January/February 2001
No, it IS Your Turn to Clean the House...
or Thoughts of a Burgeoning Switch
by Viola

From time to time one of my submissive buddies will do something feisty and say something along the lines of “see I have a little switch in me”.  This always makes me smile.

Not because it’s not necessarily true, and not because I disagree with them or feel insulted.

It’s just that I am probably one of the least feisty bottoms known to the world, utterly tractable, dying to comply.  And when I Domme, I Domme.  To see me do one or the other, you might never think I switched.  That is, if you assume that the bottom bit always shows up in the Top, the Top in the bottom.

While there’s a veritable mountain of articles out there written by, for, and about Dominants and submissives (generally Male Dom female sub, at least  in the pansexual community) it’s a lot harder to find things geared toward the switch and I think that as a result we are often misunderstood, or it is assumed that we can be included under the Dom/sub umbrella according to the role we act out at the time.

I know that I will sometimes hear something like “I just don’t get switching”.

Now, I may be bi but I don’t run around saying “I don’t get heterosexuality.”  I think it is reasonable for me to expect understanding in my community, and in the interest of furthering that I am happy to discuss these issues and my feelings surrounding them.

Switching can be a whole spectrum of behaviors. Some people only submit to one person and Dominate all others.  Some people switch with fellow switches. (A delicious alternative for this particular switch) Some people act according to the energy they get from others. Some Dominants are masochists and need to be topped every so often.  Some slaves are Dominants in their own right.  The variations are wide.  I would argue that all switches have something in common, and of course I could be argued with, as one always risks in generalizing.

We are all able to access either headspace, Top or bottom, D or s as you prefer, and furthermore need  to spend time in both.  For me this is one of  the greatest blessings I feel I am endowed with.  I think it helps me be an empathic and intuitive Dominant and a challenging, courageous submissive.

I would go so far as to say that more people could probably do this than realize it, if they allowed themselves to entertain the thought. Interestingly,   More Dom/mes and Tops seem to be open to bottoming than bottoms/submissives are to being a Top. There is often a profound and instant reaction if you ask a bottom about this....couched in humor but definitely with a grain of some self-conscious nervousness, almost distaste.  I have often wondered why this is, and it’s not a hard and fast rule, simply an observation.  Tops that do bottom sometimes are secretive about the fact or make light of it, it’s sometimes something of a “guilty pleasure.”  A lot of anxiety still surrounds the subject of switching, and the anxiety rarely shows in serious discussion, but it certainly shows in the way we joke.  Jokes are an interesting point of truth and denial, a place where anxiety is allowed to peek out, societally.  As an example, I have a dear friend that if I want to make her laugh I need only say to her “yes Ma’am.” The thought  of bottoming to her is, in my mind, unlikely but okay if she were inclined, to her a humorous impossibility.

Sitting around with the same submissive friends I know that I am different. They sometimes speak of the inherent need  to please, a need so strong that it can lead down dangerous ways if not tapped correctly and nurtured by worthy partners.  They speak of having recognized this tendency to be happiest when pleasing others from an early age.

I knew right away that that need was not the same one in me,  at least the me that sits around and writes articles and chats over coffee or beer and goes through her day to day life.  I, that me,  won’t self-destruct if I cannot express my submission.  While I have always felt uplifted by the validation of other people I have never achieved the bulk of my pleasure in pleasing or being of service to others.

Nor will I self-destruct if I can’t express my dominance.  Much as I like to feel a sense of control it becomes tiring to have to exercise it at all times.  Much as I ache to feel the loving dependence of another person I could not give up a great portion of my own independence for it.

I probably would self-destruct if I could not scene and if I had to pick only one aspect to play within.  Being a switch seems to me as programmed and natural a thing to be as being a Dominant or a submissive.

Submission is a place I can go, but not a place I could stay. Kind of like visiting New York, very exciting, wildly fulfilling, and I could live there for a while, but I have to know that I can leave.

Likewise, I am certainly not an Alpha Dominant.  I am one of the first to back down from an argument in the interest of being at peace rather than right. I don’t exude authority from every pore. (God knows if I did I would be in better financial straits.) I lack the seemingly unflappable self-confidence that many Dominants have and try to cultivate. Although I do have my moments, as any who know me will attest.  I certainly have a good and worked-for reserve of self esteem, coolheadedness, and yes, I’d go so far as to say wisdom and maturity for my age. Rather than leading or running situations, I see myself being sought out for advice, teaching, even counseling...these are the strongest feelings of dominance I experience in my day to day life.

I don’t feel that a Dominant must be in total and perpetual self-containment mode. As important as self-possession is, to overemphasize it can lead to a point where the Dominant is not allowed to be off, angry, vulnerable, upset, immature, needy, NOT in control...all things which I sometimes am, though that this is so is no source of shame to me.

Because of these needs and their limitations, my scene self tends to veer somewhat off from my sitting around and writing articles self, not that these other aspects are somehow less authentic or somehow cut off from me.  Render yourself to Viola and Ivey will take care of you.  Take control of so-far-nameless-boy and you take control of Ivey.  The paradox of roles is endlessly fascinating to me.   Rather than “just” role playing....a pairing of words I always bristle at, roles allow me to finally be the things that I need a space to exist as.

This is just my way of going about it.  Much to my delight everyone else is probably different. However, the role-player is sometimes painted as less authentic, less serious, less trustworthy than the person who insists they are submissive or Dominant at the core.

What  I am at the core is a being in flux.  A shifting entity, a panoply of roles.  The substance is not fixed, it varies, and that is its fixedness.

People who fill this kind of niche are often mistrusted, whatever the community surrounding.  The neither/or’s or not/and’s  as I like to call them actually fill a very important sector, play a very important role, call the nature of the dichotomy into question.

This is of course, naturally upsetting in a world that is predicated on a central dichotomy.



Actor/Acted upon.

Someone has to give up power or undergo sensation.  Someone has to take control or provide sensation.  This I will not dispute.

The problem arises when those who exchange power in a consistent and fixed manner look askance at those who trade it back and forth or separate power from pain/pleasure sensation altogether.

The variations on this theme are stunning in their breadth.  I met a slave who will take an enormous pounding, a true masochist’s workout from her Master, then sit down, have a cigarette together, cool off, and return the favor so to speak.

Before I spoke to her about it, even though I knew I was a switch, I don’t think I really could have contained or comprehended that paradigm. It was kind of like meeting another bisexual person for the first time.

The thought that went through my head was something like “oh, you can do that?”

It was liberating, to say the least, to find out that yes V/virginia, you can trade whacks with your Sire, hard  ones.  Though in retrospect it seems glaringly obvious.

As I look outwards from my vantage point, that of a young player rapidly becoming less of a novice each month, I wonder what this life I have chosen holds.  What will my contracts look like, what will my relationships turn out to be?  There are no obvious answers for me, few easy to find paradigms and paths that have already been cleared. This is why I feel the need to write about my needs and my experiences as they arise.  I know I am not alone in this gray area, this hinterland of Male/Female, Gay/Straight and Dominant/submissive that I find myself in, and the telling of a story is always an implicit invitation to hear one in turn.