Are You A Top Or Bottom?

Recently, I had one of the most groundbreaking self-discoveries in my life thus far, right behind the shocking realization that I don’t like vaginas: I’m a bottom.

It was mind-blowing, really. It almost felt as if I were coming out to myself again. I mean, I had to literally re-examine my life. How could I not see this before? Or more importantly, why have I been wasting all this time dating other bottoms? After consulting this realization with my fellow bottom friend and observing the lack of surprise in his face, I had to ask: why didn’t you tell me? His response: I thought you knew. Last summer, I began dating a guy who was always the bottom when we had sex; it just sort of naturally happened that way. I thought nothing of it since I was very attracted to his good looks and Jamaican charm. Yet after a while, I slowly lost interest. Despite my physical attraction towards his outward appearance, I wasn’t attracted to who he was in the bedroom, or who I was either. There was something about being the dominant counterpart that subconsciously made me feel very uncomfortable. I didn’t feel like myself. Without fully understanding why this was, I eventually gave him the fade out and told him, and myself, that we were just not compatible. It wasn’t until after my groundbreaking epiphany that I began to question, should I only be dating tops?

Looking back on my past failed relationships, everything sort of makes sense: I’ve been dating bottoms. Most guys I’ve dated have yet to verbally take a side, just as I’ve never felt the need to do so either, until now. The fact is, many gays associate with the term “vers,” aka “versatile.” You like to give and you like to get. Frankly, there’s nothing wrong with the term; most guys enjoy both sexual roles and would rather not limit themselves to one. It makes perfect sense. Yet I can’t help but wonder, does everyone have a preference? Sometimes we as gay men have no choice but to identify with one of the two terms. In the world of online dating, most guys care more about this label than they care about what you do for a living. When guys find out you aren’t a match in this sense, they treat you like you have a vagina. To many, dating someone who identifies with the same label as they do is simply a waste of time.

I personally never liked the idea of limiting my already small pool of possible mates in half, which was the root of my ongoing skepticism of the terminology. In an attempt to avoid conforming to social norms, I would argue that the concept of being a top or a bottom is barbaric, that it is simply society telling us that even in the queer world, there needs to be a “man” in the relationship. In a biological sense, it is physically impossible for only certain men to like it up the butt. The mechanisms are all the same, you can’t argue about that. So what is it then; are tops essentially the gays who are too scared to have a foreign object up their ass? While this may be the case for some, many swear by the label. Lesbians do it too, without using the terminology we do. I have to admit, even I ask my lesbian gal pals in relationships: Which one of you will wear the tux at the wedding? The funny thing is, they usually have an answer. So what’s so wrong with identifying the masculine counterpart in a relationship? Do we need to do so in order to feel more normal in the eyes of society? Or is it simply a natural part of human to human connection?

Many people like myself seem to hesitate identifying with only one of these roles due to the extreme stereotypes of each label. Some are also turned off by the fact that it limits their ability to swing the other way. Of course no one wants to be submissive all of the time or vice versa. However, we all carry a specific gender identity that exudes a certain degree of masculinity; and in return, we are attracted to a certain level of masculinity in others. Some research tells us that a strong human to human connection may be correlated to the balance of masculine and feminine qualities between two people. In this sense, maybe the terms top and bottom are not only related to sex. I must unwillingly admit, bottoms stereotypically share many qualities with straight women. We are generally more relationship-oriented, expressive and sensitive than tops. These qualities are of course toned down since we’re still men and don’t have estrogen preparing us to pop one out. But let’s face it, bottoms are always on the prowl. Whether it’s at a nightclub, on the street, at Barnes and Noble — we’re ready. Probably too ready. It’s as if when God created bottoms he gave us all maternal clocks but ran out of baby-makers. You name it, we’ll take it. One night stands, fuck buddies, LTRs — anything. I mean look around you, we’re everywhere. The group of guys dancing at the local gay bar — bottoms. The guys on OkCupid looking for dates — bottoms. And yes, the ones reading this article — all bottoms. So now for another important question: where are all the tops?

This self-realization has opened a can of unanswered questions that I may never find the answers to. It’s like they say — the more you know about relationships, the more you know you don’t know. But at the end of the day, I must be doing something right. We all seem to think we have a “type,” so maybe this is it. Sleeping around has given me more knowledge of what I’m looking for in a guy than any relationship guru could. So whoever decided that it was wrong to be a slut should come up with a better plan to figure all of this stuff out. Until then, don’t judge me. TC mark

image – One From RM


More From Thought Catalog

  • John Lambert Pearson


  • RicePaperPlant

    offensive and juvenile.

