BDsM book review: The New Topping/Bottoming books by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy

I am always on the lookout for great books to recommend to mates that are looking for more insight into the world of kink.  There are plenty of excellent how-to manuals out there, but many of them are very technical and skills-based.  While that’s great if you want to learn how to handle a flogger, or attempt rope bondage, those books are often too specific for people who are just beginning to explore.

When I first started to entertain the idea of getting into BDsM I felt very out of my depth.  I knew that there were a couple of very general areas that took my fancy.  I knew that I identified with the submissive side of the slash.  And that was really about it.  I didn’t know how to take it further.  I was unsure how to figure out what kinds of things I wanted to try, let alone find people who would do those things with me.  I read a lot of books that taught me practical skills.  But I felt like I was missing something.  It was like I was making chocolate chip cookies, but all I had were these big, rough chunks of chocolate.  I was missing the dough to draw it all together into one sweet, delicious package.  And that’s precisely what these two books do.

Both The New Topping Book and The New Bottoming Book fill in all the bits that other books tend not to talk about. They dive deep into what it feels like to be submissive or dominant and the reasons why people enjoy topping or bottoming. They talk about some of the different styles of play, the different emotions that scenes can evoke.  There’s a great deal of BDsM theory, based on years of experience as well as stories contributed from friends and play partners of the authors.

Both books do a great job of filling in the gaps left by the how-to books.  Although neither one will show you how to create the perfect hogtie or master the perfect kneel, the knowledge contained in these two volumes will enrich your play immeasurably.  There are chapters devoted to how to identify what you want to get out of your play, the type of emotions you want to evoke.  There’s detailed information on how to communicate needs, negotiate and plan a scene.  You’ll find discussions on how to navigate controversial scene ideas and how to manage if your play goes off the rails.  It’s a lot more cerebral than your average kink manual.  There might be fewer practical skills to be learned from these books, but they are an excellent source of the vital information you need to make your explorations safe and satisfying.

Both books are relatively slim volumes that are easy to read.  They’re written in a relaxed, conversational tone that isn’t condescending or preachy.  It feels much like sitting down with a trusted mentor who gently guides you through the things you need to know, while slipping in a few jokes and some steamy anecdotes to keep you interested.

I’ve chosen to review these books as a pair because I feel like they so perfectly compliment one another.  You could certainly choose to only read the one that you identify with.  But I strongly recommend reading them as a pair.  Even if you have no interest in exploring the other side of the slash, each book is filled with wisdom that is worth knowing, even if you don’t personally identify with that identity.  I feel like reading just one of them is like reading only half of the story.  Even if you don’t personally play with domination, you could learn some tips for how to be a better submissive by reading the Topping Book. Or if you’re a staunch top, you could improve your scenes by understanding more deeply the experience of a submissive.  In BDsM, both roles work together to create something so much bigger than the sum of it’s parts.  These books are just like that, although they’re excellent individually, they paint a much richer picture when read as a pair.

I’d recommend adding The New Topping Book and The New Bottoming Book to your reading list. Whether you’re just dipping your toe in the vast river of BDsM, or if you’ve been swimming in those waters for years, you’re sure to find something that will expand your perception of kink and allow you to deepen your play.

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