Defining Gay Male Sex Roles


In this guest post, Peter Di Sciascio explores both the history and evolution of how gay sex roles – top, bottom and versatile – came to be.

‘Gay’ has its beginnings as a culture for homosexual men in the USA in the early sixties. The Stonewall riots in 1969 heralded gay culture’s first public outing. Gay encompasses not just homosexual attraction and sex, but the full spectrum of social life as well. For the first time homosexual men could be looked at and observed in non-sexual terms.

Since then gay culture has witnessed decriminalisation and new freedoms in many parts of the world. Gay men can now develop new ways of identifying and relating to each other. A unique culture and community is emerging, to some extent free of the influence of the straight world. This grand project to establish our own culture is still very much a work in progress. However, no one is steering the ship, as is common with emerging cultures.

The characteristics of gay sex roles came out of decades of systematic oppression by the heterosexual world. In some respects gay sex is warped by those experiences. In recent times new freedoms have allowed gay sex to emerge as an increasingly unique sex, more likely to represent its participants’ desires than not. This transformation has accelerated in this century, the change being so fast that for many it has gone unnoticed.


In the beginning

To try and understand these changes I will present observations, consider human history, biology and evolution, and add a dose of logical thinking and common sense. I will apply these to current day manifestations of gay male sex, in particular, sex roles.

I am writing this from an observation point of Melbourne, Australia. I describe a theory; specific research has not been done. In reading this article, one should be reminded of biological variation:

The evolutionary process for all living things produces inherited errors and alterations. These alterations may not be compatible with life (a cause of miscarriages for example); they may prevent some desirable but not essential function or phenotypic characteristic, or be harmless but give no advantage. Often enough, though, advantage is gained, reproduction of the advantaged individual is favoured and over time the genetic ‘accident’ can become the norm. This forms one of the principles of evolution, that of natural selection.

At any point in time we can see it in the variations evident in humans. Core characteristics that are essential or highly desirable may be relatively stable, other characteristics may present as a spectrum of variation from one extreme to the other, from Black to White, with Grey in-between.

Observe the population, not the individual

To make an observation about a spectrum of presentations, or a subset of that spectrum, I apply the principle that ‘The observation applies to the population not the individual’. Instead of thinking of someone who doesn’t fit the observation, think instead about whether the observation is largely true for a population. Thus the observational method allows for current biological variations and the unique human ability to apply free will to alter or override instinctual traits.

A primary focus of this article is to understand the presentation of and influence of the strong human sexual forces of Dominance and Submission on gay male sexual practices.

A method for reproduction has been instilled into all living things and is essentially instinctual; it can’t be altered. Humans however have the capacity to apply free will, overriding instinct. Human reproduction allows for the presence of Instinctual and non-instinctual components, indeed we can have sex without reproduction in mind at all.


Once upon a time

Human sex has its origins in the beginnings of humankind. Perhaps we can imagine such early humans, with no language and limited intelligence but highly sought after for National Geographic documentaries. Instinct told the man that the male sperm had to get into the woman’s vagina. The male instinct is to spread his seed wide, minimising inbreeding, the woman’s to control fertility and produce offspring.

To encourage a joining of males and females to bring on reproduction, a few basic elements were put in place. Firstly sex is made pleasurable for both parties and the male is made active. The best result is where one party is active and instigates sex. Man produces endless numbers of sperm and is the active partner, this being achieved by a good measure of sex drive. Women have limits on how many offspring they can produce. Additionally, through the mothering instinct the woman takes into account such things as her health, environmental conditions and safety in determining whether it is wise to get pregnant. In theory, the man has an ‘accelerator’ on the amount of sex he desires, and the woman has a ‘brake’. The success of the balance between the accelerator and the brake is evident in the growth of the human population.

At this point it is worth noting that if you bring two men together, instinctually they have two ‘accelerators’. This would largely account for the observation that gay men have higher levels of sexual activity than heterosexual men.

In this model, male sex drive and his ability to have sex often, are greater than those of women. A sort of scattergun approach is in place with excess male sperm saturating the reproductive system compared to the available female ova. This ensures that female opportunities for reproduction are fully consumed and reproduction is maximised.

