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Speak Out: “Top, Vers, Bottom,” Do Labels Limit Your Sex Life?

(Photo Credits: Screengrab from PinkNews’ YouTube Account)

How often do you get asked this question, guys: Are you top, vers, or bottom? (Vers has a variation of its own as well, by the way, and that’s versatile top and versatile bottom). And more importantly, do sexual roles matter to you?

Anyway, we are asking because we stumbled upon this video of queer playwright Willy Hudson with PinkNews who talked about his play titled “Bottom” and sex—specifically sexual roles/position. 

“We do need to reshape the way we think about sex,” Hudson said in preamble before talking about the stereotypes that come with these labels, how tops are seen as masculine and how bottoms are seen as feminine. He explained that the top, bottom, and vers labels are “so unhelpful and so unnatural” that we should “dissolve” the categories.  He added, “Top, bottom and vers labels aren’t reflective of all the different kinds of sex and intimacy that can exist.”

Moreover, Hudson said, “Sex is about connection, it’s about vulnerability, it’s about intimacy, that a person doesn’t even need to have penetrative sex to have sex because there’s a whole world of experimentation and developing yourself and finding what you like which is way more than just top, bottom, and vers.”

Indeed, sexual roles are about personal preference and nothing more but why do these labels exist? Is it perhaps to check if they are sexually compatible with someone? According to this article, it’s because “some men use these descriptors as a guide, while others see them as necessary before sex or dating.” 

But what do you think guys? Is it time to ditch the labels? Would you say that these labels limit your sex life? Comment below!


There are 52 comments

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  1. Al

    yes, to some it does matter. Years ago it didn’t matter, enjoyed both. But today things are different. Had prostrate Cancer and being a top is difficult due to the current situation.
    So now I can only be a bottom, but enjoy all other forms of sex, oral, body to body, rimming etc.

  2. Jack

    I consider myself vers but find it so much hotter in the bottom role. When i was young and having my sexual awakening, i just assumed other guys wanted to top me. Seems the guys i was attracted to did. So i assumed the position so to speak. When i got more experienced i realized i could do whatever I wanted so i became more of a top. Then as age crept up on me and the need for condoms became the thing i found it difficult to keep an errection while wearing a rubber. So i gravitated back to being the bottom. I love taking a buddy deep inside me. Knowing that im giving him pleasure. Knowing what that feels like.

    • Steven

      I’ve traveled a similar path. Never identified as either but I always seemed to be the one getting fucked. Condoms just made me limp. Now I have a penile implant (after prostate cancer left me impotent) so I can get hard in a few seconds, and I love to top on occasion. But my true cravings are for a nice hard cock up my ass fucking me silly. I call myself a versatile bottom and state in my profile that I prefer to bottom, but can top if needed. Seems to get me what I want.

  3. Nathan

    What everyone seems to forget:

    We Gays are raised within our society, and as such, we are subject to the preconceived notions of what constitutes a man and what constitutes a woman.

    Women accommodate; men penetrate. Women have holes and men have poles.

    From the Bible:

    Woman came from Man…as woman was created from the rib of Adam. Therefore, we gays are not freed from these notions that if you have a hole, top fills it while the bottom gets filled.

    Therefore, a Top is considered “Superior” because of position and control while Bottom is “Inferior” because of position and lack of control. Is it, therefore, so contrary why we gays define ourselves…accordingly?

    I am neither “Top” nor “Bottom” as I find anal sex repulsive and derogatory. Hence, I get quite a few “visits” to my profile but almost no further inquiries because I am deemed useless and a waste-of-time.

    I learned, early on, that I would not be taken seriously as a Partner.

  4. buz

    I ditched the labels a long time ago. Have been criticized for not committing to the words. Been told “I must be one or the other”. Sex happens between two (or possibly more) people who enjoy different physical and mental feelings at different times and with different people. It is often a state of mind and not who is penetrating who. We are sexual beings with a spectrum of sexual experiences. Whoever started labeling straight, gay, bi, top, bottom or vers did us all a disservice.

