Get to the Bottom of Gay Male Sex Role Preferences

Get to the Bottom of Gay Male Sex Role Preferences

From pitchers and catchers to service-tops and flip-flops, is it time to ditch the hard labels?

From pitchers and catchers to service-tops and flip-flops, sometimes we need to call in the experts to understand gay male sex role preferences.

Luckily for us, there are dozens of studies out there that have explored gay male sex roles and preferences in detail, that can help us understand how much gender norms play into our erotic experiences.

So let’s take a look at what science has to say about gay male sex roles, and how they can influence the relationships of gay and MSM (Men Who Have Sex with Men) men.

Why do gay men have sex roles?

Gay male sex isn’t as simple as it might seem.

Much like the classic “Which Disney Princess Are You?” quizzes that circulate on the Internet (and my Facebook feed), there are various roles that a gay man might assume in the relationship. And, in the same way we might feel like Aurora one day and Merida the next, gale male sex roles can also be fairly fluid.

Sex roles for gay males are typically split into two types

Tops - These are the givers in a gay sexual relationship

This can refer to penetration of the receptive partner, but also to gender roles within the relationship. The top is often the dominant partner in sexual activity, such as oral or penetrative sex. They are also more likely to be the insertive partner when the couple are using sex toys for gay men, as part of the relationship.

Bottoms - Also known as the taker in the relationship

The bottom usually assumes a more passive role during sex. They are the ones on the receiving end of the more dominant partner, which can extend to verbal and dominant role-play.

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Pitchers, catchers, versatile, and flip-flops

Tops and bottoms are also called pitchers and catchers, and the distinction can carry over to more general gender roles in the relationship. So, a bottom might assume a more passive role in the relationship, although this isn’t always the case.

Plenty of partners also like to switch. After all, what fun is sex without variety?! Gay men who regularly switch their role are known as versatile.

In an Austrian study on gay pornography from 2009 dropped some revealing stats.

In the study of the performances of over 5,500 actors, it was shown that over 82% of gay male sex performers had been versatile at some point in their career.

In fact, only around 10% of performers were exclusively in the top role, and only 7% of performers consistently performed as bottoms. Interestingly enough, it was revealed that the man with the largest penis would usually be the top in the scene.

Clearly, this study may not be typical of gay men in non-performing roles, but it does at least highlight the fluid nature of sexual activity among gay men.

Men who consistently swap sexual roles are known as flip-flops. These men may take turns as the top or bottom while having sex, or may simply not feel comfortable being labelled in any one role.

Some more gay male sex roles: Service Top, Power bottom, Side, and MSM

You can also have ‘service tops‘ and ‘power bottoms‘, which is where the receiving participant is the one who actually calls the shots. This is akin to dom/sub role play, but may also spill over into gender roles in general.

Another term, suggested by Joe Kort of the Huffington Post is ‘Side‘. This is a term for gay men who are not interested in penetrative sex.

Finally, you have MSMs. These men may not identify as gay men, often participate in the role of a top, and may be involved in heterosexual relationships, as well as in gay ones.

Is it time to stop using labels like Tops and Bottoms?

All of this brings about an interesting question: Should we ditch the sexual identifications of tops and bottoms entirely and encourage gay men to explore their versatility?

The answer is not an easy one. Here are some reasons to support and oppose this issue:

According to an interesting article (2019) of GQ, “bottom” has become a sneering synonym for “camp” or “femme-presenting in some gay circles”. GQ: “Court, a 37-year-old gay guy from Denver, tells me that “bottom-shaming is definitely a thing. People feel like bottoming makes you the submissive or ‘the woman,’ which is ridiculous,” he says. “But some gay guys out there feel so threatened in their masculinity that they don’t want anyone to perceive them as even being capable of ‘taking it.’”

Also on GQ: “Everyone I speak to has reservations about the tops and bottoms as labels, but there’s also a broad consensus that they’re here to stay—at least for the time being. “I think those binary identities, with vers, vers bottom, and vers top as qualifiers too, are really helpful for many guys out there, so there’s no need to reject them entirely,” says Jon.”

