Words for Toppish Women

Posted in identity by Cal Stockton on November 30, 2009

Femdom sucks.

I mean, god I love hurting men. I love it when men obey me, even (and perhaps especially) when I tell them to do things that they really don’t want to do. I love the pleasure we both get out of that. I love earning that trust. I love power, the rough pleasure of taking it and the humbling joy of having it given to me. I love unfairness. I love restraint and control. I love being taken care of, in the sense of receiving service; and I love taking care of, in the sense of treating my property well. I love brutality, I love penetration. I love getting into his head and figuring out what makes him tick, and using that against him. I love the good sort of filthiness, the right kind of fear. I love using men for my own pleasure, making him feel used and taken. Mine. I love evoking vulnerability. And more, and more.

But I hate femdom.

When we were first discussing names for this blog, we all agreed that femdom was not a term we use for ourselves. To steal Ivy‘s phrasing, femdom is more like a subset of porn that is not appealing to me.

I don’t think of myself as a dominatrix, either. I think of a dominatrix as a cartoon in black leather and spike heels. A corset, a singletail whip. A male fantasy in action, without a real woman inside. (Yes, I know that Ivy likes the term dominatrix, for all the reasons discussed in her convoluted terminology post. We have very different associations, and that’s okay.) I don’t wear spike heels or corsets. I usually wear jeans and a tank top, or nothing at all. I like to be comfortable when I start to get rough.

Everyone knows the anecdote about a reporter telling Gloria Steinem that she didn’t look 40, and Steinem retorting, “This is what 40 looks like.” I think that the difference here is that Ivy likes the word, so she can stand proud and demonstrate what a dominatrix really looks like, whereas for me, some words I just can’t reclaim.

(I’m also not a slut, despite having multiple lovers. But if you call me a bitch, especially while I’m hurting you, it’ll just get me hotter. Words are strange that way.)

Dominatrix and domme both bother me precisely because of the feminine endings. Where Ivy likes that they remind the world that we exist, I dislike that they reaffirm the idea that tops are male by default, and female by exception only. Why do we need cute endings just to show that the girls are getting in on the fun?

Dom doesn’t feel at all genderqueer to me, but it does sound a bit silly. It should be some dude’s name. Don. Dom. I think about chatting with my friends and saying “so, last weekend I was domming this gorgeous hot guy, but it turned out that [insert punchline here],” and I cringe.

I actually tend to think of what I do as topping, vague as that sounds. It’s not even all that accurate, technically speaking, given how people generally draw the line between topping and domming. I know that topping usually applies to sensation play, while domming applies to power play. What I do usually involves both. Still, top just feels like a less silly word to me. It’s a bit less absurdist, a bit more open-ended. It feels right.

Which is how we got to Topologies. Ivy uses the term ‘toppy’ where I use ‘toppish’, but it’s close enough. Delilah wrote about exploring her top side, with a wonderful discussion of how she started off thinking of herself as submissive and then found her own top side along the way while working as a pro domme for about four years. It worked for all of us.

And as Delilah pointed out, Wolfram Mathworld says:

“Topology is the mathematical study of the properties that are preserved through deformations, twistings, and stretchings of objects. Tearing, however, is not allowed.”

Seems like a fair set of limits, indeed. Though, honestly? I’d much rather negotiate for being allowed to tear right into my partners as I please.

And for your entertainment purposes only, rejected titles for this blog included: Women On Top (it’s already the name of one of Nancy Friday’s masturbation fantasy books); Flagging on the Left (Delilah actually doesn’t, so that was out); Muses of Bruises (this one makes me giggle); Musing on Bruises (even better!); Hurt, Cry, Love (aww); Three Mean Ladies (‘mean’ is such a complicated word); the Female Gaze (this is a feminist blog, after all); or We Three Queens (someone out there, please start a thoughtful drag queen blog! I will read it!).

14 Responses

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  1. Ivy said, on December 1, 2009 at 3:03 am

    I’m also not a fan of “slut” as a term, despite having multiple lovers. I think my distaste for it is the implied indiscriminacy; I’m very choosy about my partners, and I resent the common idea that just because there are several of them means that anyone can expect to jump my bones. Additionally, ever since the publication of “The Ethical Slut”, there’s a subset of the kink scene that gets aggressive and preachy at one if one doesn’t choose to identify as a slut. I couldn’t have less interest in getting into “yes, you are”/”no, I’m not” arguments as to whether or not I’m a slut, regardless of whether the arguer views this as a positive term or not. Ugh.

