The top is in you, hidden like a beast in a cave, waiting to come out. Don't think so? Wait. Gay men tend to grow versatile with time. A by-product of experience and skill is that you get bored doing the same thing -- and may find yourself in a place to try something different.
That place may be the back of a sex club, his beautiful butt bent over in front of you. That place may be at your local gay bar, when the nice guy you've been talking to on Grindr is dancing next to you, talking to you, buying you a drink, walking home with you, then naked in your bed -- a bottom totally into you, and you're into him. Life sometimes requires us to step up to the plate and swing.
You might not perform as well as you'd like to, but you can work on it. You can grow. Because he's cute and you're game. Because sexual identity evolves. Because you're more than one thing -- your sex life is a journey that never stops. Here are 26 signs that you're heading to the top bunk.
A word of warning from Alex Cheves
My name is Alexander Cheves, and I am known by friends in the kink and leather community as Beastly. I am a sex-positive writer and blogger. The views in this slideshow do not reflect those of The Advocate and are based solely off of my own experiences. Like everything I write, the intent of this piece is to break down the stigmas surrounding the sex lives of gay men.
Those who are sensitive to frank discussions about sex are invited to click elsewhere, but consider this: If you are outraged by content that address sex openly and honestly, I invite you to examine this outrage and ask yourself whether it should instead be directed at those who oppress us by policing our sexuality.
For all others, enjoy the slideshow. And feel free to leave your own suggestions of sex and dating topics in the comments.
After a rough sex session, I surprise him. I turn him over, nuzzle the back of his neck, and pull him close. I lean bottom and have for most of my sex life. At least for now. Bottoming is where most of my experience lies, particularly when kink and role play get involved.
But I love being big spoon. In that powerful post-sex cuddle, I like to hold him. There's nothing better. You're both sweaty and naked. One day I was holding him, his butt pressed into my crotch, and got insanely turned on. It was the first sign.
2. You carry yourself differently.
It's not a wardrobe change -- there's not a top look-book. It's a way you carry yourself, a subtle change in body language around guys you think are cute. It might not be noticed -- by you or him -- until you're in a place where body language is the primary mode of communication (a loud dance club, a gym).
3. You buy a top harness.
In other words: a harness that requires you to keep your pants on, at least a little bit (it's OK if they sag and show that happy trail, that tuft of pubic hair, as they should). These include classic suspender harnesses and their million variations.
These also include harnesses that come down holster-style and connect to a cock ring. It's a simple fact of anatomy that certain harnesses are uncomfortable to bend over in -- like the styles mentioned above. Harnesses with straps connected to a cock ring droop uncomfortably and awkwardly when you bend over. They're made for guys who will be standing up, standing behind, thrusting.
Bulldog harnesses, shoulder harnesses, "x" harnesses, and their million variations are universal. These have minimal vertical straps over the pivot point of your waist -- their principal construction is around the chest and shoulders. Tops and bottoms and versatile guys alike all wear these -- they're easy to throw on, and usually less expensive than full-body getups -- but it's no secret that they're easier to bend over in. Which makes a difference the further back in the club you go, the darker the room is, the hornier you get.
4. You’re fed up with gay sex labels.
When we come out, words like "gay" and "bi" are tough to say, but they get easier.
Their terrifying power dissipates as you meet others, have sex, and learn the scene. You learn a truth: Labels are tools, not cages. They make sex happen. They help you identify your people. They give you a community to rally around, identify with, and support. But they don't mandate how you live your life or what you must believe.
We must now take the same approach to sex labels. In the era of hookup apps, we are often siloed into rigid roles: Top, Bottom, Versatile, Versa-top, Versa-bottom. Many sites and apps have drop-down menus that literally make us choose one. The lovely guesswork and fluidity that came with cruise culture is gone. You can now filter your Grindr feed for tops only.
Labels are tools, not cages. We often talk about tops and bottoms like they are fixed communities -- men who will always behave a certain way, as if we are all alike. We're not. We don't fit into clear-cut roles that always apply. You may call yourself a bottom, but when you're in a sex club surrounded by men who don't know (and don't care) what your label is -- when he's in the sling in front of you with a beautiful hole and you want in it -- you're free to be a top. Play nice.
