The Piece about Gay Sex Labels

The Piece about Gay Sex Labels

This write-up is very American, set in New York, and originally published nymag.com as ‘Who’s On Top?’

I read it, and since most LGBT issues, especially the ones pertaining to gay sex, are globally relatable, I felt it ought to be shared here. Read and let us know your thoughts.

*

The surge in Internet dating has enabled straight singles to delineate their romantic requirements in no uncertain terms—religion, income, smoking policy—but in gay men’s personals, there’s another category in the mix: top or bottom. (For those not in the know, the bottom is, sexually speaking, the one on the receiving, or “catching,” end of things.) In a city where it’s hard enough to figure out how to get sex, gay men must also figure out how to have it. The wrong position in the right guy can be an automatic deal breaker, making an already complex dating world even more difficult to navigate. “I’ll be online,” says Jason, 33, a financial consultant, “chatting with some guy, we’ll be getting along really well, and then I’ll say I’m a bottom and he’ll say, ‘Me too. Okay. Good-bye,’ and sign off.”

Though many men despise being labeled, offering up their versatility as a selling point, like a six-figure income or well-defined lats, others say a versatile’s just a bottom in denial. “New York is a bottom town,” says Jason. “When you’re on manhunt.net and the profile says ‘versatile,’ you know that guy’s a bottom. It means he will top but doesn’t like to. I’m a bottom, and my profile says versatile.”

Jason will top on occasion, when he loses the game known as “Race to the Bottom,” but he doesn’t enjoy it as much. “One of the reasons I don’t top as much is because I don’t have to do as much work—not that I’m a lazy bottom who just lays there.” When he finds himself being asked to top by a guy he likes, he takes Viagra. “That way, there’s not as much potential for it to fall through if I’m not totally into it. There’s not as much riding on the erection factor, and I can just enjoy the sex.”

Some surmise that the Big Apple’s bottom surplus is a reaction to the daily grind of making it in the city. “I have to be on all day,” Jason says. “At night, I don’t want to have all the responsibility on me. And the responsibility is on the top because he has to have an erection in order for sex to happen.” Other men say it’s only natural to want to be a bottom when it’s the bottom who has the most fun. Contrary to what many straight people assume, bottoms are not necessarily submissive or masochistic; any man who’s done some exploring knows the pleasures of the prostate.

Some bottoms call themselves “power bottoms,” which means they take pride in bottoming and are extraordinarily picky about the anatomical endowments of their partners. “A power bottom,” says Stan, 38, a literary agent, “is somebody who can take it pretty easily and likes it a lot. I know a guy like that who’s only topped four guys in his life. I said to him, ‘That’s one per decade!’ ”

With so many proud bottoms in this town, it’s enough to make even the most committed tops question themselves. “My best friend and I are both active tops,” says Dennis, 26, a stylist, “and we’re always talking about how unsophisticated and tacky and eighties we feel, like we’re missing out on all this pleasure. We feel like we’re in the service industry. The bottom gets the good end of the deal.”

Dennis has been thinking a lot about position lately because he keeps getting bait-and-switched: He meets a guy he’s certain is a bottom only to take him home and find that he’s a top. “It’s made it hard to get in a relationship because it seems like every time someone seems right for me on other levels, he turns out to be a top. We’ll try switching, and it’s not satisfying, then fast-forward a month and we’re talking about the other guys we’re dating.”

Some gay men are reluctant to define themselves as top or bottom. Stan fell for his boyfriend when the subject of position came up on their first date. “He said, ‘Are you top or bottom?’ I said, ‘Both,’ and he said, ‘Yay!’ I would never date someone who said he was one or the other.”

Bill, a 36-year-old journalist, spent time in Amsterdam, where he found that most gay men were versatile, then moved to New York, where everyone was obsessed with top/bottom. “It’s very American to have to decide, like ‘McDonald’s or Burger King?’ Why should you limit yourself that way?” Versatility benefits everyone, he says. “The best tops are also bottoms because they know what it feels like.”

The issue is made more complex by that fact that looks are no indication of proclivity. Gone are the handkerchief codes of the seventies, where a hankie in the left pocket indicated a guy was a top, and the right indicated a bottom.

