Tops and bottoms from top to bottom.

twoinbed.jpgTen years ago, I was in Ft. Lauderdale, on a packed weekend night, at (the original) Club Cathode Ray, when I found myself shoulder-to-shoulder with some random dude at the bar. We were both checking out the same guy across the room, and he was looking back. He turned to me and said, “Hey, I just heard this joke: Do you know the best way to get a bottom off?”

Yes, I definitely know some proven ways, but for the purpose of the joke, I replied, “No, what?”

“Who cares?” he said, laughed alone and sent the guy a drink.

Passive sexual partners of both sexes and all orientations are widely considered ‘less than’, even subtly (Did you notice that the word ‘bottom’ isn’t capitalized here, but ‘Top’ is?) and we expect them to have a certain level of ‘bottom shame’ just so we know that they’re not complete sluts. There are, on the other hand, complete sluts (again, of both sexes) who proudly own their title, finding plenty of happy company and more than a little liberation, I’d imagine. Combine this with some business savvy and you could build an empire, but that is certainly the exception to the rule.

In spite of the bottom’s undeserved bad rap, the bottom is the position of control – even when he’s out of control. As a top, it’s one’s responsibility to be keenly aware of the bottom’s boundaries, limitations, and level of consent – even if the level of consent is that you can essentially do no wrong – it must be understood by both parties. If nothing else, it will minimize the possibility of the Top embarrassing himself by going too far, or crossing a forbidden or undiscussed line. I know. I’ve done it – recently, and not only did I feel like a complete ass, but it’s also a total wood killer. If it’s your partner, you’ve got some homework to do. If it’s a trick, you’ll be finishing off solo, watching old porn on VHS, and I hope you remembered to put your wallet in the freezer.

As a bottom, it’s one’s responsibility to establish boundaries, respectfully, without making the Top feel like he’s asking the bottom for permission. Think of it as managing up. Make your boss feel like your ideas are his ideas, and you’ll get your bonus. Tops hate to feel castrated, and no bottom wants a castrated Top. If a bottom doesn’t want to set the boundaries, or if they’d rather just make it up as they go along, at very least he should establish a safeword so that he can pull the plug if necessary. In most cases the safeword is verbal, but if you’re playing really hard, and have a ball gag in your mouth, a nonverbal signal should be arranged. So, speaking or not, the bottom literally has the last word. See? Control.

The Top man may have the superior position, but the bottom also has a few advantages. For one, the advantage of near indefatigability. A bottom could satisfy a number of men, and once they’re spent, they’re spent. Even if the Top could go a second round, it’s going to take a while, and by that time, the bottom has moved on. Second, the bottom can continue until they decide it’s enough. Three, bottoms aren’t subject to stage fright, intimidation, or being worse for substances or lack of sleep. If the lights are on, they’re open for business.

If you’re not bottoming, you’re missing half of the gay experience. I don’t like butt because there’s no vagina around. I just like butt (just like some straight men do). If you’ve decided that it’s ‘just not for you’, I can respect that. You have your reasons, and you’ll get to those in your own time. I had a boyfriend like that once. The handful of times that he really let go and bottomed, he loved it, but bottoming is literally letting someone in, and if you have difficulty with that emotionally, you’ll have trouble with a guy on your ass. It’s no surprise that it was one of our major incompatibilities.

There may well be some truly exclusive Tops out there, although I’ve never ever met one. (If one of you is reading this, by all means comment and identify yourself.) It’s like going on a snipe hunt. I met a man once who claimed he wasn’t passive, ever, orally or anally, and (not being a Daddy or a Master) he was always single. It’s like asking someone on a tennis date, and then having them watch while you play against a wall. No fun.Likewise, if you’re not Topping, you’re also missing half the fun. I think maybe some guys just get lazy, and there’s nothing as boring as a “starfish” in bed, no matter how hot. A friend once told me that he’d learned to be a bottom because he’d been molested, and therefore ‘programmed’ to only be useful as a bottom. Like the joke, his pleasure wasn’t important. It wasn’t until his 20’s that he let go of his ankles and happily rediscovered his Topness. I had never thought about it like that, and since then, I’ve learned how truly common it is.lthrhndk-jubilee.jpg

In The Leatherman’s Handbook, Larry Townsend says that to be a truly great Top, one must be an experienced bottom. It makes sense. At very worst, the exploration will confirm that you really do know your true calling. At very best, you’re game for anything, and that just doubled your dating potential. Heck, even straight men would be better in the sack if they had a truly firsthand understanding of the woman’s experience, but for whatever reason most are just not willing to do some research.

When Sam and I met, we had very defined roles, and two and a half years later, we have learned that what truly defines our ‘roles’ is how we look at life and love: what we notice first on a man, the ways we each keep our household running, the way we express our love, romance and fantasy, the way one of us drives forward and the way the other steers us in the right direction, and the role with which we identify on a very subtle psychological level. The conclusions we come to are not always black and white. “Look at the world in shades of grey,” a shrink once told me. Even Tom of Finland said that he liked to draw scenes that weren’t limited to stereotypical roles, and specifically, where every man had a “fighting chance”. Sam and I will go with that.

2 Responses to “Tops and bottoms from top to bottom.”

  1. Wednesday, January 30, 2008 at 9:58 pm


    It would interest me to read an interview with Larry Townsend, the author of the Leatherman’s Handbook, and to have him answer “The Bottom’s Survey For Tops” (for a copy, email me).

    I would also be interested in reading an interview with Dirk, the lover of Tom of Finland. This might make an interesting cross-over piece with Peace Love Lunges. I could also see quotes from both of these interviews used throughout a LOVESICK BILLY calendar with photographs by JT Seaton.

    Brilliant post.

    Your Boy

  2. 2 Sonny Koerner
    Sunday, February 3, 2008 at 10:41 pm

    Bronson –

    Well said! This should be required reading for all gay men — so many definitions with so little “applied understanding.” I have never been one to proclaim that someone must be a “practitioner” in any one/or all of the varied sexual “arts” in order to have a healthy understanding/respect for the opposing position, however it seems that it is too often the only way most men can ever find their pathway to being mentally present in a shared physical experience. Since all sex (nasty or nice) is as mental as it is physical (even a one-time event), it occurs to me that when we inject (pun intended) intuition and insight into play, we are all more satisfied — no matter what our preferred, practiced, perceived, promised, or pathological position. Free your Mind and your Ass will follow.


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