Somewhere Marshall McLuhan is smiling in his grave that his infamous phrase is being used on a BDSM blog as the basis for a post.
For those of you not familiar with this phrase, McLuhan coined it in his 1964 book Understanding Media, The Extensions Of Man. In this dissertation on the growing role of technology in the way contemporary society interacts with information, McLuhan stated that “the content of any medium is always another medium.” For example, the content of writing is speech, print is that of writing, etc.
Now the medium does not have to contain actual information. It just needs to act upon its environment to create change, difference, potential, opportunity.
A good example of his exponential application of this theory is the humble light bulb. A light bulb enables people to create spaces in darkness that would otherwise be enveloped by the light less void in space. So even absent of any content, like a post on a kinky blog for example, the light bulb acts upon its environment in such a way to alter its perception. The fact that this example is also the stereotypical “AHA!” idea moment symbol is not lost on me.
So what the fuck does this have to do with BDSM?
In reading many blogs, articles, web pages, accounts, books on BDSM and D/s I keep chancing across the issue of “Topping from the bottom.” This is where, within a D/s dynamic, the submissive is perceived to be “calling the shots” as opposed to the Dominant. They dictate the power exchange, or at the least contribute to the direction/speed/intensity of its flow, through this method. Of course this flies in the face of the what is to be expected role relationship. They’re the bottom, the submissive. They should not be controlling things, the Dominant should, right? That’s the whole idea, correct?
Yes, its a complicated dance. There are so many aspects to BDSM and D/s. Communication is vital, trust paramount. Limits must be respected at all times, but also pushed.
This is where Marshall and his light bulb come in.
I’ve read over and over and over, mostly by Dominant’s, that true D/s has no place for so-called Topping from the bottom. Yet most, if not all, of these Dominants cite protocols, ideals, practices, hell examples they have learned about from other Dominants. Many have mentors to aid in their development, to better prepare them to control their submissive(s). Which is all fine and dandy, but riddle me this:
– A Dominant, in their pursuit of knowledge, reads on a Dominant’s web site/blog of a scene/methodology/technique employed by themselves upon their submissive. Deeming it valuable and worthy of their efforts, they adopt the same and use it in their relationship with their own submissive. The results are very satisfactory, and both parties benefit from this new information.
In other words, the Dominant saw the light from another Dominant’s light bulb, deemed it good and installed the same light bulb in their own darkness (struggle/issue/dynamic) to great effect.
Got it? Good. Allow me to continue…
– A Dominant, in their pursuit of knowledge, reads on a submissive’s web site/blog of a scene/methodology/technique employed by their Dominant upon themselves. Deeming it valuable and worthy of their efforts, they adopt the same and use it in their relationship with their own submissive. The results are very satisfactory, and both parties benefit from this new information.
So far so good. If someone else’s submissive lamented how well this work, to their tortured, abused chagrin, that’s quite the compliment. So the learning Dominant employs it.
Let’s make this personal. Remove the impersonalization of static information in a book or on a laptop screen and make it interactive. Could be in person, email, text, chat, etc.
– A Dominant, in their pursuit of knowledge, communicates with their Dominant peer/mentor about a scene/methodology/technique employed by them upon their submissive. Deeming it valuable and worthy of their efforts, they adopt this suggestion and use it in their relationship with their own submissive. The results are very satisfactory, and both parties benefit from this new information.
Peer to peer. Mentor to student. All well. One Top to Another about a submissive they likely don’t know from a hole in the……well, a hole.
This too, is acceptable. So now the final scenario:
– A submissive, in their pursuit of knowledge, communicates with their Dominant about a scene/methodology/technique to be employed by them upon the submissive. Deeming it valuable and worthy of their efforts, they adopt this suggestion and use it in their relationship with the submissive. The results are very satisfactory, and both parties benefit from this new information.
Ut oh…Topping from the bottom. Can’t have that.
See what I did there?
Identical scene/methodology/technique. The only difference is who turned the light bulb on, or even installed the damn thing. That a Dominant would seek advice from any one else, faceless Names/names on a screen, or even a real Face for guidance…instead of the one person who would likely be the best to answer all their questions about the dynamic THEY share.
Same light bulb. Seriously, WHY does it matter? Are you hung up on protocol? That your submissive might *shudder* Top from the bottom to help you both?
Trust me, if fish could talk, they would be the best source of information on how to fucking catch fish.
I just don’t get it. What are they afraid of? Why?
Perhaps they would rather sit in the dark then turn on the closest, brightest, warmest light bulb they have.