Is Being A Top A Privilege?

The thing about queer sex is that, in some shape or form, specific sex acts require specific roles.

This is true of all sex, yes, but for a people who are literally making up how they have sex it’s interesting to consider the dynamics of what it means to be a “top” – the penetrative partner – and a “bottom,” the person being penetrated. It’s “active” versus “passive,” as they say in Europe, and often cast the upper person as more powerful and masculine while the lower person is considered weaker and feminized. The dynamic isn’t pertinent to all sex acts since things like mutual masturbation or 69 favor equanimity over power struggles. While not as valued as topping and bottoming, there is more to sex than simply straddling.

And it is a struggle – or at least that’s what Rembrandt Duran and a recent queer hot take story is positing. Titled “Top Privilege,” the story explores queer sex, particularly that of gay men, having a sort of embedded caste system as a result of how people have sex. Duran sketches out very smart things like bottoms being more at risk for STIs and being completely at the whims of a top when it comes to wearing a condom.

A few things Duran noted were obvious but framed in a way that makes you shake your head, agreeing what you never knew you already agreed upon. An example: bottoms being seen as “bad,” a la that you’re too gay, a manifestation of internalized homophobia. Hear this and blast it out for the people in the back.

Some seem to feel like, “Sure, I’m gay but at least I’m a top.” This belief stems from residual shame after coming out, and the notion that traditionally masculine expressions of sexuality are somehow more valid.

This also, in a way, relates to slut shaming bottoms for being “loose” in the behind. As Duran notes, that’s just not true nor is it medically sound.

What is most important in this story is that a big part of bottoms being on the bottom is their literal shit. This, friends, is the real talk.

We must be more understanding if something goes wrong, and recognize how much labor and time Bottoms put into their bodies (specifically their buttholes). They may say they do it for themselves, but we Tops reap the fruits of their efforts either way, and we do not appreciate it enough. I have heard stories of Tops kicking Bottoms out after being painted, making a big deal about it, and causing further embarrassment to the Bottom and it’s just not right.

This reminds me of the recent op-ed about guns being made just to kill. It’s obvious but it’s also so painfully on-the-nose. Butts poop. If you fuck around with butts, you might have to deal with the poop. Why? Because we all do it and its natural: we shouldn’t be surprised or ashamed/shaming of this.

In examining all of this, is it a privilege to be a top? Somewhat. The health risks are important but it’s more the socializing around bottoms and the understanding of who you are and how that is perceived in the world around you. I’m one to say that people should keep their positions and preferences private, not until you’re actually in the moment, since the whole fucking world doesn’t need to know every detail about you – but I understand that such things don’t work at cruising altitude. The shaming that comes with one’s “bottom” identity is a problem and could be mitigated by shifting culture away from a binary of tops and bottoms, to embrace and accept how people want to have sex instead of dividing the group so they can be conquered. That, to me, has always been weird.

Also: the shit is real. I fancy myself a ~*~vErSaTiLe~*~ fellow but I can tell you that I tried for years to master the backdoor only for stomach issues and the occasional misunderstanding of one’s own body making the act seem more frightening than it is. Even with partners you are most comfortable with, with those you love most, the idea of you literally shitting the bed is enough to scare anyone away from confident anal play. That is partially pinned to our understandings of our own bodies but also the very American way in which we disconnect our bodies from the world, to think that we are perfect, shitless beings who never fuck anything up. When those lines are crossed? We dehumanize someone because they revealed their literal shit in semi-public.

To not have to think about your ass in such a way is a privilege. I don’t think that this is a high priority privilege to take down but it is one we have to be aware of – and it is up to us as a community to level it, so stereotypes and assumptions about how we have sex aren’t used against us by the straights.

Also: we need to support each other. What stank ass person poo poos their partner because of their natural processes? Get a grip, gays.

Photo via.

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