Differences: Dom/Top and Sub/bottom

What to YOU is the difference between a Dom and a Top?
Sub and a bottom?


(Apply gender as it works for you in this answer)

These are my thoughts. They fluctuate often as I learn new things and encounter new dynamics and the people involved in those dynamics. They are in no way intended to encompass or describe a one true way definition of Dom, Top, sub or bottom.*

To me, the biggest difference is in the level of need to dominate and the level of need to submit.

Doms / Tops

The difference in a Dom and a Top, to me, is the level of the need to dominate and control, to take on responsibility for another person, to make the decisions and enforce the rules… the depth to which he wishes to know and be involved with the other side of the slash.


The need for control is deeply ingrained in a Dom. He needs that control like he needs breath. It is a need that is with him every minute of every day. It may not be front and center but it is always there bubbling beneath the surface. It is prevalent in everything he does, everything he says. There is a power that emanates from him that draws submissive souls to him without effort. He doesn’t have to tell people he is a Dom. There is just no question about it when you get to know him, that he is. It is not about bossing people around, it is about being in control (there is a HUGE difference in the two).

He is in control of his life, of his finances, of his world and most importantly of himself. His very nature compels submission. He is confident, strong, steady, consistent. He is firm, unwavering, not to be questioned. By the example of his own life and the exertion of control over himself, he earns the trust required to be able to place those demands and expectations on his sub.

A Dom may take his sub’s needs and desires into consideration, but HE will be the one to make the decisions and they will be final. He makes good, thought out, well educated and careful decisions for himself and for his sub. He makes decisions with his sub’s best interest in mind. He makes decisions that will not need to be questioned because they are well considered, reasonable, logical.

He takes on the responsibility for the sub’s growth, for her safety and well being, and for making her decisions. He agrees to be responsible for the sub to varying degrees at all times. Again, the dynamic may not be front and center at all times, but at all times it is in place. He takes on that responsibility.

He is interested in knowing what makes his sub tick… interested in getting inside her head. He can be trusted with her darkest, deepest fears and thoughts. He insists on knowing them. He’s ready to slay the demons and willing to show the sub a new way to think. He studies her, picks her brain, watches her with interest as he learns her. He wants to push her to do better. He is willing to be her strength but would rather she find the power within herself as he guides her. A Dom reaches first for the mental connection, crawling into the deep, dark, scary places and making himself at home there. Then, he reaches for the physical.

He wants the whole girl and he takes her. He owns her and he reminds her often of that ownership of her whole being. All sides. Every corner. All the time. He rejoices in her triumphs, quiets her mind, calms her fears, reels her in when she goes spinning off. He is demanding and holds his sub to high expectations. Quick to reprimand or praise as the situation calls for it.


The need to control and dominate in a Top is more of a short burst of power and energy. Good for a scene, a night, maybe a weekend or a good role playing session. He will be very in control for the agreed upon amount of time, but once that time is over and the negotiated parameters met, his responsibility to the bottom ends. It is more about the moment. Even if a top has a regular bottom, it is usually just for play. He doesn’t necessarily want to get his boots dirty fighting the bottom’s demons and teaching her a better way to play with them.

Similarities in Doms/ Tops

The similarities in Doms and Tops are that they are both usually well studied in their favorite forms of play and usually in human behavior as well (whether a student of life or formally educated). They both place a high priority on the safety and well being of their toys (those that breathe and those that do not). They both should be excellent communicators able to facilitate a well negotiated scene or dynamic. They are generally serious about kink, even if playful and light in other areas of their lives. They are both in control of themselves and the world around them (for the Dom, always. for some tops, always for others, at least the negotiated amount of time). They are not ruled by their emotions. They are calculating, careful, creative, and devious as fuck. Both think ahead and carefully plan their play times (maybe not every detail, but enough so to bring the right toys and safety tools, etc.).

Subs / Bottoms

The difference between a sub and a bottom is the level of need she has to submit, to give up her own power, her own will, her own choices to another person.

