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Top, bottom and switch: Which are you and what are you looking for?

Robyn Exton

Feb 19, 2020

Top, bottom and switch: Which are you and what are you looking for?
  • While the terms top, bottom and switch were created by and for gay men, they are becoming more frequently used amongst LGBTQ+ women and non-binary people. They can be pretty confusing, because they can refer to someone’s sexual preferences, level of dominance, role in their relationships, or all of the above.

    Whichever you identify with, or even if you don’t identify with any of these terms, there’s someone out there for you. So whether you prefer tops, bottoms, or have no preference at all- use HER to connect with queer women who are exactly what you’re looking for. Your person could be closer than you think.

    LGBTQ+ women: What’s a top?

    A top in a lesbian relationship is generally the one who is more dominant, and prefers giving to receiving sexual pleasure. As with all sexuality, tops fall on a spectrum. Some tops will be happy to receive some of the time, but prefer giving. Some tops don’t want to receive at all. Two people who choose to call themselves tops might not work well together in bed- simply because both people will wanna give all the time!

    People often assume that tops are the more masculine and more confident partners- but this is just a stereotype! There are diesel dykes who are hard bottoms, high femmes that are hard tops, and ‘futch’ women at both ends. The best way to tell if someone is a top is just to ask them.

    LGBTQ+ women: What’s a bottom?

    As you might expect, a bottom is essentially the opposite of a top. A bottom in lesbian dating is often called a ‘pillow princess’. Bottoms tend to be more submissive and prefer to receive sexual pleasure than to give it. As with tops, most bottoms are happy to top occasionally, it’s just their preference to receive. But there are some lesbian bottoms who only want to receive, and never want to give – also called ‘hard bottoms’.

    Part of the reason for the phrase ‘pillow princess’ is because of the assumption that hard bottoms are usually the more feminine partner- but again, this is just a stereotype, and being a masc or stud pillow princess is pretty common too. It’s worth mentioning that, although it’s way more common within the men-loving-men community, sometimes ‘bottom-shaming’ can be a thing, where folks interpret top and bottom as a hierarchy, viewing bottoms to be passive or weak. This is absolute BS- these are labels not titles, and being a bottom sexually in no way means you’re not equally as likely to be an assertive, confident character outside of the bedroom! Remember: tops can’t exist without bottoms!

    What’s a switch?

    A switch is the equivalent to a ‘vers’ for gay men. Switches are generally happy to give or receive pleasure, depending on their partner or their mood. Most LGBTQ+ women fall into this category: some are bottom-leaning, some prefer topping, but all are happy to swing either way. 

    Switches can be in relationships with tops, bottoms or other switches based on their preferences. Sexual compatibility is based on lots of different factors, so two women both being switches doesn’t always mean they will be compatible. It’s a spectrum, and there are no rules. Just talk to your partner about what you prefer, what they prefer, and what works for you both. Whether it’s a hookup or a long-term relationship, sex is always better when you know what one another like.

    How do you know which category you fall into?

    These terms fall on a spectrum, so it’s perfectly okay not to fit neatly into one of these boxes, a lot of people don’t use these terms at all!. Most people gradually learn where they fall on the spectrum from experimenting with partners, with porn, with toys, and exploring what gets them most aroused. Don’t go into it thinking you ‘should’ be one or the other. Be open to the options and have fun experimenting!

    This is part of lesbian slang dictionary from HER. Read more if you like it!

    Robyn Exton

    Robyn is the CEO & Founder of HER. Find her on Twitter.

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