A weak point in conversations about consent and consent violation is that we often speak as though only bottoms can be violated (I am not immune to this) when tops are also violated on a fairly regular basis. My theory on why we do this is we have a much clearer picture of what it looks like when a top violates a bottom’s consent.
It is also easier to violate consent from the topping (or active) position. For example, it is much easier to come up to someone and hit them without warning than it is to force someone to hit you when they don’t want to (not that the latter is impossible, just uncommon).
Consent violations look different when the person violated is topping than when the person violated is bottoming. Often, this can take the form of long-term, emotional abuse (which is even more difficult to talk about and handle appropriately than single-event violations, and something I hope to tackle in future writing. I do not have the tools to do it now), but can also happen in specific instances, during scenes. I want to talk about how that looks.
Consent Violations Against Tops
- Unnegotiated Switching
The bottom decides they are sick of being the bottom, without warning, decides to top the top. This is a consent violation, as it is always a consent violation to start topping someone without discussing it first. Often, because the top is surprised (why would they expect their bottom to suddenly start topping them?), they are not able to react quickly to the situation. This is especially bad if the bottom is physically larger or stronger than the top.
- Undiscussed “Sexual Service”
Suppose the bottom decides they want to serve the top by licking or kissing parts of their body. This is incredibly uncomfortable for a top who wanted to do a specific type of scene (flogging, hitting, tying, or what have you), but did not want to be sexually involved with the bottom. Doing sexual acts on someone who has not agreed to do sexual acts with you is sexual assault.
- Joining in a Scene in Progress
Suppose a top and a bottom are already involved in a scene of some sort when an outsider decides to join in by co-topping, touching one or both participants, or “showing [the top] how it’s done.” The interloper in this situation violates all participants in the scene.
Boundary Violations Against Tops
Boundary violations are things I don’t consider to rise quite to the level of consent violations, but are certainly not okay things to do.
- Inferring a Dynamic
By “Inferring a dynamic” I mean acting as though there is a D/s relationship or dynamic that does not exist and that the top has not agreed to, such as by being actively subservient (in a way that is something other than what one might ordinarily do to be thoughtful or helpful) to a top or calling them by honorifics without first agreeing that the dynamic exists. The boundary, here, is “treat others as equals until you both agree to do otherwise.” That boundary still exists, even when the violation theoretically involves elevating the other person.
- Interrupting or Trying to Get the Top’s Attention During a Scene
Scenes tend to involve a significant focus from all participants. Trying to pull a top’s attention away from their scene is disrespectful of all of the work they put in, and may even cause them to make a mistake that brings harm to them or their bottom.
- Treating the Top like Vending Machine
By “Treating the Top like Vending Machine” I mean “expecting them to top you just because they are a top and you want to be topped. This invalidates the top’s personhood. Tops are still people, and people get to choose what they do and with whom. The worst example I’ve heard of this sort of behavior was someone interrupting a scene to say “me next.” Don’t do that.
Tops’ consent can be violated, even in one-off scenes where they are supposedly in control. I want to look at how those violations play out so we, as a community, have a better way of addressing them and preventing them in the future. If you have an example or want to add to any of mine in the comments, I encourage you to do so. I want to start a conversation.