Looking Beyond Gay Tops and Bottoms To The Guys On The ‘Side’

Looking Beyond Gay Tops and Bottoms To The Guys On The ‘Side’

Originally published on cypheravenue.com

Gay men are constantly referring to and defining themselves as “tops” or “bottoms.” When they consider dating or simply hooking up, gay men typically ask the other guy whether he’s a top, a bottom or “versatile.” It’s important to find this out as soon as possible, because if you are planning to date or get into a relationship, it’s vitally important that you and he be sexually compatible with each other.

The whole issue of tops and bottoms came up recently with the release of a new study that looked at whether or not people can determine whether a gay man is a top or a bottom just by looking at facial cues. The study revealed that judgments made about whether an individual is a top or a bottom are based on perceived masculine and feminine traits.

There’s so much talk and discussion about who gives and who receives. I’ve had straight people tell me that they assumed that most gay guys simply take turns. Yes, some do, but most don’t. But what if a guy isn’t a top, a bottom or even versatile? What about gay men who have never engaged in anal sex and never will, ever?

I think they deserve a name of their own. I call them “sides.”

Defining a Side

Sides prefer to kiss, hug and engage in oral sex, rimming, mutual masturbation and rubbing up and down on each other, to name just a few of the sexual activities they enjoy. These men enjoy practically every sexual practice aside from anal penetration of any kind. They may have tried it, and even performed it for some time, before they became aware that for them, it was simply not erotic and wasn’t getting any more so. Some may even enjoy receiving or giving anal stimulation with a finger, but nothing beyond that.

Sexual Shame and Masculinity

Sides typically struggle with tremendous feelings of shame. They secretly believe that they should be engaging in and enjoying anal sex, and that something must be wrong with them if they are not. Often they won’t publicly admit to not engaging in anal sex, because of the judgments that other gay men might (and most likely will) make about them. I have heard gay men (and even straight people) say that if they aren’t penetrating or being penetrated, they aren’t having “real” sex.

If a man has undergone prostate surgery that caused nerve damage to the penis or suffers from hemorrhoids or other issues that make anal penetration impossible, uncomfortable or unappealing, then that physiological or medical reason takes most of the shame out of being a side. These men may be genuine tops or bottoms but become sides out of necessity.

The gay male community has its own preferences that often slide into prejudices, and a great many look down on anyone who’s not a top. Bottoms get talked about, even dismissed, as if they were women. As the joke goes, “Who pays for a gay male wedding? The father of the bottom.” While that may be funny, it shows a cruel contempt for femininity. It makes the insensitive presumption that a man “takes the woman’s role” by receiving, and that there’s something wrong with him for it, namely that he’s not masculine.

Straight men labor under the same misconception. If they enjoy anal stimulation for pleasure, they often worry that they might be gay. In my office, I’ve heard straight men admit that they enjoy receiving anal penetration from sex toys, or by having their female partners strap on a dildo and give it to them. The slang term for that is “pegging,” and many straight men love it. I jokingly tell the straight men who are insecure about enjoying anal play that, as a sex therapist, I am obliged to tell them that the human anus has no sexual orientation. The opportunity for anal pleasure exists in men and women alike, whether they are gay, bisexual, straight or of any orientation in between. Whether a man enjoys anal sex or not is no reflection on his sexual orientation, and if he’s gay, it doesn’t define whether or not he’s “really” having sex.

Historically, lesbians were told that with no vaginal penetration, they were not having “real” sex (and even today, some still are told this). These erroneous judgments come from a heterosexist and patriarchal definition of the only “right” way to enjoy sex.

One problem with this rigid model (pun intended) is that as males age and begin to lose their ability to achieve a full, strong erection on demand, they fear that they will never have “sex” again. They must learn other ways to satisfy their partners. But in order to do so, they must first work through the misconception that the only good sex is penetrative sex.

It’s OK to Be a Side!

It’s high time for sides to come out and feel proud and secure about their sexuality. Not being a top or a bottom doesn’t mean that one is less gay or less masculine. It doesn’t make anyone any less of a sexual human being.

The Internet is showing us that people get into a wide variety of sexual pleasures, and whatever you get into is exactly right for you.

Given the freedom to experiment and explore new techniques, being a side becomes equally hot and exciting as being a top, a bottom or an aficionado of any other position or practice.

Come out and be the side queen you were meant to be!

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  1. pete
    November 14, 07:18 Reply

    I’ve met some Sides

    • ambivalentone
      November 14, 07:46 Reply

      I met one too. Not real time tho. Convo was so weird, felt ‘Saint and the Sinner’ like.

