“I can’t believe he couldn’t even wait half an hour!” exclaims a proud bottom friend. He’d just told a hookup to wait 30 minutes so he could get ready for sex. “I told him I was cleaning. What did he think I’d be doing? Dusting?”
When my friend pushed back, the top didn’t want to hear it: “He blocked me!”
My friend casts this experience as yet more evidence for what he refers to, half-jokingly, as “top privilege.” It is, he decries, customary for tops to get their own way. They don’t appreciate all the prep work bottoms undertake. Tops have it so much easier and they barely even know it.
In the ancient Greek play Lysistrata, women on opposite sides of a battle crossed their legs and denied men sex, forcing the warring men to the bargaining table. Bottom privilege could be asserted in this way: Close up shop until given the respect that you’re entitled to! The strategy only works in large numbers though, and my friend got passed over for someone who had already done his prep work.
But was the top asserting—wittingly or otherwise—a privilege? Bottoms aren’t fighting for equal pay. They aren’t disproportionately profiled by police.
Privilege is more than a situational advantage, i.e. the right to eat Chipotle before a hookup. And the issue here is deeper than simple lack of appreciation.
Top privilege isn’t even just about the hookup: It’s intrinsically tied to the way we elevate perceived masculinity and the sex role ascribed to those who display it. Similarly problematic is the common deployment of misogynistic language to describe bottoms as weak, sissy, fussy, or just not real men: “Calm down, ladies.” A hung bottom? “What a waste.” A top is still a stud, not a sloppy slut. Cue the advent of online profiles declaring “100% real top,” as distinct from “total tops” who have been known to flip at the sight of a bigger cock. A “100% real top” has a stamp of authenticity, guaranteed outside the statistical margin of error! Under no circumstances could he ever enjoy his own prostate, so would-be suitors can rest easy.
Casual shaming is not the exclusive domain of tops. Definitive, divisive labels can be a response to market demands. Consider the total bottom who fears having to settle for, heaven forbid, oral? Or those who refer to themselves in derogatory misogynistic terms or anyone insisting on exclusively “masc.” On the flip (haha!) side, a masc-presenting friend recently moaned about men who keep trying to trick him into topping. The notion of top privilege negatively affects us all. It could be delegitimized if the camps could be less binary. Versatility could make a comeback.
Not long ago, intimacy was a voyage of discovery. Positions weren’t always pre-assigned. Penetration wasn’t always the expectation. Handjobs happened! Today sex roles are as polarized as politics are partisan. Intimacy has become so transactional we select a position from a drop-down menu and then cling to it as if it were an identity.
It is worth noting that execution-happy churches made no such distinction when burning sodomites at the stake.
It is also worth remembering that without bottoms, tops could go utterly extinct. We need not resort to those ancient Greek women’s abstinence, but why not a show of celebration and solidarity?
The notion of top privilege could be deflated with National Bottom Appreciation Day. A flag-waving, pride-filled affair, the annual March of the Bottoms would recognize achievements while highlighting the indignities of casual shaming. And afterward, when America’s Next Top Bottoms are crowned, they will eat Chipotle. On this holiday tops can take on all the prep work.