sex roles

Tops, Bottoms, Versatiles…

I found this article and thought I’d post it. It’s an interesting examination of how gay men behave in certain sexual circumstances. Frankly, I don’t completely agree with everything. I think these studies are incorrect in the sense that I don’t think everyone’s telling the truth. There’s an old saying about the two things people lie the most about: sex and money.

There’s also nothing more frustrating in the world than two bottoms trying to figure out how to have fun. In fact, it’s downright pitiful and a complete waste of time.

One of the things I always try to put into my fiction is what’s really going on in the minds of my gay male characters when it comes to sex, not what studies say or research suggests. I want them to feel free to at least think about what they want, without any inhibitions. And we all have inhibitions we’ll never talk about openly…even the folks who take these surveys and do these studies.

But it’s an interesting piece, and a lot of the information is on target. Here’s a link, and I’ve posted part of the article below. I think it’s worth reading, especially if you’re a fan of m/m romance. And I think a lot of the information could apply to the straight world, too. I know for a fact a lot of you so-called straight guys aren’t being completely honest. And I don’t care what research says or studies show.

Top Scientists Get to the Bottom of Gay Male Sex Role Preferences

“Tops,” “Bottoms,” “Versatiles” and others in the study of gay male self-identity

By Jesse Bering | September 16, 2009 | 72

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Jesse Bering​

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It’s my impression that many straight people believe that there are two types of gay men in this world: those who like to give, and those who like to receive. No, I’m not referring to the relative generosity or gift-giving habits of homosexuals. Not exactly, anyway. Rather, the distinction concerns gay men’s sexual role preferences when it comes to the act of anal intercourse. But like most aspects of human sexuality , it’s not quite that simple.

I’m very much aware that some readers may think that this type of article does not belong on this website. But the great thing about good science is that it’s amoral, objective and doesn’t cater to the court of public opinion. Data don’t cringe; people do. Whether we’re talking about a penis in a vagina or one in an anus, it’s human behavior all the same. The ubiquity of homosexual behavior alone makes it fascinating. What’s more, the study of self-labels in gay men has considerable applied value, such as its possible predictive capacity in tracking risky sexual behaviors and safe sex practices.

People who derive more pleasure (or perhaps suffer less anxiety or discomfort) from acting as the insertive partner are referred to colloquially as “tops,” whereas those who have a clear preference for serving as the receptive partner are commonly known as “bottoms.” There are plenty of other descriptive slang terms for this gay male dichotomy as well, some repeatable (“pitchers vs. catchers,” “active vs. passive,” “dominant vs. submissive”) and others not—well, not for Scientific American , anyway.

In fact, survey studies have found that many gay men actually self-identify as “versatile,” which means that they have no strong preference for either the insertive or the receptive role. For a small minority, the distinction doesn’t even apply, since some gay men lack any interest in anal sex and instead prefer different sexual activities. Still other men refuse to self-label as tops, bottoms, versatiles or even “gay” at all, despite their having frequent anal sex with gay men. These are the so-called “Men Who Have Sex With Men” (or MSM) who are often in heterosexual relations as well.

Several years ago, a team of scientists led by Trevor Hart at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta studied a group of of 205 gay male participants. Among the group’s major findings—reported in a 2003 issue of The Journal of Sex Research —were these:

(1) Self-labels are meaningfully correlated with actual sexual behaviors. That is to say, based on self-reports of their recent sexual histories, those who identify as tops are indeed more likely to act as the insertive partner, bottoms are more likely be the receptive partner, and versatiles occupy an intermediate status in sex behavior.

(2) Compared to bottoms, tops are more frequently engaged in (or at least they acknowledge being attracted to) other insertive sexual behaviors. For example, tops also tend to be the more frequent insertive partner during oral intercourse. In fact, this finding of the generalizability of top/bottom self-labels to other types of sexual practices was also uncovered in a correlational study by David Moskowitz, Gerulf Reiger and Michael Roloff. In a 2008 issue of Sexual and Relationship Therapy, these scientists reported that tops were more likely to be the insertive partner in everything from sex-toy play to verbal abuse to urination play.