Wednesday, May 23, 2007

But If Baby You're the Bottom

Those of you who might worry that my recent road-to-Damascus moment might result in a change in my sexual behavior or my willingness to write about it can rest easy. The divine and I had a long chat (I call him Big D: he thinks that's amusing; he's not really a he, of course, but it's just easier to refer to the divine if I personify it), and Big D said that I should have as much sex with as many different guys as I want, and that if anything, I should want more. Then he said that if I was looking to make some changes, I should consider versatility, and when I started to sputter something about how I didn't think that would work for me, he said, "Psych!" Who knew that Big D had such a playful (if predictable) sense of humor?

Anyway. I'm moving on to a completely different topic now. But I am going to talk about a terrific session I had, if you're patient.

Not long after I first told my parents that I was gay, I was over at their house, and my mother asked me, "so are you the man or the woman in your relationships?" It will probably not surprise you to learn that I found this question somewhat inappropriate. And disturbing, for a number of reasons. Primarily, it indicated that my mother was actually thinking about my sex life in some sort of specific way. I had just assumed that for her to think about her son having gay sex would be as distasteful as it is for me to think about my parents having breeder sex. (I have had breeder sex. In fact, in my misspent youth, I was married for over ten years, and during that time, I only had breeder sex. [And only with my wife.] Nowadays, though, the thought leaves me a bit queasy.)

The fear of femininity that a lot of hetero and homosexuals have is something that I don't get. On some level, I don't even know how to approach the terms to have this discussion. I mean, I know what sort of men are referred to as feminine or fem, but the terms are not clearly apposite. Maybe they're the best we have, though. B&c is decidedly masculine (by which I mean both that he has a penis and that his manner is what's traditionally seen as masculine), but I have certainly dated men who were fem (though they all had penises). I have generally found that feminine guys break down into two subtypes: sweet and bitchy. I would date a sweet fem guy any time. Bitchy men have as little interest in me as I have in them, so it's not an issue.

I'm not sure to what I attribute the visceral reaction that a lot of men (straight or gay) have to feminine men. Perhaps it's a fear of growing old and not having anyone to watch football with. Perhaps it's a fear that they'll always be the less fabulous one in the relationship. Perhaps it's some sort of insecurity in their own masculinity. It likely varies from man to man, and maybe it doesn't matter. I've often said that you can't really help wanting what you want, sexually, and if you want to ignore all the sweet feminine men so that you can hang out with smelly guys who belch, then go right ahead. More for me.

My mother's question, though, reveals more than a general distaste for muddying the traditional bright line that separates masculine and feminine. What she was really asking was "Do you fuck them or do they fuck you?" Leaving aside for the moment the question of the precise use of "fuck" and whether it's linguistically appropriate to say that you fucked someone even if you were the one being penetrated, my mother was falling back on the idea that bottoms are feminine and tops are masculine.

At this point in the discussion, there is obviously only one way to go: Ovid.

The Transformation of Tiresias

'Twas now, while these transactions past on Earth,
And Bacchus thus procur'd a second birth,
When Jove, dispos'd to lay aside the weight
Of publick empire and the cares of state,
As to his queen in nectar bowls he quaff'd,
"In troth," says he, and as he spoke he laugh'd,
"The sense of pleasure in the male is far
More dull and dead, than what you females share."
Juno the truth of what was said deny'd;
Tiresias therefore must the cause decide,
For he the pleasure of each sex had try'd.

It happen'd once, within a shady wood,
Two twisted snakes he in conjunction view'd,
When with his staff their slimy folds he broke,
And lost his manhood at the fatal stroke.
But, after seven revolving years, he view'd
The self-same serpents in the self-same wood:
"And if," says he, "such virtue in you lye,
That he who dares your slimy folds untie
Must change his kind, a second stroke I'll try."
Again he struck the snakes, and stood again
New-sex'd, and strait recover'd into man.
Him therefore both the deities create
The sov'raign umpire, in their grand debate;
And he declar'd for Jove: when Juno fir'd,
More than so trivial an affair requir'd,
Depriv'd him, in her fury, of his sight,
And left him groping round in sudden night.
But Jove (for so it is in Heav'n decreed,
That no one God repeal another's deed)
Irradiates all his soul with inward light,
And with the prophet's art relieves the want of sight.