This begs the question, what happens to the unused sperm and absent sex events? With unused sex drive present we can imagine the tension and potential for danger to both women and men. Early man, with limited intelligence and no language would not have devised masturbation as a solution. I believe that an instinctual solution needed to be in place.

The nipple solution

The power of the male nipple: some readers will wonder what I mean, some of you will know very well what I mean. I refer to it as the potential in some men (apparently random) for the nipples to be ‘wired for pleasure’. Stimulating the nipple during sex can produce enormous sexual pleasure for the man, this can increase over time. Alas some men’s nipples don’t seem to be wired at all, there being no obvious reason for the randomness.

There is the potential for sexual tension to build up if there are not enough sex events with women available. This could result in fighting, violence and rape in what were pretty basic human conditions. While the penis is designed to be partly a sex organ, it is already wired for pleasure, the anus is not ostensibly designed for sex. I have noticed that while some gay men gain great pleasure from the sexual use of their anus, some do not. I can count myself as amongst the latter group. I get no sexual pleasure from my arse, while most gay men seem to.

I theorise that wayback in time, natural selection (evolution) allowed a proportion of men’s arses to be wired for pleasure. Not dissimilar to the nipple, except this time not so random and with an obvious purpose. When necessary, community sexual tension could be released and excess sexual activity ‘mopped up’ by one man fucking another man’s arse. It may not be reproductive activity but it feels great for both parties (assuming that the receptive participant’s arse is wired for pleasure) and is an alternative when women are unavailable for sex. For this to work, not all arses can be wired for pleasure (they couldn’t desire to be anally receptive, or nothing would get started). The penis is fundamentally wired for pleasure so in those men with an absence of anal pleasure (not wired for pleasure), the act of insertion of the penis into the arse of the other is incentivised.

I don’t believe that sexuality is a determinant in the eroticisation of the male arse. From a biological and evolutionary standpoint, all men should have the potential I described above. We hear about heterosexual men discovering their arse these days. I have had numerous encounters with men who wanted anal sex but were not attracted to other men. They thought they were bisexual, I think they are heterosexual with an arse wired for pleasure that they have just discovered. At the end of the day they want sex with women, that’s where their desires are oriented, the vagina being their objectified hole.

The feelings and sensations of Dominance and submission are strong erotic drivers in humans. They probably developed because they augment the active and passive roles of men and women during sex. Such roles bringing forth and encouraging the necessary physical coupling needed for reproduction. It is hard to change such a clear instinctual desire as that. An instinctual thought or feeling, however, lends itself to much interpretation. Thus it is with Dominance and submission. They are strong instinctual forces; forever present in us, but forces that ‘modern man’ has ‘fiddled with’ extensively.


What about Gay Men?

The stage has now been set for a discussion of how this applies to male on male sex in modern times. It is instructive to keep in mind that it is only quite recently that gay men have been free enough to develop a culture, including a sexual culture. The sexual culture includes aspects that are intrinsic and instinctual, as well as learned aspects. Wanting to put a cock into a hole and fuck is fairly instinctual. Which hole, the different styles of fucking, accuracy and skill, are largely learned. Both nature and nurture influence modern sexual activities. Unlike other living things we have free will, we can decide to ignore nature and instinct, but I believe that our underlying instinctual desires stay with nature even if we don’t act them out. Man’s development and intelligence does mean that we are more able to use our free will and make sexual choices other than instinctual. But the instinctual is always there until evolution and natural selection wash it out (not in our lifetimes).

I will concentrate on the characteristics of gay men’s sexual practices that are largely determined by nature and use them to illuminate the emerging gay sexual culture and understand the current teething problems.

Top, Bottom…….words of confusion

I was unable to find information about the origins of the terms Top and Bottom. Like so much of our history we were not permitted to record it, even if we were collectivised enough to see the need to record it. We weren’t allowed to gather, or form groups where a commonality of experiences and knowledge may have created some history. I suspect it would have been in the late 60s or early 70s, when the concept of Gay first appeared, that newly emancipated gay men decided on the words Top and Bottom as a quick way of communicating whose dick went into whose hole; very handy in a park at night.