  2. Andrevn
    November 14, 07:31 Reply

    I’m at a place ryt now, where I do not want to have sex. However it’s taking a lot of psychological conditioning. *it’s just been seven months only tho*

    Now is that a new joke “Who pays for a gay male wedding? The father of the bottom”. Like seriously!

    Funny enough gay men still will subscribe to these prejudiced notions – not like they’ve done any better in the past.

    But then don’t we just get tired of label…label…label…
    How much satisfaction is there in slapping a label on every sexual behaviour, like it’s something to be gotten off the counter of a grocery store?

    • Pink Panther
      November 14, 07:33 Reply

      Like most everything else in life, labels are both good and bad. They both help along life and distort it.

  3. john
    November 14, 07:35 Reply

    sides? they don’t exist. it happens we don’t won’t the shooting thing sometimes

    • Pink Panther
      November 14, 07:36 Reply

      Sides don’t exist? Are you serious? wouldn’t it be better if you simply say you haven’t met any such gay men?

    • Tiercel de Claron.
      November 14, 09:29 Reply

      Sides don’t exist?.I must have had sex with some ghosts in the past then.Thanks for clearing that up for me.

  4. #Chestnut
    November 14, 07:36 Reply

    *sigh*…But what are the odds of two “sides” ending up together? I’ve met a side b4…and I’m not a side.
    (Hey Peak, how u doin’?)

    • Pink Panther
      November 14, 07:37 Reply

      Lol. Peak is so not a side, hon. Why are you subbing him?

      • #Chestnut
        November 14, 07:45 Reply

        Lol. PP I’m not subbing Peak o.I think I remember him saying here, that he wanted to give the whole “no actual penetration” thing a try, that’s why I’m greeting him…innocently *grin*

        • Pink Panther
          November 14, 07:47 Reply

          Of course. You’re such a beacon of innocence. 😀

  5. Kristopher B!
    November 14, 08:07 Reply

    Way back in those teenage years, I used to be a side… Anal penetration was like walking through the valley of the shadow of death. Sex was the dick in lap thingy, who even knew about roles then? However, as one matured, I got to realize slowly but steadily how pleasurable the “real thing” can be… & yeah, I never looked back.

  6. Chizzie
    November 14, 08:20 Reply

    This is the exact type of post I despise, a post that reeks of faux liberalism and pseudo post modernism, blurring the lines in an attempt to make sense while actually making no sense. It sounds like something that Ronnie Phoenix would pen.

    So suddenly they are called “Sides”? Not only does that sound ridiculous but how the hell do they come up with such names.

    To me, so called Sides are people too afraid to take a dick up the ass, or avoid doing so for health reasons. So in essence they are bottoms. I think we completely ignore the psychological attributes attached to roles. I believe our roles are determined by our congenital personalities. Personalities we are born with.
    People that are naturally dominate, will always end up being Top, because you have to have a certain level of dominance, confidence and be overbearing to an extent, to actually penetrate a guys ass.

    The same applies to people that are submissive and have a higher pain threshold who invariably end up being bottom. And unfortunately, society attributes submission to a female quality. Woman aslo tend to have a higher pain threshold than men..

    Vers fall in between as they both have personalities of dominance and submission to a certain degree

    There are people who are born naturally timid, or who despise any level of discomfort whatsoever. These people end of being Sides. Except for those who for health reasons have resorted to non penetrative sex, and have been relegated to “side” duty.

    Our roles are determined by our personality types, so in essence we are born into them. Those who identify as roleless or socallled sexual butterflies are either pretentious fucks, or naturally ambiguous double minded people who can’t commit to an active decision and should be avoided at all cost.

    • ken
      November 14, 09:55 Reply

      “Avoided at all cost”?? Really???

      Theres no need to be paranoid. Real relationships go beyond sex roles. Ita about tolerance and acceptance

    • Yogi
      November 14, 11:58 Reply

      You take every discourse and turn it on its head. The blanket statements you make get me worried about the kind of influences you have had in this life. How is it that you know that sexual roles are determined by pain thresholds? Did anyone poke around your anal sphincters while plotting a curve of your acceptable pain levels then went ahead to assign you a role based on a previous hypothesis they made? Your views are obnoxious, please keep them to yourself.

      • Ven
        November 14, 19:56 Reply

        It’s become clear to me, over time, that he’s controversial for the sake of being controversial.

      • Marc Francis of Chelsea
        November 14, 20:21 Reply

        He’s the type of person who will say a yellow cup is blue just to feel like he’s taken a stance. Underdog complex at its worst. Don’t even bother. God punish whoever taught him this “faux liberalism” he’s learned recently.

    • ronniephoenix
      November 14, 16:07 Reply

      Why is it every time chizzie comments on something, it almost always never makes sense.

