Written by Austin VanKirk—
Recently I have read two articles with opposing views when it comes to the idea of what some are calling “top privilege.” Zach Stafford wrote on the Huffington Post in favor of the idea (read his article “Top Privilege?” at www.huffingtonpost.com/zach-stafford/). His opponent, Justin Sayre, writes that the idea of there being kind of privilege is overridden and rendered nearly inchoate by the larger problems faced by the gay population (workplace discrimination and HIV are some examples). Further, Sayre says Stafford’s article failed to create anything of real value and was a “mélange of buzzwords and failed jokes” (read Sayre’s article: flavorwire.com/author/justin-sayre/)
Is “top privilege” a real issue? Naturally, I feel compelled to weigh in on this debate. My response: no it isn’t. “Privilege” I think is too strong of a word to use; preferring to be a bottom is not something that one is coerced or forced into, and certainly need not apply to everyday life. Although role popularity varies by state, it seems that as a country, most gay men prefer to strictly bottom (with the number of bottom and versatile individuals greatly outnumbering strict tops). To say that so many would align themselves with an underprivileged role presents a cognitive dissonance. However, I think “top advantage” is a real thing. It may have been so long ago since I’ve has sex that I’ve forgotten how to do it, but in the past I played both on top of the mound and behind the plate. But from what I do recall, being a top was way easier with far less to worry about for many reasons. Every top should be more conscious of this when heading into bed. In fact, I am going to make a list here to make it a little easier to remember.
- Get over yourself. Despite what you might think, and what a certain sect of society tells us, being a top doesn’t make you more of a man. Wow, you can get an erection and put it into things—congrats, you’re super masculine. It’s not as if top equals male and bottom equals female. In gay sex, there is no female involved, and so the ideas are not entirely comparable. In fact, many tops, including Sayre, self-identify as being more feminine. Top ≠ masculine. It doesn’t make you less “gay” if you’re a top, either. In fact, some have argued that it makes you even more “gay” because another man is causing you to sustain a hard on.
- It’s not easy. Being a bottom requires work, practice, and no small degree of endurance. Think about the “self-maintenance,” the man-scaping, the diet restrictions—it’s a lot to prepare for just a few minutes of pleasure. Then there is also a degree of pain that many must first overcome until the experience is enjoyable (which one might argue makes bottoms more masculine or manly than tops; there would be more bottoms if their active counterparts weren’t such sissies and could take the pain. Think about that.) So next time you ask him to climb on top, remember that he’s already done a lot more work than you have—now it’s your turn!
- Be grateful. Appreciate the fact that your partner is giving control over to you. Being the receptive partner means a man is temporarily surrendering control and his body. This is (at least in my opinion) a tremendous gesture that shouldn’t be taken for granted. I mean, if there were no guys willing to bottom, there would be a hell of a lot of sexually frustrated homos.
- It’s not all about you. Hey, see that guy your penis is in right now? Yeah, he wants to have a good time, too. Take a minute to figure out what he likes so that the experience is as mutually enjoyable as possible.
- Wrap it up. Bottoms are more likely to contract HIV than tops. Studies show that most HIV-infected men reported that they were most often the receptive partners. To prevent spreading any sort of disease or infection to him, and also to prevent yourself from contracting any, always practice safer sex and know your damn status!
- No means no. So, listen. By and large, men like sex. I mean, we really like sex. So, if a bottom says “No, not tonight,” there’s probably a good reason for it. Unless you don’t mind buying new sheets, then go for it.
- “But you don’t act/look/walk/smell like a ____.” Physical appearance is not a clear indicator of sexual preference. I, for one, am tired of having my preference mistaken because of my physicality. Dress, mannerisms, height, weight, and ethnicity have little to no bearing on this preference. The preference comes from a mental state, and unless you can read minds, it’s hard to be 100 percent certain. Instead of perpetuating stereotypes, how about we all work to change them, yes? Also, constantly trying to assert that you’re a top via your dress and mannerisms doesn’t make you a man, it makes you a douchebag.
- Shit happens. It’s normal, it’s natural. Sometimes, even though great pain has been taken to prevent it from happening, it does. Don’t get mad; don’t freak out. If you’re wearing protection (as you should be) you can simply throw it away and your body has little contact with the icky stuff. He’s going to already feel terrible—you need not say anything more to make him feel worse.
Ideally, I think, everybody should just be versatile so we could avoid many of these issues and complexities. Then we could all like, you know, just take turns. Seems fair to me anyway. Since that will probably never happen, I think the next best thing I can prescribe is to just treat everybody with the same respect you would expect yourself—unless of course your partner wants to be disrespected (I’m talking to you, kinky guys), then by all means.
But then again, what do I know?