An underground war is brewing on the gay scene. More vicious than waxed vs hairy, more divisive than Streisand vs Gaga: whose side will you take when Top vs Bottom?
Ok, there is no actual war but there is a clear division. One of the first things a young gay must decide; is he a taker or a giver. If he should be unsure, he can always take this handy test by ok-cupid, delicately laced with not-so-scientific images to help his anxious mind.
Asking your gay sexual preference appears to be a perfectly acceptable date question. The homo equivalent of asking a taxi driver ‘what time he gets off?’ seems to be ‘How do you get off?’ We may as well tattoo it on our foreheads. Actually, we needn’t bother; zazzle have already created a delightful range of badges to display your chosen method.
Intrigued and bewildered, I rounded up my friends and shipped them to the nearest gay bar to see if the issue had a wider reach than the gay community.
‘Of course, you’ve gotta ask. It’s a round hole, square peg.’ Dave, my bulky, kick-boxing, painfully straight housmate, concludes. ‘Why would you waste your time chatting someone up if it wasn’t gonna… you know… fit.’
Maybe it is simply a case of matching pairs. North and south, east and west, Robson and Jerome. Perhaps tops and bottoms are the opposite ends of the gay magnetic pole; when two tops meet they can never quite be pushed together, instead twisting and bending, energetically repelling each other.
A quick internet search (not recommended on a work laptop) reveals it’s not as simple as that. We don’t live in a world of top vs bottom: there’s total top, complete top, power top, service top… quite frankly they’re starting to sound like a pneumatic drill. I’m not sure whether to look for one in G-A-Y or Black and Decker.
‘That’s another term for it; Black and Decker,’ Matti, Queen of Queer chimes, ‘Decker being the bottom decking, Black being the -’
‘WE GET IT!’
What’s worrying is these terms don’t simply reflect the genital tool or the physical position – the connotations run far deeper. Submissor – aggressor. Passive – active. Bucket – spade. These terms are actively judging the individual involved.
‘The bottom is definitely more of a girl.’ reckons Dave.
‘Well, it takes a whole lotta man to take a massive cock!’ claims Matti.
It’s hard to deny that we associate certain stereotypes within the categorisation. Try the game for yourself. In a bar, ask your friends to guess who’s top, who’s bottom and you’ll start to notice a pattern. If the game gets too hard, try using this handy gay guide. It conveniently put gays into sub-categories for you and then states their preference. A bit like a tubemap of homosexuality.
Yet note how every one of these derogatory, hyper-stereotyped niches are outed as bottoms. And it is outed. It may be jest, but this glittered Salem witch trial displays a clear negativity toward the bottom. The name alone suggests it is beneath a top. You’re only an okay-gay, if you’re not a too gay-gay.
The figures, though, sway favourably towards bottoms. A study of online gay dating profiles showed 24.6% preferred top, while 31.92% claimed bottom. 41.62% were versatile. A further study of gay pornography showed 82.4% were versatile at some point. Versatility: Does this suggest that eventually we all have to take one for the team?
‘Surely that’s just being greedy. Like a bisexual.’ Dave continues, with the voice of unprejudiced insight. Being versatile is not necessarily a choice. The study shows the male with the larger penis is more likely to be the top. In this case nature outweighs nurture and indicates we were born this way, baby.
‘It’s a bit of both. People expect it don’t they. They clap one look at me and take me for a taker.’ Sadly, Matti is right. We all guessed him a bottom. ‘I don’t mind, I like it, but I kinda felt like that’s what I was encouraged to be.’
My attention is drawn to the only lesbian of the group, April, who has remained surprisingly mute. Surely she must face the same problem, my comrade in arms, the light to my sabre.
‘Nah, we just take turns.’
Oh. Well that sounds nice. It seems so simple and caring to say ‘lets just share’.
What surprises me most is the compulsion to categorise ourselves at all. Is it not enough that we are forced as a society to divide ourselves into gay, straight and bi and face the assumptions and prejudices associated with that, without further having to categorise ourselves into tiny little boxes based on our duvet down-time? We may have needed those stereotypes to identify ourselves in an era when gay wasn’t the norm, but it’s doubtful we still do now.
In an age where gay rights are stronger than ever, shouldn’t we all just stand together… on top?