If, as Ovid clearly means us to do, we momentarily accept the notion that bottoming is associated with the feminine and topping is associated with the masculine, we can see that this passage from Metamorphoses has a clear message: try to be versatile, and you'll end up blind.

Yes, I will have my little joke.

Very few biological phenomena are black and white, and gender certainly isn't one of them. There are, clearly, people who fall somewhere in the middle of the male-female continuum, just as there are Kinsey 3s and 4s as well as 1s and 6s. But I would posit that many more people self-identify as gay than do as bi, at least if you wait long enough. At any given moment, there are approximately four million American men who are telling themselves that they're not gay as long as they don't kiss the man whose cock they're sucking, and approximately 3.9 million of them will eventually acknowledge that they're gay. (Of that 3.9 million, only about eight will ever become good kissers, alas, but it has often been noted that we live in a highly imperfect world, and here is but another example.) So if you graph population along the sexual continuum, you see, to the left, the Himalayan peak representing the vast heterosexual hordes, then a precipitous tumble down to the valley of the shadow of bisexuality, and, finally, a steep (but graceful, naturally) climb to the promised land of queerdom.

The distribution along the bottom-to-top continuum is likely neither as skewed nor as bipolar as the distribution along the Kinsey scale, but I observe that most (clearly not all) people who identify as versatile express a clear preference. In other words, they'll top if they have to, but what they really want is to be on their backs with their ankles tucked behind their ears screaming "harder! deeper!"

I can't pretend to know all of the factors that make men gravitate towards one of the role poles, but I know some, and I can speculate about others. For bottoms, the reasons are primarily physical. For tops, the reasons are primarily macroeconomic.

As Tiresias explained to us before Juno went all drama goddess on him, bottoming is more intensely pleasurable than topping. I'm sorry if you don't like that conclusion, but don't blame me. You could blame Tiresias, but don't you think he's suffered enough? Don't get me wrong: I love topping, and it feels great, but it kind of builds and then it's over with (and maybe it builds for a long time and maybe you get the whole cycle several times), and you're left with a great feeling of satisfaction and, briefly, invincibility, sort of "my loins are now empty and all is right with the world." Contrast that reaction with the reaction of a bottom who, having gotten used to the initial penetration, almost immediately cozies up to the edge of nirvana, where he stays for as long as there is penis present. It's more "I have seen the face of God! And yet I live!"

Some men are undoubtedly tops for physical reasons: i.e., they tried bottoming, and it was too painful and/or it just never got them off. (I'm raising my hand here.) But I think that the existence of a substantial number of tops has a lot more to do with supply and demand. If you really can choose to assume either position, then you're going to have a lot more success as a top than you'd have as a bottom because there are a lot fewer tops. (And, let me just say right now, that if there is some poll somewhere in the Advocate or Ladies' Home Sexuality that shows that the statistical assumptions underlying my entire argument are crap, I don't really want to know about it.) If you combine the economic incentives with the fact that men are largely creatures of habit who don't want to be redefining their roles every fifteen minutes, you'll see why a guy who's gotten plenty of sex as a top might not have much interest in moving to a new hunting ground where the game is much more scarce just because he might have a better view of the face of God.

And there are, of course, the masculinity and control issues. Many tops (including some of my top friends, but not me) feel that they would give up a significant portion of their masculinity if they were to bottom, i.e., assume the feminine role. Others fear that bottoming would remove from them control over their own sexual experience (or perhaps control over their partners). These two issues might seem to be the same issue, but they are, in fact, very different. My Neanderthal (i.e., Republican) top friends have a certain amount of (mostly concealed, except in the company of other tops) contempt for bottoms because of their perceived femininity. And even b&c will occasionally tell me that if he doesn't top someone about once every six months, he feels like less of a man. Of course, every time he tells me that, I get a headache because my eyes are rolling so hard. When a bottom offers up his ass to me, I'm usually thinking, "Damn, that takes balls."

When a bottom is screaming uncontrollably from intense pleasure, I might be thinking, "Oooh, did I do that? Awesome!" but I'm also aware that he's reached a place that I fear to approach. I like roller coasters, but you always know that the track brings you back to where you started; if you let go sexually, who knows where you might end up? So much of life is already beyond my control that I'd like to at least pretend to direct what I can.

