When people think of BDSM, their ideas often flash right to the glint of handcuffs or the snap of a whip. The underlying concept of Power Exchange is something that comes later, as the curious delve into the dynamics of what it means to be whipped or wield the whip, to be handcuffed or to hold the key.
I often find it's easy to explain the kinks, the role plays, the implements, and the sex toys of BDSM. Explaining the complex and textured world of Power Exchange tends to be a bit more tricky.
Which is why I love recommending the two books on this topic by Janet W. Hardy and Dossie Easton: "The New Bottoming Book" and "The New Topping Book."
This week I'm reviewing The New Bottoming Book (Greenery Press, 2001). (Three guesses as to what next week's book review will be…)
Personally, I identify as a fetishist. For the sake of communication I identify as a switch when it comes to Power Exchange. I have more experience bottoming, but I have topped and am interested in topping more often in certain scenarios. Perhaps my proclivity toward sensation play and my naturally being a femme unicorn type, I explored bottoming first. So I decided to read The New Bottoming Book first, since I felt I related to that role a bit more.
This book covers a wide range of philosophy and pragmatic information as it pertains to bottoming. With chapters like "What Kind of Player Are You, Anyway?" "Staying Safe and Happy," as well as "The Bridge to Reality," this book provides a great foundation for someone looking to begin BDSM play for the first time. Other chapters such as "Getting Ready," "Ending the Scene – And Afterwards," and "Playing Scripts, Scenes, Roles," offer wonderful tips, tricks, and reminders for novice and seasoned players alike. The book ends with a section on S/M and spirituality which I enjoyed a lot. Looking back, this was my favorite part of the book to read.
I personally really liked the style and narrative voice of the authors. I was engaged with the book the entire time whether I was reading concepts that were new to me or reading about things I had already experienced.
I think both these books are valuable in that they teach concepts and vocabulary of BDSM in a way that is contextual – the authors illustrate their points with years of experience backing them. Definitely more personal and relatable than 101 articles online or cold lists of S/M vocabulary.
I think people who identify on any part of the Power Exchange spectrum will benefit from reading this book. Understanding the perspective of both top and bottom is necessary to have a successful scene. This book is a great tool to starting really important conversations with yourself and your play partners.
So, if you want to look beyond the metal handcuffs and black lace panties of BDSM and start shedding light on the often murky and misunderstood aspects of Power Exchange, I highly recommend both these books. Happy bottoming!