  5. hardtopftl

    Sex with out labels is like a spice rack without labels – never sure how things will end up. I prefer letting people know what they’re getting and decide if we might be a good match in bed. Out of bed, the labels don’t matter as much…

  6. Eric

    This has to be the stupidest thing I have read. What terms should we start using instead, fucker for top, fuckee for bottom, and fuckeree for versatile? Your sexual role has nothing to do with masculinity. I’ve got people that are surprised when they find out I am gay, and I am a bottom. I know tops that are extremely feminine. People that associate top with masculine and bottom with feminine are stupid and ignorant.

    • Ballplayer3434

      @ Eric: lmao, man u got me on the ground rolling, I tell you!! This ONE is for the BOOKS!! Thank You Sir…. (fucker | fuckee | & fuckeree) I bow before your awesomeness! Thanks once again.

  7. dave

    top bottom or vers
    to start im 100 precent bottom. i act straight . i prefer to wear thong . G string; a touch of fem there id say, generallly samisive. question ive have topped total of 3 times. so im a vers?
    my point in having sex is to make him feel good first . so if hes happy im happy.

  8. Master D

    As uncomfortable as it may be for the rebellious, immature and escapists— sexual role labels have meaning and truly exist. And they exist for a reason because one can not BE everything in sexual expression. In order to find a match that is appropriate, communication is very important and that includes discussing positions, limits and yes roles and their possibilities. The vanilla community have always been fey and silly trying to be everything whilst the fetish community knows that even the best “Switch” or “Sir” has limits . I think we should be focusing on communication and to stop being afraid of that as men. This ditching of the roles and position narrative is irresponsible and totally unrealistic. I have also seen it fail miserably We need to own who we are and be more specific. There is enough insanity playing out there. We do not need to be tricked. We want treat and we don’t all enjoy the same candy. There are different kinds and tastes and that is OK.

  9. Carlito

    Speaking strictly sex…..descriptions such as top, bottom or versatile are helpful when seeking sex. I personally don’t associate them with being masculine or feminine……as many of the masculine bottoms I have been with will attest!

  10. Eric Renard

    Labels definitely expedite matters. Describing myself as a topman doesn’t limit my sex life in the least. In fact, it’s a huge selling card – at least, here in NYC. They tell me that this is a city of bottoms…. It defines my preference and attracts interest from those I’m inclined to be compatible with. I haven’t been fucked in almost thirty years – and my first is the only man who’s done so (I was a TERRIBLE bottom; almost cried. He and I quickly figured out a remedy for my ‘one-way’ issues, remain best buds to this day, and play whenever we’re in the same cities). I do not reciprocate orally or anally and my profile narrative is very clear about that. I am honest about my sexual selfishness and attract the many who are seeking such men…. Interestingly, men ALWAYS know that I’m a top – and I neither try to be nor consider myself to be the most masculine dude on the beach…. That’s what mystifies me, not position labels – but guys always know…..

  11. RL

    The terms do tend to limit. To an extent, many are not truly exclusive, but mood driven. I do think the terms such as versatile top and versatile bottom ought to get used more. I used to bottom mainly, but sometimes wanted to top. Now, it’s the opposite. Truthfully, I prefer foreplay and oral, but if the lust factor rises for anal, I prefer to top.
    The truth is, I am not able just to lust any hole. I have to feel desire and some compatibility, even for recreational play. It opens up so much. Good foreplay is why I had a bottom who said my caresses got him harder than he’d ever been and he asked if he could try topping. He now tops exclusively with his mates. Label limits would have kept him from that discovery.
    Another problem with labels is, they focus on anal. Not only does everyone not do anal, but not everyone keeps the same role in every activity. Take the bondage top who fellates his mates. That makes him the oral bottom.
    Even sex has degrees. If the person pleasures the other orally, it is fellation. If the one getting pleasured is doing all the work, with a bit of domination, it is irrumation. For anal sex, if the top does the work, it’s Irrupation. If he lies back and the bottom sits and works, it’s obduction. And we all know these variations happen. The only way to avoid problems is to communicate, human to human. The truth is, hard labels only cause problems when one participant depersonalizes the other into just the label. You see the profiles where the one says, no chitchat or, no touching except just the act, or just wants to get off, his way, and go. True sex is a partnership, even if NSA hookup. Labels are, to me, an announcement of preference, a launch point. But the real deal is the real moment. If they both get off and enjoy whatever got them there, original roles don’t matter. That’s why it’s called intercourse, not monologue.

  12. Lamar

    To a large degree, myself included; guys seem to be ‘entrapped’ by these labels, like as an actor; being “type-cast.”

