Of course definitions are not set in stone, but "Topping" tends to refer to activities that are the BDSM equivalent of lovemaking.
Rather than bringing her partner to the peak of ecstasy through her pelvic muscles and oral technique, the Top renders him a quivering wreck or pleading cum-monkey, depending on her objectives. Just as in love-making, the reactions of the partner - the "Bottom" - shape the actions of the Top. This often-negotiated experience is interactive, a conversation in pain and groans, and is known as a Scene.
In the real-world BDSM club culture, I doubt this distinction matters because public play is all about Scenes, i.e. Topping and Bottoming.
However, this is a critical distinction where the BDSM is part of an actual Domination and Submission relationship. It just doesn't work if the ostensible sub is really after specific scripted experiences... the "do me sub" who tops from the bottom.
This distinction is even more critical if your dominatrix (or dom but I'm a male sub) is "vanilla".
If you're read my Getting her to be a vanilla dominatrix, then you will have encountered my PIRI modes.
They're just a way of mapping the moods of your partner. This is not a manipulative technique so much as a systematic reality check, something male subs seem to need:
- Interact: Talking, playing, making love. Interacting with the people around her.
- Project: Bossing, managing, creating, expressing, discoursing, lecturing, playing music. Giving a blow job. Projecting herself on the people around her.
- Resonate: Listening, basking in adulation, watching, absorbing. Receiving cunnilingus. Resonating to the people around her.
- Ignore: Getting on with things in her own space. Masturbating. Ignoring the people around her.
- Top: Engages with your experience in order to toy with you.
- Sadist: "Forces" an experience on you. (NB most BDSM folk would count a sadist as a kind of top.)
- Goddess: Basks in your adulation.
- Ice Queen: Gets what she wants. Doesn't care what you think.
Here's how Introverts and Extroverts pass through the PIRI Modes as their energy levels diminish - not just in BDSM, but in real life too:
- Extrovert begins in Interact. Paying attention to other people requires effort so as she becomes tired, she drifts into Project and stops listening to other people. Finally, when exhausted, she enters Ignore.
- Introvert also begins in Interact. However, she finds exposing herself to be exhausting, so as she fatigues, she drifts into a passive Resonate, before shutting down in Ignore.