      And yes, this is the kind of post I live for. A post with harsh truths, the kind a person like chizzie hates.

      Nonsense, *hisses*.

  7. Max
    November 14, 08:48 Reply

    Would you date a side @Pinky?

    • Pink Panther
      November 14, 09:02 Reply

      Unlike most bottoms, the be-all of sex for me is not in the penetration.

      • Max
        November 14, 13:33 Reply

        Really? Hard to believe

      • ambivalentone
        November 14, 13:35 Reply

        Oh please. We all know u have hot flushes every single time u see VPLs. Dey form “dick is not my be-all”. Better be proud of ur calling. Yeye!!!

        • Pink Panther
          November 14, 14:50 Reply

          Trystham, just because you have a thirst for a dick up your ass every time you get down doesn’t mean every bottom is forming when he says anal penetration isn’t what he wants all the time.

          Sexual preference.

          It’s an actual term. You should check it out sometime.

          • ambivalentone
            November 14, 16:30 Reply

            *yimu Sexual preference eh kwa. I’ll bet its only when u see a D u can’t slay (or don’t wanna slay) u remember the term.
            Oh I didn’t mean ALL bottoms. Just you

            • Max
              November 14, 22:34 Reply

              Touché @Trystham

            • Pink Panther
              November 14, 22:57 Reply

              Well lucky for me, you have your life, ambivalentone, and I have mine. And I don’t have to deal with presumptuous people like you in mine.

  8. Dickson Clement
    November 14, 09:10 Reply

    Pegging? Seriously if a straight man enjoys pegging then he is at the edge of homosexuality!

  9. Dennis Macaulay
    November 14, 09:19 Reply

    Lemme just sit with my coffee and chew muffins alongside!

    Chestie boo! I saved you some

  10. Delle
    November 14, 09:22 Reply

    I believe people have different reasons for doing or being something. I’ve met a side (actually two sides) and it’s just a way to get out of the clutches of being labelled. The only disadvantage I think to being a side is, a side can only date a side. I don’t think a side and a bottom or a side and a top would work out and that really slims the chances of sides getting potential dates.

    To the femininity issue. It’s really amusing when people always feel the less masculine ones are the so-called recipients of anal copulation. I’ve met femme guys that top (no matter how unsettling that is to me though), it exists. I feel people misconstrue being a ‘bottom’ with being ‘submissive’ or ‘passive’. (I think Rupaul is a top!)
    There really is no criteria to being a top, bottom or a versatile but most submissive or passive guys fall into the effeminate category (this I know) and of course that’s why we have the ‘power bottoms’. Muscular, overly masculine guys that love to take cock up their chute but still dominant as ever. People should stop being stereotypical. With all these labels, orientations and what have you, I wonder how someone would come up to me and tell me he has a strong gaydar! Durling, it aint possible.

  11. Dennis Macaulay
    November 14, 09:27 Reply

    Abeg I’m tired of this role nonsense! Biko let’s do away with these stereotypes and the expectations that come with that!

    Just go with the flow baby! Go with the flow!


    • Jon Snow
      November 14, 09:54 Reply

      *asking for a friend*
      Dennis can you go with a flow to take a good …**cough**

        • Jon Snow
          November 14, 14:34 Reply

          is it not obvious enough??? cos having you on all fours is up there on my bucket list.

  12. Tobby
    November 14, 12:01 Reply

    *sides* who comes up with these names?. lol

  13. sensei
    November 14, 12:23 Reply

    Great article!

    For the comments, abeg I don tire. Make una kontinu!

  14. Marc Francis of Chelsea
    November 14, 13:44 Reply

    It’s all sexual preference. You can be anything you want in bed and you really don’t need a hug for saying you don’t like anal. If you don’t, you don’t and that’s that. No pressure.

  15. tarter
    November 14, 14:02 Reply

    I’m a side i guess…i don’t enjoy anal one bit,coupled with the terrible pain!mhen its not for me..but i do it sha,as naija tops carry fuck for head so,i don’t really have a choice…

    • Zage
      November 14, 14:25 Reply

      Bro u have a choice and no one should force you to do what you don’t like or feel like doing .

      • Mandy
        November 14, 14:52 Reply

        I taya o. So tarter, if a top with olumo-rock dick come to bang you, you go open leg gree am to enter, simply becos you ‘don’t really have a choice’? Seriously?

    • Teflondon
      November 14, 15:51 Reply

      This statements above is my problem with Gay guys (mostly promiscuous) in Nigeria. Can you imagine? So just cause you are bottom, you must open yansh for every top that wants sex? Jeez!
      I just pity the young generation of Nigerian gays (mostly bottoms), I run away from them like a plague. they don’t hesitate to travel around Nigeria fucking every Tom, Dick and Harry. It’s almost like a hobby for them.
      With mentality like the person who made the statements above, the Nigerian Gay community is in serious trouble.