As with Dom/ Tops, there are time frames involved. With submission it can be an all the time thing with sub being under the control of the Dom 24/7, even if the control is less visible and more under the surface… it is always there.

Or, it could be a when we’re together thing, for like long distance relationships or dynamics where Dom and sub only get to spend certain amounts of time together or when one or the other or both might be otherwise obligated when they are apart (an example as explained to me by a friend who experienced this – a married sub whose Dom is not her spouse. When she was with her spouse, his needs came first, his decisions stood, the Dom had no say over her actions, behaviors or choices when she was with her spouse. When she was with the Dom, it was only then that the D/s dynamic was in effect).

Or, it could be an in the bedroom only thing, for dynamics where both parties agree that within the parameters of sexual play there will be a more defined power exchange and while it may remain an underlying factor in the rest of their relationship, only in the bedroom is there a true power exchange.

Or, it can be for a scene… a few days… a role play session. This is where I feel bottoming fits. The power exchange is limited to this time frame.

There is a huge difference to me in submitting (for any amount of time) to someone and bottoming for someone.


As a bottom, I will negotiate the scene. I will have a lot of say in the way the scene plays out, what toys get used, what body parts can and can’t be touched. I will give the Top control for a very set amount of time and a very specific set of circumstances. If I get overwhelmed or the energy isn’t good, I won’t hesitate to use my safeword and opt out of the scene, especially when playing with someone new. I may allow the top to be in control for that particular period of time, but the top will not get to the core of me and in no other circumstances will they have any control over me or my decisions. Under the negotiated circumstances, I may follow their directions, but it will be because it is part of the scene, part of the negotiations and if I weren’t in the mood to play, I wouldn’t.

Also, bottoming seems to bring out my very stubborn bratty side. I like to test tops, to push them and see what happens. It’s a relatively safe place to do this because I can (without worrying about the dynamic or long term affect it may have) call quits on the scene and walk away.

For me to want to bottom for someone is to say, I like the way you play and there is a good enough chemistry between us that I’d like to play with you… BUT, I want to play like this… I want to play for this amount of time… I will do x y and z thing and you can do x y and z thing to me. As a bottom, I am looking for new sensations and experiences, for variety… fun… play. If there is a release or a drop that is a bonus, but difficult to achieve without the submission factor for me.


Submission is much less about what the sub wants. A sub agrees to give over her power to the Dom. She agrees to allow him to make her decisions. She trusts him in the responsibility of caring for her and allows him the freedom to mold her, to direct her. She opens the doors to the darkest corners for him and gives him permission to explore them, even when she is terrified of what might happen when he does.

She will do things even when she doesn’t want to. She will follow instructions even when there is no way to verify. The play between a Dom and his sub is much more intense because of the deeper connection and the bond between them. Subs offer service of one sort or another to their Dom… sexual service, domestic service, whatever the Dom wants or needs. There is much more trust involved to submit than to bottom.

Subs crave that control. They need it. While their voice may be heard and considered they do not want to make the decisions or plans. To submit to someone is to say, I see your life and the way you live it. Your power and control compel me to offer myself to you… to be of useful service to you and to allow you to mold me into the person you see within.

Final Thoughts

Dom / sub – a dedicated dynamic, always humming under the surface, even if they are not always together… even if it is not always front and center. He is the one in charge and she is the one submitting to him. It is a long term, well negotiated, clearly defined power exchange that both sides of the slash have agreed upon and consented too in whatever form it takes.

Top / bottom – a negotiated, temporary dynamic that can be between any two people, as long as everything is negotiated well. When the negotiated time frame is over the top and bottom involved can go right back to whatever they were to each other before they played. Generally, a top likes to tie someone up or beat them or light them on fire or run their blades over them and a bottom would like to have those things done to them. A mutual need met. It doesn’t have to go any deeper than that and usually doesn’t.

I feel like I could write for days on this topic, but I’m going to stop for now.

Also, I find it interesting in re-reading the post, that the only place I wrote from the first person, was in the section about bottoming…. not sure what that says, but interesting none-the-less.

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