top and bottom

Many gay men identify with either a top or bottom role, which is fine; but, to what extent should a sexual position/role dominate chosing a potential partner? What if a bottom meets a sexy, intelligent, funny man who is compatible in every way, but it turns out he is also bottom. Is that a deal breaker straight away or can this be worked around? Most guys would probably not persue that relationship any further as sex is an important factor in a relationship (gay or straight) but could other options be explored? Gay men looking for a relationship drastically reduce their chances of meeting someone if they are only looking for either a top or a bottom. Imagine a gay man who specifically wants to be with a bottom: say there are 500 single gay men looking for a relationship in his town but half of them are tops and a quarter of them don’t do anal. So that leaves a much smaller pool of potential mates.

Does the Gay World Over-Hype Sex?

Sexual attraction is a wonderful, irresistible and sometimes inexplicable force that draws us together so it’s obviously important and desirable. However, the gay world (magazines, advertising, phone apps, clubs) exaggerates this and beats us over the head with it to get our attention and sell us everything from holidays to designer underwear. Essentially, gay men are being lead (or told) to believe that sex is much more important than it actually is. If you take away the topless images from the average gay magazine, what is left? What else could possibly be worth presenting other than sex? Of course, men are horny and think about sex every few seconds; that’s a fact. But is sex really a lifestyle? Shouldn’t it just be a great pastime? With this backdrop from the gay media, is it really suprising that the first question most gay men type when chatting on their dating apps is ‘are you top or bottom?’ What if you lived in a remote village in the middle of nowhere with only a couple of other gay men; how much importance would you give that question then?

How Important is Sex in a Relationship?

When you first meet someone you are crazy about, it’s natural to have lots of sex. A few months in to the relationship, this amount becomes less and a few years later you could only be doing it once a week or so. So in the long run (and if you are looking for a relationship, this is the goal) what percentage of your time will actually be spent having sex as opposed to conversing, cooking, sleeping, shopping and all the other normal everyday things couples do? It’s quite a small percentage. Imagine you have sex for 30 minutes twice a week. One hour a week works out to around 48 hours a year. So if you look at it that way then sexual roles should not be a major criteria when searching for someone to share your life with (the clue is in the word life, not just bed or sex-life; your whole life). Of course, there needs to be sexual attraction but sexual positions come secondary to that.

So if you meet the perfect man but you are not sexually compatible it may help to examine the reasons why each of you are taking one side or the other. Some men equate their sexual role with something much deeper within themselves, for example an active man may want to express his inner dominant macho drive and a passive man may like the idea of taking the woman’s role in a relationship and receiving anal is part of that. For these cases, their sexual roles are non-negotiable and that’s fine. If that is you, you can stop reading now. But, apart from what you feel inside about your own role and what you prefer, have you possibly thought about what you may be projecting onto others? For example, if you tend to think that bottoms are feminine or that tops are more manly (which is a stereotype), is that clouding your view of reality?

Compromise – the way forward.

A top may say that bottoming is too painful. This can be true but that is surmountable. All muscles in our bodies (including the anus) are controlled by the brain so if you are telling yourself it’s painful, then it will be. If you tell your arm or shoulder to relax, then it does. With time and practise, a top could easily receive anal without discomfort (if a woman can give birth to a baby then you can start to experiment with a finger or two) but whether he will enjoy it or not is another matter (there are so many nerve endings around that area that in theory it should be pleasurable), what I’m getting at here is compromising (or give and take -excuse the pun) for someone you really like. Whether you are top or bottom your muscles etc work in the same way. On the other hand a bottom may say he can’t get hard enough to actually do the penetration. So would Viagra help? Or is he saying he is bottom just to avoid disappointment and in fact he would love to do the topping? What about role playing and experimenting; it’s possible you could find a new side to you and enrich your sex life.

Cultural Programming and Sexual Roles.

There are gay men from Arabic or Latino cultures where the idea of a man being bottom is humiliating and not at all acceptable – it is a big enough step for them to accept their sexuality as it is, without taking a woman’s role in bed. This is a question of cultural programming and can also be addressed if you think someone is really worth the effort and you want a relationship to work. Even in the UK, there is a taboo about being passive. Many passive men will say they are ‘versatile’ on their Grindr profiles as they think being a bottom makes them less of a man (again, this comes back to stereotypes which have been programmed into our brains over the years). That’s where ‘versatility’ confuses things. But this comes down to loving yourself, letting go of stereotypes and accepting whatever role you like.

Of course, anal penetration is not the only way for two men to have sex and many gay men have fulfilling sex lives without it and would never even think twice about the top/bottom issue so maybe other avenues can be explored; there is a gay version of the Kama Sutra just waiting out there for you.

Another solution could be having threesomes, but you would need to be very sure of the stability and depth of your relationship and attraction to each other before you invite someone else in. Again, it all boils down to how much you like/ love your partner. Do you think it is worth experimenting and trying new things and a new roles and possibly even grow as a result? Remember the other qualities which drew you to him in the first place (humour, intelligence, etc). Ignore all the sexual razmataz of the gay world and try to see sex as part of a relationship but not the dominant component. Just as a dog is not just for Christmas, a relationship is not just about sex.