This article first appeared in Attitude issue 290, December 2017.
Hello there, my name is Dom Top. I am a comedian and, more importantly, a bottom. Ironic, eh? You might now be wondering why I’d give myself this moniker. Well, aside from it being kind of a “LOL” name, I also wanted to challenge people’s ideas of masculinity, specifically why the role of “Total Top” is considered manlier by so many gay men.
Physically, I don’t fit the traditional idea of a masculine, powerful male; I am small in frame and light in weight. I have a beard but not a ton of body hair, slim arms but a sizeable rump. I have a strong London accent, but a soft tone. However, I consider myself to be powerful, strong and authoritative, so I don’t fit the wilting, weak popular image of the “pussyboy” passive that many men ask me to be as I bottom for them.
Personally, I’m fine with this contrast. I am an anomaly to many and I play heavily off that in my writing and performances. Hell, it basically pays my bills! But sometimes, when people find my stage name funny, it reminds me to examine exactly why that is.
First off, let’s have a quick look at some of the popular terminology to describe active vs passive sexual preferences. Top: dominant, aggressive, hung. Bottom: sloppy, dirty, messy, hungry, greedy, bucket, cum-dump.
The receptive person basically sounds like a desperate hole for dumping bio-waste in, while the active party resembles Jean-Claude van Damme after a round of testosterone injections. While I’d argue that it takes more strength and bravery to allow someone to put part of their body inside yours than it does to stick it in, it shows me that there is a clear problem with bottom-shaming in the gay community. And it could stem from a perceived lack of masculinity.
A friend pointed out to me recently that you very seldom hear bottoms engaging in dirty talk that puts us in the, ahem, driving seat. Saying things such as: “Did I break your dick with my huge, tight arse?” or “does your eager cock want my strong, firm hole to smother it?” sounds almost alien to our ears. Instead we encourage the violence of the top’s actions toward the bottom; a huge, monstrous cock forced inside a helpless body, ravaging a small sacred place it has invaded, plundering and vandalising it, yet with the victim still desperately craving it. “Yeah you love it, don’t you? You fucking slutty bottom, you want my big, hard cock splitting your little hole apart?” In this mindset, the top is in the position of power. You are weak, he is strong. You wanted it, he gave it to you. Gifted you it, even. You should be grateful for this. You cannot survive without what he has.
Of course, arousal is subjective and if that gets you off, then so be it. Power dynamics can be hot in the right sexual setting. But I’ve found this to be the default setting of many top guys, and it commonly comes accompanied by an attitude of near revulsion at the fact that our arse actually serves a completely different, but equally natural, function: defecation.
God forbid you remind a total top that you also poop out of that hole. Instead we must also go to great lengths to hide this fact and it is, pardon the pun, really quite shit. Douching is already an embarrassing enough exercise, no matter what method you use.
But years of stress and childish responses from sexual partners have, for some, created a mental obstacle so that often they can’t have sex unless given advance notice to clear out their colons an hour or so before, then pop an Imodium Instant for added peace of mind. All to ensure they can throw their legs in the air and not have to worry about a hint of that smell reaching their top’s nostrils mid-coitus, accompanied by a mildly repulsed “I think you’ve had an accident.” A statement which, aside from making you feel like an incontinent granny or helpless toddler, insinuates that you are solely responsible for the “mess.” Well no actually, my sphincter holds up fine when it’s not having the equivalent of a courgette jammed in and out of it at varying speeds.
While probably not originally coined in reference to bum sex, the term “take it like a man” is certainly representative of some of the mentality regarding bottom-shaming. The most “shameful” element of bottoming seems to come from it being associated with the sexual position of heterosexual females during intercourse: the receptacle. The hole. The bitch. The one being entered and invaded.
But there’s a distinct whiff of misogyny here. To the mind of the misogynist, nothing could be as low or undignified as allowing another person to do that to your body. And sadly this mindset seems to pervade many areas of the gay community.
In a world where machismo and muscles are fetishised, embodying a traditionally female role equates you with being lesser, but you’re still expected by many to conform to masculine aesthetic ideals if you want to be desired. In fact, being a skinny slender bottom can, in some places, render you persona non grata. If you don’t believe me, see Circuit Festival.
Of course, I don’t want to generalise. Not all active guys are, for lack of a better term, total arseholes. There are plenty of great guys out there who understand what it takes to bottom and also know how to be a considerate top. They’re called versatile! Seriously though, as I mentioned before, arousal is subjective. And some people will never be comfortable with putting a boy’s banana up their booty hole. But wouldn’t it be great if that didn’t mean they had a total and utter disregard for those of us who actually do enjoy it?
I love to take it in the rear till I’m blue in the face. I’m not ashamed of that fact and I’m not going to let someone else make me feel as if I’m any lesser a person because of it. Plus, in 2017 gendered roles are so passé. Take it like a man? No, thanks. I’ll take it like the proud power bottom I am.