    • chairlifted

      Oh, people just love to be offended on the Internet. No one asked you to read this piece. If you don’t like it, hush and move on. 

      • guest

        let’s just all move into your world then where everyone only has nice things to say about everything

      • me

        there’s nothing wrong with being nice about stuff.  :)

  • KatSaysBark

    Look at you, reinforcing the heteronormal gender binary. Your radical gender fucking forefather queers would be so proud.

    • Mila Jaroniec

       Not all gay people are queer by definition, just saying.

      • KatSaysBark

        And gay is a gendered word. Not all gay people are men either. Just saying.

  • Gregory Costa

     There are just so many variables here.  The time of day, the softness of the bed, distractions in the background, the attractiveness of the guy, whether you had fiber in your diet for the day.  Retract this, find a scientist, repeat this experiment, and see if you can reject the null hypothesis that there is no preference for being a top or bottom (and provide data that supports you’re a top).  At that stage, do the write up and I’ll treat this piece with the seriousness that it deserves! 

  • Opik

    OMG the accuracy of this article creeps the shit out of me

  • Guest22

    a lot of thought-provoking ideas that I relate to, although I do like you mention that some men are “vers,” while others don’t know. I don’t think this offensive at all, as I have always noticed that no matter the relationship, there is either a masculine partner and a feminine partner, or the balance is shared fairly equally between the two.  While some might say that this can be reinforcing gender roles, you can’t force what you are attracted to.

    Please do another article called “Where are all the tops?” :)

  • Mike

    Learn something new every day. You gay dudes have it tough, i wish the writer luck in all his endeavours regarding love!

  • Chris P

    Joey, the author asks: “So
    what’s so wrong with identifying the masculine counterpart in a
    relationship?” Here’s where I have a socio-sexual issue with the
    misinformation the author has put forth: “top” does not equal
    “masculine”, as neither does “bottom” denote “feminine.” This is hetero-normative speak. Speaking from the non-hetero view means you need to be careful about what terminology you’re using: if you aren’t a or b then don’t use a or b’s rules of definition. This is why our
    community is so sex-phobic– we lose our masculinity if we identify as
    the bottom. Someone needs to educate people like the author about proper
    sex roles.

  • cuauhtemoc723

     this is a whack-ass piece!
    it’s not so much sexist, as it is gender-biased. all the terminology he
    used is geared towards a gender, and it’s really frustrating and wrong.
    to think that dominant = male and submissive = female is sexist.

    if i could meet this guy, i could love to share a conversation and
    discussion in all the ways that his views are skewed. i think it’s wrong
    for him to generalize so much, “us gays.” he and i have little in
    common other than the fact that both he and i are attracted to men. but i
    don’t share the view that we’re either tops or bottoms.
    i just
    started reading this thinking it was going to be funny or insightful,
    but it just made me pissed. people who don’t know any better are going
    to take that piece and think, “well, this one gay guy said so, and it
    was online, so it must be true.”
    i get so pissed when people are me,
    “who’s the girl in the relationship?” we are BOTH gay men. i love,
    respect and admire women, but i don’t identify as one. i am a man, i am
    attracted to men; thus, i am a gay man.
    i’m glad that i am not the only who feels this way. other comments share my frustration: like Chris P., and so eloquently put by, KatSaysBark. granted, this does not mean that we are right, jusst that we are not the only ones.

    • Lo

      The author is clearly writing from his own perspective, and admits to wrestling with the same reluctance to label that you are. I think he addresses the fact that this may just be our way of fitting into society, yet he feels there’s some truth to the interplay between two people of any gender or sexuality, or as he writes “human to human interaction.” 
      I think you’re pissed off by the idea, but if you took the time to really read the article, he is not imposing this on you, just suggesting that it’s an interesting perspective on the interplay between two humans in a relationship.

  • Anonymous

    am a straight female… and i cant agree more! well done, joey! 