Some say there’s a reverse correlation between appearance and position—many short guys and drag queens are strict tops, while steroidal gym rats can be devoted bottoms. “All those Chelsea boys are bottoms!” cries Adrian, 28, a filmmaker. “I remember being at Barracuda one night, and this drag queen was going around to different guys saying, ‘Bottom, bottom, bottom,’ but no one was willing to admit it.”

Some men are tops when they’re single but become bottoms once they fall in love. Adrian considered himself a top when he met his current boyfriend, Mike, who had never bottomed. “He had issues about it,” Adrian says. “But he was willing to be a bottom with me because of the emotional connection.”

The first time, Mike was nervous, so they joked about it to make things more comfortable. “I said, ‘Honey, it’s going to hurt me as much as it’s going to hurt you.’ We were laughing hysterically. He speaks five or six languages, and he was going back and forth between them, saying, ‘Why do you gay people do this?’ ”

Since then, they’ve been jockeying for position. Adrian now calls himself “a bottom who’s not willing to give it up.” “I’m a white boy with a Puerto Rican butt,” he says, “so Mike’s always saying, ‘Look at your butt! You have to be the bottom!’ We’re always chasing each other around the apartment, these two 145-pound guys trying to pin each other down.”

For gay men who haven’t yet found their Mr. Right, the difficulty in New York may have less to do with position than competition. “I do yoga four times a week and have 7 percent body fat,” says Stan, “and I still can’t get guys to say hi to me. The real challenge in New York has nothing to do with being a top or bottom. It’s getting a second date.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Previous Photo: National Chocolate Day
Next Russian politician expresses his outrage over Apple CEO Tim Cook’s coming out

About author

You might also like

Our Stories 11 Comments

The One About FINDING JESUS

Originally published on sagbachronicles.com So it’s Christmas day and I see a missed call from my aunt. (The same one who prayed for a wife for me in THE PRAYER)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Our Stories 33 Comments

WITH A QUESTION, BEGIN

Someone has said that here in KD we like to rehash issues over and over again without letting things rest. I will fall to the temptation of doing it here

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Our Stories 97 Comments

That Article About Gay Nigerians

A KDian brought this blogpost to my attention, and when I read it, I kept finding myself veering between amusement and derision for its stereotypical content. Some of it, I

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

48 Comments

  1. Max
    November 01, 04:13 Reply

    This issue of top and bottom has to stop… And the so called strictly tops should get of whatever delusional high horse they’re on.. They wanna climb and tear down ppls ass but wouldn’t dream of the same to be done to them.. Human beings like labelling things… Every man can be top or bottom or whatever.. In fact I’ll never date anyone who identifies as either top or bottom.. That classification is just crazy..and then I hate those who pop the question during a chat.. Puts me off…

    I’ve seen the so called “strictly tops” who make some silly statements like; “I don’t suck”… I’ll be like what??? U kidding right?? But you enjoy being sucked.. Well if @least half of everyone was like me, none of them are gonna get laid in years..

    So to all the ” high horse ” strictly tops, get off it, cos if you meet my type, you’ll be shot down with a sniper rifle..
    To the bottoms , stop giving up your ass for niggas that don’t deserve it just cos you can’t find better… Try a dildo.. I can help you order one if you want.. *winks…

    • R.A
      November 01, 06:14 Reply

      Bless you Maxxy *turns vodka from V-shaped bottle*
      I don’t even know who is worse….the one that chats 5 lines with you and fires “What’s your role?” Or the one that you’re willing to bend the rules for to play bottom and blurts out “I’m top, never in my life can it be the other way round, even a finger can’t go in there” ….Really??!! I know you’re top already you just gotta assure me a nice time not mouthing off about how you can never receive what you’re doing to others. Kmt some people just don’t get it.

      • pinkpanthertb
        November 01, 06:22 Reply

        I blurt that question out sometimes o. Especially when all I’m looking for at the moment is just a hookup. I mean, i’m like, let’s get that out of the way already, so I can know how much to focus on us getting together sometime. 🙂

    • Obatala
      November 01, 07:04 Reply

      Mr max, I find your comments shocking. its like you have a private vendetta against all tops. so in your opinion every top should try being bottom so as to get off that high horse? jeez… you really have some great ideas. I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like being bottom… does that make me delusional?