      **clutches all my rough-necks to my chest***

    • tarter
      November 15, 15:52 Reply

      sigh…cos i said i don’t have a choice doesn’t mean i sleep around,don’t rate me with the hoes u know teflondon.

  16. Sinnex
    November 14, 14:37 Reply

    I see!

    …and I thought I had a problem.

  17. Diii'Okpara
    November 14, 15:28 Reply

    Hello Pinky & the KD Crew, am new around here, just tot to say hi?. The topics here on KD are quite stimulating most times my itchy fingers would luv to comment…

    Hem @Sir Pinky, pls ooo, any side niggy on waiting list? Abeg link ur she_’dren ooo, #MeLikey

    • Teflondon
      November 14, 15:42 Reply

      Hi Diii
      You called? Side Nigga here at your service.

    • lonz
      November 14, 17:34 Reply

      I swear teflondon is a slut. I swear it.

    • Max
      November 14, 22:41 Reply

      Hello first son, maybe you didn’t get the memo, but this isn’t a hookup site.
      Try badoo or manjam, or install grindr.

      • Diii'Okpara
        November 15, 07:18 Reply

        Haaaaa @Max, man gini? Se you want me to collect story that touch, abi…? Badoo ke? Christ! No offense, but I try to avoid such apps like the plague. I never born pikin ooo?

        I’d rather connect with a dude on a intellectual level first & foremost b4 anything s3x s3x s3x…qualities such as Gr8 sense of humor, Self trust/confidence, ambition, etc etc…Nothing beats cuddling that special 1, feeling his temperature as you pat his back gently: Pure awesomeness, that, imho

        Abi @TefLon na so you H.O.T reach? ?

        Mw @Lonz, i guess we all have a bit of monster slut albeit to varying degrees every now & then, ‘innit? ?

        @Pinky am still at atte.nshun ooo… Permission to mail you boss: i stumbled on some cool stories on the web i thot to share some laffs with the crew

  18. Duke
    November 14, 19:07 Reply

    In my relatively short period of sexual experience, I have met different types of guys. Fem Tops, Masc Bottoms, Sides, Bottoms who love rough domination, Tops who like to be rimmed etc. If we have to give a name to every sexual preference, we go tire cos it will keep evolving. My new goal is just to meet a cute guy, know what he like and simply have fun! All these microsm and partitions make it fun sometimes.

  19. Chuck
    November 14, 20:22 Reply

    I believe that if bottoming hurts it’s a red flag and you’re damaging something.

  20. Nonny
    November 14, 22:13 Reply

    Great piece! Enlightening comments. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion though. Personally, i am more concerned about the younger gay guys. They lack guidance, and are at risk of contracting STDs. Wish we could do more for them.

    • sensei
      November 15, 09:45 Reply

      God bless you! We need more like you here.

  21. KingBey
    November 16, 22:05 Reply

    I pity the young gay guys too. Both the Tops and Bottoms. These children doesn’t even know what’s a Condom. Especially those below 21…..OAN, bikonu, why am I suddenly finding it hard to keep an erection during sex? This has been going on for about three months now and it’s no longer funny. The dick is hard at first but when it’s time for the real deal, it just flops. This has made me to be uncomfortable about meeting someone as I don’t wanna embarrass myself. Bikonu, am I that old at 30? Doctors in the house, biko reply before a brother looses his mind. ?

    • posh6666
      November 16, 22:30 Reply

      At 30 you should be at ur most agile,it could be for the following do you sex really frequently?like twice or thrice in a week prior to these issue?it could affect ur sex drive,is your work really stressful?and most importantly maybe you consume too much sugary stuff so tone it down and go find a very good agbo jedi which you could always take during the weekend which will purge you and leave you feeling strong and horny.

      • KingBey
        November 17, 11:27 Reply

        Thank you for the reply. I don’t have sex very often. Maybe average of once a week or less but I used to sank every day which I have stopped recently….I’m guilty of the sugary stuff though I’m trying to stop. How do I go about the agbo jedi?

          • posh6666
            November 17, 11:52 Reply

            U wank everyday?you really need to stop that for a very long time to come hence ur erection can only get worse.Two bad combo i only drink malt now cos it contains less sugar,do u live in the south?if yes just ask around for the local market where those yoruba women sell agbo or ask around in any town you find yourself,there is bound to be yoruba women in any market.If u take alcohol i heard alomo bitters too really works like magic,just really limit d sugary stuff and stop the wanking for a long while or once a week if u cant help it.

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