    They feel restrictive/d, somehow, these labels. Some of us are multi-faceted in more ways than one. I think we all know/understand that to some degree, there’s a stigma associated with the “btm” role/label, negative-light, especially, if he’s very active/non-monogamous.

    While the “top” role/label; so very revered as masculine, tough, virile a God to some, to be worshiped, regardless of, if he’s monogamous or getting more ass than a public facility stool.

    I think the whole gay-culture, needs to evolve, frankly, I see too many ways in which, we’re limiting ourselves/each other, hurting ourselves/each other. I think there’s a lot of acting-out
    in ways we don’t even realize we’re doing so in our excessive behaviors and negative interactions within our communities towards each other.

    We’re still bound by certain mainstream sexual activities, “the human body is a play-ground” of experiences and pleasures, for some of us anyway.

  13. Steven

    Saying nothing attracts predictable identical questioning. Short-hand for lazies! So, I declare some version of “versatile”. Penetration positions aren’t equivalent to sex roles.

    Sex is about freedom. And intimate connection. Mechanistic “Top or bottom, oral or anal, what are you into” online chatter makes bath houses and unnegotiated hook-ups, more and more attractive.

    I totally love role play. Why let others box me into their convenient categories, when I can invent my own?

    62, and single.

  14. Edgar

    I wish I didn’t have to ask. But because guys label them self. I do ask from time to time. Most times they ask me. One more thing. I don’t believe on total top guys. Why? Ok I have lots of tops who later became bottom. Ot they had top lovers who they were the bottom to.

  15. James

    First of all, I come from an area where it seems like there is a disproportionate abundance of avail men who identify as bottoms. Then., You have the laughable vers/bttm guys who are anything but versatile?
    I’ve met few truly versatile guys, it seems versatility comes with age/experience. When I came out 25 yrs ago, I was Informed that, since I am well endowed, I must certainly be a top? So for 10- 15 years I was exclusively a top. However, after repeated experiences with date-ending issues due to a lack of adequete preperation by my bottom partners. I chose to bottom rather than having to go through that crap any longer (pun intended). Now the problem seems to be getting together with a top guy who wants to remain a top even after he sees my erect penis. I’m glad my libido doesn’t force me to rearrange my priorities, because these “professional hook-ups) must be pulling the hair out of their heads…

  16. DDS

    We both have cocks and we both have holes to penetrate; give what you get and get what you give. It’s that simple fuckers. Don’t limit yourselves on account of heterosexual behavior. ((:

  17. jboggs3

    I disagree but with an explanation…I don’t think that it’s the labels that are the problem…for example, several nights ago, I made my second time only visit to the Westside baths, and I found myself very busy. Why? because I am a top and I maintain an erection. By far, most of the guys I encountered were only interested and very interested in being receptive. There weren’t any “labels” spoken, it wasn’t necessary. In other words, here in this anecdotal mention, I found what I generally have found to be true. The behavior, the choice of positions which give a guy what he finds most pleasurable come first and are foremost in determining what goes on between two guys. The labels don’t mandate behavior, they simply describe it. I really highly prefer to flip, as I find that it’s much more intimate. But I find it increasingly difficult to find guys who are interested in topping or even capable of doing so when they try. I think that it would be a good idea if everybody made an effort to maintain the ability to be versatile. I think it keeps you alive to your complete potential as a gay man.

  18. MattK

    As a longtime Bi-married-discreet (as in, neither my wife nor anyone else in my daily life know), I think I have had my own set of definitions of top/vers/bottom over the years. In my younger pre-married years, I was 100% vers. In fact, I was so naive back then that I thought flip-fucking was “the thing guys do” – I didn’t even know about tops/bottoms until much later on. My early years (late 70s-early 80s) were also the pre-AIDS/HIV years, so I was having a great time in bed with guys and not worrying about disease. But once word spread about AIDS and how bottoms were at a greater risk, it was around the time I fell in love with my wife, so we got engaged and I stopped all homosexual activity. A decade passed, however, and my willpower caved – I needed to get back into male bodies again. But the mid-90s was still a scary time HIV-wise, so I decided I’d become a top only. Fast-forward to 2 years ago (and probably some 150 different guys I’ve been with since) when I finally met a guy I felt totally safe with and decided it was time to re-explore my bottom side – and oh did it feel nice.

