Young attractive gay couple posing in the studio.

Can you tell if a guy is a top or a bottom just by looking at him? An article by Brian Moylan at the now-shuttered Vice sought out to find the answer to this controversial question.

Moylan points to a 2013 study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior that found people often rely on gender stereotypes when identifying sexual roles in same-sex relationships.

For the study, 23 participants were shown the dating profile pics of 200 gay men, 100 tops and 100 bottoms, then asked to identify which was which. Based on the pictures alone, participants correctly identified the tops about 65 percent of the time and the bottoms just about 39 percent of the day. The overall average correct guesses? A surprising 52 percent!

Dr. Nicholas O. Rule, who led the study, said the results primarily had to do with “heterosexually-inspired stereotypes about men” or biological indicators of masculinity. Those include a man’s level of hairiness, size of muscles, or squareness of jaw.

Moylan also looks at a 2011 study by Chinese and Canadian researchers Lijun Zheng, Trevor Adam Hart, and Yong Zheng. They found it’s not just a man’s physical appearance that can reveal his preferred sexual position. His mannerisms also play a factor.

The researchers noticed that guys who said they were tops also tended to have more traditionally masculine interests, while the guys who identified as bottoms tended to adhere to more traditionally female gender roles.

Interestingly, in a separate study by the same research team, bottoms demonstrated a greater interest in faces of men considered to be traditionally masculine, while tops were more interested in traditionally feminine faces.

Tops vs. bottoms vs. sides

When it comes to sexual relationships, especially within the LGBTQ+ community, the terms “top” and “bottom” are commonly used to describe different roles or preferences.

  • Tops: A “top” is someone who usually takes on a more dominant or active role during sexual encounters. Traditionally, they are associated with being the partner who penetrates, and they are often described as taking charge and initiating sexual activity.
  • Bottoms: On the other hand, bottoms prefer a more submissive or receptive role during sexual encounters. They may enjoy being penetrated or receiving stimulation from their partner.
  • Versatile (vers): It’s important to acknowledge that there are individuals who identify as versatile or “switch.” These individuals are comfortable assuming both top and bottom roles, depending on their mood, partner dynamics, or personal preferences.
  • Sides: Additionally, there are individuals who identify as “sides.” They prefer non-penetrative sexual activities or explore alternative forms of intimacy.

These terms are commonly used to describe preferences and roles in consensual relationships. It’s all about understanding and respecting each other’s desires and boundaries, creating a safe and inclusive space for everyone involved.

The reality of top and bottom roles

So what’s the takeaway from all this?

Moylan asks Dr. Trevor Adam Hart for his analysis.

“One hypothesis is there are biological differences between tops and bottoms, and that’s a possibility, but we don’t have any evidence to support it,” Hart explains.

At the end of the day, trying to guess whether a guy is a top or a bottom based on his physical appearance, his mannerisms, or his interests is a total crap shoot.

“There are a lot of tops that are feminine and bottoms that are masculine,” Hart continues. He goes on to add that most guys aren’t exclusively one position or another, even though they may gravitate towards one in particular.

Moylan offers this pearl of wisdom for those who are really curious; “If you’re getting close enough to a guy where it’s really going to matter, you might have to figure it out the old fashioned way: Ask.

Sound advice!

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