The Daily Grind: Homophobia from top to bottom


So as a gay guy, I spend more time than I should on grindr (especially because I’m definitely too young for online dating). For those who don’t know, grindr is a mobile app that allows men who want to shag or date men to view similar men in their area, so they can chat awkwardly and set up dates and “meets” (one off fucks) – all from the comfort of their smartphone. So once I have navigated through the pictures of dogs, cars and scenic views (don’t really want to date or shag any of them) and ignored the barrage of messages from “daddy for teen” 50 year olds (who are almost always married), I can actually quite enjoy browsing through it. It’s like ASOS but with less models and more grainy pictures of bare chests.


Why ignoring your inbox is often a good idea…

It’s all a bit of laugh and can be useful if you want sex and it’s not a Friday night but it highlights some of the problems with gay men. One part of the unofficial grindr etiquette is particularly shitty:

Like theatre, nights out and Instagram. Top

Sporty, easy going professional looking for similar. Top. Can accomm

Rock climbing and outdoorsy guy. Love pints, but don’t let the outdoorsy stuff fool you, I’m a bottom

NSA fun! Top, masculine and laid back guy

So I don’t like this “top/bottom” pish for several reasons: It reduces us to body parts from the get go, it limits the idea of sex to anal penetrative sex and most importantly, it ascribes gender roles and enforces unequal power relations. This “top/bottom” binary demonises effeminate men, fetishises “straight acting” men, makes “gayness”  something to be avoided if you are to be attractive and it has clear misogynist overtones.

Before I get to the main argument, it is worth pointing out that a lot of gay men don’t like anal sex. The “top/bottom” binary serves to enforce anal sex as the only legitimate type of sex, and in many cases, the sex that gay men are expected to participate in. Not only is this boring as fuck and stinking of hetero, on a one night stand, especially when drunk or inexperienced, anal sex can be and often is awful. We need to be honest about what we like in bed and that includes being able to say no to anal sex, which a “top/bottom” binary makes very difficult.

If you do like anal sex fine, and if you just prefer being on top, or on bottom all the time, that’s fine too; I am not demanding that you change your sex life. All I am saying is that the power relations created by this binary and the misogynist principles at its core can’t be ignored. The “top” is expected to be big, hairy, macho guy; like the guy on the front of a box of Scott’s porridge oats, who likes pints, football and shagging men….oh wait. And conversely, the bottom is expected to be an effeminate, petite man with a high voice and bright clothes. The kind of guy you see grinding their mate to Britney spears, a flamboyant caricature like Louis Spence or Perez Hilton.


Tops are expected to throw their balls around

Now, not only do people’s manner or dress have fuck all to do with what they like to do in bed, when people apply this “top/bottom” label it has a pretty damaging effect.  There is an undeniable power dynamic, which has roots in the misogynist treatment of women by straight men. Men that are seen as effeminate and as such viewed as “bottoms” are ridiculed, scrutinised and often treated like sex objects. While “tops” are desired, respected and in some cases adorned. This binary makes it acceptable to say stuff like “no fairies”, “I fancy men-be one” and “masc 4 masc”.   I think I speak for a lot of us when I say this homophobic shite needs to GTFO. As a good friend of mine said, “no fucker got their head kicked in at Stonewall for me to be Masc4Masc”.


Is obsessing over “masculinity” really what liberation is all about?

This also results in a really unhealthy culture of gay men trying to act “straighter” than their friends by drinking pints, sitting with their legs open or dancing badly. It forces people to act like someone else and is enforced through the casual use of homophobic insults. It alienates a group of men who already often suffer a higher amount of bullshit harassment and homophobia from straight people. The dirty looks, the comments and general hostility online and in LGBT+ clubs  towards any man who dares to have a high voice, wear sparkly clothes, or dance to Britney or Gaga, is pretty fucking bullshit and it’s about time we start challenging this.

Obviously this is not the only instance of homophobia within the LGBT+ community but along with the fetishisation of actual straight men, the ridicule and harassment of trans* people and the attempts to hide or assimilate into “straight” life, it makes for a pretty difficult place for anyone who isn’t a “straight acting”  white gay man to feel comfortable. And isn’t the value of the LGBT+ movement our ability to challenge traditional perceptions of sexuality and gender? Aren’t we supposed to be the ones smashing homophobic bullshit, not enforcing it?

So next time you are on grindr, please don’t ask anyone if they are a “top” or a “bottom”. Ask them what they like to do in bed, if that’s appropriate for the conversation, but don’t label either of you the “top” or the “bottom”, it comes with a whole load of shit that is fucking up our movement.


You can have one of these now, since you’ve made it through all the anal chat


Further Reading:

Sochi 2014 – So Far, So Gay?

Pride and Pinkwashed Prejudice

What’s in a pair of tits? The case for the pishy liberal ‘No More Page 3’ campaign


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4 responses to “The Daily Grind: Homophobia from top to bottom

  1. Awesome piece, kind of saddens me Im so glad im way too old to be young enough to date at all. lol
    But hot dam I was 39 for more years than I care to admit publicly – Being deaf on the scene always gave me a massive advantage when I was out 4 nights a week I could only ever lipread the DJs and regular dancers – How they moved to the rhythms and beats or how well they mouthed the lyrics as they dance – now hell that mattered.
    The problem with all these labels is we seldom see what’s inside. Every one of us has a duty to ourselves to live beyond categories to be ourselves and chill the fuck out ;-)

  2. There is also the issue of many men ( gay and straight ) being scared of the prospect of being penetrated, with a perception of their individual “manhood” and collective hegemonic masculinity being penetrated and undermined.
    Is Patriarchy ideologically penetratable ?
    Is it more “macho” for some men – always the fucker , never the fucked – to penetrate a man than a woman ?

    “Penetration is not being presented as a specifically sexual or specifically anal , or even specifically homosexual act…….. Instead , it is to be understood as what might be called an ‘existential’ penetration or psychosomatic vulnerability the penetration of which is experienced as a violation of the inviolate masculinity to which masculine subjectivity is (supposedly ) heir.”
    Jonathan Kemp: The Penetrated Male p.73

    “Michel Foucault’s work on the ancient civilizations of Greece and Rome has demonstrated how the male-male eroticism permitted was governed by a strict understanding that the penetrated partner was a non-citizen: that is, a slave, a woman, or a young boy. The civic status and political power of the adult male citizen was contingent upon his body remaining impenetrable, for it was understood that “when one played the role of subordinate partner in the game of pleasure relations, one could not be truly dominant in the game of civic and political activity”: to be penetrated was to cease to be fully human. ”

    “The male subject is required to submit to – be penetrated by – a dominant discourse of masculinity, but once that identity is established, any further penetration is a threat to its stability, and must be disavowed. The male body is thus heavily policed, and the penetrated male body becomes the problematic site of fear/desire, a dumping ground of all our fears about homosexuality/anality/feminization/psychosis. It also functions as a site of transgressive pleasure.”

    “Many questions about gay self-labels and their relation to development, social behaviour, genes and neurological substrates remain to be answered—indeed, they remain to be asked.”
    Jesse Bering

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