Can you tell if a guy is a top or a bottom just by looking at him? A new article by Brian Moylan at Vice aims 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 male-female 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, bringing the overall average correct guesses to 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, like a man’s level of hairiness, size of muscles, or squareness of jaw.
Related: WATCH: Challenge What You Think You Know About Tops Vs. Bottoms
Moylan also looks at a 2011 study by Chinese and Canadian researchers Lijun Zheng, Trevor Adam Hart, and Yong Zheng that found it’s not just a man’s physical appearance that canreveal 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.
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 of 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, adding that most guys aren’t exclusively one position or another, even though they may gravitate towards one in particular.
Related: Are Bottoms More Promiscuous Than Tops?
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.”
No mention of versatiles at all? I think most gay men are vers to some degree. Also doubt there are “a lot” of feminine tops and masculine bottoms. To claim fem tops and masc bottoms exist is one thing, to say there are a lot of both seems like a stretch. The results seem to blatantly point to what one has learned, which totally negates the hypothesis. Also rather odd that there is no mention of how all of this is a matter of self-identification. A feminine top could just be a bottom in denial. A masculine bottom might turn out to be quite versatile with the right partner. Study fail.
Someone once commented that who is the top and who is the bottom in a couple are usually the opposite of what you think, and my own experience has generally validated this.
@Chevelter: No sorry, in most cases the top or at least the more active one and vice versa are usually exactly the ones everyone think they are.
@Masc Pride: Exactamente!
Queerty spends half of its articles promoting the idea that one can “feel” like a man or a woman based on stereotypical notions of how men and women act and present themselves. Then it lectures us that we shouldn’t rely on gender stereotypes. OK, then.
@Masc Pride: “aren’t exclusively one position or another, even though they may gravitate towards one in particular” is a long way of saying versatile.
And of course, “a lot of” is subjective. Consider the population of the U.S. is around 320m. A lazy assumption is 10% of the population is LGBT, and half are gay guys. That’s 16m gay guys. And let’s say that just 10% of gay men fall into either of the “masc bottoms / femme tops” categories… that leaves us with 1.6 million gay guys. To me, that is “a lot” of people. Is it a vast majority, no. But the phrase the researcher chose to use is applicable.
If you are on the make, you will tend to act overtly more in the stereotypical way which corresponds with the role you desire. Isn’t this obvious?
In my entire gay life – and I’m now in my sixties – I’ve never asked a guy if he was a bottom or a top and I’ve never bottomed, so what does that tell you?
Another assumption that all gay men do this kind of sex. If you’re not a top, or a bottom, then you must be versatile, leaving no room for “none of the above.”
The average of correct guesses was not statistically greater than chance; on other words, you cannot tell at all.
There are also a lot of men who do not do anal what does that make them?
I call BS. So the tops are masc and the botts are fem? Who’s sponsoring this research, Trump Inc?
“How To Tell Whether A Dude Is A Top Or A Bottom”
If he grabs my crotch he’s a bottom. If he grabs my a** he’s a top.
And if it ain’t THAT personal, I have no curiosity!
I know many, many guys who have been predominantly the top in some relationships and predominantly the bottom in others. I also know men who have been one or other at one stage of their lives and the opposite at another. And I know guys who would tell you they’re top, but actually look for any opportunity to bottom. There are no rules and no reliable indicators.
Why is it every drag queen I ever met was a top? And they always had huge d**ks. Maybe I just answered my own question.
@JamJewel: That your missing out on a fulfilling sex life?
This entire study and the subsequent article are complete rubbish. There seem to be way more bottoms than tops out there these days including all the jacked up hairy muscle dudes. Most guys proclaim to be vers but will bottom at the drop of a hat and the category I find most rare are total tops. That also includes all the married guys having man on man sex on the side. Most of those guys are big ol’ bottoms given half the chance as well.
As for all those guys who have never bottomed or who don’t participate in actual penetrative sex as either a top or bottom I say you are just missing our. Get over the indoctrinated ideas ingrained in you from childhood about anal sex and you might realise how much fun it can be.
Ridiculous article. No room for variation whatsoever, much less operating under the assumption that all gay men practice anal sex. Having gone through the height of the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco, I firmly believe that being oral-only saved my life. My partner and I have been together for 34 years and have never had anal sex. We don’t like it. According to this study, we must not exist.
@Jack Meoff: “As for all those guys who have never bottomed or who don’t participate in actual penetrative sex as either a top or bottom I say you are just missing our. Get over the indoctrinated ideas ingrained in you from childhood about anal sex and you might realise how much fun it can be.”
