We know that a person's relationship blueprint is fundamentally a self-other blueprint that originates with one's parents, especially ones mother. A series of experiences of oneself is integrated into a self identity and a series of experiences of one's parents are integrated into a generalized concept of the other. Of course, we have many senses of ourselves and many senses of others, some of which conflict, but there is still a general sense of oneself and a general sense of all others.
Since this self-other relationship blueprint originates in a parent-child relationship it is fundamentally hierarchical. There is an inherent power dynamic in everyone's relationship blueprint fundamentally. There is an above and a below. Originally the parent is above and oneself is below, even literally.
Since we can identify with either pole of our relationship blueprint we can actually play either role in relation to others. Everyone alternates but people have their preference, above or below.
Depending on the balance between love and aggression from parents towards their child this above and below template can become increasingly distorted toward aggression and fixated there. If there is too much aggression the template shifts toward from other and self to above and below then to superior and inferior or better and worse. If there is even more aggression than that from the parent toward the child the template shifts toward sadistic and masochistic. Everyone has some degree of sadomasochism in his or her relationship blueprint.
Above and below, superior and inferior, sadistic and masochistic, crime and punishment, and so on, are played out in most human relations, from familial relationships to work relationships to friendships to romantic relationships to sexual relationships. Since sexual relationships are so important to people and are so potentially intimate and emotionally charged, sadistic and masochistic tendencies can play out very obviously and deeply in sexual dynamics.
For a variety of cultural reasons women tend to take the masochistic position and males the sadistic position sexually. But, in fact, each sex is identifying with both roles in a given sex act. And sometimes the roles shift.
This erotic cornerstone of most people's sex lives need not be the hindrance that it can be. If it is taken to its extremes and this erotic hierarchy dominates over the sensual experience in sex, then it easily slips into a perversion and diminishes the sexual experience as a greater and greater perversity are required to experience pleasure. In which case the real contact between the partners is substituted for by mentally derived roles. On the other hand, as a spice added in, versus the primary focus of the sex act, this erotic cornerstone of people's relationship blueprints can actually enhance the experience by increasing polarization and adding an erotic theater. It's like adding spice to a meal, the trick is to add just enough.
Successfully being able to navigate these dominance and submissive tendencies in oneself and others is also required to successfully sex with most people. If you can't find your way around somebody else's erotic blueprint and relate to them where they are at they are not likely to be able to meet you sexually. In other words, most people are very wrapped up in these top and bottom roles and to make contact with them sexually and otherwise it is necessary to meet them where they are at.
An example of the liability of not being able to play these roles is the male who's not willing to lead in sex, perhaps due to some Oedipal inhibition (last week's topic), even though most women desire some level of dominance by the male. It's easy to see how these roles can be taken too seriously, and often are, but, on the other hand, even if one has relatively transcended one's relationship blueprint some role-playing is required to get through to most people, at least sexually... And it can be fun!