Understanding BDSM Roles: Tops, Bottoms & Switch

tops-bottoms-switch

BDSM is something that is surrounded with a lot of misconceptions. As a result, it is important to understand just what it means when it comes to the various “roles” that people can play. The roles of “top”, “bottom” and “switch” are actually quite easy to understand.

Dominants/Tops/Doms

In essence, this role is considered to be the “active” role in the pair: the dom or top tells the sub what to do, and has a certain level of “control” over them (this is naturally discussed beforehand, as everything within the world of BDSM is consensual). The female version of a dominant is known as a dominatrix. In some cases and depending on the type of play that is going on, they can also be referred to as “Masters” and “Mistresses”.

Submissives/Bottoms/Subs

Submissives or subs are more or less the passive role and will, therefore, follow the lead of the dominant. The more extreme version of a sub is sometimes considered a “slave”, although as with Masters and Mistresses it completely depends on the person and how they define themselves in this particular role, as well as the type of play that’s going on.

Switch/Versatile

This is essentially someone who chooses to “switch” between both roles. Some people might refer to themselves as “versatile bottoms” or “versatile tops”. Again, this depends entirely on the person and why they want to play a specific role. In many cases, someone may be more submissive with one specific partner and more dominant with another.

These are the most basic roles that a lot of BDSM relationships take: there are much more definitions in addition to these, and some are very specialised. However, having a basic understanding of these roles will make it easier to navigate overall.