    • Delilah Wood said, on December 1, 2009 at 1:12 pm

      I don’t identify as a slut for exactly the same reasons. But I love using it in-scene as an implication that the bottom is piggy – i.e., sex-hungry and shameless. Then again, I love a lot of terminology from old-school gay leather: pig-bottom is a great one, and slut has the same feel for me when used that way.

      • Ivy O'Malley said, on December 1, 2009 at 9:10 pm

        Oh, yes, I have one partner in particular who really enjoys hearing that from me; it’s part of the aggressive disempowerment that he enjoys. I don’t mind dishing it out when it has such a profound effect on my partner, it just isn’t something that I’d call myself in day-to-day life.

        Pig-bottom! I had only heard that from one person before; I didn’t realize that it was common. How delightfully entertaining, though as with slut, it’s not something I’d want anyone to call me.

  2. Modernheathen said, on December 1, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    I loved this! I’ve been “wrestling” with terms with respects to my various power exchange relationships for the last 6 months to the point I’ve given up. Each on is unique, and the minute you put a label on me (or the relationship) it changes what it is.

    Just let the relationship be what it is, and let each person in the relationship be who they are.

    • Cal Stockton said, on December 2, 2009 at 4:17 pm

      Unless you want to change it by applying just the label, perhaps! That has sometimes worked out well for me.

  3. […] Posted in identity, political theory by Delilah Wood on December 1, 2009 Ivy and Cal have already chimed in on the terminology parade, so after some reading and thought I figured […]

  4. Dw3t-Hthr said, on December 1, 2009 at 6:00 pm

    To me, “femdom” implies at some level that there’s a gender-related fetish in there (F/m and M/f feel the same way to me). I’m the sort of person who draws very fine distinctions that make other people think I’m a nutcase, mind, but. The squidging together the concepts of “this person is female” and “this person is dominant” into one word implies to me that the thing is femaledominance (as distinct from maledominance or genderfuckdominance or, I don’t know, other flavors or forms), and that leaves no space for dominance as a concept that doesn’t in some way depend on one’s sex.

    I mean, I’m a woman and I’m submissive, but I’m not a “femsub” because of it any more than I’m a “browneyedsub” or an “editorsub” or a “Yankeesub”; the traits aren’t connected in a way that makes it useful to think of them that way.

    … yeah, I’m sick as a dog right now, so I’m not terribly coherent, and thus the bits about “misleading shorthands” and “needing a queerer sensibility to describe reality” will have to go unwritten except in this vague handwavy bit.

    • Ivy O'Malley said, on December 1, 2009 at 9:12 pm

      I am vastly entertained, however, by trying to think of the appellations of mine which are worst when conflated with “dom”. It’s like a party game!

      Clearly, kink is always Serious Business here.

  5. Carol Anne Caiafa said, on December 3, 2009 at 11:48 pm

    I too tend to be ambivalent about the term “femdom” for all the reasons described. I know I’m more of the frilly femme type and not the corset and high heels kind at all. I have nothing against corsets and high heels, but don’t wear them myself because it’s not my taste (actually, I would wear high heels if I could, but they kill my poor feet after a while. 😦 )

  6. V. said, on December 11, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    “I actually tend to think of what I do as topping, vague as that sounds. It’s not even all that accurate, technically speaking, given how people generally draw the line between topping and domming. I know that topping usually applies to sensation play, while domming applies to power play.”

    That’s not quite how I use them — or rather, it is, but the vagueness is intentional. I identify as a bottom because for me it combines masochist (and recipient of other forms of sensation) and submissive. I like the generality of it — I’ll bottom to a lot more people than I’ll submit to, and it also just feels like a truer descriptor of who I am.

    • Cal Stockton said, on December 11, 2009 at 1:23 pm

      Sounds very much like what I do, actually! The vagueness is intentional, and fits me better, too. It’s good to hear that I’m not the only one who prefers the vagueness!

  7. Topologies « Frangipani said, on July 4, 2011 at 2:25 am

    […] say. I love that they don’t necessarily have One Truth to impart (see their ‘Convoluted Terminology‘ posts, for an example.). Instead, they present their sometimes differing opinions like […]

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