    So now, I guess I’ve become top/vers – maybe even bottom/vers. I don’t know about the masc/effem connotations with those, but I do believe my hormones have become a lot more gay than I was when I first fell in love with my wife. I remain totally masculine and don’t believe I act effeminate at all, but I’d venture to guess that someone with a really solid gaydar detector might be able to figure me out one way or another…or not.

  19. Troy

    They don’t limit my sex life. I like anal and to penetrate. Guys like to be penetrated and some exclusively….labels tell people what you want and communicate what you want to those who may give you what you want

  20. Hunter0500

    “Top, Vers, Bottom” …. terms I have found over the years as ever-so-important to those looking for a “quick” either hole-for-their-pole or pole-for-their-hole. These guys are ever so eager to meet yet impatient to talk.

    The guys who have endured with me as friends, partners, 2 as “lovers” ( because they got into my head), were not in a rush. And sexual labels didn’t matter. That came further in the first conversations. When we play, we try different options that we have learned about. Often they are new fun and just as often they are silly failures that we laugh about later.

    We can laugh because labels didn’t matter.

    What has not mattered over time, was NOT being anyone’s “convenience”. We’re guys who value each other over a range sexual options. And “top”, “bottom” or “verse” was not what has lead us to years of fun.

    • Steven

      These might be the smartest remarks here.

      I am amused by several replies that seem to be make a point of telling us about their Top exploits, size, longevity, etc, when not relevant to the point they may be making. Ego!

      The guy who broke it down into “pole, hole” and “superior” and “inferior” and bible analysis, spoke cultural truths. Another argument for atheism-agnosticism.

      • Nathan

        Hello, Steven:

        You commented on my contributions to the this blog. I appreciate your acknowledgement that I had something, of value, to add to the topic.

        I taught college Literature and ESL over a twenty-year period and much of what I usually post on whatever blog, I’ve either gotten from particular students or is an amalgam of what I learned through teaching.

        I wish you well… .

        Nathan

  21. Couple

    So, say there’s no labels, no one thinks to ask as much to set perameters, when it comes down to it you’re both “power bottoms”, how do you deal with that when both want to be bottom man?

  22. Richard B.

    Yeah, I totally agree with Willy. It’s time to get over the labels. In my experience most guys are vers. The problem is most guys see vers as a bottom, granted many are. I list myself as a Vers. Top.

    The usual question i get first by “straight bi guys” is am i Bi or Gay. my usual answer is I’m 97.8% into men. Then the “What are you into?” question comes next. I do my best to spell it out in my profile.

    On one of my online profiles I put this-
    I’m 78% top and 21% vers (1% whatever,lol) so you do the math on how you fit in.

  23. rparktop

    Being labeled fag, fairy, pussy, & called “Gloria” didn’t stop me from fucking men, women & pretty much everything in between. Being a “daddy” I get hit on by 25yr olds. The more labels I’m given the easier it is to get laid. I’m surprised somebody hasn’t identified as poly-positional yet.

  24. rick

    there doesn’t need to be anal penetration to have sex. To me if you ejaculate with someone else, it is sex. And why do we have to label ourselves? just go with the flow.

  25. Ricky

    No way keep them. I know I’m a bottom, some guy will be very disappointed if he thinks I’m a top and only gets 2 pumps and a squirt. My talent is elsewhere.

  26. Michael W

    I don’t believe we need to reshape the way we think about sex. At 58, suffice it to say I have had my share and find the need for top/bottom/vers designations convenient (if not necessary) when hooking up. That said, being versatile does not describe anything other than my preference for sex (and that can change daily). Therefore, I believe it is the way we perceive one and other that needs to be reshaped. We are far too complex to be summed up by one word, be it top/bottom/vers/masculine/feminine/LGBTQ/democrate/republican/ect.. And they only way I know to do this is to take the time to talk with one and other.

  27. Slohiguy

    Sex and intimacy exist on a broad spectrum – the broader the better in my experience.
    As a Straight-leaning Bi man I do love the feeling, the power, of using my cock to fuck women, including anally. But when I’m with another man I tend (not always) to prefer being on the Bottom side – primarily b/c I can’t truly get that experience from a woman.
    Mutual oral with a man can be very satisfying though, and of course that negates the whole Top vs Bottom discussion.
    Coming back to the broad spectrum comment above…..some of my most satisfying sexual/intimate experiences with men haven’t included EITHER penetration or orgasm, just a couple hours of masculine touch and bonding.

