Gay Sex Roles: Tops and Bottoms
This is one of those posts I’m keeping more clinical because I think it’s important to the discussion of m/m romance and almost all gay fiction. Even if this doesn’t come up in any particular book, it is dormant between the lines no matter how hard someone tries to dispute it (or ignore it). We often read a great deal about gender politics with regard to gay relationships that discuss the fundamentals, with respect to heteronormative couples, and most of that is a huge waste of human time. I think another fundamental aspect of any relationship…gay or straight…are sex roles. And there’s absolutely nothing dirty or obscene about this.
This article dates back a few years, but I think it’s one of the best I’ve read about gay sex roles in a long time.
Most psychology research that deal with gay men dichotomize the sex roles as Top and Bottom (if they differentiate among gay men at all) – preference for insertive anal intercourse and preference for receptive anal intercourse respectively. This paper summarizes a study that tested a more elaborate categorization, and finds that sex role preference is correlated with differences in physical preferences for a sexual partner among gay men, suggesting that the hypothesized categorization is meaningful. The data suggests that sex roles should be thought of as a continuous spectrum that map onto a continuous spectrum of physical preferences.
The new categorization tested includes 6 categories:
1) Only Bottom
2) Versatile, but prefer Bottom
3) Versatile, equal
4) Versatile, but prefer Top
5) Only Top
6) Never had anal sex / Don’t Know
In other words, diversification. I also think there could be a few more added to this list, but for now it’s simple and accurate. Of course I probably wouldn’t get into this in fiction unless the main character were a psychologist or something related, but these “things” are always in the background of any book whenever there is a situation that involves two people involved in a relationship that is even remotely sexual.
You can read the rest here
. I think it’s worthwhile reading. It disputes a lot of myths, for one thing.
Many gay men feel that there are more Bottoms than Tops, and the point of the study wasn’t to prove this one way or another. The milieu of gay.com may have skewed the proportions. But the point of the study was to see whether preference for certain physical traits were different among individuals among the different categories rather than finding out the actual distribution (which is a much tougher question because it’s hard to remove the bias of where you solicit your respondents).
To put this into an even more interesting (and simple) perspective, think about the most recent episode of True Blood. The flamboyant gay character who is always gender bending with clothes and image wound up in a situation with one of the more masculine vampires. In the next scene we find the more effeminate character topping and the more masculine character on the bottom. I’ve known many couples in real life like this, too. A lot of what we think we know on the surface only promotes the old stereotypes.
Be A Better Gay Top
Since I’m posting on this topic, and I have posted about how to be a better gay bottom, I thought I would be remiss if I didn’t post something about being a better top. This is really important, especially if the top is responsible for a bottom’s first time.
Anal sex can hurt. I sometimes think that the best Tops are guys who also Bottom because empathy always makes a better lover. The biggest problem most Tops have is that they don’t pay attention to their partner. They start the joust at full gallop. If you are going to Top remember that if you injure your partner before you even get started nobody is going to have a good time.
You can read more here
. The article gets into a lot of other issues I think are important. It states that it’s not just the bottom’s responsibility to bring the condom. It’s everyone’s responsibility and if you’re a good top you’ll pay attention to this. It’s true. Then again, I also know from personal experience that if you’re a smart bottom you’ll bring that condom anyway because the odds are the top guy won’t have one. When I was single I never met one who did carry one. He’ll tell you he’ll pull out. He’ll tell you he’s safe. He’ll tell you anything to get you to do what he wants. Just bring the condom and don’t trust anyone you don’t know well. This might not be the most clinical advice, or the most politically correct advice. But it’s like defensive driving…it’s the most logical advice if you want to remain disease free. And I’m not just talking about HIV. There’s a long list of sexually transmitted diseases that require medical attention you don’t want to get.
Davey Wavey on Good Tops
Davey Wavey, youtube star, has weighed in on this issue in a less clinical sense. But the first thing he gets into is something I’ve seen even in clinical articles: the best tops have also been bottoms and they know how things work, so to speak, from personal experience. I’m not sure that’s always true, even though it does make sense. There are plenty of good tops out there would never even consider bottoming. But it’s a fun video if you take it on surface value.
If you can’t see the video here, here’s the youtube link.
If you haven’t seen any Davey Wavey videos you’ll find more links on other related topics on that page to which I linked.
Small Town Romance Writer
by Ryan Field