Gay sex then was very much piecemeal and clandestine. There would have been few opportunities to form relationships and develop a more holistic sex life as part of a relationship. Cocksucking, for example, may have been the extent of a gay man’s experience. Sex in a house, in a bed, with a light on, was unusual. Think about why gay men like sex at beats, in unusual places, anonymous and in the dark. So much of their current sexual behaviour, the learned parts, is linked to our history. Meanwhile the instinctual parts, that nature has given us, often the foundations of our desired sexual expression, rather than being learned and created, are actually now being revealed. In modern times and with modern freedoms we are seeing for the first time what was always there.

Like all humans, gay men’s sexual desires are greatly influenced by the traits of dominance and submission. Remove sexual interaction with women, and the need to procreate from the picture, and we see the unmodulated influence of these two strong forces. Using terminology from the 60s, Tops are dominant and Bottoms are submissive. If you think about the desired sexual practices of Tops and Bottoms, they fit the binary picture of dominance and submission respectively.

In gay men these traits would be amplified by the essentially male level of sex drive and the amount of sex had where these characteristics are reinforced by the equally driven man with the complimentary role. The best way to see male behaviour in its purest form is to observe it when two men are interacting and the behaviour is doubled.

Back in the 60s this his binary concept of Top and Bottom was confirmed by observing the heterosexual model. Thus, in our naivety, we made a huge mistake.

Reminder: Observe the population, not the individual

You may be wondering if some gay men are naturally dominant and some naturally submissive why are all heterosexual men dominant with respect to women? While I have not set out to examine heterosexual male behaviours, the answer to this question would help illuminate gay male behaviour. I suspect that some heterosexual men do indeed carry innate submissive desires. They would have benefitted from them as Early Man when they were the receptive partner in a man on man sex encounter. Yet they then had to get up and hunt down women in an active and dominant way.

I do not believe that the presence of significant submissive sexual traits amongst gay men (along with dominance this is a binary characteristic), would exist only within the homosexual population (a unary characteristic). So much is possible with genetics but this seems unlikely. I surmise that the desire for sexual submission is present in some heterosexual men as well. However it is not amplified by the high levels of opportunity and regular experience of the learned components as we see in homosexual men. While it might enter the sex lives of some couples, the woman’s desires, the couple’s combined level of sex drive, and the negative influence of culture and taboo along with the presence of masturbation would dampen its practice. In theory the heterosexual male is satisfied by the prevalent modes of interaction with women and would not seek alternate roles. While I believe that an individual’s desire to be sexually dominant or submissive is determined by nature, I speak for men when I say that these roles are not essential for sex. The mechanics of sex can often proceed without them, but they play a big part in opportunity, desire, passion and enjoyment.


The mistake revealed

Getting back to our huge mistake; what we did was create categories for Tops and Bottoms but no one else. Versatile men missed out. Versatile men naturally have a mixture of both dominance and submission as erotic drivers. This allows them to express themselves sexually with the ways normally associated with both Bottoms and Tops. Indeed at any point they may appear to be a Top or Bottom by omission or commission and so were not appropriately recognised.

Essentially Versatile men had to identify with one of two categories already established, straight jacketing them into roles that were not totally natural for them. The mistake occurred because at the time there was so little knowledge about gay sex. We were not allowed to study it, record it, or spread the word. The heterosexual model we used as a comparator was not entirely helpful; there is no versatility in heterosexual sex. For versatility in sex you need same-same, both parties require the same bits. We looked at the heterosexual model and missed that one. Oops!

I can remember the constant dissatisfaction with the fixed roles, rules and agenda applied to sex. The now emblematic expression go with the flow was often heard from those who were disaffected. That expression is anathema to Tops and Bottoms and its presence can still be used as a marker of a Versatile man’s profile in an online meeting app. Of course the dissatisfaction seen at the time was from the Versatile men, stuck in the binary sex world we had created.

Rarely is something completely black and white in nature. As long as it is compatible with life there will usually be black and white, and a grey scale in-between. The expression of the characteristic (black-grey-white) will be 100% (black or white) at the extremes, with a graded mixture of the two in-between (grey). Tops have the characteristic of 100% dominance influencing their sexual activities. Bottoms have a 100% submission driver. The long forgotten Versatile men have dominance and submission mixed to varying degrees to produce a group with a spectrum of sexual and erotic drivers and behaviours.

