It has been many years for me to be able to say that I love being a bottom. I used to associate being a bottom with pain, fear to dirt, being ‘exposed’, being ‘less’. It felt like the bottom was ‘the loser in sex’.
The top for me held the divine qualities of strength, command, power, direction, energy. In a porn script I always projected my fantasies to be the ‘top’ guy. I admired the ‘uber-masculine’ man who appeared in control. The bottom always was invisible to me.
Growing up a gay man I always felt I was the weakest link. I feared confrontation, I feared somebody hitting me and not having the strength to defend myself. I generally feared my own sex. I loved being with women: the gentleness, I always felt special being with them. I felt I could communicate and engage with them. As a child women made me feel safe.
I was an adult when I fully embraced being a homosexual. I got the first relationship in my early 20s, as soon as we started seeing each other I felt that he have to be ‘the one’. Mum and Dad had been all their life together, same with my siblings and their partners. It was obvious to me that I was destined to be the same. The relationship went on for five years and then there was the break up. Painful.
Up to then, I hardly ever had been with another guy. I had no idea of how sex was away from a ‘monogamous’ relationship. It was an exciting prospect, but I was also super scared.
This is quite a funny story. Shortly after breaking up with my partner I found myself in NYC. I was determined to meet another gay man there. A gay bar was far too intimidating to go to, so I decided to stay in the YMCA -thinking that maybe there would be gay men in there-. I forced myself to go to the steam room at the gym. A man put his hand on my leg. I ran away in total fear not knowing what to do and never went back in.
I few other long term relationships took me into my 30s. In reality I have not had much sex away from relationships until then. I used to feel I was a man of long term partners, however I secretly wanted to be a ‘slut’. Whenever any of my close friends was telling me about a sexual encounter he would have had with a guy, I just felt so envious.
CAN ONE BE A SLUT AND HAVE A PARTNER ALSO?
When I got to my long term partner number 3, I had to have a conversation: ‘I want a relationship with you but I also want to be open to others….’. I said it … and it was cool. I felt I got the best deal ever.
In the relationship I felt happy and ‘safe’ being versatile. Away from the relationship I felt really strongly I wanted to be just a ‘top’. In my fantasy I wanted to be some sort of ‘stallion’. My ass would be out of limits for somebody who was not my partner. In reality being a bottom hurt. The only times I felt really free as a ‘bottom’ was in a sling with my partner. Otherwise I just felt that I had a marital duty to do it, as it was only fair that we both shared ‘the burden’. Being a bottom was not so dissimilar to doing the washing up. Not fun.
‘BEING A TOP BECAME A CARICATURE OF MYSELF’
So in my 30s I managed to become that slut that I wanted to be. After more than ten years of monogamy I started visiting saunas, sex clubs, using apps. I realise that I developed another persona, almost like a projection of who I wanted to be. In sex I would be this ‘total top’. Being a bottom for me was not negotiable on those occassions. I used to take pride in being a very ‘gentle top’ though. The idea of the ‘power top’ never interested me. For me being gentle and a top was the ultimate in masculinity.
AND THEN TANTRA CAME
Diving into tantra a few years ago made me realise of how many hang ups I really had. It is said that tantra is a path towards ‘freedom’. The freedom comes from losing the bits that don’t really need. It is not surprising that those bits are often those ones that you identify yourself with ‘most strongly’. I realised that being a ‘top’ was one of those beliefs. Being a ‘top’ was more than a sexual preference, it secretly had become almost a sign of identity.
I held so many negative beliefs about being a bottom. I realised I was missing so much. Most importantly I connected to the real reason why I was attracted to be a top, and for me it was issues around ‘control’.
In one of my previous post I talked about the idea of surrender. When you start exploring tantra you realise very quickly that control does not serve you. Control is like wearing a straight jacket. Control does not allow you to grow. Control is often an illusion. Often not sustainable. Control often can not make you happy in the long term.
It became obvious that surrender my need to control was the only way forward. It did not feel scary, I think deeply inside I was more than ready. Having supportive partners was pivotal. People I really trust, people who would embrace me for who I am. My ‘total top’ need then started to fade away.
Since then the beautiful lovers that I encounter now have become multi-dimensional. Sex doesn’t come with a script or an expectation. Mind does not rule anymore. The rulers are the heart, the lust and the shared truth that appears in the space jointly created with a lover. There is no agenda anymore, just magic in the making.
