In BDSM, a bottom or submissive is the partner in a BDSM relationship or a BDSM scene who takes the passive, receiving, or obedient role, to that of the top or dominant.
A bottom can, for example, be subject to acts such as flogging, servitude or humiliation and can be physically restrained by bondage, which can itself be painful. A person who submits control of a large percentage of their day-to-day life to a dominant partner, or who submits within a formal set of rules and rituals is sometimes referred to as a slave to that of the master or mistress.
The term bottom originates from a more general use of the word, especially among the gay male community, to mean receptive partner. (See bottom (sex))
The behaviors of bottoms and submissives are similar, and in many cases overlap. For this reason, the terms are used interchangeably in some discussions, although there are differences between the two. Behaviors of submissives and bottoms often overlap, with the bottom also being submissive, but this is not always the case. Someone who is "topping" may be doing so at the request, or even the direction, of the bottom partner(s). In such a case, the dominant's function would reside with the bottom(s). Tops who act within this kind of relationship dynamic are sometimes called a service tops. A bottom who has dominance over the activities or the relationship is said to be topping from the bottom, even though they are really expressing dominance from the bottom.
Within communities of lifestyle BDSM devotees, there exists a widespread prejudice against both service tops and bottoms that top from the bottom. Both are considered by many to be failing to achieve a "proper" BDSM relationship dynamic – especially if the partners are purported to be trying to achieve dominant-top/submissive-bottom relationship.
Bottoms or submissives who are also comfortable assuming a top or dominant role are referred to as switches.
Limits to submission
The acceptance of a bottom or submissive role in a BDSM relationship, is seldom absolute, often operating within a set of defined limits.
A common means that a bottom or submissive uses to signal a top or dominant partner that their limits are being approached, pushed, or even crossed is the use of safewords. Extreme forms of submission or the practice of edgeplay can remove the safeword option from the bottom or submissive, although this somewhat risky situation is entered into with the consent of the bottom or submissive.
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