There were no significant numbers of gay men identifying as Versatile until about the mid 90s. Their numbers have since exploded such that they are by far the largest group. Those left in the Top and Bottom boxes are genuinely from the extremes and may exhibit sex with the maximum and purest influence of either dominance or submission, never changing to the other.

A not-exactly-scientific experiment

When I have a Top or Bottom or Versatile guy visiting, it’s not uncommon to be asked if there are any interesting Tops or whatever in my locality. I’m a Top, I almost exclusively interact sexually with Bottoms, so I might know the local Bottoms. Generally though, Tops don’t talk to each other, and relations with Versatiles are currently a bit strained, so I don’t really know these other groups. I do a lot of surfing and cruising on apps like Scruff. As I check out a profile, I put a copy it into a favourites folder labelled with one of Bottom, Bottom Vers, Versatile, Top Vers or Top (that’s if the profile identified the guy’s desired role or position, as most do). My thinking was that I could just hand my iPad to my visitor and open the relevant Scruff favourites folder for them.

A favourites folder on Scruff has a limit of 250 profiles. Reach that number and you have to create another folder. Late in 2017 I noticed something interesting about the order that the folders were filling. I then asked quite a few of my friends which folder do they think filled first. Only one got it right. The rest said Bottom or Bottom Vers. The answer is Versatile (what I often refer to as Fully Vers). This unintended research is not highly scientific, but numbers are big enough that it is certainly indicative of a trend.

As I write: Bottom – folder 4
Bttm Vers – folder 3
Versatile – folder 8
Top Vers – folder 3
Top – folder 4

Now many have immediately wondered about all the Bottoms who are contaminating the Bttm Vers group, yeah, yeah, yeah, heard it all before! The stats are hardly significant enough to support such speculation.

It’s the significance of 8 folders of versatile guys that should grab you, and the combined versatile group being 14 folders. That’s the story being told.

According to these data the commonly held view that everyone has become a Bottom is a furphy. We are not seeing the wood for the trees, at least according to how guys identify on Scruff. Scruff is by far the most popular app in Melbourne; I think the numbers are a good indication of what is happening.

If we go back to the graded scale between dominance and submission, then the picture probably fits the reality. The Versatile numbers should be the most numerous. Nature wants 100% dominance and 100% submission points to complete the scale, that’s typical for nature. In the case of this sexual driver, to get the 100% extremes there can be no versatility within them. If you add any versatility then you don’t have expression of the 100% extreme. There’s a tipping point where the gradually decreasing amount of the opposing characteristic has to disappear. At the extremes either dominance or submission exist at full strength, dramatically influencing the desired sex. Desired sex on either side of the tipping point is so different that satisfying sex across the tipping point can be hard to achieve. This is the territory of Tops and Bottoms. Originally the words Top and Bottom were only applied to identify the insertive or receptive partner in anal sex, for many perhaps showing their limits of gay sex experience. Now they describe a holistic sexual practice driven by one of dominance or submission and devoid of desired versatility.

Dominance ≠ to top ≠ a Top
Submission ≠ to bottom ≠ a Bottom

Generally speaking, Tops want to fuck, dominate, be in charge, control, teach, lead, compete with other Tops, focus on their cock and the Bottom’s arse, plan and lead all sex, lead the role play and mind sex and generally apply their dominant role to all sexual activities. Control is very important. Tops don’t like surprises (surprises are uncontrolled) and they don’t have many fantasies (it’s hard to fantasise in a head that is such a controlled environment). The expression of these traits is desired and are important for arousal. Some can be so important that their absence can prevent arousal. Interestingly the Top’s arse is seldom used. He has no real desire there and he derives little or no sexual pleasure from it. Does that sound familiar?

