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Responsible Topping: How To Keep Them Coming Back For More – A Review

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It was a classic bait-and-switch. Who among us hasn’t told one of your boyfriends that you’d like him to take you out on a date and have him invite you to a human-rights lecture – But then have him remember he already bought tickets to a BDSM workshop – and having already rescheduled your standing date with another boif, and being nothing if not accommodating (and, if you’re honest, slightly curious), said you’ll go to that with him instead?

So that’s how a few Thursdays ago I ended up attending Responsible Topping: How To Keep Them Coming Back For More presented by Master Hines at the S.F. Armory (1800 Mission St San Francisco, CA 94103).

I enjoyed a few adult beverages at the Armory Club nearby with Mr. Human Rights before the workshop. It was my first time at both venues and my first ever kink-related workshop.

Your author getting her drank on.

Your author getting her drank on.

The mischievous boif in question

The group of about 30 participants was very white and very normal-looking. Ages clustered around the low 30s to low 50s range.

Master Hines is a charming personality and not unpleasant to look at. When he wasn’t hitting someone, he sat on a sturdy table at the front of the room, often standing to adjust his leather pants.

via Eventbright

From the event page

He began his talk with a brief history of BDSM in America and his introduction to “the scene.” According to Hines, BDSM came to America via gay WWII soldiers who wanted to recreate the BDSM they’d encountered in Europe. You can see the military influence in the badges and other insignia and the focus on protocol. The soldiers borrowed the leather from biker gangs.

At 35, Hines entered Atlanta’s gay leather scene to learn the ropes, so to speak. He’s now 61, he told us. I wondered about his orientation until his references to “my girl” and “my wife.” His girl was in the audience. But he demonstrated on another woman, who had a much smoother, more muscular ass than I would expect to see on a woman who looked to be in her late 40’s or early 50’s. About two-thirds through the talk a woman in the audience asked how Hines knew the woman he was spanking and he told us they’d met about a week ago. I felt relieved to not be the only nosy one in the room.

There were plenty of bits of practical advice. For example, if you’re hitting a small ass with a flogger ask her to close her legs if she doesn’t want the tails to hit her pussy.

Screen Shot 2017-04-28 at 10.57.32 AM

The most interesting part of the talk, to me, was not about flogging, but about love. Ego, according to Hines, is the enemy of good topping. It’s ego that makes you want to continue a scene when you can tell a bottom needs it to end. It’s ego that makes you unwilling to admit and atone for your mistakes. There was a powerful moment when Hines talked about feeling guilty to this day after accidentally hurting a bottom 25 years ago and not following up to be sure he was okay.

Love, not ego, should motivate your topping.

Love builds trust and tears down ego.

Another way to build trust is good old-fashioned manners. If you can’t trust someone to show appropriate respect at a dinner party, for example, how can you trust them to do that in a scene? Another part of manners is respect for experience. Hines talked about how valuable it was to learn safe, sane, consensual play by men and women who’d been in the scene for decades.

The most powerful moment of the talk, for me, was when Master Hines recommended that everyone diversify their play. He talked about feeling dismayed when a Mistress accused him of topping like a woman. But then he watched gay men top each other and realized there was a huge difference between the way straight and gay men top. Hines demonstrated the cold, monotonous, removed stance of the straight man hitting a woman with his flogger.

Then he imitated a gay man top, with all his teasing, face touching, chest-to-chest contact, and talking. My God the talking.

I honest-to-God teared up, realizing that so much of my attraction to gay culture, despite my stubborn straightness, is my painful hunger for sex with a straight man that is not about his tool. I felt my frustration validated learning that many straight men take that attitude into BDSM.

What Hines seemed to be saying is that in his experience, gay leather men do a better job of incorporating the mind and emotions into sex than straight ones.

What I came away with was new empathy for straight men. Being armed with a flogger does not protect a straight man from fear of a woman’s judgment. And that protective shell around his ego can sometimes prevent him from getting emotionally close to a woman and giving her the mental and emotional stimulation she desperately craves. Or at least that I desperately crave.

Anyway, gay men taught Hines and Hines taught me that the tool is just a tool. Alone, it’s neither fun nor interesting. It’s the way you make another person feel that makes sex, BDSM, and life more fun and interesting.

To get to know Hines better and see where he’ll be presenting next, he suggested following him on Fetlife.

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Bougie-Ass Cathy

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Cathy Reisenwitz is a SF-based writer with a focus on sex, politics, and technology. She is Editor-in-Chief of Sex and the State.