      • Max
        November 01, 07:50 Reply

        I never said you should turn to anything.. I’m saying all asses should be made available.. When you’re dating someone, all of you should be accessible to him.. Its now his choice whether to do it or not.. I hate the idea of “nothing goes down there” blurted out by most so called “strictly tops”.. But they’re quick to jump on other guy’s ass as if they were born with an assgina.. Both asses in a relationship should be accessible..thats all I’m saying.. I know most ppl who identify as bottom will gladly sit back relax and let someone else screw them.. But it shouldn’t negate the fact that sometimes they have ass too..and some bottoms might wanna try something new.. Infact bottoms like fingering … So they shouldn’t be denied that..

  2. Brian Collins
    November 01, 05:04 Reply

    *air kisses Max* love you boo. very valid points. Though lemme say some tops really don’t like to bottom, as a lot of my friends who ‘like’ to bottom don’t like to top, it doesn’t mean they are on a high horse. When i tell them i have done both at times they just look at me like i am crazy.
    My ish is with the silly guys who don’t wanna touch you, it so pisses me off. I had a conversation with a top friend sometime ago maybe Pinky will post it here.
    You wanna get pleasured and not give back especially the Humongosaurs amongst us. They wanna just hit it without making their bottom relaxed by getting them very aroused. It just sucks.
    And for guys who are stereotyped pls stop it. I hit it off with a guy sometime ago and i hadn’t started topping at all then and he also liked only to bottom and what we had just died. I still kinda miss him.
    When you really like someone and want a relationship with them then you can compromise. I imagine that DM would let Mrs M top him if she wanted to, check who says she doesn’t already.
    That talk about versatility is something else. Has anyone noticed that most porn stars are versatile, they have more fun during sex, receiving and taking and stuff. Is you watch main stream porn like hairyboys and coltstudios you will notice this and for me there is nothing hotter than flip flop sex. I absolutely love versatiles i feel like they are more complete gay men breaking that stereotype of being top or bottom.

    • Max
      November 01, 05:13 Reply

      Sometimes the So called tops forget the bottoms wank to get off.. They don’t cum thru the ass do they???

      • pinkpanthertb
        November 01, 05:21 Reply

        Max, you’re just stealing my every thought from my mind and making them comments. Haba! Stop nau. Each time I look, lo and behold, Max has said something I laud and wished I coulda said sooner.

  3. Absalom
    November 01, 05:10 Reply

    Read this couple of years ago. Still find it funny and insightful. Speaks to the complex issue of how everything in a gay relationship eventually is reduced to roles (who penetrates and who gets penetrated).

    Of course I’m one of those who thinks it’s better if we don’t obsess about these roles. You meet a great guy, you like him, but what he prefers to do in bed during ONE sex act (bodily penetration) becomes a deal breaker. Whatever else he’s got going for him no longer counts. Yeah, it’s sad and an indictment on what we’ve been raised to believe about sex and sexuality. With the exception of gay men who don’t practise anal, we are all guilty. It’s all ideas we borrowed from our heterosexual brothers and sisters; gay men who wonder how lesbians have sex are actually asking how penetration takes place.

    It’s all good to theorise, though, but the reality of the matter is grimmer. Maybe subsequent generations will have totally different ideas of sex and sexuality. Till then, we’ll play as we know to. *sips tea*

    • Peak
      November 01, 07:45 Reply

      I’m with u all the way, its the idea that was handed down. That’s the only way we can establish sexual compartibility. I use to tell guys am all top when I started out and a guy I once met, asked me “how do u knw u don’t like something u ve never tried?” Since then I told myself that am open to the thought of compromising/buttoming, but that is if it with the right guy/the level of how attracted I am to the other party. In other words he would ve to be a verse too

      • Max
        November 01, 07:53 Reply

        I have an ex who was one of the so called tops.. Before me, he never tried bottoming .. After I gave it to him real gud, he was happy to do it all the time… You’ll never know what you’re missing till you try doing something different..

