Who are the tops and bottoms, and why are these terms obsolete?
We have some news for you if you identify as a man and you practice sex with men. Sex has long been considered to be more than just penetration. Inquiring about the partner's stance can be seen as impolite, to say the least. It seems that the distinction between tops and bottoms appears to have been invented by homophobes. However, there is also some good news.
What are "tops" and "bottoms"?
The top is considered the dominant/giving partner, while the bottom is the passive/receiving partner. Initially, definitions are linked to the practice of anal sex. These terms first appeared in the 1950s and were adopted by the BDSM community in the 1960s: top and bottom were used as synonyms for dominant and submissive participants, respectively. This strong value intersection shatters the expectations of the gay community (and others) from the behavior of the "top" and "bottom." We are sure you are aware that a bottom can violently dominate, whereas a top can be submissive too.
These terms are reminiscent of patriarchal gender roles and the desire to stereotype people based on their preferences.
How the terms have evolved
The term "versatile" first appeared in the 1970s to describe someone who can perform both of the roles. External markers were introduced at around same time. A tattoo or piercing on the left, for example, indicates that the person is a “top”, and vice versa. Then, a tendency to position yourself as versatile began to take place. The versatile top and bottom appeared, showing that behind labels there is also plenty freedom of expression.
All of these terms are now in use, but they are almost always heavily criticized for imitating patriarchal gender roles and the desire to stereotype people based on their preferences. Everyone is subject to expectations. If you are a top, act like one by being proactive and dominating. Ugh!
What's wrong with it
As feminism and the fight against discrimination gained traction, concerns about this concept become more common. In an interview with the LGBT Attitude Magazine in 2018, TV host Andy Cohen stated that the terms "top" and "bottom" were obsolete, and drew attention to bottom-shaming tracing back to the patriarchal culture.
Years&Years frontman Ollie Alexander openly criticized labeling in an interview with GQ the same year, calling it an outdated form of identity and a product of traditional masculinity and femininity.
In 2019, the British GQ published an article titled "It's Time to Stop Pigeonholing Gay Men as Tops and Bottoms". They talk about how indecent it is to start the conversation on a dating app asking "Top or bottom?"; whether a gay couple is obligated to practice anal sex; and the indigency of bottom-shaming by resemblance with discrimination against women.
Remember how you talk about gay couples with your friends. A dom guy with a large number of partners — real man, desired by everyone. A submissive guy who has more than one partner in their lifetime — is easy and therefore, unattractive.
There are no more terms - there are agreements
In 2022, we consider sexual categorization dead — it no longer defines anything as there’s an infinite number of preferences, desires, and kinks. Neither the modern BDSM community, LGBTiQ+ representatives, nor hetero couples want to be labeled. No one wants to be perceived through a point of view that is irrelevant to anyone, other than your partner.
The most important thing that is always forgotten is that preferences are situational, determined by context, partner, psychological state, and physical capabilities, rather than by some canon. It's just that they decided to keep quiet about it in the 1950s, and we fell for it!
In the subject
- The oldest known same-sex couple are Niinhnum and Khnumhotep, court manicurists from Sakkara, who were buried together as a married couple in 2400 BC;
- The church could bless same-sex marriages during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Basil I (867-886);
- Switch hitter (batting in both directions) was used as a synonym for bisexual, and pitching and catching were used as synonyms for top and bottom. These terms were borrowed from American football.