5. You have sudden interest in butts.
When you bottom, you worry about your butt. Is it nice? How does it look in these shorts? You learn what exercises make it look good (anything that works your glutes and legs). You learn its mechanics -- how to clean out, if you douche before sex; how to relax when you're taking a dick. You have to worry about injury (anal fissures are a real headache). You have to hunt for quality lube. You have to get an anal swab every time you get tested for sexually transmitted infections.
So much attention is focused on your own butt that you don't really notice others -- until you do. Suddenly you realize that all this butt worry makes you a sexpert in butt care and attention. You know what feels good. Lucky him.
6. You’re on a bottoming break.
Maybe you've had a string of lackluster hookups. Maybe you're recovering from a bad breakup. Maybe you're recovering from a tenacious anal fissure. Maybe your body knows something your brain hasn't realized yet -- that you're evolving sexually, as healthy sexual people do.
A healthy sex life is about experimentation and evolution. Most people go through phases. This doesn't mean you'll never go back and enjoy the things you enjoyed before -- you may come to enjoy them more. If you find yourself in a bottoming break, consider it a sign to try topping. You might love it.
7. You hold open the door for him so you can see his butt.
It's polite. And his butt looks amazing.
8. You’re tired of the top/bottom binary.
In gay culture, we glorify total tops and tease bottoms -- a weird hybrid of misogyny and antiquated gender roles. We project hetero dynamics onto our sex, resulting in everything from internalized homophobia to raucous bottom-shaming.
Versatility, on the other hand, mystifies us. It has no hetero trope to build on. Versatility is something gay men have long celebrated -- the ability to fuck and be fucked by each other, and the libertine freedom to do so.
Once again, hetero tropes and gender roles sneak in, ruining everything. Many gay men see versatility as weak -- a watered-down version of both. Versatile guys are "bottoms who can't own up to it" or "weak tops." If this sounds like the same bullshit that bisexual people face, that's because it's close. In matters of sex (and gender), we typically demand people to "choose one" -- binarism at its most oppressive.
Which is absurd, since many (I'd say "most") gay men grow versatile with age and experience, time and skill. You get better at one, which makes you better at the other, which makes you better at both. You may lean one way or another, but you should try both. It'll make you a better, more adventurous sex partner. Why deny yourself one half of the sex experience?
9. You’re tired of cleaning out.
If this sounds like a weak motivator, ask a bottom who has gotten fed up with the tiresome rigmarole of douching before every fuck. It's a chore. Some nights you just don't want to.
You don't have to douche before sex -- many guys don't. The modern-day douching revolution is a relatively new phenomenon, one that many doctors stress isn't great for you (long-term problems associated with over-douching exist). But if you can't bear the thought of having sex au naturel, take it as an opportunity to explore the top bunk.
Hopefully you'll discover, as many bottoms-to-tops have (as I have), that all the paranoia bottoms sometimes feel over being clean is needless. Most tops don't care. You're completely sympathetic to the chore of douching -- you know the work they put in getting clean -- so there's no worries if you make a mess. As a wise friend once told me, "We only ever worry about our own shit, not anyone else's."
We need more sympathetic tops like the one you're becoming -- tops who know what bottoming feels like, the work that goes into it, and all the mental prep men do to surrender to that level of comfort, that level of pleasure. Treat them well.
10. You’ve mastered bottoming.
You're a pro. You like challenges -- and you've conquered this one. What next?
11. You’ve been topping in all your recent hookups.
It's more than just a weird week. Was it terrible? Was it fun? You might be moving into a new phase of your sexual development. Enjoy it.
12. You buy a Halloween costume that shows off your your front side.
Halloween costumes are often "testing waters" events. Surely, we think, I could never wear a harness to a leather bar on a random Tuesday, but I'll test the reaction on Halloween when I make it part of my sexy vampire look.
