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Taking the plunge

Taking the plunge

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It's time for gay men to be rid of a drastic misconception about their sex lives, a misconception they've inherited from straight people eager to apply gender stereotypes to sex between two males.

It's time for gay men to be rid of a drastic misconception about their sex lives, a misconception they've inherited from straight people eager to apply gender stereotypes to sex between two males. It is not the top who wields all of the power in the bedroom. It is the bottom. I'm not making this call out of some desire for political correctness or a pressing need to divorce gay culture from all forms of heterosexual influence. To put it simply, I am deeply concerned that by accepting the idea that one sex partner is just a docile, weak-willed pillow biter, a large number of gay men are committing a grievous error: They're having lousy sex.

The term power bottom reveals more truth about gay sex than the term pillow biter, a slur invented by straight people. Not only can bottoms deny access altogether, their position requires them to have a greater degree of physical stamina and strength. Much of the playacting around sex itself is designed to convince the top man that he's the one in charge, but if this were truly the case, why does he need so many verbal assurances that he's doing a great job?

Buying into the gender stereotypes society has assigned to each sexual role often leads gay men astray when they're pursuing what they want most. I've watched far too many friends fall head over heels for the brutish muscle god because he has all the physical qualities they have assigned as being stereotypically masculine. These friends are crushed when they learn that their object of desire wants to assume the very position they've grown accustomed to.

I like to consider these realities when I'm enduring a sanctimonious lecture from a friend about why he'll never "take the plunge." In his outright refusal to sample an entire aspect of gay male sexuality, he sounds like a defiant 16-year-old. By the time he's finished, I have doubts about whether he's strong enough to drive a car. My friend does not realize that by buying into the notion that being a top is a more acceptable pose, he ends up coming off like a ninny.

The first depictions of sex between men I ever encountered were in novels by writers like Stephen King and Pat Conroy. Problem was, these were usually scenes of prison rape or horrific sexual abuse. It was a mind-bending experience for a young teen: reading about the kind of sex I secretly desired being forced upon characters who were horrified by the mere idea of it. My conception of gay sexuality was warped as a result. Even after I came out, I saw a bottom as someone who chose to be a victim, one playing a role in a glossy fantasy version of the violations depicted by some of my favorite novelists. (I'm not blaming them. Mr. King and Mr. Conroy are both gutsy, wonderful writers who shouldn't be held accountable for the leaps and bounds made by my adolescent mind.) A certain surrender is always an element of good sex, but a good bottom is never a victim.

I'm not saying we should get rid of this restrictive model of gay sex because it's politically incorrect. Let's get rid of it because it's a form of sexual sloth. It's bad strategy to enter the bedroom with preconceived notions of how things are going to play out based on a partner's mannerisms and physical attributes. Unfortunately, a lot of gay men do this because it allows them to avoid the scariest part of sex: asking a partner what they want and summoning the strength to give it to them.

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Christopher Rice