©2018 Hailey Heartless. Vancouver, British Columbia.

The Trouble With "One True Way."

March 6, 2018

It seems it's common for women tops to start as bottoms, and I guess that's sort of understandable. Women in the kink community are often just assumed to be submissive, and often we just find our way into the community in a submissive role. As we play more, we start to want to explore what it's like to plan and control a session, and through that, we often awaken and explore our dormant dominant side.

Not all of us come into the community that way though. For some of us, we sample a few different play styles, or watch a few other people play before picking up the riding crop, and for some of us, domination comes naturally. For those of us who don't submit, it's not long before some man approaches us with advice about the “one true way.”

Of course, there's thousands of “one true way”s, there's one for every dick in the kink community who thinks he knows better than you, but the one we're most familiar about is the idea that a Domme who's worth her Pleaser stilettos will need to be submissive before she can top. This idea, my dear reader, is utter nonsense.

So you're at a play party when Daddydom McLeatherchaps comes over to you and asks about your experience. As you explain your skills, he gasps, “but how can you call yourself a Domme if you've never bottomed. You need to earn that title. All the best tops bottom first.” Okay, one, I gauren-fucking-tee you that there's a 90% chance this guy's never bottomed in his life. If he hasn't, there's also a 100% chance that he's been harassed about “one true way” far less than you ever will. See, men are just expected to be dominant. The idea of a woman dominant is an anomaly, and something they need to challenge. A man can walk into a kink space with no fucking experience, shirtless, wearing jeans and holding a belt, and people will accept him as a Dom. Dommes on the other hand, even experienced Dommes, get confusion and quizzical looks. People assume we're submissive, and if they know we're Dommes, men assume we're secretly submissive. This fantasy of awaking a Domme to her submissive side is called Domme breaking, and yeah, it can be hot when done consensually, but coercing a Domme into submission is not consent.


“One True Way” is also rooted in queer leather, and while the idea of queer leather is really romantic, and the kink community owes a lot to queer leather, the scene was also primordial in some ways, and had some questionable practices. The idea that you needed to bottom first before topping, for example, served the purpose of guaranteeing that older leatherfolk would always have a steady stream of young “fresh meat” to play with. Yeah, kinda gross. Woman, you're nobody's fresh meat, don't let anybody tell you otherwise.


I think one of the most offensive notions suggested by “one true way” though, is the idea that a Domme is a “graduated” submissive, and therefore topping requires more skill than bottoming. This idea is offensive to so many skilled bottoms, masochists, sissies and slaves. Bottoming is a skill, and requires a specific skill set. Bottoms attend workshops, refine their skills and develop their abilities just as much as a top does. Any Domme who has played with an advanced bottom can tell you there's a difference between a bottom with a lot of skill, and a novice. Not everyone has what it takes to bottom, and that's okay.

It's also important to note that even if you do decide to switch, things might not feel the same to you as they will to a masochist or submissive. You might not enjoy it in the ways that they do, and that could be disastrous. Yeah, you might learn something and you may expand your skills, but you might also develop trauma and pull back in your topping, or lose the ability to enjoy kink. If you do decide to explore bottoming, (if you hang around the kink community long enough you'll probably eventually get curious and give it a go) make sure you do it with someone you trust, someone you have good communication with, and someone who will stop if you don't enjoy it. Don't just bend over the bench for the first Fetlife Dom with a Domme breaking fetish.


One of the reasons people give for promoting the “is true way” is that it's important to know how toys feel on you before you use them on others. You can, of course, get an idea of how they feel by using them on your thigh and forearm, without having to bottom. For some types of play though, you'll never know. I have a penis, I'll never know what needle play feels like on the various parts of the vulva, that doesn't mean I can't learn how to practice genital torture well with partners who have that anatomy. Even if I had a vulva, it will feel different to be than to a masochist. A Dommes skill isn't in being able to take a full impact blow from a dressage whip (although if you hand your sub a whip and tell him to hit you as hard as he can, and you can take it without flinching, that's a good display of badassery in a public dungeon), your skill is in communication. You need to know how things feel to your bottom, how he takes blows, what he's telling you, vocally and nonvocally. If you can learn to read your sub, you won't need to know what your tools feel like to you because you'll know what they feel like to him.

My advice is to play the way you want to play. Take experiences and learn when you can, and don't let people tell you what it takes to be a good Domme. There's no such thing as, “one true way,” and anyone who tells you otherwise has a lot to learn.  

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