sent to the deep freeze commonly include pathos, anger, shame, terror, villainy and victimhood...

S/M spirituality

...Sexuality has been a path for both of us - the road we originally took to question our individual and social programming. Discovering the ways in which we as women could grasp our sexuality was a powerful way to heal from our childhoods and from our sex-negative culture.