The online diary of a gay courtesan.

Are you a top or a bottom?

Neither. I don’t care for the terms. If I use them at all, it’s only so that I don’t have to always explain myself. I also don’t care for masculine/feminine, active/passive, and man-in-the-relationship/woman-in-the-relationship. Although the terms are somewhat clinical, they are also accurate and devoid of implicit value judgements: I prefer the terms insertive and receptive.

Top/Bottom are highly problematic terms for me. The outright judgement contained within them make me a tad angry. Plus they’re completely inaccurate, at least in any instance where the people in question have enough creativity to move beyond the missionary position. Also, exactly how much does it flatten a person to one dimension when you ask “Are you a top or a bottom?” as if the response to this should carry all sorts of extended implications about relationship role, identity, mannerisms, and interests. (“I’m a bottom, but I play sports!” Mhm… fuck you for apologizing.) Because they are black/white terms, the gray areas have to be covered by the laughable term “versatile” (as in a tool? Is that what you mean?), so that further distinctions can be made (and I find it’s the “bottom” men who generally feel obligated to reaffirm their masculinity with this word “versatile,” in order to not be “demeaned” for being primarily “bottom” in the first place).

Masculine/Feminine is so frought with problems that I’m not even going to begin to dissect them as terms. Many scholars have already done this ad nauseum for the last 40 years or more. Go ask Judith Butler her thoughts on the construction of gender.

Active/Passive are just as annoying to me as top/bottom. Give me a damn break. The only people who could possibly think this is an accurate description of sexual roles are the people who’ve never experienced both. If you actually believe that the “bottom”/”woman-in-the-relationship” isn’t completely engaged by the sex act, then you’re either insensitive, ignorant, or stupid. Again, man/woman-in-the-relationship carries far too many ridiculous assumptions to be terms I can use.

The insertive partner, whether biologically male or female, is exactly that: The person who is inserting. The receptive partner, whether biologically male or female, is exactly that: The person who is receiving. (How much of a brain fuck does it become when I mention seeing a picture yesterday of two men fisting each other simultaneously? Who’s the “top/bottom” in THAT scenario? Hm? God I love gender theory!) Neither role is given more power with these terms. I don’t think I need to address in much detail the preference generally afforded to the insertive partner; however, I would like to take some time with the receptive role and its inherent power.

To receive, to hold, to welcome, to envelop, to surround, to cradle, to embrace, to squeeze… These are not passive actions. These are active actions. And I would argue that it takes far more strength of character, psyche, and even physical strength to endure being entered than inserting, entering, introducing, poking, stabbing, or pummeling do. Taking it out of the gay world for a minute: If a woman’s womb can bear a child, exactly WHAT does a man’s penis do that is anywhere in the same realm of strength, endurance, care, or investment? Men fall out from a kidney stone. Hell, men fall out from colds… I know I do. I’m a total wimp.

I must sound like an angry power bottom fairy guerilla homo commie pinko bastard. I’m not. Another reason I have difficulty with the top/bottom question is because it depends so much on my mood and where I am in my life. When I was a neonate, yes I was 100% receptive. My sexuality evolved and for several years I was split even 50-50. For a year or so I was 100% insertive. Right now I would have to say I’m somewhere between 75-25 and 67-33 leaning insertive. That will continue to change and evolve.

Ultimately I don’t see the point of being a gay man and not enjoying both roles. We are, sexually speaking, in a position (excuse the pun) to be the only people on the planet to truly know the joy of both. Women can be empowered by and enjoy various types of insertive activity, but they’ll never have a penis. Straight men who are afraid of their assholes will never enjoy fully what their bodies are capable of. It’s amazing for us homos to have that one advantage over everyone else. It makes me sad that so many people in our community cling so tenaciously to heteronormative sex roles. I personally think any gay man who is a total top or a total bottom is a total drag, because he isn’t open to experiencing the real joy that is a gay man’s sexuality, and he is often invested too much in a series of value systems that are incompatible with his sexuality (whether he realizes it or not).

Remember this: You may be penetrating me, but I am enveloping you. And I would want it to be a true vice versa. I do not in any way enjoy the idea of being the insertive partner, and feeling as if the person with me thinks himself bottom/passive… I don’t want to enter him unless he wants to welcome me. I want him there with me and engaged.

So… I guess ultimately what this means is that I don’t fuck. I meld.

12 comments

1 Jonathan { 03.04.09 at 1:08 pm }

I have always found it a complete mystery why some gay men think that it is appropriate to ask such a personal question in public (like when playing cards) or why they care. I personally have never cared as long as the person respected me and did not expect me to always behave in a certain role. I don’t cope well with people trying to control me.

Thanks for the interesting and enlightening analysis.

2 Devon { 03.04.09 at 5:44 pm }

yeah, it’s really bizarre to me… the last guy i tried to date told me he didn’t want to be sexual in order to get to know me. but then two days later he’s all like, “so, i know this is a manhunt-ish kind of question, but are you a top or a bottom?” it all went down hill from there.

3 joe { 03.04.09 at 10:12 pm }

devon, i love the terms you come up with to describe things. you can meld with me anytime. i think i will start using that term more. it sounds more romantic and i like to think sex is a part of romance. so, go forth and meld. you are one of a kind devon and that is awesome.

4 Jennifer { 03.04.09 at 10:59 pm }

*shaking my head in admiration*

So freaking awesome.

5 Devon { 03.05.09 at 9:29 am }

joe, the irony in this is that by using the “clinical” terms the people involved are reinvested with humanity… how strange is that?

6 jonathan { 03.05.09 at 9:50 am }

Hopefully this will not make Jennifer blush, but if I am a bottom who is on top does that make me a “tottom” or maybe a “botop”?

7 Jennifer { 03.05.09 at 11:41 am }

Ohhhh Jonathan, honey.

You will have to go a far, far, far piece to make Miss Jenny blush. Except perhaps in “vicarious admiration”. 🙂

I’m a nice girl, but not a good one.

Anyway, given Devon’s insights above, how about we call you a “rampant receptive” when you’re riding?

8 devon { 03.05.09 at 12:32 pm }

PWNED. LOL

9 Justin { 07.21.09 at 7:32 am }

Very late reply but I started my day procrastinating by checking out what was on your favorites list and found this.

I completely appreciate everything you’ve said. And yes, the linguistics of it all can be annoying. I guess I don’t mind top/bottom though in large part because I have been dubbed a ‘power bottom’ (or as was suggested above a ‘rampant receptive! lol). I feel like that gives me ‘back’ the, ummmm, power that seems to be lost in the top/bottom dichotomy.

At any rate, thought I’d share a recent related story. I was talking with a friend about having gotten laid and said friend says, “Awesome! Justin got fucked.” My reply was “Ahem….no, I did the fucking. His penis was there for MY use.” I think that cooked his noodle for a bit! LOL!

10 Doug { 11.09.09 at 11:24 pm }

Good essay… your blog in general is very insightful and well written.

11 Jane { 06.27.10 at 7:05 am }

(quote) We are, sexually speaking, in a position (excuse the pun) to be the only people on the planet to truly know the joy of both. Women can be empowered by and enjoy various types of insertive activity, but they’ll never have a penis. Straight men who are afraid of their assholes will never enjoy fully what their bodies are capable of. It’s amazing for us homos to have that one advantage over everyone else. (/quote)

This. I’m glad you realize this and appreciate its value. You have a chance to experience both worlds – it’s an incredible gift.

12 Gabriel { 07.13.12 at 11:29 pm }

“Asking which partner is the ‘man’ or the ‘woman’ in a gay relationship is like asking which chopstick is the fork.”

😀

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