Race Bannon AKA member LoneWolfPig has been an organizer, writer, educator, speaker and activist in the LGBT, leather/kink, polyamory and HIV/STI prevention and treatment realms since 1973. In this article Race talks about becoming versatile within the kink scene.
It's no secret to anyone who knows or follows me that I'm an out switch (versatile within the kink scene). That wasn't always the case. There was a time I balked at the notion that I could be versatile, at least when it came to BDSM and power exchange.
From the time I first came out into the American leather scene in Chicago at the age of 17 (yes, I would sneak into leather bars underage) until the mid-80s, I identified and functioned exclusively as a top and dom, especially for anything requiring power exchange of any kind. When it came to fuck and suck sex, I would occasionally explore bottoming, but even that was rare.
One day that all changed. Well, not in one day. I had long been entertaining fantasies of bottoming or subbing during jerk off sessions. Manifesting those fantasies into any physical reality though would only happen years later.
Perhaps the most influential man in my kink life has been Guy Baldwin, a world-renowned leatherman. In the mid-80s Guy and I were in a Master/slave relationship. I was the Master. Guy took a 2 ½-year departure from functioning as a predominantly dominant leatherman and we ended up in a remarkable Dom/sub relationship.
During that time Guy and I were at a large BDSM play party in Portland, Oregon. We did a magical scene there in which I tied up and flogged Guy heavily. After the scene had reached its crescendo, ended, and we had both embraced and come down to a manageable endorphin high, we packed our gear and stashed it.
Our relationship was an open one and Guy wanted to walk around and see who else might be in the dungeon. Later, he came back and said (which to this day remains one of the hottest lines anyone has ever said to me), "I've seen who is here and you're still the most interesting man here. Do you want to get flogged?"
Per Guy's recollection, his offer was in no way an intention to dominate me, but rather to share the amazing scene high feeling he was experiencing like two spiritual travelers drinking a secret hallucinogenic potion together.
Still, I was stunned, and turned on. This was as close as I'd come to a serious offer to bottom in BDSM. For some reason to this day unknown to me, immediately out of my mouth came the response "Yes."
That was the moment I consider myself to have come out, in front of about 200 fellow players, as a switch.
You might think that my switch adventures would have proceeded along unencumbered from that point, but you'd be wrong. Yes, I was "out," but after that scene I retreated into my comfortable exclusively dom mindset for a long time.
I had other slaves and subs after Guy. All encouraged me to explore my bottom side, solo or alongside them in group settings. Slowly I became more comfortable as a switch.
Fast forward a few years and the man who is now my slave (Doctatts on Recon) contacted me. He and I had been friends for two decades. He reached out to me to discuss my experience coming out as a switch. He, like me for so long, had been functioning primarily as a top and dom and he wanted to start exploring submission.
At the same time, I was bemoaning to my friends that I really missed having someone collared. I posted that sentiment on Facebook and Doctatts replied with a subtle but transparent comment that eventually lead to me collaring him and us enjoying the remarkable Master/slave relationship we have today. Doctatts still functions primarily as a top and dom with his other relationships, yet fully embraces his sub side too.
I continued my switch explorations, but if I get honest, I must admit it's only in the last year or two that I've become entirely comfortable as a switch. Giving a fuck what others think has subsided considerably. I do what I want sexually.
Why am I telling you this? Because I hear constantly from friends, acquaintances and total strangers about their struggles with embracing their often-secret switch fantasies. My highly public presence seems to attract requests for counsel. Usually it's a top or dom who is having difficulties coming out as also bottom or sub, but sometimes it's a bottom or sub wanting to try their hand at being a top or dom.
Based on my own experiences and those of the countless people I've counseled and supported in their switch coming out process, I've learned two important things.
First, the process of accepting one's switch nature is typically a long one. If you have already spent a significant amount of time exclusively on one side of the role spectrum, reconfiguring your mindset and expectations to synchronize with your newfound switch self takes time. It took me years. I sense it takes years for many guys to find peace with versatility, assuming versatility appeals to them.
Second, ultimately few men give a fuck about your switch status if the sexual experiences they have with you are good. My fear that subs would cease being interested was not only incorrect, but the opposite happened. More subs showed interest than ever before. I recall when I changed my Recon Role status from 90/10 to 50/50. Suddenly my message inbox was more full than usual, and that trend continues. When my slave Doctatts changed his Role status to 50/50, he experienced the same phenomenon.
My theory is that for a large percentage of men who play on the sub end of the spectrum, full-time or part-time, knowing a dom is likely to have some empathy for their sub mindset and needs leads to piqued interest. Regardless of the reason, few subs seem to care about my switch status. More tops and doms approach me now too and don't care I'm a switch. Some are turned on knowing they're topping someone who often tops themselves.
Should you be one of those men on the fence uncertain whether to explore the switch fantasies that have been banging around in your mind, I hope you take the leap. I've never regretted coming out. Not once. The only thing I regret is not doing it sooner.
Race Bannon has been an organizer, writer, educator, speaker and activist in the LGBT, leather/kink, polyamory and HIV/STI prevention and treatment realms since 1973. He's authored two books, been published extensively, spoken to hundreds of audiences, created the world's largest kink-friendly psychotherapist and medical referral service, was a leader of The DSM Project that led to a beneficial change in the way American psychotherapy views BDSM, founded a groundbreaking alternative sexuality publishing company, been an internet radio sex talk show host, received national and local awards, and appeared in numerous documentaries. He currently also writes for the Bay Area Reporter and on his blog