How I Learned to Love Being a Mom Domme

Exploring the nuances of BDSM as a ‘service top’

Riley Black
Mar 17 · 8 min read
Photo: Artem Labunsky/Unsplash

TThe sound is what I remember most. Not the thwap of tails against my exposed back, but the sound just before that — the flick of the flogger as it was being tossed back before the stroke, an abrupt yet soft sound, like a large bird ruffling its wings. The thud and the sting came just a moment later, to the beat of electronica pumping through the speaker overhead. I liked the song. Part of my attention wanted to tear itself away to remember something so I could listen again later. Thwap. “No, just stay here,” I reminded myself, and my body sunk a little more heavily against the wrist ties holding me to the St. Andrew’s cross. My top came to check on me. “Doing alright, kitty?” I nodded, snarled, and rubbed my cheek against the smooth wood of the cross. I wanted more.

I wasn’t prepared for the sensation. An hour before, as I showered and tried to make myself presentable, I was a little more than slightly terrified. I’d never done anything like this before. Or, I hadn’t put the theory into practice. I’d been to play parties and watched. I took a rope class. I read a few books to pick up some BDSM basics. But every time I had the opportunity to participate, I declined. When I read about the joys of slipping into sub space or the powerful feeling of topping, I had nothing to compare it to — I had never been safe enough to explore my curiosity. I told myself that I was incapable of enjoying sensation like other people. How wonderful that a little pain could enhance their pleasure. I’ll just be Eeyore in the corner. Plus, I didn’t know how I’d react to spanks or slaps or hair pulls or scratches or any of that. What if I hated it?

But my fascination never went away. I kept attending parties, watching for an entry point or something that I might want to try. The opportunity came before I was ready.

My friend M had introduced me to the scene in the first place. M was an expert, and I could tell how gleeful they were when I stopped saying “I don’t know” to the mosh-and-munch invites and finally attended an event. I knew I could trust them. We’d known each other for a couple years, and now and then we’d meet for drinks, go on walks, and occasionally make out. But BDSM was a door I never thought about opening. Our experience levels were so different that I was completely and undoubtedly intimidated. But when M told me they were going to move away soon, I understood the choice in front of me. We’d played with the idea of doing a scene together, but it just never coalesced. If I wanted it, I would have to make it happen. So I asked if we could try something.

We settled on a pretty basic flogging scene. I had other ideas, like an Indiana Jones–inspired interrogation scene where I refused to give up the location of a precious artifact to the villains, but I didn’t even know what it felt like to be tied with rope. I feared that the first stroke of the tails would be too painful and I’d want to yellow or red out, perhaps embarrassing myself and my top by my ignorance of my own body. It’s one thing to see someone else be flogged into submission and quite another to ask a friend to do that to you.

M and I talked about all this before the scene. I set my boundaries, and we agreed on how I would signal a break or a stop. I tried to breathe and keep my heart from beating hard enough to be visible through my ribcage. Yes, please, use the rope on my wrists. No, I don’t want to be called names or demeaned as part of the play. Yes, I will call you “mistress.” Then we got started. I unbuttoned my shirt and slid it off my shoulders, keeping my black jeans and boots on. M took my hands and ran a beautiful tie of red rope over my wrists and through fingers, giving me something of a handhold threaded through the eyelets on the wooden X in front of me. M turned me around, my chest toward the wood, and asked if I was ready. “Yes. I mean! Yes, mistress.”

I took a deep breath and waited.

M’s touch was so soft. Gentle hands on my back, sliding and smoothing and warming my exposed skin. I shifted and spread my legs at a less tense angle. I closed my eyes and tried to key in to the touch. Then, strands delicately ran along my back. The flogger. But M wasn’t striking me. My top was running the tails along my skin, adding a little more force while slowly, gradually warming me up, bringing blood to the surface and making my skin more sensitive.

“Are you ready, kitty?”

“Yes, mistress,” I whispered.

The first stroke felt like a heavy slap on the back, the kind a slightly drunk friend might give you when they find you at a party. My eyes opened on impact. I closed them again, listening and waiting. That felt… strangely good. One after the other, the strokes fell on my back. All the thoughts that were swirling through my head — What if it hurts? What if I don’t like it? What if I mess up somehow? — dissipated. My brain tried to play spectator. It had well over a decade of experience at doing so, critiquing and criticizing, standing between me and the sensations I wanted to feel. Now I couldn’t hold onto a single thought. The wonderful thud from the flogger M had selected pressed me against the cross with each stroke, and I found myself resting on the cross, purring, lost to the world beyond what I could feel.

