Dominance: Does Topspace Exist?
They say it’s lonely at the top.
When it comes to sex I’d disagree; it’s not lonely, but it can be dark. It can be complex, challenging and conflicted. There’s a lot of literature out there about the phenomenon known in BDSM circles as ‘subspace’, which is a kind of euphoric mental and physical state the submissive partner sometimes assumes under the control of their dominant partner. However, there’s very little discussion of the dominant’s mindstate, so I’m going to talk a bit about it today. I’d love to hear your experience in the comments below!
While I’m aware that the etymologically correct opposite of ‘subspace’ would be ‘superspace,’ I’ve settled on the term ‘topspace’ for a couple of reasons. First, I prefer it because it sounds less Buck Rogers and therefore more credible. Second, topspace is not the opposite of subspace, in the same way that the opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. We’ll cover this in due course.
What Characterises Topspace?
In subspace, the submissive sometimes loses control of their thoughts or actions. In topspace, the dominant’s focus is enhanced, and they have more control over their actions. There’s a lot of love in it too, everything is heightened somehow.
What Does Topspace Feel Like?
At its most essential, topspace can be characterized simply as the derivation of sexual pleasure from the discomfort of a partner. But that’s not all it is; just as subspace comes with a lot of emotionally charged baggage, so too does topspace.
During D/s activity, the conflict between the submissive partner’s instinct to fight or flee can be very difficult to reconcile. It’s incredibly conflicting. The Dominant faces their own conflict: ‘why do I want to treat someone I love so cruelly?’
This conflict is all-pervasive and ever present, and instead of trying to understand and reconcile the contradictions. It feels confusing, and mesmerising, and primal and wrong. In fact, it’s probably the wrongness of it that is most attractive to kinksters. Mainly though, topspace is filled with darkness punctuated with supreme clarity.
After all, only when it’s dark enough can you see the stars.
Is Topspace Dangerous?
Yeah, potentially. A dominants sensation of topspace can be fed directly from their submissive partner’s recession into subspace in a kind of feedback loop. The more the submissive recedes, the more the dominant advances. The more distant the dominant and submissive roles become, the more momentum they have, to be pushed further away from each other in a chain reaction analogous to an inversion of the inverse-square law in physics. It takes huge self-control and situational awareness to prevent things from getting out of control.
That’s why aftercare really is so important. When you’re submissive, or dominant, you’re forced to constantly evaluate yourself and rationalize your actions.
Does Topspace Really Exist At All?
The jury’s out, I’m afraid. I can say I absolutely believe that subspace is an observable psychosexual phenomenon. I’ve got no doubt about it. I’d love to see some actual academic research done on it.
Personally, I think it does. I believe that everything about us, every part of our anatomy and every facet of our psychology, has an evolutionary rationalization. This attraction to dominance and control must stem from somewhere in the evolution of our species in the same way a subsmissive’s desire to capitulate must also have an evolutionary basis. If it didn’t have an evolutionary basis, it simply wouldn’t exist at all. But what could that biological reward be for? For inflicting pain? For winning the hunt and claiming a mate?
I’m not sure, but dominance and submission are not about sex. It’s about power. Dominance is to have power, and the body is rewarded by the brain for it, in the same way that a fighter’s body is rewarded with euphoria for winning. In a twisted way, this power is darkly rewarding, and that could provide a reason why topspace exists, if it does indeed exist.
What do you think?
With 16 years in the adult industry, including many years at LELO, it’s fair to say Stu has been around the sex toy block a few times. As LELO’s resident sex geek, he’s been featured in the Independent, the Guardian, HuffPost, Vice, Cosmopolitan, and anywhere people talk about sex. Here on Volonte, he turns his spotlight onto the important events affecting sex right now in a regular op-ed. Views are his own.