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Top / Bottom / Versatile - The Gay Men Sexuality

Updated: May 26, 2022

Many men report that they had experiences with people of the same sex when they were young. This is often a normal part of exploring their sexuality. Men who go on to describe themselves as ‘same-sex attracted’ or ‘gay’ have a strong physical and emotional attraction to men that they don’t usually feel for women.

When it comes to anal act in gay sexual desire most believe that there are two types; those who like to give, and those who like to receive. But in most aspects, it is not the case.

In the Latin of the glorious ancient Rome, they didn’t even have words that denoted whether a person was homosexual or heterosexual — it simply didn’t matter which sex a person preferred to indulge in their sexual excursions with. They did, however, have distinct words which would distinguish whether a person was dominant or submissive in the bedroom, and for the Romans, being a “dom” or “sub” was much more than just a role that one filled or preferred in the bedroom, it was a statement about their way of life.


The main difference between a dominant and a top is that the dominant ostensibly does not follow instructions, although they are limited by what the submissive is willing to do. The top may sometimes even be the partner who is following instructions, i.e., they top when, and in the manner, requested by the bottom. Contrast this with the pure dominant, who might give orders to a submissive, or otherwise employ physical or psychological techniques of control, but might instruct the submissive to perform the act on them.

The main difference between a submissive and a bottom is that the submissive ostensibly does not give instructions, although they do set limits on what the dominant can do. A bottom is not necessarily a submissive; they may enjoy intense physical and psychological stimulation but not submit to the person delivering it. Similarly, a submissive might not be a bottom; they may enjoy taking orders from a dominant without receiving any physical stimulation. For bottoms who are not submissive, the bottom is most often the partner who is giving instructions—the top typically tops when, and in the manner, requested by the bottom.

Many gay men actually self-identify as “versatile,” which means that they have no strong preference for either the insertive or the receptive role. For a small minority, the distinction doesn’t even apply, since some gay men lack any interest in anal sex and instead prefer different sexual activities. Still, other men refuse to self-label as tops, bottoms, versatile or even “gay” at all, despite their having frequent anal sex with gay men.

The best protection against sexually transmissible infections is to use barrier protection such as condoms and dams (a thin piece of latex placed over the anal area during oral sex). Condoms can be bought from supermarkets, chemists and other outlets. Latex-free condoms are also available from some outlets. Male condoms, dams and lubricants are available free from the Melbourne Sexual Health Centre and many other sexual health clinics around Australia.

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