I’m honestly annoyed I even have to write this article. But as MEL’s resident queer voice for the straights, it’s time I address a growing microaggression that quarantine-induced chastity can’t even quell.
Straight allies, the type who think Queer Eye is radical and consider their Zodiac sign a queer identity, have started calling themselves — or their romantic submissive partners — bottoms.
So I’ll say it first, nicely. Non-queer people, please don’t call yourself a bottom. It’s not your term to use. You likely don’t know the queer history or visceral identity that comes with both the physical act of bottoming and its culture.
There you go. This is my pleasing, professional advice.
Okay, now fuck niceties.
Unless that dick or object thrust inside you has made your asshole feel like it’s going to rip in half, you don’t get to call yourself a bottom.
If you’re a reformed bro living in Silver Lake and your girlfriend bought a Goop-branded BDSM kit you’ve used once in quarantine, it doesn’t make you a bottom. Unless you’ve had the distinct displeasure of riding in a subway home at 3:00 a.m. with c*m leaking out of your asshole, you are not a bottom.
If you are femme or a trans person who uses the term to affirm your queer identity, by all means, hop on the bottom train. If you’ve had to pad your underwear to avoid violent discharge while your rectum resets from the beating it got last night, congrats! You’re a bottom.
As queer culture (read, specifically cis white gay male interests) has become more mainstream, the terms of our communities are adopted by the people who continue to oppress us. Straights recently discovered poppers, voguing and Drag Race, for example.
I urge you to ask yourself what type of cultural cache you think you’re gaining by saying “top” or “bottom” as a non-queer person. Who is your audience when you say this? Is it to impress your fellow straights at brunch? That’s called appropriation, baby. I can assure you no queer person feels like you’re an ally because you call your former frat bro husband who only wears J.Crew and Allbirds (but likes to be pegged occasionally) a “bottom.”
Labels are increasingly irrelevant. Literally, do whatever you want as long as it’s with explicit permission from someone who can legally consent. But when you assign meaning to your sexual positions to signify some sort of identity, it would behoove you to better understand what exactly you’re implying.
Because among us queers, “top” and “bottom” aren’t universally adored terms. They’ve historically reinforced heteronormative assimilation. A bottom, because they are often the one being penetrated, is the “woman,” thus seen as submissive and lesser than. The “top,” then, is the masculine, dominating “man.”
You see how these connotations are misogynistic, right? “Top” and “bottom” at large fail to capture the spectrum of sexual preferences and acts. They rarely account for what it means to be a switch, to be vers or simply to be a person who enjoys sexual pleasure.
The problem is when straight people come and access these terms for their own consumption, they inherently reinforce the misogyny and queerphobia we’re trying to surpass.
Put simply, straights, no, “top” and “bottom” do not mean “sub” and “dom.” If you want to hint that you’re dominant in bed and your partner is submissive, you already have words for this! That’ll get the point across. Otherwise, you’re putting your foot in your mouth. It should actually be in someone’s asshole.