Several years ago, I encountered the idea of topping from the bottom. Upon looking into it, I found that this expression comes from the BDSM community, of which I am not a part, and refers to the tendency of the supposedly-submissive partner to manipulate the supposedly-dominant partner into doing what she wants him to do. Because she manipulates him in a covert way, it still appears that he is in control of the relationship, but really she is the one calling the shots. Because I’m not into BDSM, I haven’t tended to use this phrase, even though the idea is useful for discussing the marital hierarchy of authority.
However, I learned a new word recently that works much better: backleading, which Badger explains is a ballroom dancing term referring to a woman who is “resisting the lead’s kinesthetic instructions that are part and parcel of partner dancing.” Does the man who is leading the dance like it when a woman offers this kind of resistance?
I can however confirm the not-uncommon habit of women backleading, many times unapologetically or with a coy sort of “sometimes I backlead, teehee.” And I’d be remiss if I didn’t communicate to women that backleading is very unattractive to men.
So no, men don’t like backleading from women. Badger goes on to explain why some women backlead on the dance floor:
…Generally speaking, women enjoy the follow, as evidenced by their oft-stated desire for a firm, masculine lead on the floor…However, a subcircuit of girls in dance play up the backlead thing as a sort of dodge or hustle or a “feisty” personality statement. If you are getting a LOT of backleading with multiple partners, you are probably not leading strongly enough. But if a particular partner is very strong with the backlead, she’s either not very fluid and not self-aware of that fact, or she’s trying to set up a power game. If you think this sounds like a shit test, you’re right…sometimes you are being teased and baited into reasserting yourself, where the winning tactical move is to resist her resistance but the strategic move is to take your ball and go home without tolerating unnecessary difficulty. I normally keep a two-strike policy – the first backlead earns a firm correction with an accompanying warning look. The second is the end of dance for her and I take her off the card for the night.
There is an obvious parallel between ballroom dancing and marriage, and I think backleading is a potential pitfall for women who have decided that they want to be in marriages that are faithful to Ephesians 5:22-24:
22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
but who aren’t really ready to relinquish control. A wife in this situation wants it to seem like she is submitting to her husband’s leadership but really she is trying to backlead him into making decisions that she feels like submitting to and not making decisions that she doesn’t feel like submitting to.
The problem is that this kind of relational backleading is destructive to the marital hierarchy and is ultimately going to be unsatisfying for the manipulated husband as well as the manipulative wife. It essentially turns the husband/Captain into a puppet and the wife/First Officer into the one pulling the strings. Unfortunately, women both deeply fear and deeply desire to submit to their husbands, but the puppeteer can’t submit to the puppet because when she lets go of the strings, down the puppet goes.
Backleading stands in contrast to a bit of playful feistiness or resistance in bed, of course. Play wrestling or pretending that she’s trying to pull away or push him off can be a fun dynamic where he asserts his strength and domination by pulling her back, playfully pinning her down, or not letting her push him off. That can be quite delightful for a woman to submit to, but it is a far different dynamic than the manipulativeness of trying to backlead one’s husband.
Lady Reader, if you are trying to assert a feisty personality by using backleading in your marriage, I think you are making a mistake. We’ve discussed before that a small amount of sauciness can be tantalizing to your man, but you’ve got to know when to lay off the sauce, and it’s sooner than you think. This kind of backleading is misguided, but not truly evil, in that it simply doesn’t work; it won’t attract the man but neither is it rooted in a rebellious heart.
But there is another way that a wife sometimes uses backleading: as a means of passive rebellion by which she gets to call the shots while looking like a good little submissive wife. This is actually full rebellion masquerading as obedience. Backleading is rooted in a fearful heart that clutches at the reins of power as a means of trying to maintain control over one’s world. But women were not designed (neither by nature nor by nature’s God) to have this kind of control, and we are not happy being frightened puppeteers.
Women: let go of passive rebellion and manipulative backleading.
Stingray: It Comes Down to Trust
- On the cultural perversion of submission
- Do men secretly wish they were married to doormats?
- Everyone’s into submission fantasies now. Feminists are annoyed, while Christians are predictably useless.
- Submitting to corrupted authority
- When submit in everything means “but not this thing.”
- Christian women need not fear servility.
- Ladies: Don’t be sassy. Be this instead.
- A reader requests advice on marital submission when the wife works full time.