Stop Shaming Me for Not Being “Top or Bottom”

If you think sex must end with anal, you’re having it wrong.

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Photo: Shutterstock

It can be a hard-knock gay life for a man who prefers butts to be incidental to sex. Well, maybe not completely incidental: I love getting rimmed (and with the right guy and the right ass, rimming, too), but unfortunately, most of the gay men I meet are more interested in another kind of anal penetration.

Personally, I’m not a fan, and that’s dealt some crushing blows over the course of my sex life. Some guys are disappointed to get me under the covers and realize that I’d rather not go there. Then I’m disappointed because I pretty much know I’ll never hear from them again.

Occasionally, if passion persists and insists, I give in and slide in, but not with any regularity. I call myself a “top by default” because I top less for enjoyment than for a lack of alternatives. After bottoming during my second sexual experience with a man, at 22, I was in so much pain for such a long time that I swore I’d never do it again — and nearly 27 years later, I still haven’t.

“Just relax,” my second (whose name was Ken) kept saying that Friday night after we met at Tunnel Bar on the corner of Second Avenue and Seventh Street in New York City as I twisted and turned and tried to stifle my shrieks. He also said, “I can’t believe how tight you are,” as he stuffed himself inside of me (with a condom).

An acquired taste? Really?

Since then, I’ve been told by friends and strangers that it gets better over time and eventually starts to hurt so good. But I’ve now been having sex for enough years — decades — to know there are so many amazing things to do under the covers that aren’t acquired tastes. I’d rather just focus on them.

Is that a sex crime? Does that make me weird? Apparently, yes — to a lot of guys.

“So what do you do in bed then?” many ask, apparently suffering from temporary amnesia and forgetting all of the things other than penetration that one can do — that one should do — during great sex.

I’ve had many guys come and go before we even make it to the date stage because they can’t confirm that it will culminate in anal sex. Most bow out quietly, but some treat me like a freak for not wanting to do something they see as being conventional and perfunctory.

“Do you just hug then?”

“You must be positive.”

“Are you a lesbian?”

“Are you even gay?”

Then there are the ones who don’t ask beforehand because they assume that a gay black guy with muscles must be an aggressive top. For many of them, foreplay, if they bother with that at all, is merely an appetizer to rush through before skipping the main course and going straight to dessert.

I’ve seen disappointment wash over their faces when they find out I don’t eat that way. I’ve had guys who couldn’t get enough of me moments earlier suddenly lose interest. After years of awkward refusals and occasional concessions (sometimes reluctant, sometimes not, but never particularly enthusiastic), I decided to lay it out in my Grindr profile.

“Hey, I’m good. You?… Not into anal, so don’t bother with butt pics. I prefer to meet and let what happens happen without endless messages and pic exchanges. Great conversation is the best foreplay, and there’s nothing sexier than a good kisser.”

I’ve never received so many butt pics as I have since making that my profile message two weeks ago in Varna, Bulgaria.

I’m currently in Bucharest, Romania, and guys are still asking “Top or bottom?” and “Want to f — k me?” and “What are you looking for?” all the time — even those who claim they’ve read my profile. Maybe they think I’m lying. Maybe they think the can sway me to swing it their way. Maybe they think I’m just nuts.

When one 20-year-old who calls himself “Adorable guy” (judging from the pics he included in his first messages to me, the moniker is accurate) asked What are you looking for?, I answered with a question.

Me: That’s not clear from my profile?

Him: Well, not really :p

I know that you don’t like anal sex and you like a good kisser

But it could be: I like to meet for coffee or I like to meet for a blowjob lol

Me: I think a reasonable person who is NOT looking for quick sex would read it and see that I’m not either.

Lessons in lust

If my years of using Grindr have taught me anything, it’s that “What are you looking for?” is borderline-tantamount to “Top or bottom?” Most of the guys who approach me on Grindr are looking to get topped, and they don’t ask “What are you looking for?” to see if I’d be into a coffee date.

Guys who go with the flow during those early moments on Grindr also tend to go with the flow during sex. (More of them, please.) The ones who ask those cliché Grindr questions (“Top or bottom?”… “Looking for?”… “Hung?”… “Into?”) will almost invariably expect talking to lead to kissing to lead to sucking to lead to f — …, well, you get the idea.

I was impressed by the way “Adorable guy” commanded English (Romanians do very well with it, in general) and his perfect use of the colon, but I decided to move on. I’m wary of 20-year-olds to begin with, but this one definitely lacked the power of deductive reasoning, which isn’t much of a turn-on.

Last week in Bulgaria, another Grindr suitor, skipped the suitor-ing and went right to the shaming.

What are you looking for?

Who do you think you are?

So you don’t do anal?

Then what the fuck do you do?

Dumb ass.

I couldn’t believe that a complete stranger’s lack of interest in anal sex had offended him to the point that he delivered so many low blows. I didn’t bother to respond, because I knew the N-word probably would be next. So I just blocked him. But his message stayed with me.

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Photo: Kandukuru Nagarjun/flickr

Anal sex doesn’t equal gay sex

When did anal sex become an obligation, a prerequisite for gay cred? When did so many guys forget about all the other things that constitute sex? Contrary to popular belief, anal sex is not even synonymous with gay sex.

Some straight men and women enjoy anal penetration. Like pop divas, show tunes, and RuPaul’s Drag Race, it’s not something that exists solely for gay men. And as with pop divas, show tunes, and RuPaul’s Drag Race, they’re not obligatory loves for gay men. (Confession: I’ve never seen one second of RuPaul’s Drag Race, and I never ever intend to.)

I’ve gotten enough messages from guys who feel as I do to support my theory that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing in sex. And while my general distaste for anal sex might limit my circle of sexual prospects and prospective boyfriends, I’ve made great connections with guys in the nude. I’ve even enjoyed anal on occasion, but only when it’s part of a natural progression and not an expectation or demand.

There have been fleeting moments when I’ve thought about giving in to the pressure that I do receive and be the big black top that so many seem to automatically expect me to be.

There have been fleeting moments when I’ve thought about giving in to the pressure that I do receive and be the big black top that so many seem to automatically expect me to be. Maybe I also should learn how to bottom and love it. I rarely find myself body to body with a self-described “top” (my last one was a guy named Lucas in Sydney nearly two years ago who, after rimming me, echoed Ken from 27 years ago when he commented on how “tight” I was), but a capacity for bottoming could come in handy, too.

Lucas and I probably would be married now if, to borrow from ’70s rock & roll sex god Robert Plant (on Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love”), I had let him be my backdoor man.

I didn’t, but I am completely open to meeting a guy with whom I’m so in sync and so in love that I want to explore every aspect of sex with him. I might even learn to love and crave topping, and acquire a taste for bottoming, too.

But that will be by my choice. I’ll never be shamed into being anything other than who I am — and at this point, that’s not even a “top by default.” I’m a gay man, and if that’s not a good enough label, there are plenty of other products on the shelf.

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Written by

Brother Son Husband Friend Loner Minimalist World Traveler. Author of “Is It True What They Say About Black Men?” and “Storms in Africa”

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