I think that this is very much a misconception.
It assumes that your experience is that of your partner or close enough that it helps you to understand what they are feeling.
Imagine you have an experience and it opens your eyes, it makes you realise how good that thing can be, it shows you that people can enjoy that kind of thing. Great, that’s wonderful, it is a totally valid experience, it’s a valid experience for you! What it’s done is awakened you to something you hadn’t imagined, it’s shown you a new horizon. It’s done lots of good things! The thing it hasn’t done is give you an insight into someone else’s experience. Assuming that it has is a dangerous thing, because it makes you assume that their experience and reaction is like yours. It stops you dealing with them as a separate individual with individual reactions and feelings and makes the assumption that they’re like you.
If you say “oh no I treat them as individuals and don’t assume they have the same experience as me” then what did your experience do to improve you as a top? It was great for you and that’s great, it was personally validating for you and that’s great too. But it did nothing to make you better at dealing with another person’s reactions and feelings, because if you can’t assume that their feelings are yours then it didn’t give you any means to understand your partner more than you did without that experience.
Much more valuable and relevant is the ability to connect with someone who’s experience and reactions are not in fact your own. You can never know another’s experience so it is the ability to connect with someone whose experience you perhaps can never experience even approximately for yourself that counts.
With almost any example outside of the context of BDSM people see it as ridiculous to assume that personal physical and or emotional reactions will be the same for everyone, so why would you believe that it’s true for BDSM play?
Why would you believe that to top you should bottom, that it makes you ‘better’. There’s no reason for it, no logic behind it and yet people believe it anyway.
In fact to believe this could be dangerous.
Tell someone learning that bottoming will make them a better top. They try it and hey presto they believe they’re a better top. You don’t know how, they don’t know how but somehow they’re now ‘better’. They can now go and play believing that they’re ‘better’ without developing any more actual skills confident in the knowledge that they’re ‘better’.
I cannot believe that anyone would cleave to this for any reason other than to claim some kind of bogus ‘superiority’ over those that haven’t bottomed or in a cynical attempt to get people to bottom that would otherwise not do so.
Further, I honestly don’t understand why this myth persists but some cling to it as if to an article of faith. And yet it doesn’t stand up to even the most cursory logical examination. Let’s look at this belief and it’s supposed reasoning.
You can’t empathise unless you know what it’s like
This is clearly not the case. Millions of people around the world empathise with people in different positions than themselves all the time. Is it impossible for you to empathise with a loved one who is injured without the same injury being inflicted on you? Do you really need that same physical sensation?
You should experience what your sub experiences.
Would be a fair point except for the fact that you can’t You don’t have the same experience if you don’t have the same psychological makeup. Given that all experience is subjective and individual no two people have the same experience. The same person doesn’t even get the same experience with everyone or even on different days. Your experience of being bound cannot be anyone else’s experience.
You should feel what it’s like.
It feels different to different people, different people process the feelings in different ways, in my experience the experience of being bound is very different between different people. Even if that weren’t the case if you’re a man tying women or a women tying men the physical differences would make the sensations completely different. Again non comparable experiences. Even with the same sex if people are of different builds, heights or weights they will have different experiences, especially in suspension where the stresses on the bodies will be very different. Not only that their perception and interpretation of those stresses will be different even between people of nearly identical build. All you can feel is what it’s like to have rope on your skin, and that is a very different thing to knowing how bondage is experienced by any other individual. What a given experience of pain ‘feels like’ to a masochist will be very different to what it ‘feels like’ to a non-masochist. It will feel differently to the same masochist depending on their mental state at the time. How different might it feel to a non-masochistic top?
I like a good hypothetical example so…
Let’s imagine a top A with no submissive feelings is told that to top they should bottom, it will make them better able to understand what the bottom experiences. So this person is bound, which they hate and makes them profoundly uncomfortable. So now they have a better understanding of how horrible and unpleasant being bound is.
Now let’s have another example…
Let’s imagine a top B with some submissive feelings is told that they should bottom, it will make them better able to understand what the bottom experiences. So this person is bound, which they love and makes them profoundly comfortable. So now they have a better understanding of how nice and pleasant being bound is.
So both are now better tops? In what way? Top A now believes it to be an experience that is not at all pleasant and is something to be avoided and not inflicted on others. Top B believes that they have an insight into the experience that they do not and that all others will enjoy it in the same way that they did.
How does this form such a belief? What it demonstrates is how the same objective experience can be perceived differently by different people. What this should lead them to conclude is that you cannot in this way understand another’s experience especially one where the psychological makeup of the person tied plays such a large role in the perception of the experience. However it’s easy to see how the one that enjoyed the experience found it affirming and therefore believes that it helps them understand someone that they tied.
When I discuss this with people, one of the answers you may get from someone who is in the believers camp is that the most unpleasant experiences can be the most informative. This to me defies logic. So now having a bad experience will make you more able to top someone else AND having a nice experience also makes you more able to top? Both of these views are in fact guilty of exactly the same mistake.
What I believe actually makes the difference between a good and a bad top is their ability to empathise with feelings that are in fact not their own. To judge the reactions of someone who’s subjective reality is different to your own because this is what is required to happen in all realistic situations.
So why do people cling to this irrational belief?
Because they want to cover up their pleasure in being bound as ‘research’?
Because they did it so they believe everyone should regardless of sense?
Because they believe it makes them somehow better than those that haven’t?
We all know that empathy doesn’t depend on having shared an identical experience just as our ability to have feelings of compassion for another does not depend on our having suffered identically.
For the vast majority of the time I tie up women. And yet I’m a man. So as a dominant man tipping the scales at around 250lbs I must first experience what it’s like to be a submissive woman weighing less than half that before I can be a good top? The first isn’t part of my psychology and the second is physically impossible.
Because if the argument means anything it means for all things and not just one. It must mean that you experience all facets of your partner’s experience. If you want to argue that it doesn’t have to be for all aspects of the experience; then you have to admit that the argument makes no sense.
If you argue ‘well obviously it’s not really going to be absolutely identical’ then what was your point in the first place? If it’s not the same experience then what use is it? How does it inform you?
Men and Women aren’t the same, bodies aren’t the same, personalities aren’t the same, tops and bottoms aren’t the same, doms and subs aren’t the same, psychological and physiological reactions aren’t the same and so the experience isn’t the same.
And once you admit that the experiences aren’t the same you also have to admit that the argument just doesn’t hold up. It’s bullshit, bullshit you hear a lot, bullshit said with great conviction, bullshit that sounds on the surface reasonable right up to the moment you exercise the slightest thought about the sense of it and bullshit held in high esteem by some, but bullshit none the less.
This is why I referred to this argument as something people stick to like an article of faith. Exactly in that way in fact. No evidence, no thought, no reason it just is!
I think you have to have serious concerns about the opinions of people who hold to this kind of ‘belief’ as it shows that they just parrot something they think ‘sounds good’ rather than actually thinking intelligently and logically about what really happens in the real world.
At the end of the day some people may sincerely believe it when they say this, believing this doesn’t make them ‘bad people’. What it does make them is illogical people who accept this as ‘received wisdom’ without subjecting it to critical thought. So I have to ask, what else haven’t they thought about?