The Bottom wants to submit. He loves to be the receptacle for pleasure and hand over all control, be fucked by multiple Tops and have all focus on his arse, which is highly wired for pleasure. In the heat of the moment even the most sensible and politically correct Bottom can tell the Top he wants to be treated like a whore and will ask to be raped. Their submissive drivers leave them with little control, the Top desires and takes all control, and hopefully he uses it wisely in these circumstances. The Bottom is highly susceptible to role-play and mind sex, and naturally desires the passive or submissive role in all sexual activities. Once he trusts the Top his submission can be complete. Bottoms love surprises and produce a constant stream of fantasies from a mind that has been freed of responsibilities and the cares of the world. A friend referred to them as ‘fantasy factories’.

The following is from a 50yo gay man, with many years as high class escort where he was almost completely Top or Versatile for clients. He says his nature is truly a Bottom. He describes the feelings of a Bottom and how a Bottom subtly teaches a Top.

I feel as a bottom, I have a duty to help a top become the best man he can be, with me, and for and with other men. His experience with me, should make him feel worthy, dominant, in control, masculine, powerful, and like a King. Like my King for the time we spend together (in my case ownership is shared), and like the bottom I am, I guide him through the process of finding his masculine self with me, by his side, (n.b., I am never in front), guided discovery techniques used here by me, together, so I can be satisfied, as a bottom, and indeed potentially as his sub if we go there…., and of course, for him to enjoy me, and himself. For me to have a Top roar in ecstasy as he expresses and reveals his power and dominance over me is exquisite, exciting, and liberating to say the least.

In short, bottoms play a role in the teaching, it does take some skill though…. And each man, is as you know, different, and as a bottom, I need to be aware at all times that there is a fine line between encouragement, and demonstrating practically, verbally and through other means my desire to be with the man. If I were to be demonstrative and emasculate the top…..that would be most unsatisfying for all…

So the Bottom doesn’t lose control after all.

Of course there may be variations in the presentation of Tops and Bottoms, largely due to environmental and cultural influences and the application of free will (nurture at work). Then there are the negative influences of decades of criminalisation and oppression (a sort of ‘nurture’ at work again). We should not forget or underestimate the damage that was done to generations of homosexual men and is still occurring in so many parts of the world.

I believe that what I have described are the fundamental sexual drivers for Tops and Bottoms. It is very defined and proscriptive, even the desire to define and proscribe comes naturally with a Top’s sexual makeup. These gay men essentially have no desire to venture out of their patch. This is nature at work, not nurture.

The gay men in the now very large Versatile group are influenced by both dominance and submission to varying degrees. In the middle would be the fully Versatile men with equal measures of the two drivers. The result is that Versatile men have desires across the full range of activities. They like to be both the inserter and receiver with anal sex for example. Within a sex session they may change sides several times, referred to as flipping. Dominance and submission influence their desires and how they play them out, but the influences are not as obvious as with Tops and Bottoms. The extremes of such desires are usually not there, there is no 100% of either driver, always a mix of influences. Versatile men inherently don’t like structure and fixed roles in sex, if these were present you could not have versatility. ‘Go with the flow’ is the order of the day.

Top and Bottom characteristics perfectly compliment each other. Versatility doesn’t exist for them and it is hard for them to compromise if having sex with a Versatile man. The very nature of versatility means the Versatile man is much more able to compromise and connect with a Top or Bottom. But it’s by no means a perfect match. One can imagine how much compromise had to happen in the early days before Versatiles were recognised.


Reminder: Observe the population, not the individual. These lists are by no means exhaustive.

Key characteristics of Versatile sex:

There is the desire to engage in both bottoming and topping.
It is essentially democratic; all participants have equal standing and power.
Participants desire that everyone experiences the sex equally.
Participants are solo operators, they are independent. There is no driver for collaboration.
No one is in charge.
Sex is not planned, it flows intuitively.
Versatility is ideal for threesomes and group sex.
There are no fixed roles.
All necessary body parts are wired for pleasure.
There is no role play nor mind sex.
No one really has the teacher role.
Versatiles can enjoy the full breadth of male on male sexual activities and experiences.
There are not foci on innovation and excellence, or pushing boundaries.
Sex is fun, there can be laughter.
Kink isn’t emphasised, most kink operates with fixed roles.