I don’t know how long I was there. I didn’t drink or chew an edible before our scene, yet I felt the same kind of time dilation as when I’m sky-high. I can’t even brag about the number of strokes I took. I don’t remember the number. I only remember the feeling. After a few check-ins, M asked me to pick a number. I said “Five.”

“I’m going to give you five of my best,” M replied, and told me to count them out. Having to vocalize took me out of my delicious, swimmy feeling a little, but the overall effect remained.

A few moments later, I lay draped over M’s lap on the couch. M had taken me down, given me some water, and now I simply rested and nuzzled and purred, feeling the warmth from my reddened back seeping into the rest of my body. But we weren’t totally finished. I yelped and jumped when M drew a finger down my spine. Sparks shot off in my brain. I couldn’t tell whether it tickled or hurt or felt good. Perhaps all could be true at once. I could practically hear the diabolical grin spread across M’s face. I squirmed and yipped and laughed as M drew their nails repeatedly down my back, leaving me with some extra scratches. I could have stayed there all night. Instead, I took something home with me.

DDuring our tingly aftercare session, M used a phrase I hadn’t heard before: “service top.” I kept turning the phrase over in my head as I drove home that night. Why hadn’t anyone told me about this? Maybe someone would have if I’d sniffed around a little more or, you know, actually talked to people who knew about these things. But the important part was I found out in a way that still gives me a little endorphin burst when I remember it.

I didn’t understand how constrained, and even distorted, my idea of BDSM dynamics was.

I had already learned that the top/bottom distinction is a little blurry and is largely functional. If you’re the person doing something, you’re the top. If you’re the person to whom something is being done, you’re the bottom. There can be contradictions, like power bottoms who will tell you exactly what they want and how to do it, but that role seemed to take far more assertiveness than I had. And these definitions didn’t come baggage-free. In my head, “top,” “domme,” and their synonyms required some amount of glee in inflicting consensual pain, humiliation, and other things that didn’t line up with my identity. I didn’t want to be mean. I didn’t want to call anyone names or act tough, gruff, and commanding. I understood the importance of negotiation, connection, and aftercare, but I’m the kind of gal who doesn’t even like to play the bad guys in video games because I feel guilty about whatever pixels I slay in my quest.

Unwinding stereotypes takes time. I didn’t understand how constrained, and even distorted, my idea of BDSM dynamics was. That’s what had made me so worried in the first place. But to be flogged with such great care and treated so sweetly, to just be awash in sensation and attention from someone who was focused only on me for that small pocket of time… I loved it. And I wanted to learn how to do that. The caricature of a domineering and sadistic top was replaced by the kind of top I wanted to be: a top who’ll make your delicious fantasy come true, compliment you on how well you did, and then bake you cookies after. Or, as my girlfriend put it, “Oh, you want to be a mom domme.”

I’m hardly a veteran scenester. I’m trying to learn a few rigger skills without winding up like a cat tangled in the yarn basket. I’m still trying to take something away from every scene I start, whether it’s at a party or in the confines of my bedroom. But that’s exactly why I’m grateful to M for showing me a way to approach this part of myself without fear, to let curiosity guide me.

It’s not all that different from cooking. A few months back, not long after my girlfriend moved in, I asked her what she’d like for dinner. She decided to challenge me. “Beef Wellington!” she exclaimed, and a few minutes later, I was at the grocery store to get the necessary ingredients. (I don’t make beef tenderloin kind of money, so I got a sirloin roast that I cut to meet my needs and called it Cheap Wellington.) I carefully went through each of the steps and ultimately delivered a tasty meal that left my partner full and grinning.

The way I service top follows a similar arc — the initial “What would you like?” followed by discussion. The preparation is part of the excitement and the process, and if all goes well, close cuddles on the couch are an excellent way to wind down. Whether I’m using a spatula or a flogger in their respective contexts, what I like to do relies on communication, anticipation, skill, and care. (This is just as true for harsher scenes, even if it’s easy to miss from an outside perspective. If anything, I’m more in awe of people who do such a good job of being so terrible.) Being a service top has given me a skill to learn and a dynamic that I find enhances communication. Maybe it involves sex. Many times, it’s just a way to bond and relax. Regardless, few things make me happier than cooking up exactly what my audience is hungry for.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to make some cookie dough.