SOME FURTHER PRACTICAL THOUGHTS:
Control is an interesting one. In my case it manifested with this need to be top in sex. However I realise that it could have well been the opposite. I have met many people who only ‘bottom’ in sex due to a similar sense of ‘safety’. Obviously whatever one decides to do in sex in completely personal and nobody else’s business, however If you are particularly attached to a ‘script’ in sex maybe explore to change it with a wonderful supportive partner. Trust is basic here. Been with somebody who is really investing in you and that you feel safe with, because often the learn takes some time 😉
Hi Pep, weird that I just saw this blog, and I had just written the following post on T4GM to someone’s fascinating post about gender, specfically masculine/feminine yin/yang polarity — which I extrapolated to the top/bottom problem (which I feel is an affliction of the modern gay world. I’m just going to send you the whole thing — you can read it or not as you like, but I just loved the synchronicity of reading your post right after I had posted this!
“June 11, 2020
Hi Robert! Thanks for all this and being so thoughtful about it. I haven’t read the book, but I’ve been thinking a lot about masculine/feminine polarity of late myself. You are in the ManTantra letters group, right? The Shiva/Shakti unity/polarity has a really good explanation in one of V’s letters, or one that made sense to me and has jived with some things I’ve heard in other classes, and that seems to go with what I understand from my many years using the I Ching and as a reader, studier of the Tao. V describes the Yin/Yang symbol, the swirl of black/white with a pearl seed of its opposite in its head. (I always think of these as like two sperms, one male, one female, spinning inside an ovum, chasing each other’s tails!) .
Anyway, V thinks of the Shakti (Yin) energy as being the place we must be in (the receptive) in order for the Shiva (Yang) to be given the environment to be active. For some reason that really resonated with me. I grew up thinking of myself as this very sissy boy, but as a grown-up I’ve discovered that others perceive me as masculine. It’s true I’ve led a really active life (and continue to), but I still identify as much more feminine. At first I was taken aback, actually offended, that some of my best friends would see me as masculine; I felt like they were missing the best part of me, and I wondered at first if I was hiding somehow (like I did as a little boy — knowing I was gay and being afraid and ashamed of that). But then I realized something important when I read V’s take on it. The Shakti/Yin I perceive in myself is the environment (the Home, as in your beautiful 4-room imagining) of myself, my whole, which gives place so that the Shiva/Yang — the actions, the décor, if you will, of the house — can transpire. This way of thinking of it has given me some peace.
I speak several languages (I had to learn them as an opera singer — the usual suspects, German, French and Italian) — and they all have gendered nouns, which we don’t have in English. I’ve always found this fascinating. In French and Italian, for instance, the moon is feminine, but in German it is masculine. While in German the earth is female, and in French and Italian it (she, as we think of it in our Taoist way) is feminine. These gender assignments could be seen as arbitrary, but I think they are very formative to the entire ethos of the people who speak that language. I love the ambiguities of these assigned genders. And we could just dismiss them and say they are outmoded. But if you have called earth “She” thousands upon thousands (maybe millions) of times in your life, it is going to have a different resonance in you than if you have called Gaia masculine.
We don’t have this in English. We are by language both more fluid and also less. In my opinion, your uncertainty and discomfort with masculine/feminine assignments is perfectly understandable. We have the opportunity as English speakers to view gender more objectively, but also we have the danger of being more judgmental about them — I mean inside ourselves. Stir in being gay, and you have a fascinating and dangerous recipe for confusion! Going back to the ManTantra Letters, (which for me has been the richest explanation of any written text on Tantra that I have yet read — but I’m more receptive to fiction than non-fiction anyway), V also talks about the very discomfort and problem of being man lovers and how we don’t fit automatically with gender assignments into sex itself. It is why I feel there is so much top/bottom self-preassignment going on in the gay world right now (on apps like Scruff and Grindr you are urged to give yourself this assignment in your profile before you have even met a partner). When I started having sex, pre-HIV/AIDS, honestly I feel like men were more fluid in their very idea of what sex could or might be. You had the possibility of being however you were with each individual situation, by not having assigned roles. We have one incredibly amazing thing as gay men that the straight world just doesn’t have sexually, and that is that we can interpenetrate each other — and voilà: I come back to the symbol of the Yin/Yang — those sperms swirling around in the ovum have the eye of the other sex — the seed of the masculine is inside the feminine and the seed of the feminine is inside the masculine. Imagine the image to be a wheel, that you could roll. If you rolled it, sometimes the feminine would be on top, and sometimes the masculine. Merrily we roll along. It is my belief that we need to appreciate these polarities as words, as concepts and as useful ways of viewing ourselves and the world, and stop letting them define us in any primary terms.
I got a little wound up. Because I love this topic. Thanks for the image of the 4-room home. I will be pondering that all day — during my morning and evening meditation, during my yoga class, and probably during Adam’s chakra class! Hugs to you, Robert. I have enjoyed hearing you speak on several occasions in classes. xoxo”
Cheers, Pep! Nice to know about you. I’ve subscribed to your blog.
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Hey Pep, great work. I hope you keep writing. I suspect you have more wisdom to share
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Surprising insightful. I feel I have to do a bit of introspection after reading this. Great work!
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