Recently actor Haaz Sleiman (“Nurse Jackie”) caused a sensation when he came out on social media, declaring to the world the following:
“A new study finds that more LGBTQ people living in the United States have been murdered so far this year than in 2016. So this video is my response to this study. I am a gay, Muslim, Arab-American man. And I’m going to take it even further — not only am I gay but I’m also a bottom. Not only am I a bottom, but I’m also a total bottom, which means I like it up you-know-where. And I say this to all the homophobes living in the United States of America and across the globe. Why not? If you ever come to me to kill me just because I’m gay, I will destroy you. I might be gay and I might be a nice guy but don’t get it twisted because I will f**k you up.”
Sleiman also wrote about being in the closet and the pressure to come out. However, to most people, gay or otherwise, the only memorable thing about Sleiman’s post was his admission that he is a “total bottom.”
That a man’s revelation that he is a “total bottom” can still startle so many reminds us that bottom shaming is alive and well. In a world still divided along sex roles, the gay bottom - the one who takes the penis in his mouth or anus, for the two of you who don’t know what I’m writing about - is seen as the one who takes the “female” role in a relationship. And in a world that still values masculinity above femininity, the gay bottom is viewed as being less worthy than the gay top.
Throughout history, humankind has been kinder to tops than it has been to bottoms. To most people, sex is about penetration, and the one who penetrates is the one in charge.
In many traditional societies, like the Latinx community that I grew up in, there was no stigma to being a gay top, just as long as he remained a top. On the other hand, the bottom was looked down as being less of a man. This is the case even in male-only societies like prisons, where masculine tops rule and bottoms are feminized sex objects.
The AIDS epidemic only made matters worse for gay bottoms: A study by the University of California, San Francisco’s Alliance Health Project revealed that tops have a 1 in 500 chance of contracting HIV from an HIV-positive bottom, while a bottom has a 1 in 50 chance of contracting HIV from an HIV-positive top.
It’s not easy being a bottom. So why are there so many bottoms? As any gay man in search of a partner will tell you, bottoms vastly outnumber tops. Bottoms are so plentiful in some gay communities that we joke about them; for example, “Fort Bottomdale.” Tops are so much in demand because they are scarce; and bottoms often go versatile or nothing will get done.
Some would say there is a connection between being gay and being a bottom, but I am not so sure. It is easier to be a bottom than to be a top; and there would be many more straight male bottoms if society (and their partners) allowed them. The fact is, there are many masculine, assertive power bottoms, and many submissive, “feminine” tops. To quote the late Marty Rubin, if I won a dollar every time a drag queen poked me, I would be able to buy my own chain of clubs.
As you probably figured out, I am a gay bottom. I was a bottom all my life, and I will be a bottom until the day I die. And I am proud to be a bottom. Being a bottom has informed my social life, my political life, and my literary life: As a writer of gay erotic fiction, most of my fictional heroes have been proud gay bottoms who, like Haaz Sleiman, “like it up you-know-where.”
And there is nothing wrong with that.
Between you and me, I think bottoms enjoy sex more than tops do, though sometimes we must deal with the consequences of sex. With sexual freedom comes sexual responsibility, and tops must accept those responsibilities, just as bottoms have done.