  4. McGray
    November 01, 05:38 Reply

    If i comment now u guys will finish me off with ur replies but i like to Top, and i’m not among the category of selfish tops who wouldnt wanna give his ‘wife’ maximum orgasm. Nt all tops are selfish or ‘high horse’. Someone like McGray is different. Like i said i wont comment on this post (winks @ Max)

    • Max
      November 01, 06:22 Reply

      Lol… Retracts fangs & claws..

  5. king
    November 01, 06:21 Reply

    Now where’s that my ticket I didn’t use early this year to NY….hmmm must think it again oooo…”NY a bottom town??? I like biko…

    • Peak
      November 01, 07:48 Reply

      Omo no be small Thing oooooo
      Buttom town, if NY na buttom twn, I wonder what LA is……….

  6. Dennis Macauley
    November 01, 06:42 Reply

    And they had to use my name in the article?

    Even the one that joined my bedroom details to this matter?

    My god will answer you!

    • pinkpanthertb
      November 01, 06:49 Reply

      Hahahahahahaa!!! I knew you’d have something to say about the use of your name. when I read that part, I chuckled.

    • Brian Collins
      November 01, 08:26 Reply

      Chaii, i didn’t mean any offense o. DM i only used you guys as an example. If was an entirely if-to-say scenario. Biko nu, no ves o.
      And my dear Mrs M i wasn’t saying otherwise. If you read the earlier part of my post you’d have seen that i mentioned that.

  7. Mrs Macaulay
    November 01, 06:45 Reply

    This is a very simple matter; to each his own.

    I identify as a bottom, I prefer being a bottom. Dennis goes the opposite way, works for both of us. Everybody is happy!

    • king
      November 01, 08:23 Reply

      Couldn’t have said my thoughts any clearer…love love love u right now Mrs!

  8. Peak
    November 01, 07:58 Reply

    Gay datings is quite complicated, u chat up a guy who u think u like and he turns out to be a top. Things just gets Awkward from there. Even if u propose to be friends, niggas aren’t just interested, its all about sex to them. Why is it so difficult to meet a guy that u ve the same role with and want to be friends but they just can’t deal cos all they want is sex
    @ max, I de ask oooooo so that I knw how to go about my advances. I can’t afford to hook up and thing get awkward

    • Max
      November 01, 08:17 Reply

      Oh honey, ure gonna be on a very lonely journey here.. The best thing to do is to maybe tell them youre verse…thats if you must..usually I stop chatting with anyone when they ask the question though.. It puts me off.. We know everyone wants sex.. But that shouldn’t be all there is to it.. Even I want sex.. But I don’t go around screwing anything that comes my way.. Emotional connection.. That matters too..not just the sex..

      • Peak
        November 01, 08:51 Reply

        No love! U are talking like that cs u are prolly a verse. How do u expect folks who don’t multi task? This is a classical “person way ask question no de miss road” situation. If u get put off by such questions, all I can say is “with each his own

        • pinkpanthertb
          November 01, 17:40 Reply

          Hahahahahahahaa. Multi task. Chai! I’ve heard it all on KD.

      • Max
        November 01, 09:07 Reply

        You don’t get it.. Unlike how being gay is natural, being a type of gay(top or bottom) is a choice… Most tops think being top makes them more of a man ..and thats how they cringe at the mere mention of suggesting to try it out.. In their head, some ppl were born to be tops.. And others have to bend over .. Thats my point.. It doesn’t have to be that way.. At the end of the day, everyone still ejaculates through the dick..

  9. JArch
    November 01, 08:06 Reply

    I had a headache after reading this….sheesh… No wonder people think we have super powers. Its this and that and that and this…

    Haba I think roles are necessary mbok, everybody please clearly state your role. Makes life a whole lot easier and less time consuming.

    If you’re versatile, congratulations… Double portion of blessings are yours. Please be ready to chop that D and give that D.

    All that hidden code of claiming top or versatile when your hole is gasping for sausage and expecting the other guy to figure you out as if he’s a psychic isn’t sexy at all.