Sexuality is rarely simple, though, and it would be wrong to say that there's a single reason why someone becomes a top or a bottom. Sure, I don't want to give up control, but there's also the fact that years ago, when I was first out, I tried a few times, and bottoming didn't do much for me. Perhaps it if had seemed like the best thing ever, I'd have gone in that direction.

I suppose that the only people who never have to think about this sort of thing (aside from the people who just never think about anything, the lucky souls who just fuck without ever analyzing, even after the fact) are the true versatiles, the omnivores of the sexual kingdom, the exceedingly lucky people who can say "it's all good" and mean it.

Anyway, I mused most of this post over two months ago, and it just sat here because it seemed to lack immediacy and relevance. After all, it had been more than five years since I bottomed, and in that time, I hadn't even tried to take anything up my ass.

Until the weekend before last, that is.

I had scheduled a full day of giving massages, and I had the last guy on the table. He'd been supposed to arrive at 5, but he'd gotten stuck doing something for his mother (it was the day before Mother's Day) and then in traffic, and he'd called twice to see whether I could still put him on the table. I'd said yes, in part because the e-mails I'd exchanged with this guy made me think a) that he'd be a lot of fun to massage and b) that he probably wanted more. This notion was reinforced by the fact that for much of the time I was massaging him, he had his hand up the leg of my shorts.

I generally try to separate massage and hooking up (except when I don't), but when a sweet and handsome African American man who's 6'1 and built like a brick shithouse wants to play, I am neither willing nor able to say no. Especially when his hair and his beard are both clipped to the exact same level. Very, very hot.

Anyway, I had C. on the table for about an hour when I asked him whether he'd like to go upstairs. At this point, he was on his back, and we'd been kissing some, and his truly impressive cock was at attention. He said something like "I don't mind," which I thought was somewhat ambiguous, but when I asked for clarification "Huh?" it turned out that he meant "Yes! Please!"

Did I mention in the earlier post that he arrived at 6:30 and left at midnight? Even with an hour on the table and almost half an hour in the shower and getting dressed and saying goodbye, that left a good four hours in bed. God only knows where that time went, but we both loved every minute of it. I know that he was a terrific kisser and that we spent a lot of time making out. And I know that at some point he grabbed the bottle of baby oil from my bedside table and gave me a massage (much of that involved me lying on my stomach and him lying on top of me and sliding back and forth over me), and I know that he did a good job going down on me and that I made a valiant effort and was uncharacteristically skilled at going down on him, but most of the first 2.5 or so hours fade into a haze of joy. What brought things into sharper focus was his tongue on my ass.

I am unaccustomed to, and perhaps not entirely comfortable with, men appreciating my ass. I don't think there's anything wrong with my ass: it just seems kind of nondescript to me. It's more that guys are interested in what I'm doing to them, and/or they're interested in my cock. It was really surprising to hear someone telling me that I have a great ass (chacun à son goût, I reckon). And I think it was the first time that I'd been rimmed since, well, the first time I've been rimmed in the twenty-first century.

I generally don't like guys playing with my ass at all, but C. was so nice and so hot and so into me that I went with it. And it was okay, really, but it was only okay. Typically, when I start to rim a guy, he goes a little bit out of his head. I don't know how much of that is simply the nerve endings and how much is the fact that it's the start of something more. Maybe it's like you've opened a door and he's caught a glimpse of the promised land, or maybe it just feels really good. I wasn't getting either of those things, so after a while of him doing that to me, I did that to him, and then we made out some more.

But he kept wanting more of my ass, and this was not the kind of guy I could say no to. I really wanted to give him what he wanted. He was pushing all the right buttons, and when he started to slide a finger up my ass, I was thinking, "Well, maybe it's time I learned to be 3% versatile. I don't have to tell b&c or anyone else about it. I can just bottom for guys who are this hot and this willing to invest several hours. That can't be more than, oh, one guy."

My body, however, had ideas of its own. I am sure that in the long ago, I have enjoyed having a finger up my ass. And I even have a very, very thin dildo that I am sure I enjoyed having up my ass. And, yes, it might have been five years ago, but surely it's like riding a bicycle, right?

