I describe myself on the About page as “top, dominant, gender role reverser.” Are these different ways of saying the same thing, or are they applicable to different areas of my identity? Let me explain my current thinking on this subject.
I am dominant. In sexual situations, I would like to be in charge, to be allowed to do what I want, and to have my partner submit to my wishes. There is control here. I’m also a top because in these same sexual situations, I do not want to be penetrated or “taken”—I want to do the taking. (Or, in other sexual acts, the pleasuring.) The key to my idea of a “top” is both control and position: I am physically on top and leading the action, and I am also taking the top role in sex. At the same time, this slides into the idea of role reversal, because I want the position that is traditionally a man’s. I want that role in sex as well as in the relationship as a whole.
You can begin to see how the terms link together and where they separate. Let me elaborate further.
My dominance does not necessarily apply to everyday life, although there is a connection. I think it would be most accurate to say this: dominance is for sexual play, whether that takes place in the bedroom at night or in the middle of the day at a café. Outside of sexual play, I want equality, but still reversed roles. There’s a nuanced difference here. Role reversal can look like dominance, but the distinction is in the rules involved. In everyday life, I’m not going to command him to clean the bathroom (unless it’s part of sexual play), because we have an equal relationship, and I do not have to be in charge of every action he takes. What I am going to do is lead him with my hand on the small of his back when we’re in a crowd, like a man would traditionally do to his girlfriend. Or I’m going to have him sit in my lap when we watch a movie. They’re not commands so much as they are behaviours stemming from the masculine role. This is what I want in the relationship framework, and this is where “role reversal” comes in.
There’s actually another relevant term I want to bring up here in order to distinguish things further. A Female-Led Relationship and gender role reversal do not have to be the same thing. At least for me they don’t. I understand an FLR to be one where the woman makes all important life decisions, whereas I am just as okay with this as I am with having equality in making those decisions. An FLR would be fine, but it’s not part of my wishlist. To reiterate, role reversal to me is about behaviours, not control of all aspects of the partner’s life.
One thing that’s interesting about the term “top” is that a man who performs the same actions I do with his partner probably wouldn’t feel the need to use this term, even though it’s true. It’s what’s expected of him, so it’s the default, and thus needs no attention drawn to it. This means that “top” is unique out of my three chosen labels in that its relevance is gender-specific.
The differences between my labels can be small, and they become clouded when I try to differentiate sexual play from simple behaviours that turn me on. I.e. if he sits in my lap, it’s going to turn me on, but we may just be doing it to watch TV with no plans of play. Even so, maybe the very act of reversing roles is sexual foreplay for me, because it turns me on. Do you see what I mean? It gets tricky for me to distinguish them. What’s more, dominance is often at the source of masculine gender roles. Leading someone through a crowd by guiding them with your hand is controlling, after all.
These ideas cannot be separated completely, but I do think there are distinctions between the three, and this is how I understand them right now. I welcome your comments on the subject. Do you have thoughts about these specific terms, perhaps based on how they apply to your own relationship? Does anyone else use all three, like I do? Or completely different ones?