    • Absalom
      November 01, 08:47 Reply

      Hahahaha. Gasping for sausage indeed! Heu! ^_^

    • king
      November 01, 08:56 Reply

      Well said Jarch…i mean isn’t it someone’s psych that says whether he’s a bottom or top…i.mean if you are not BOTTOM you are NOT!!!! simple and short and I might add sweet!!! So yes I prefer the first thing we get our of the way is the roles we feel COMFORTABLE in being rather than guessing jeez!!! Now where is my ticket to NY biko….all this naija thinking almost messing me up!!!

    • chestnut
      November 01, 09:21 Reply

      Lol…niggaz be like: “I don’t bottom, but I just want to try it with u”…only for u to find out afterwards that he uses d same line on EVERY dude,lol.

  10. Absalom
    November 01, 08:33 Reply

    Max, you seem to have finally come to the thrust of the article. I don’t see why you’d be angry when asked about your role early on. It’s exactly what the article is querying: Why is “role” at the core of gay dating? Why does this…”emotional connection” you talked about go to waste once we discover we’re both tops or both bottoms? Why do we even define ourselves by what we do in bed?

    In the end, to each his own. I know how I like it in the bedroom and everybody is happy. The article falls under “Just Saying”. No need having sleepless nights over it. Just enjoy yourself!

  11. Lanre Swagg
    November 01, 09:44 Reply

    Here in a Africa, it seems we have one more hurdle to cross on this Top vs Bottom issue- that hurdle is Culture. Because of our Masculinity-Worshipping Culture, being Bottom is synonymous with being Weaker or Slutty. Even Bottoms tend to view their gift as being like the Inferior Position, so there is a sense of Self-Rejection and definitely Denial, manifested as Fake Profiles and Claims to be Top or Versatile….like this dude who when I met made it clear he was Top too but when he sized me up, warned me never to tell anyone the truth cos it would compromise his self-image. He takes dick better than Apple makes computers. The whole idea of being Power Bottom is lost on Africans- what’s that? Bottom is weak, not powerful. I wish the bottoms would see themselves as God’s gift to mankind, love themselves, take care of their minds and bodies, and thoroughly enjoy being fucked. Also know that Being Bottom is strictly a sexual role and not a Personality Type. I’ve met Bottoms who are stronger and more masculine than me, though many prefer to do the macaroni. Whatever your outlook, just be happy. One other thing- because of the Stigma attached to Being Bottom, they tend to wanna restrict their Tops- such as “enter slowly”, ” don’t pound too hard” and “your dick is too large jor ..”: meanwhile, a True Top just tends to break all those limitations naturally.

    • king
      November 01, 10:12 Reply

      Lanre where have you been all my life!!! Whaaaat your are soooo right I could kiss u online!!!

    • Peak
      November 01, 10:35 Reply

      I get you now max, I sometimes have that kind of thought in my head! I guess we will just blame it on the society since every one is trying so hard to man up

    • Legalkoboko
      November 01, 21:06 Reply

      ” He takes dick better than Apple makes
      computers”. Lwkmd!

  12. Bobby
    November 01, 11:21 Reply

    Hhhhhmmmmm…Just reading comments for today…quite ridiculous if i may say

  13. Ace
    November 01, 21:04 Reply

    Just came in for the comments. Lol. See me saying I’ll move to New York next year only for it to be tagged “bottom land”. Talk about seal of confirmation. No roles for me, I am open minded like that. Swing both ways like a spork.

  14. teajsy
    November 06, 16:48 Reply

    Hurry to us versatiles lolz u can only top well if u know what it means to bottom so what’s everyone s problem be sides ur not much of a gay man if u don’t taste both sides.

  15. Goshap
    January 03, 10:46 Reply

    without labels the world would be chaotic, try going to the mall or supermarket, where good aint labelled or branded, just some blank silver tin can shining at you, you’ll go home with milo thinking its bounvita.

    yep strictly top, sue me, and i can tell u for a fact when a guy says his versatile ,his bottom and i know am gonna have him, and lol whenever a top tells me his top, but he could give me a blow or hand job, to me his a bottom scared of getting it shoveled up in their.

    • pinkpanthertb
      January 03, 13:23 Reply

      For one who believes in labels, you have a warped sense of it

  16. Goshap
    January 03, 10:50 Reply

    not much of a gay guy unless you’ve tasted both sides,TASTE BOTH SIDES MY HUH!.

Leave a Reply