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A Bushel of Dominants: What Kind of Top Are You?

Published: JANUARY 8, 2019 | Updated: AUGUST 29, 2021 02:26:58
Find where you fit - or get some ideas to develop a style that's all your own.

A little while ago we explored just some of the possibilities and permutations of being a submissive in a little piece called A Parade of Submissives: What Kind of Bottom Are You? (And we heard from many submissives about how much they identified with this piece!)


So, in an effort to keep things balanced (because, after all, BDSM is should always be about respect and inclusiveness) here is a companion list exploring a few topping styles. The goal is to inspire those out there who like to give instead of receive some wicked new play ideas - or maybe just discover where they might fit into the whole domination spectrum.

That, and the first article was a pretty big hit, so writing a follow-up was pretty much a no-brainer.

What are the keys to being a good dominant?

As with our submissives list, this should no way/no how be considered the end all, be all. Rather, think of this article as just a loose sampling of some of the types of dominants that are out there in the wide and very woolly world of BDSM.

You might be one of these, a combination of two or more, or even totally unique type of top. Really, it’s up to you and what you want to get out of the experience. Maybe you want to be a really nasty 24/7 full-time owner of some delectable morsel of human property, someone who likes to growl and release their inner feral during sex. Or, maybe you're just a playfully stern taskmaster or mistress. It’s all up to you.

Read: Does BDSM Have to Be Hardcore?

What is essential is that you follow the exact same principles that are essential to the BDSM community: to play safely (emotionally as well as physically), sanely (with a clear mind), and consensually (without coercion).

Running through all three of these precepts is the importance of communication. This means that no matter the structure and style of your play, your bottom can express their concerns, their joys and their desire to pause or stop the action at any time.

This goes both ways, of course. Just because you might be the bad-ass dom doesn't mean that you should ever hesitate to take a break or flat-out end a session. No matter how deep you get into your top persona, it should never be so encompassing that it interferes with communication.


It all boils down to respect: both for yourself as well as the people you play with. A common mistake bad tops make is thinking that they should never make a mistake - or admit to having made one. A good top, on the other hand, will not just check in a lot with their playmates, but also freely admit that things aren’t working out ... and even apologize.

As the old saying goes: mistakes happen, but what happens afterward is what’s really important.

Another thing to keep in mind is that, as with submissives, being a dominant can often be a process. You might have a really old fantasy, one that really gets you off, but when you try and make it a reality, it just doesn’t work. There’s nothing wrong in this. In fact, it’s all part of the process.

A lot of great tops didn’t just appear on the scene. Rather, they tried this, tried that, hated this, loved that, and slowly but surely put together a style of topping that worked for their needs as well as the people they play with.

As the other old saying goes: it’s not the destination that’s important, it's the journey.

With that out of the way, here’s our playful look at just a few types of dominants that you might be or that you might encounter. Again, this isn’t set in stone. It's a range of unique play styles. Who knows, you might find inspiration in them for creating your own style of BDSM domination.

The Pure Sadist

Here’s a story that kind of perfectly encapsulates The Pure Sadist. At a kink party, there was this perky young bottom kneeling before a potential top. “What shall I address you as?” the submissive asked, all eager and bowed.

The answer? “Whatever you want just as long as I get to hit you.”

The Pure Sadist is just that: someone who doesn’t necessarily find pleasure in the emotional domination of another person; they're into delivering intense sensations. They don’t want, or need, a title or protocols for behavior, just a warm bottom (quite literally sometimes) to have fun with.

The Leather Classic

Here is someone for whom being a dom is not just a fun thing now and again but is about being part of the deep culture of BDSM rites and rituals. These are the kinds of tops that know each and every hanky code, the history of the leather community, and sometimes have even won the sashes and honors to prove it.


Becoming a bottom to this kind of top can often involve not just physical play, but knowing the codes of behavior and respecting How Things Should Be Done. Because of this, it’s also common for these dominants, and the people they play with, to not just enter into play but to enter into the leather community as a whole.

The Mentor

Here is a top that finds pleasure in not just inflicting intense sensations on a bottom, but also becoming a positive force in their lives. They might take on the role of a teacher, showing what it can be like to be a bottom or a top. It can even extend to things like guiding a submissive in exercising, eating well, and managing their spending and income.

The Mentor is also usually very tuened into their submissives. They need to know not just their play style and desires, but who they are as people and how The Mentor can help them live to their fullest potential. Consensually, of course.

A form of The Mentor can also appear in age-play scenes in the form of a parental figure: a top that spanks, changes diapers, or otherwise babysits their changes.

The Royal

While it might be more common to use the term "gentleman" or "gentlewoman," let’s use Royal instead since it's more in line with being all-gender inclusive. The basic idea here is of a top who is cool, elegant, controlled - and often wonderfully as well as terrifyingly intense.

A great example of this, minus the whole killing and eating people thing, would be Dr. Hannibal Lecter, a smoothly polished statue that burns with barely restrained intensity.

The Feral

On the opposite side of the spectrum is a top that is all about (on the surface, that is) losing control. These tops might be regular people when they're walking the streets, but put a crop in their hands and they turn into howling beasts: ferocious and very, very hungry.

Yet, don’t think this is actually about dropping safety, security, or respect for the people they play with. Rather, their style is to slip off their own chains, but never so much that they can’t be snapped back to reality when they - or their bottom - needs it.

The Owner

Finally, we have the dominant that wants it all. They might encompass every type on this list plus the hundreds of different types that didn’t make the cut. For them, being a top isn’t a casual thing. It is complete and total ownership of another human being.


This might involve living with their property or not. It could include everything from orgasm control to supervising their diet and exercise. While a common fantasy, the reality is that this involves a lot of work and a lot of communication. Putting it simply: it’s not for everyone.

Read: A Day in the Life of a 24/7 Submissive

Always Be Your Own Type of Dominant

As with our other article, the key here isn’t to look at this list and think “I can’t be a good top because I’m not represented here,” but rather to view it as an inspiration to create your own type of domination.

Maybe it’ll be a touch of Mentor plus a smidge of Royal with a dash of Leather Classic? Whatever form your topping takes, keep those lines of communication open, respect yourself as well as those you play with, and never forget that accidents will always happen. Act with kindness and courtesy when they do.

Do all of this and, before you know it, you’ll discover your own special brand of dominantion and open the door to a wide, and really hot, world of adventure!

Photo for M. Christian
M. Christian

M.Christian is an author who has been published in science fiction, fantasy, horror, thrillers, and even nonfiction, but it is in erotica that M.Christian has become an acknowledged master, with stories in such anthologies as Best American Erotica, Best Gay Erotica, Best Lesbian Erotica, Best Bisexual Erotica, Best Fetish Erotica, and in fact too many anthologies, magazines, and sites to name. In addition to writing, M.Christian is a respected sex and BDSM educator, having taught classes on everything from polyamory to tit torture for venues such as the SF Citadel, Good Vibrations, COPE (in Columbus, Ohio), Beat Me In St. Louis, Winter Fire, Floating World, Sin In The City (Las Vegas), Dark Odyssey, and many others.