One of the best kink education panels I’ve ever
been part of was a group of experienced queer tops being real about our
experiences back when we were new tops. We told stories about mistakes we made,
how afraid we were, how much pressure we felt to act confident. We were real
about the ways we realized that we wanted to top, and what that early
self-discovery was like. We talked about the tricks we used to get over our
nerves, and the ways we learned to value our own needs. It was one of the most
real and important conversations I’ve ever had with a group of tops, and I feel
incredibly lucky to have participated in it. There was this hush in the room as
we spoke about this, a sense that we were breaking silence, that this
conversation was precious. We don’t have these kinds of
conversations often
 in kink community, rarely
speak openly as tops about being vulnerable, nervous, scared, or unsure.

When I was a novice top, I would have
loved to read stories about tops who were unsure. Part of why I felt like
I had to act sure even when I wasn’t as a novice top was that no tops were talking about being unsure. If
I’d been able to read stories about tops who were unsure, it would have been
validating, and really helped me. I know that some people look to erotica
& erotic romance for fantasy, and to get off. I sure do. But I also look to
it for a mirror.

The first erotica story I wrote from
the top’s point of view, “Nervous Boy”, had the top character being unsure. It
felt like such a risk to write. Maybe I was the only top that felt this
way. Maybe the bubble of faith readers had in him would burst when they saw he
was unsure. Maybe I couldn’t find these stories because no one would be willing
to print them. (I was wrong about the last one, by the way.)

These days I work really hard to include tops in my erotica who are
unsure, vulnerable, and scared
. I consistently write experienced
tops that doubt themselves, that need support, that are vulnerable, that have
needs. I care about those stories. I think they are important, not just as erotica,
but as a voice in kink culture that insists on top vulnerability and tops
having needs. But these stories aren’t the only kind of mirror I needed as a

I would love to read stories about novice tops
learning from experienced bottoms. I would love to read stories about
novice tops getting mentored, or learning through co-topping. I would love to
read stories about novice tops figuring out how to top through reading, going
to classes, having cybersex, talking with kinky buddies, watching instructional
videos, watching other people play. I would love to read stories about novice
tops trying out bottoming as a way to learn, and the ways that works for them,
or really doesn’t work. I would love to read stories about novice tops refusing
to try bottoming despite being pressured and finding other paths for learning
and self discovery. I would love to read stories about novice tops and bottoms
learning together, perhaps in group scenes, perhaps through co-bottoming,
perhaps on their own or with friends.

There are very few stories that center novice
tops. I can’t name more than a few short stories (mostly about couples
experimenting with kink together) and about half a dozen book titles, and I
read pretty damn widely. (If you are looking for examples I particularly
recommend For RealHave Mercy, and Sated, which actually features a novice switch,
but I especially adore her topping moments.) The dearth of examples illuminates
a pretty big gap in BDSM fiction.

But I think the gap is wider than that. The kinds of stories we tell
about novices are a bit…one-note.

Most of the time in BDSM erotica and erotic
romance, when a
character is a novice, it seems to be a stand in for virginal innocence. This character has done very little (or no) research about kink, and often has had no prior kinky fantasies. A clean
slate, if you will. The novice is
inevitably the bottom or submissive. (And for the most part, a woman partnering with a man.) Much of
the time, the experienced dominant teaches a novice submissive about their submissive identity. The novice only learns
about kink from
their partner, or occasionally a bit of internet research. They don’t talk to
other kinky people. They aren’t part of a kink community. They often don’t
know any other kinky people…besides their love interest.

There are so many other possible stories we could
tell about learning BDSM and being a novice.

What would it be like if we told stories about novices who took charge of their own learning
about kink, and went after what they
wanted? What would the story arc be if we started from there? With novice tops and
bottoms who didn’t learn through their lovers alone?

What about a story with a main character who
dropped kink (or a certain kind of
kink) after dipping a toe in, and is now thinking about picking it up

What could the story be if the character is an
experienced top or bottom that is exploring switching for the first time?

What about a story centering folks who are new to
D/s but have done SM or bondage for years?

What about a story centering a novice whose first experiences of BDSM are with a professional? 

What about a story centering a novice who learns about their own kinky desires through doing sex work?

There is so much possibility in stories about novice queers, novice Ren Faire folks, novice goths,
who come out into kink as part of their culture, and now need to claim it for
their own. So many cultures and communities are kinky. It’s really
different to be a novice trying out BDSM inside one of those. Sassafras
Lowrey has written two (non-erotic) novels (Lost Boi and Roving Pack) about communities of homeless and
precariously housed queer and trans youth that center kink as an important aspect of the community culture
and a vital part of the lives of the characters. I would love to read more
erotica and erotic romance stories about being a novice in that kind of context. Where characters are coming into kink
through being pagan, or punk, or a vampire, for example, where BDSM is already
an integral part of the cultural landscape.

What if the story was about a novice top or bottom trying to claim their desire as a
survivor of violence, navigating the complexity of consent?

What if the story was about a novice top or bottom of color grappling with racism in
the kink scene, claiming their sexuality in that context?

What about stories with novice edge players? I
was definitely one of those, and would have found so
much solace in a story that came from a place that acknowledged the diversity
of desire and the ways that just because you are a beginner doesn’t mean that
you don’t want intensity in your BDSM.

What would the story be like if it centered a novice who went to kink education or munches with
groups of friends? I went to some of my first kink events with my best friend,
who’d been kinky all along, but I hadn’t known, in 5 years of friendship. I’ve
seen novices find each other
early on in kink community, and form intense friendships, support each other to
explore. I want more stories about novices who support each other,
where that friendship is a core part of the story of self-discovery.

What if the story was about a nerd who did tons
of research first? Who spent years
exploring their kinky desires through writing or reading fan fiction before
trying it out in life? I knew much more about my own kinks with very little
experience because I had so much cybersex. Folks in kink communities are often really scornful of people
who learn about kink outside of real life experience, but it’s so common! I
know there are more people than just me who did tons of reading before they
ever acted on their desires.

I would be so excited to read BDSM
fiction that represented the wide range of novice experience that actually
exists in life. Perhaps one of these ideas will inspire you to write something
new. I know I’d love to read it!