Read the full article on GQ.com about using hard labels. 

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Can you break out of your sex role?

Absolutely, you can. There’s no reason to think that if you were once a top, you should always be a top. Sex is about discovering what turns you on and exploring your sexual desires. Some gay men who identify as tops are surprised to discover that they actually enjoy being a bottom, or vice versa. This is another argument for versatility and for not sticking to hard labels.

This might seem like a tall order for someone who has habitually assumed a specific role, but there are plenty of gay men who do break out of their role, and are versatile while remaining true to themselves at the same time.

What all this comes down to is that gay male sex roles preferences are an outdated idea that don’t serve to express male sexual identity very well.

Similarly, being forced into one sex role or another by society doesn’t work all that well either – it can limit our personal growth and sexual expression as human beings.

So, our suggestion is: learn to be versatile! And stay true to yourself while also being true to your partner and community. What’s your take? Feel free to put in your 2 cents in the comment field below.

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How can trans and gender non-conforming people navigate gay sex roles?

Transgender non-conforming people are not defined by their gender identity. They can be gay, straight or bisexual. They can have masculine, feminine or androgynous identities. And they may play the top, bottom, or both roles during sexual encounters.

The most important thing to remember about trans identities when it comes to gay male sex preferences is that many trans people do not see themselves as having an innate preference for one role over another.

In fact, many trans individuals would consider the idea of having to play a specific role in a sexual relationship far too simplistic to apply to them as individuals. Some trans men may identify as gay while others identify as heterosexual; some trans women identify as lesbian while others identify as bisexual; and so on. All of this can influence the roles and sexual preferences trans people of trans people engaged in sex with gay males.

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Why are there gay male sex roles at all?

You’re probably asking yourself, “Why are there gay male sex roles at all?”. It’s a good question, and one that’s impossible to answer. Adopting specific roles during sexual encounters can be the result of societal gender norms and power imbalances.

These imbalances are often hinted at by the studies. A study of over 200 gay male men by Trevor Hart at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta published in 2003 by The Journal of Sex Research suggested that terms such as top, bottom and versatile do not necessarily correspond to physical position during sex.

These terms are actually more related to sexual identities than sexual activities. As such, tops were found to be more likely to reject a gay self-identify and entertain heterosexual relationships, as well as having sex with men.

Perhaps surprisingly, some tops in the study group even harbored internalized homophobic tendencies, linked to their own homosexual desires.

On the other hand, those who identified as versatile fared better with their psychological health. This could have been due to a more adventurous nature, and a lower fear of sex. Versatiles were also more comfortable with a variety of gay sex roles and activities.

There’s also some evidence to suggest that in monogamous relationships, having two tops can be more challenging and presents more conflicts than in those where self labeled roles were more balanced.

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Gay male sex role preferences and social constructs

Most gay men will have their own reasons for their sexual preferences. Just remember that you don’t have to stay in a role to please others. Your experience is every bit as valid as anyone else’s.

On the other hand, just because gay sex role preferences arise from social constructs, that doesn’t mean you can’t keep using them. At the end of the day, whatever works for you is the right approach, so use social constructs as you see fit to have the experiences that you want.

There are certainly no hard-and-fast rules, and studies even show that different states reveal different sexual preference in respect to self labels. So keep an open mind!

Males sex toys and couples sets, such as the Guybrator Pulse Solo & Ohmibod Lumen Interactive Couple Set or the ONYX+ Interactive Masturbator for Male Couples can be a great way for gay couples to explore their versatile side, and take turns to pleasure the other. These couple sets can be used in long-distance relationships as well: you can share the love and be together even when you are miles apart.

Conclusion

Gay sex roles aren’t as simple as they might seem. Rarely will a gay man keep the same role throughout every gay sexual relationship he has in his life.

Self labels can also impact the psychological well-being of the individual and have an influence on how the relationship develops, both in and out of the bedroom.

We hope this article has helped you understand a little more about what makes gay men tick. What are your thoughts? Is it time to ditch the hard labels and embrace a more versatile approach to gay male sex role preferences? Let us know in the comment below!

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