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Is He a Top or a Bottom?

Sexy Man Reclining in Window

I was all set to write this article on the premise that you can’t identify who’s a top or who’s a bottom by just looking at him, with some spectacularly witty jokes when further research led me to discover that scientists may have made an important breakthrough in the study of human sexuality!

In an article published earlier this year in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, with the title “Accurate Identification of a Preference for Insertive Versus Receptive Intercourse from Static Facial Cues of Gay Men,” researchers found that “observers were able to discern men’s sexual roles from photos of their faces with accuracy that was significantly greater than chance guessing.”

According to the study:

“In intercourse between men, one of the partners typically assumes the role of an insertive partner (top) while the other assumes a receptive role (bottom). Although some research suggests that the perceptions of potential partners’ sexual roles in gay men’s relationships can affect whether a man will adopt the role of top or bottom during sexual intercourse, it remains unclear whether sexual roles could be perceived accurately by naïve observers.

In Study 1, we found that naïve observers were able to discern men’s sexual roles from photos of their faces with accuracy that was significantly greater than chance guessing. Moreover, in Study 2, we determined that the relationship between men’s perceived and actual sexual roles was mediated by perceived masculinity. Together, these results suggest that people rely on perceptions of characteristics relevant to stereotypical male–female gender roles and heterosexual relationships to accurately infer sexual roles in same-sex relationships.

Thus, same-sex relationships and sexual behavior may be perceptually framed, understood, and possibly structured in ways similar to stereotypes about opposite-sex relationships, suggesting that people may rely on these inferences to form accurate perceptions.”

In fact, faces that were perceived as more feminine were perceived as bottoms while those that were perceived as more masculine were perceived as tops; and some of these stereotypes do have a strong basis in reality. Out in the real world, things are not so black and white. While there are some guys who stick to strict top and bottom roles, for the majority there is a degree of versatility, depending on mood or partner. Over the years, I’ve known many tough guy types who enjoy bottoming as well as flamboyant drag queens who were tops most of the time.

Perhaps the best way to tell a top from a bottom would be to ask, though more often than not you’ll get an answer that includes the word versatile, which in my opinion, is a good thing. Recognition of that reality has led those who really are one or the other to add “total” to their descriptors, i.e. “Total Bottom” or “Total Top,” though most are happy either way, perhaps with a preference rather than a hard and fast rule. For some, it’s about traditional gender roles, where they will bottom for someone who is bigger, older, or more masculine than they are, while for others (and I suspect most), it’s about going where the mood and vibe take you, sometimes leading to the joys of flip-flopping, taking turns being the bottom and the top, for a truly exciting session.

The internalizing of the cultural stigmas associated with being a bottom has led to some men who really are total bottoms to advertise themselves as bottom versatile just to avoid being perceived as being somehow less of a man, but that mindset it’s based on a faulty and unhealthy premise. Whatever you are, top, bottom, or everything in between – perceiving yourself and your partners as full-value humans is the most important thing. Tab A into Slot B vs. Tab B into Slot A – doesn’t change how much of a man you are one bit.

Do you have a preference, top or bottom? How versatile are you?

Tell us what you think!

Tell us what you think!

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