Warning: this blog post contains frank discussions of gay sex.
Imagine this scene from a straight romance novel:
Harold gazed longingly into Marjorie’s eyes and whispered, “I’ve been waiting all night long to get you into a sixty-nine.”
Marjorie took a quick sip of her wine in an attempt to hide the blush creeping into her cheeks. She gazed out over the city skyline and breathed in the warm night air, giving herself a moment to think. Normally, Marjorie considered herself to be a missionary-style woman, but for Harold she could be flexible. “Yes,” she gasped finally, “that sounds really hot.”
What’s wrong with this scene? I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it: they’re not even in the bedroom yet, and they’re already negotiating positions! Who would do that in real life, except perhaps two people negotiating a BDSM scene?
Yet, if we change the two main characters to gay men….
Harold gazed longingly into Mark’s eyes and whispered, “I’ve been waiting all night long for you to top me.”
Mark took a quick sip of his wine in an attempt to hide the blush creeping into his cheeks. He gazed out over the city skyline and breathed in the warm night air, giving himself a moment to think. Normally, Mark considered himself a bottom, but for Harold he could be versatile. “Yes,” he gasped finally, “that sounds really hot.”
Sure, for men, right here it’s a little raunchy, but no more than other scenes I’ve read in the genre. It now doesn’t seem all that unusual. Why? Because gay men often negotiate who’s the top and who’s the bottom before they have sex, or at least that’s what’s going through their heads. Right?
Well, um… no. Not really.
Okay, I can’t claim to speak for all gay men. Perhaps some gay men do this. But honestly, I’ve been out since 1983 and over the thirty years since I came out, I’ve had lots of sex. I’ve topped; I’ve bottomed; I’ve done other things I have no intention of talking about in a blog open to the general public.
Do you know what I haven’t done in all that time? Declared myself a “top” or a “bottom” to anybody.
Nor have I ever thought to myself, “I’m a top,” or “I’m a bottom.” Is this because I’m “versatile?” No, it’s because I’m just a guy, and when I have sex, we go into the bedroom (or wherever said sex is going to occur) and just go at it. At some point, somebody might ask, “Would you like to fuck me?” or “Can I fuck you?” Imagine! Actually asking what your partner is in the mood for!
Yes, I’ve known men who would never let anyone fuck them. Although these guys often refuse anal sex, period, because they find it repulsive or just don’t happen to like it. (I’ve already discussed the fact that not all gay men are into anal sex in a previous blog post.) What it has almost never been is because they are “bottoms” who never like to “top.”
Sure, they may have a preference. Just like straight men and women have preferences. According to Wikipedia, an examination of over 55,000 profiles of gay men on the popular hookup site gay.com “showed that 26.46% preferred top, while 31.92% preferred bottom, and the largest group (41.62%) preferred versatile.” In other words… nothing. We might as well call it split down the middle with 42% not caring either way. And it’s about as useful as polling straight couples about their favorite position.
But my main point is, straight men and women don’t identify as the sexual position they prefer, so why should gay men?
And don’t even get me started about “pitcher” and “catcher.” I don’t know the origin of the phrase, but I’ve rarely heard it issued by someone who wasn’t disturbed by the idea of gay sex in general. I’ve certainly never heard gay men refer to each other that way.
Now, I suppose the gay “scene” is different in the cities and in various parts of the country. I can only really talk about the way things are in my area, and age makes a difference as well. But these aren’t terms I want to be associated with.