I've spent so much time piecing together scanty costumes that show off my butt. They get skimpier every year. This year, something was different. I wanted to show off something else. Which led me to my next purchase...
13. You buy a cock ring.
All gay men have one, right? Without getting too graphic, here's what cock rings are used for. Getting an erection is the physical act of the spongy tissue of your penis filling with blood, making it erect. A cock ring constricts blood flow into your dick and keeps you hard longer.
There are a million different kinds of cock rings, made of a million different materials -- hard metal, soft silicone, stretchy silicone, firm silicone, rubber, leather, TPE (thermoplastic elastomer), TPR (thermoplastic rubber), latex, leather, virgin leather, stainless steel, medical-grade steel, aluminum, gold, glass, plastic, vinyl, and the list goes on and on.
Some are hard, like metal, but many more are soft and stretchy. And one pretty sizable top I know simply uses a thick shoelace -- most cock rings are too small for him. Find one that fits right and feels right. Avoid sticky jelly ones (likely made of some TPE or TPR blend), which will pull your hair.
14. You’ve met someone who triggers your top.
He was short, with blue eyes and a cute butt. It was cold on the patio of the leather bar. He was intelligently out of place, with the face smart guys make who calculate everything before speaking. I immediately wanted to fuck him.
I can count on one hand the number of times my "top mode" was triggered in the past five years. I'm back at the beginner stage, clumsily stumbling through the early motions, unsure how to flirt as a top, unsure how to show interest. It was awkward and I didn't do it right -- but I wanted to, and that tells me something significant.
If you don't know what to do, don't panic. The best course is honesty: "You're bringing out the top in me. I'm new to this and need practice. Can you help me out?"
15. Yes, you can be a femme top.
In the same way we siphon each other into "top" and "bottom" -- ignoring the poor versatile guys of the world -- we also foolishly reinforce the same damaging gender norms every time we assume someone feminine is a bottom, or someone masculine is a top. One's degree of masculinity or femininity has no bearing on what they like in bed, their skill level, their tastes, their level of dominance, or their preferred degree of submission.
There are brutal, awesome fem tops in the world -- I've been fucked by some of them. There are masculine men who love being pussyboys in bed getting their holes absolutely demolished by sadistic alphas -- God bless them. Do what you like and forget this absurd notion that masculinity has anything to do with insertion, anything to do with dominance. The most skilled sexual adventurers know this, and they're the ones you need to seek.
16. You start checking out your bulge in the mirror.
Before you launch into a self-flagellating fear of whether or not you're a good size, don't. Good bottoms know this: The best tops are the ones who know how to fuck, not the ones who have the biggest penises. For more on this, read my 17 tips for being a better top.
17. You have a topping fantasy.
He's appeared in your fantasyland, the lawless terrain of your dreams. You're fucking him in a sex dungeon with 10 loads already in his ass. Other tops are gathered around, waiting their turn. The stone walls echo with his moans. Not your fantasy? That's OK -- it's mine, both as a bottom and, bizarrely, as a top.
People have mixed responses to fantasy. In fantasyland, all the rules of propriety, political correctness, even ethics are shed for your dreams, your rules, your mental play. No one can police your thoughts. You are not free to act on every fantasy -- most of them will remain scenarios in your head. Problems arise when people confuse truth and fantasy, and try to re-create certain fantasies in the real world.
Fantasies inform the way we act, what clothes we wear, and our sex drives. They're very personal and very important. If you have a topping fantasy, it's a good sign that the desire runs deeper than you think. With proper communication and careful respect, this is one fantasy you can easily bring to life.
18. Topping isn’t all about penises.
Trans men are men. Some trans men are tops (the ones I've played with have been). Topping is about more than a penis in a hole. Topping is about making someone else feel good and taking an active role in facilitating his pleasure -- and yours. You can do this with toys, with words, with touching, with hands, with the accoutrements of BDSM (rope, tape, and paddles, oh my!), with role play, with music, with your mouth, with your weight, with your mere presence. This is the wide-open terrain that sex has to offer. It's all sex, even if the tools are different, and with proper chemistry, it's life-changing. Don't get hung up on anatomy. There's so much sex that exists beyond the tools of the body that you get to discover.
