Top or bottom? Who decides?


top_or_bottom_who_decidesIt might as well be: “Which one’s the woman?” I’m certain that just about every gay guy has been asked that infamous question by both straight and gay people: “Are you top or bottom?”

It’s often first asked when gay guys come out; at a time when they are usually single, and possibly not actually having sex, or don’t have that much sexual experience. We are already then expected to decide on and define our bedroom preferences.

The biggest problem with the question, however, and why it can be so difficult and problematic to answer is that it’s so very loaded; it doesn’t merely address preferred sexual positions.

It’s mostly asked by people who have been raised by straight people in a straight world, with a heteronormative understanding of relationships. (Yes, you made us. Yes, you have broken us. We need to put ourselves together.)

That is to say their (our?) common understanding is that in all relationships one partner has to fulfil the female role and the other has to fulfil the male role, instead of both doing so.

So Jack has to do the cooking and the dishes. He has to make sure his man is satisfied sexually when he gets home from work. Jack must also be flamboyant, clingy and wear short-shorts and a crop top whenever seen in public.

Adam, on the other hand, must take care of and protect Jack. He must be ultra-masculine, pay for all the dinners, and have several gays on the side; the gay Casanova. That is why Jack checks Adam’s phone every time he falls asleep on the couch. Adam must also provide stability and strength.

It’s if we’re trying to desperately role play at being straight, like actors in a 1950s movie. Now, I’m not saying that there is anything wrong if your relationship functions like this and it is what you both want. But is it? Have you really thought about this or just accepted it as the norm?

What I have a problem with is that everyone expects all gay guys to be either like Jack or Adam. We must conform to these stereotypes because we identify as top or bottom. This assumes that a guy that identifies as top cannot be sensitive and flamboyant or that a bottom cannot be more macho than his partner who is strictly top.

In an ideal world there would be no set roles and couples would be left to navigate their relationships as they see fit – regardless of sexual activity. We are, however, far from that. The reality is that there is still a lot of heteronormative conditioning that needs to be done away with – even (and especially) within the gay community.

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