  • Roberto


    Can we please stop with all this fucking “I’m offended that the author mentioned the M and F words when writing about gay individuals” bullshit? Some of us never majored in gender studies at liberal arts college and frankly, don’t care. I completely understand what the author is saying; and in his context, as well as in the rest of the conventional world, he’s not being offensive or degrading at all. In order to best get the point across without having readers sit through paragraphs of drobber unlinking traditional(and quite usual) gender roles to already assumed and cataloged characteristics, he uses general titles for the collection of traits. He’s doing his job by getting his point across to the largest population of readers possible. The fact that somebody can get offended that the author is putting ideas into terminology understood nearly universally, rather than breaking off into sexual jargon, is absurd. It would be a disservice otherwise. Anybody with any sort of self-confidence or an actual cohesive view of the situation shouldn’t be hurt and realizes that mainstream society, the target of this piece, isn’t up to speed with these concepts yet and it would only muddle the thesis behind the writing. 

    I am a gay male, who identifies as a man, who likes men that think they’re men, and are confident we are both men, and I am strictly a bottom. This has nothing to do with my diet, anatomy, or any other physical trait. I would just rather be pegged than stick my own in somewhere. Maybe it’s because making others feel good is one of my personal instincts, maybe it’s because trust is one of the highest relational traits I look for? Perhaps vulnerability turns me on, I don’t know. All I understand is that for a relationship to work out well in the bedroom, partners’ emotional and sexual values need to complement each other, and from what I’ve observed in real life, it happens to turn out that bottoms often possess more traits akin to heterosexual females, and tops have more typical heterosexual male traits. I will only date tops, because these men, like me, know what they prefer, and more often than not, complement my attributes in a relationship. 

    • KatSaysBark

      This isn’t about showing of the length of my gender studies degree. It’s about the fact that our queer community has assimilated and normalized. And this means that all of the grossly unfair gender dynamics of the male/female construct are bleeding into our rhetoric our lives and our bed rooms.

  • Trentoloni

    Being a top doesn’t mean you are dominating anybody.

    • Darren


  • Simon xx

    haha, when I read “And yes, the ones reading this article — all bottoms”, I thought…omg! I am a bottom! I have been with my bf for a year and NEVER thought about topping….NEVER!!!!! D:

  • DRB

    I normally top. Sometimes, I wanna be ‘vulnerable’ and have someone take control and make me feel good but physically, that aspect is better than the actual sex for me. My biggest issue with bottoming is the hygiene part. It’s too time consuming, too iffy, too “I can now, maybe can’t when I wake up.” If the rectum 100% cleaned itself, maybe I would truly be vers, I don’t know. I like a muscular guy and a big dick but I can’t be a full bottom.

    Regarding the masc fem argument, it’s true for most. It wasn’t worded the most PC way but it is. I hate labels too but I’m masculine and a guy. My boyfriend is less masculine than me and has more ‘girl’ qualities but he’s still a guy. I’m not attracted to someone who’s “fem.” I’m less masculine than some of my friends regarding my interest (I’m a MC lamb for starters) but I get away with most people assuming I’m straight.

    My bf is outgoing and Mr Social and loves trashy reality tv (he got me hooked on some Bravo stuff) but he also knows more about professional sports than I’ll ever care to.

    I could go on and on but won’t because, for starters, I hate long rambling comments and two, I don’t feel like it, but its not that black and white and he wasn’t claiming it is. However, to some vast extent, it’s true. I wouldn’t date another top and I’ve passed up guys who are strictly tops.

  • a.

    lol @ transphobic bullshit in the first sentence

  • cj

    i dont get it. 

  • arch

    I agree that compatibility in the bedroom is certainly a central element in a relationship. But I don’t think compatibility has much to do with physical roles. I wish more of the gay community could acknowledge that lots of ‘valid’ gay sexual relationships exist that aren’t central to fucking.

  • LOVE!


  • Anais

    Having pondered what you’ve written, I feel like this self-realization you speak of is somehow akin to my own. Only, mine was learning that I’m the “s” in the whole D/s thang. I’d spent years failing miserably and beating myself up mentally for not being something other. It’s so empowering, having an understanding of what you want and embracing that about yourself. Good for you!

  • Jonknust

    my roommate is on thought catalog!!! 310 love!

  • Antonio is a Chicken Prophet

    This article. I liked it.

    • Thor


      • Antonio is a Chicken Prophet

        Another what? I’m confused.

  • Aeon

    I’m a bi female in a hetero relationship and I suppose I isentify as ‘vers’ tough in most ases I take te ‘masculine’ role, if there is a masculine role at all. I’d say it is fairly equally shared and that infact there are two ‘masculines’ in my relationship, or atleast two ‘vers-masuline prefering’ types. eitherway an interesting and thought provoking read.

  • Aeon

    *though in most aspects I take the

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