So the idea for this article came up when a friend of mine posed a question in an open kinky forum. He asked, “when it comes to play, do you consider yourself a “light”, “medium”, or “heavy” player? this goes for tops and bottoms.”
As you can imagine he got many different responses – most of which came down to two basic responses. One, people took a guess at how “heavy” they think they are. Usually followed by a suggestion to double check that with their current or past play partners. Or two, they said how heavy they are depends on who they play with, the implements used, how long since they played last, etc. Basically that it may be different based on several possible variables. My reply was in the latter category.
This idea of “light” vs. “medium” vs “heavy” is such a subjective issue that there really aren’t definitive answers. I don’t believe most bottoms are one thing across the board. This refers to two things, partners and implements. A bottom may be “lighter” when playing with someone new to them because they are nervous, the partner and their style of play is still less familiar, etc. However, as trust develops and a higher level of comfort, so may the bottoms level of “heaviness”. As you begin to feel more trust, comfort and familiarity with a partner, it tends to be easier to relax and let go and dig a little deeper into the realm of subspace. Also, for some, they may be “heavier” with their Dominant or primary partner and not so much with other play partners – no matter how long they’ve been playing together. This may be because the bottom pushes themselves a little further with someone they are in a more committed D/s relationship with.
With implements you have a similar situation. I have met very few (can count on one hand) bottoms who can take the same level of play across all implements or types of play. For some it’s a matter of “thuddy” vs “stingy” – being heavier with one over the other. It could be more specific though. Someone may be pretty heavy with leather floggers but extra light with leather paddles and perhaps more of a medium when it comes to canes. Or lighter with impact play and heavier with needles and cutting. The possibilities are endless. Then, once you kinda figure out where you tend to be – you may play with someone who believes they are Topping you lightly with paddles but they are more “heavy handed” than you are used to so to you, as the bottom, it’s too much. On the opposite end perhaps the Top thinks they are going all out with a flogger and the bottom is waiting for things to really get started!
Sometimes changes in pain tolerance can come down to hormonal cycle, recent or early stages of illness or current head space!
A big issue I see is when bottoms come into the scene and they feel like they have to “measure up” to other bottoms or “take more” for their Tops even if it’s beyond what they’re comfortable with. I call this “sub ego” – and guess what – if you take something harder or heavier you don’t get a special prize! There is no cape, no trophy. One person’s light is another’s heavy. One person’s heavy is another’s light. Just because you can’t take something (or someone) as heavy as someone else it doesn’t mean you are lesser than or a less worthy bottom. There is NO SHAME in being lighter. And I can guarantee you that someone out there is lighter than you. That’s ok too. Play isn’t about “who can take more” – it’s about fun, connection, catharsis, energy exchange, and exploration. A good Top wants the bottom to have a positive experience so they want to play again – not to ”take more just to take more” and wake up the next day with regret. Don’t focus on being a “Super Sub” – focus on learning where you fit without shame or competition.
Jennifer Masri is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, specializing in Alternative Lifestyles for individual and relationship issues. She also teaches the BDSM 101 class series at Sanctuary LAX in Los Angeles every Monday evening. Read more about Jennifer on her blog, A Kink Shrink.