Key characteristics of Top/Bottom sex:

Roles are fixed, Tops always dominate, Bottoms always submit.
Sex is codified and has rules and standards.
The Top’s orgasm is primary, the Bottom’s is secondary.
In sex the Bottom’s cock is irrelevant as is the Top’s arse.
Sex is not democratic, there is a power difference, Tops are on top.
Sex is highly collaborative, Top and Bottom work together to achieve the very best sex.
Sex is serious, but highly satisfying.
Role-play is very effective. There is a strong psychological element to sex. There can be two layers of sex happening, that of the physical and the mind.
Sex is planned and delivered by the Top.
Tops teach Bottoms overtly. I suspect that Bottoms teach Tops covertly.
Tops discipline Bottoms (either verbally or physically), ensuring they comply with accepted behaviour.
Tops set standards.
There is an emphasis on innovation, excellence and pushing boundaries, it is common for Tops and Bottoms to specialise in a particular activity and pursue excellence in that activity.
There is no flipping. There is no desire to do the opposite activity.
The Bottom expects the Top to deliver the Bottom’s fantasies.
Top’s manage consent and safety.
There is often an interest in Kink. Most kink is suited to a dominant/submissive environment.
Threesomes and group sex are difficult; one on one is most effective.
Achieving total control and total submission in sex is prized.

Start taking away items from either list and the sex falls apart.

When reading these lists keep in mind my earlier comment, they apply to the population not the individual. There will be variations seen; however I believe these are representative of a fairly pure presentation. I know from experience that some aspects just do not cross over between Versatile and Top/Bottom sex. Some things are so characteristic of the groups that they can almost be infallible markers. As mentioned earlier, sex between members of both groups inevitably involves compromise. My experience is that Versatile men carry the lion’s share of the compromise, and Tops and Bottoms are the more dissatisfied with the sex.

Two types of sex?

You will notice that I am now making reference to Top/Bottom sex and Versatile sex. I do this deliberately as I believe we now have two very different forms of sex happening. Unfortunately they do not mix well. Traditionally, Tops have held the power in gay sex and gay culture. We now see that power shifting to Versatile men. I believe this is appropriate and Versatile sex should be the face of Gay sex. Versatile men have the numbers, they should be the biggest influence on the development of our nascent culture.

This power shift has led to some tension between Tops/Bottoms and Versatile men. Tops need to relinquish power, Versatile men need to use that power wisely. Older Versatile men were at one stage in either the Top or Bottom category, they have an understanding of Top/Bottom sex and the differences. Newer generations of Versatile men have often experienced no other sex than Versatile sex. They have little or no understanding of Top/Bottom sex and sadly my experience is they have little patience for it. I often interact with Versatile men who just can’t understand or accept why I don’t want to use my arse in sex.

Everyone’s a Bottom

I believe that recreational drugs do increase the desire and ability to use the arse sexually, and decrease the ability of the cock. But that’s not the full picture. Who wants to bottom? The Bottoms, Bottom Vers, Vers, and Top Vers, that’s a lot a gay men, almost everyone. We are not seeing more Bottoms, we are seeing more guys wanting to bottom more often.

Can we fake it?

The question arises. Can we change teams or fake it? For Versatile men who instinctually have desires across all roles and activities, it’s hard for them to imagine that someone wouldn’t. Just like when I think of Versatile sex I shudder at its uncontrolled nature and wonder, ‘who is in charge?’ That is truly my first thought. Being in charge is an enormous erotic driver for Tops. Not having a sense of being in charge can negatively impact arousal, I can attest to this. For a Top or Bottom to fake it, to change and become Versatile, a major focus is the use of the cock and arse. The cock is inherently wired for pleasure, which comes with being a man. Bottoms, however, don’t have a great desire to use it in sex. But they are men, they can be aroused and with practice they can fuck. With regard to the rest of being a Bottom, it’s much harder to act against your desires. You can learn to do things but that doesn’t mean you desire them or enjoy them.

Using the arse is a different story. The arse is not ostensibly designed as a sex organ. Inherently it is not erotically wired unless you are one of the ‘lucky’ men. Without a significant sexual reward it’s not easy to stick something the wrong way up the arse. For this reason Tops have a hard time being fucked and probably don’t get very good at it and never enjoy it. Dominance and submission, structured sex and fixed roles for example are instinctively so important for Tops and Bottoms that outside of this paradigm it can be hard to get satisfying sex.