19. You ask yourself, What did your best tops do?
What makes your best sex experiences memorable? Good sex depends on chemistry and connection more than anything else, but some tops have skills that stand out from the rest -- words that got you in the mood, the right degree of gentleness and roughness, the right degree of dominance, the right gaze. Catalog the standouts. File them away for later use.
20. You start doing top exercises.
Just as many bottom-leaning guys spend extra time on their butt and legs, you need to spend time training your core. Topping is an intense midsection workout. Thrusts happen somewhere between your chest and your hips (I've been with some tops who only move from the hip down, others who move their whole body). It's torso endurance -- you will get tired. Spend some gym time so you can outlast his hole.
21. You change your Grindr profile to “versatile.”
Honesty is the first step.
22. You discover how hard it is to take a good dick pic.
If you've been bottoming some time now, you know that getting a good hole pic is hard. Capturing flattering images of your butt without contorting your torso in a weird, painful-looking position is an arduous, combined effort between you and your full-length mirror.
Bottoms exploring their top side might be skilled at taking ass pics, but dick pics are hard too. Lighting is everything. It's easy to make the rest of your body look unflattering if you're snapping from above (POV shot). It's hard to show off your dick if you're catching it in a mirror, since skin tone against skin tone risks a flat image, and certain things in the composition you want to pop.
The classic flop-it-on-a-table shot is always acceptable, and you can always use a camera timer if you want everything in frame: cock, body, torso, and more. Trial, error, and patience produces pics you can be proud of.
23. You find yourself falling for a guy who leans bottom.
For many devoted bottoms, this is the jump-start into versatility. Just as you can't control what turns you on, you also can't control who you fall for.
You meet him and have one sweet, passionate night, which turns into a budding friendship -- something you can't quite place your finger on, but you like it. But you're both bottoms. My friend, this is one of those times to step up to the plate and swing. Because we are offered so few times in life to connect with someone beautiful. When that happens, don't let something as simple and ephemeral and transient as sexual preference keep you from spending more time with this person or knowing him better. Don't miss out.
24. You want him to feel good.
Care and affection are powerful motivators for bringing out bed skills you haven't developed. And just think: You may love the things he brings out in you, the sexual doorways he unlocks for you. You may thank him for being a turning point in your sexual identity. That's what great lovers do.
25. You start buying toys for your playmates.
Never underestimate the power of toys. Forget dick pics -- toys are something worth showing off. As a skilled bottom, here's a confession: I'd jump at the opportunity to spend a long night opening my hole with toys -- with his words and touch guiding me, coaxing me, relaxing me, training me -- much faster than I would for another guy who wants to stick his dick in and plow.
I've done that. I know what that feels like. Toys offer new and exciting sensations that are always different. They offer hot, intense, and beautiful experiences with each other -- experiences that get sorely underrated in a sex culture that still considers dildos second-rate to the "real thing," things only sad and desperate people use who can't find a sex partner. That stereotype is far from true. Start your toy collection -- bottoms will thank you.
26. He texts you after: “We should do that again.”
You've done it. You've connected. You've become a top. You've had a great night with someone, and he's been kind enough to tell you so.
There's a kindness in letting someone know you had fun. If it was an anonymous fuck-and-go, a hotel room load dump, forgo the post-sex thanks -- you shouldn't have his number anyway (a proper anonymous cumdump simply tells you where he is, nothing more). But if it was an experience -- if you texted beforehand, talked about it, or if you know each other a little bit -- tell him what you liked. Tell him how it felt.
Everyone wants this validation, even if they seem solid and confident enough to not need it. We want to be so much in sex. We live in a sex culture. Overhead, on the billboards where our favorite fashion houses advertise their wares, sex gods and images of beauty fill us with doubts on whether or not we'll ever be enough, whether or not we'll ever measure up to the people we find sexy and alluring. It is a blessing to be wanted, a blessing to want a second round. Go for it.