Not so much. The finger wasn't doing anything for me except making me feel tight, and not in a good way (yes, he was using plenty of lube). And I knew that if I couldn't take one of his fingers (which were not all that huge), then I certainly couldn't take his cock (which really was all that huge).

It didn't stop him from trying, though. He got himself gloved and lubed up and lay on top of me and very, very slowly tried to push in. And he did get the head in. (Does that mean I'm versatile now?) And I kept telling myself to relax. I kept trying to remember how I'd successfully bottomed in the distant past. I kept telling myself that I wanted it.

My body didn't want it, though. There was simply nothing pleasurable about the experience, and whenever he tried to push in more than the head, my ass would push back and push him all the way out. I finally had to tell him that I didn't think it would work. I asked him how long it had been since he'd bottomed, and he said three years. "Well," I said, "five years for me, so I guess I win."

And to give credit where it's due, he wasn't trying to do anything to me that he wasn't willing to have done to him. He'd mentioned early on how he shared my views that bottoms really seemed to enjoy sex more than tops, and he said that he'd never cum while being fucked and that he wanted to try.

I did open him up with my fingers, and I did fuck him a little. Once he'd decided that he was going to go for it, he seemed really hungry for it. But, here again, my body wasn't cooperating. My ass was still feeling sore and a bit resentful, and it seemed to keep me from getting more than about 80% hard. He sat on my cock, and I did get in him some, and I played with his nips and cock while he bounced up and down on me. Then he got on his back and wanted me to fuck him that way, but, again, I could only get about an inch inside him. He seemed to like that just fine, especially when I jerked his cock, but I couldn't keep it going. I'm not sure how much of that had to do with just having had something huge slightly up my ass and how much was due to having been up early and having had a session of highly athletic sex in the morning followed by a long day of massage, but it doesn't really matter. At that point we were more than three hours in, and that's about as much as I can reasonably expect out of my cock. C., on the other hand, was like a rock the whole time.

Eventually, I put my middle finger inside him and pressed it against his prostate. He said it was intense and started to jerk himself off. I nibbled on his thighs and played with his nipples, and after a few minutes, he started to make a lot of noise, and pretty soon he shot and shot hard. Then he grabbed me and kissed me while I finished myself off.

After a couple of minutes of lying there, holding each other, he went to the bathroom and I lay there, enjoying the afterglow. After a minute, he yelled through the bathroom door, "Hey, Ted, I remember!" "Remember what?" "I remember why I'm not a bottom! It feels like I've got a corncob stuck up my ass." "That can be arranged." "No, thanks!"

After a few minutes more, I joined him in the shower. I usually find showering with another guy awkward, but given that I'd tried bottoming for this guy, I certainly wasn't going to balk at showering with him, and it was a lot of fun. I can't remember when making out in the shower has been more fun. We kept at it until the hot water started to run out.

We got dressed and we chatted and kissed some more, and he left almost exactly at midnight. If you're aware of my rating system, you'll be interested to know that I got in the car and went looking for a cheeseburger (two stars) and then came home and emailed some friends to brag (three stars). I think that in this special case, I'm going to add them to give C. an unprecedented five stars.

C. wants to get together again, and I want to see him again, but I think that we're both going to have to accept the fact that if there was ever a window of opportunity for me to become versatile, it closed some time ago. This is not something that I'm especially happy about. I continue to think of total tops as boring guys with control issues, but I'm somewhat comforted by the fact that I was willing to try. Still, it seems pointless to try to force something that isn't there. We all get different things out of sex, and one of the things that I don't get out of it is the joy of bottoming. There's plenty of other joys left for me, and I'm sure that the fact that I can be the instrument that brings that particular joy to other guys is something that makes Big D happy.


franck said...

I think versatility is a wonderful thing. I used to be a total top, the few times I tried to bottom hurt like hell. But I really didn't like the idea of one-way-street-sex so I persisted, bought a dildo and practiced on my own, thus learning that it was in fact physically possible for me to be a bottom.
For a one-off I don't mind which role I play, but for something regular and/or long term, the other guy HAS to be versatile. I must be one of those rare 50-50 guys. I honestly can't decide which I like better.

Hmmm... your long-windedness must be catching :-)

Will said...

franck's experience and mine (about 18 months ago) are startling similar. After years of trying unsuccessfully at various intervals, it worked and worked big time. A revelation, in fact.