If they wanted to change and become a Top or Bottom, Versatile men have the advantage of been erotically wired and focussed to have desires across all activities. What they really struggle with is the overt and concentrated presence of dominance and submission, the use of role-play and generally the psychological aspect of sex. These can only come into play when roles are fixed and sex is structured (characteristics of Top/Bottom sex and not Versatile sex).

The main difficulty Versatile men have is participating in the important psychological aspect of Top/Bottom sex. This inability in my experience does not worry them at all. I have concluded that this is the case because they don’t even know that this layer of sex exists for Tops and Bottoms, let alone understand its importance to arousal and satisfying sex. I think that the psychological layer of sex is another thing at the tipping point of the scale that I mentioned. It requires fixed roles and a power differential, neither of which exist with Versatility. It’s incompatible with Versatility and therefore is not a driver, or desired, by Versatile men. Also, rather than try and do activities that they don’t desire, Versatile men who change sides have to resist activities that they do desire.

What’s in a verb?

At this point we should explore the difference between the noun and the verb. The nouns, Bottom and Top, have different usage than the verbs (to top, topping, to bottom, bottoming). The nouns describe the individuals, the verbs the activity of anal sex. A bit confusing but that’s my interpretation of current usage. Online I say I want to meet Bottoms. I then have a constant stream of Bottom Vers and Versatile guys wanting to bottom for me. They mean they want to be fucked in the arse by a Top. I however I am looking for the whole Bottom I described earlier, his erotic buttons match with mine so it’s inevitable I am more likely to get great sex. This is no slight on the Versatile man. Ideally we should drop the use of bottom and top as verbs and name the activities instead. I once heard this:

A Versatile man is never a Bottom.
A Versatile man is never a Top.
A Versatile man is always a Versatile man.
A Versatile man might fuck.
A versatile man might be fucked.
But he is never a Top or a Bottom, he is always a Versatile man.


In the future I hope that Top/Bottom sex and Versatile sex are accepted and that one is not seen as better that the other and that both are considered natural. Neither should impose its sex upon the other. The newly empowered Versatile men need to accept that Tops and Bottoms are different because we are different. It’s nature not nurture that underpins that difference. Bottoms have always been in a vulnerable position; their submissive role puts them there. Fortunately the Top’s role, along with a strong driver for collaboration, protects the Bottom. Versatility does not naturally accommodate a weaker party. Care is needed

It is no accident that a Top is writing this. Traditionally Tops are the teachers and have power. The sexual desires of Tops lead to structured sex, labelling, power, etc. Tops are well placed to recognise these characteristics and their influence. Also, Tops are more likely to spot the absence of these characteristics and the reason for the absence. Young Tops and Bottoms are still coming through the ranks. Bottoms are so unfashionable that anyone saying he is a Bottom these days must be the real deal.

An investigation is needed into the basis and nature of two types of sex appearing in a small population. Homosexuals have never been in this position before in history. With the freedom to follow our sexual desires have we uncovered something unique amongst human beings? What are, will be, the cultural implications. As a minority with in a minority, how are Tops and Bottoms fairing at the moment? I suspect we are on very new ground that is not being properly studied, and I haven’t examined the nurture or learned components of sex. That would be an article of its own.

A final note….

To be true to his desires, a Versatile man must be versatile, as does a Top or Bottom man to his respective fixed roles. It’s the next level that creates the challenge. Versatility presents constant sexual choices; Top/Bottom sex does not. This difference forms the main tension point between the two as I see it today.

About Peter Di Sciascio


Peter is a 55 year old gay man and an avowed Top (if it comes to that). He lives in one of the gay principalities in the inner north of Melbourne, Australia.

From there, he exercises his skills of observation, analysis and understanding, tosses them with degrees in Science and the Arts and hopefully comes out with thoughts and ideas worth listening to.

You can read more of his work here:

Why is society harder on gay men than lesbians?

Why are young gay men so feminine?

Does the legalisation of same-sex marriage bother you?

This entry was posted in Gay Sex on by .

144 thoughts on “Defining Gay Male Sex Roles

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