  28. Mike

    I believe that the labels are helpful. I’m a bottom because I love being fucked. I gwt more pleasure from thst than me fucking another person. It helps to know because why waste time if the other person won’t fuck me. Blunt, but true. My sexuality doesn’t define me. It just defines my preference.

    • MattK

      I’m with you, albeit to an extent, Mike. I wrote something above the other day, but I think it’s really about whether you’re after just hook-up sex or something more meaningful – eg: a relationship. Being married and “getting dick” on the side as I do being a closeted married guy, the top/bottom/vers tags matter to me – but for sex reasons, to ensure we’ll have a hot time together in bed. If top=dom and bottom=sub, that’s less important to me other than not wanting to have sex with overly effeminate types or trannies. (Hope I didn’t just insult a bunch of people.)

  29. Greg

    I think that labels are both good and bad. They provide a shorthand method for describing one’s sexual preferences, but they are also limited in describing the range of sexual acts that a man might enjoy.

    If a man is a top, does he kiss? If a man is a bottom, does he like to get his cock sucked? If a man is versatile, how often does he play the top role or bottom role or both roles?

  30. Readyncherry69

    Same problem here. I like younger guys and the labels do help, to some extent but age preference is the factor that limits who I meet up with and who wants to meet up with me. A couple bad experiences with older have forced me to limit myself to younger.

  31. sexfreakartist

    I’m bisexual and a total bottom when i’m with men and have no desire to fuck a man. if i’m doing the fucking then I will be with a woman if i’m with a man it’s because I want to be the one getting fucked. so the top bottom verse thing is fine for letting people know what you like the thing that needs to go away is the idea that tops are automatically masculine and tuff and anyone that bottoms is feminine and weak. I was in the Marine Corps and could beat the shit out of 98% of the guys that topped me. they didn’t top me because they were super manly and made me submit they topped me because I love the way it feels to have a dick in my ass and that’s the only way I can get that.

  32. DEAN ANDERSON

    The problem is NOT the labels which are just words that describe the most basic position one like when having sex. It is the internalized homophobia and misogyny that causes people to have a judgment about what those terms mean about someone. Just lake all men, gay men think that men are superior to women! That leads gay men doing something that they are offended and appaled what it is broached by straight people! Which one of you is the girl? Neither one of us whis kind of the whole point of being gay! But then making the guy who gets fucked/bottoms the girl by seeing them as inferior or effeminate, or submissive is the same thing! The position on takes during fucking does NOT determine who is the dominate one!! Just listen to tops complain about “bossy bottoms”! If being a bottom or dominated is not an act of submission if that’s what you want to do! And PLENTY guys almost always end up being a top, not because they want to, but because of their size people automatically cast them as the top andcommunicatinn it comes to sex!!!ot assertive enough to say I know you want me to fuck you but I am looking for someine to fuck me! Men are really terrible at communicating and even worse when it comes to sex. Plenty guys can’t even write a profile that statez clearly and confidently what they like to do, who they like to do it with, etc. These profiles “ask me” for everything are the worst! The purpose of having a profile is so someone doesnt have to you everything! Either they dont know, are lazy, or are very deep in the closet! None of which makes you bit appealing in my book!!

  33. Josh

    The question is a wasted one…….PRIMARILY, ALL GAYS ARE BOTTOMS! (Check out A4A and any and all gay sites…..

  34. GoodolFuckBuddy

    More has to change than just the terms. I’m old. I remember when the terms were greek and french. Greek was anal sex and french was oral. Then you were greek active for top and greek passive for bottom. Then you could go both ways or be active and passive for versatile.
    Same meanings but a lot more complicated to say.

  35. Marcus

    The problem isn’t that labels exist. The problem is that people assign attributes, roles or based on it, when it only refers to the act of penetration.

  36. shyguyinwwa

    Sex is sex If it feels good what difference would it make if you are a top,bottom or versatile there is more than one way to get off. One should respect the wishes of who they are with regardless of their preference.

  37. mark

    That is so presumptuous. Like you should fit into one of 3 categories. I don’t do anal stuff at all. What “category” am I in?


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