NO. We are not at fault, or have hangups, just because we do not want to get or give anal sex. That’s our preference, and we don’t need you to denigrate us for that.
Seems no one is noticing that the combined statistic is only 2% better than flipping a coin. How is this even worth reporting, they could get the same number blindfolded.
@judysdad: Yeah I’m only into anal sex when I am with an actual partner who I am in a long term relationship/partership with and I am a total top for it. The rest of the time I do oral sex and for decades I had no interest at all in anal sex.
I know very feminine tops and very butch bottoms.
@Jack Meoff: The first half of your post, you bitch that there are too many bottoms (in anal sex). The second half, you bitch about guys who don’t like anal sex and don’t bottom. AND you are named “Jack Meoff”! Make up your mind!
As the other poster correctly points out, anal has HIV dangers that oral just doesn’t. And last time I checked, there are top and bottoms in oral sex too! No reason why “top” and “bottom” need to refer exclusively to anal. Anyway, oral sex ROCKS!
LOL. I think the take away from this is… there is no science whatsoever to this study. Just fucking ask.
Here’s an idea. You could be a rude prick and just ask, otherwise you can’t really tell. And seriously, who cares. If you are in a position to need to know (pun intended), then the question is appropriate, otherwise MYOB. Do you ask your straight friends/relatives what positions they do in bed?
This is the most misleading article ever. If the odds of guessing correctly are only 52% – THEN NOBODY CAN GUESS CORRECTLY. This is no better odds than chance.
After reading the vice article my take away is that the studies were conducted to deconstruct the experience we have when we are trying to connect with one another and that is using stereotypes based on heterosexual gender roles as a tool to make judgements about gay men. It is something we do and see all the time but never really articulate. It goes without saying that there will always be exceptions. Based on my own experiences with perceptions of people and how people perceive me, the choosing process is based on heterosexual gender roles. I’m a bottom who will happily top in a committed relationship. I’ve been with feminine tops and have been rejected by masculine bottoms who I judged as tops. I’ve been feminized because some of my mannerisms are “feminine” (i.e. calling me “girl”) and constantly have to educate all people about the heterosexual lens that we use to judge people. What I find the worse is the bottom shaming from other gay men. It comes from that patriarchal value system that is used to suppress women. We do that to each other and it hurts worse when your own people attack you. No wonder many of us have relationship issues around internalized homophobia, we were raised with these negative values and traditions. I wonder if we took off the Hetero shades and put on our Homo Goggles then we could dive deep and appreciate what we give to one another as GAY MEN. Our relationships are not comparable to our heterosexual brothers and that is OK. Neither is wrong we, just co-exist. We have enough fights to battle with the outside world we don’t need to fight with each other. Let’s take care of each other at home. Enjoy your sex however you want it and channel your fighting into bigger issues for the community. I bet we would feel a lot better about ourselves collectively.
@John: In my sixties having had several long-term relationships and still sexually active and I have had less than a fulfilling sex life? A fulfilling sexual experience is two people doing their darndest for their partner to have the most enjoyable and fulfilling experience imaginable, regardless of ‘what’ they are doing to each other. Period!
My experience has been that the more hyper-masculine they appear to be, the more they end up being total bottoms in bed. Which isn’t necessarily bad… until they also begin to take on the role of a woman too. Moans and all.
So, apart from the bottom shaming towards GBT men – how do we forget the Heterosexual men that engage in pegging?
To be frank, I cannot understand the obsession with what goes on with a person’s own ass. As a man, if he so chooses to engage in anal penetration (and does so, with all parties consenting, and adult) – then why is it anyone else’s business as to why and who it is with?
We are so willing to ‘top’ or ‘bottom’ label each other – completely forgetting, that being a ‘bottom’ – as generalized here (“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,”) puts Bottoms in the more noticeable, and thus dangerous position.
Passing priviledge for Tops essentially insulates them from the risks associated with being feminine, a bottom, or even openly not masculine (if, that is how society defines manhood).
In reality, a living bottom today – has likely seen more discrimination, more harm, and more injustices done simply due to their visibility. Pound for pound, the fact that ‘bottoms’ and ‘fems’ can still laugh, dance, shine, and party with the rest of them – is testament to the real feats of manhood; perseverance, pride, fight, bravery, strength, and survival.
Note to Tops; Don’t forget – you need me, more than I need you. Your competition is hanging at every sex shop/store. Before judging a bottom, get to know one – better yet, get to love one. We don’t just offer up our rears, we offer up much more – but you have to be a good enough man, first. To put it bluntly (top talk), you’ve got to be a good man, to get a good man.
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