Bottom shaming is the negative, belittling and disapproving comments gay men make about men who are the passive or receiving partner during penetrative sex (getting fucked).
Simply talking about bottom shaming involves using some of the culprit terms such as ‘top and bottom’, ‘active and passive’, and ‘giving and receiving’. Whichever which way you order them, they suggest a hierarchy or pecking order - that top (active) is 'better' or preferable to bottom (passive).
Bottom shaming crops up in conversation, jokes, gossip, and passing remarks, or sometimes it can be more intentional and accusing:
How often have we heard about a bottom getting a 'good fucking' with the implication that he deserves it, however sexy this is meant to sound?
What about the ‘passive slut' that will give you HIV or, better still, when was the last time you heard about the 'slutty top' passing it on?
Why are we (still) asked by our straight counterparts who the man or woman in sex, or in a relationship?
And who can forget such cringing classics as 'ring snatcher', 'pillow biter' and ‘butt bitch.’
We label each other, and society labels us, with narrow views of how we should be, behave, and be to each other. Many of these labels are embedded in gay culture, and in the ways we communicate and relate to each other sexually, so unpicking this stuff is both hard and challenging, but necessary.
Overwhelmingly, we associate and compare sexual positions and roles with masculinity and strength, femininity and weakness, and risk. Furthermore, for the overwhelming majority, 'taking it up the arse' is a position of weakness, and a trait exclusive to bottoms.
This is sooo bollocks, and hurtful, and well … shaming.
Without oversimplifying, guys who prefer to fuck need an erection, lube, point and shoot. Guys who prefer to bottom usually have to make sure they’re clean (douched, a task in itself), may moderate what they eat before sex, and have the angst that they don’t shit the bed or spoil the moment with a poo alert. In fact, bottoming is a skill set, an entire process, often underrated.
That’s not to say there are not considerate and thoughtful tops but from a bottom’s perspective it can be a very mixed bag. Similarly, perhaps tops think this of bottoms? Tops will say that it’s more work, physically and emotionally especially if it’s longer extended session. There’s also the need for a connection which can be frustrating if your partner appears bored, or has little inclination to ‘join in’.
Bottom line (no pun intended): tops and bottoms are partners, a team, two halves becoming one, though relatively ineffectual without the other. Whether you are a top or a bottom or versatile: we should respect, appreciate and listen to our partners and this should extend to the language we use outside the bedroom.
"If we can’t talk about it honestly, without defensiveness or scorn, then how do we get to the point where we’re able to have those all too necessary straightforward conversations about sex? If we feel shame about the sex we like, what impact does that have on our ability to be open and honest about what we do and don’t like doing and what we have and haven’t done? If we denigrate, or allow others to denigrate, gay men for enjoying something that they are biologically developed to gain pleasure from, we’re contributing to a cycle which results in people having less confidence, and less ability to negotiate the sex that is right, and safe enough, for them." [Matthew Hodson, GMFA FS 154 | 6 Jun 2016]
And just in case you’re wondering, you cannot determine a guy’s sexual preference or position by their appearance, the way they walk, their clothes or shoes, or the way they speak. “The campest most feminine guys can be the most aggressive tops and the muscliest straight acting dudes can be the most aggressive bottoms” [Stephan].
Pitcher and catcher
On a related note, we quite like the words ‘pitcher, and ‘catcher’ which are baseball terms: the pitcher who throws the ball to person with the bat while the catcher aims to catch the ball if the batter doesn’t hit it. Both are integral to the game which cannot function without them and to our way of thinking there’s greater parity (equality) looking at fucking or making lurve this way than using the words ‘top and bottom’.