Photo: George L. Mott
An article that has raised the issue of ‘top privilege’, written by a top, outlines all the reasons bottoms should feel bad about themselves – and very little to do with privilege.
“We start to see that we tops have a kind of privilege that our vers and bottom sisters do not have,” Rembrandt Duran writes, immediately alienating himself from his key audience. In fact, Duran ensures that the reader is fully aware of his top-status as he makes a point to remind throughout the piece, in a mode of expression that says bottoms are no less than tops, but let me subtly disassociate myself, lest you think otherwise.
He even refers to himself as “this humble top”; as if being strictly top is reason enough to be entitled.
Some would argue that even using the noun ‘sisters’, only reinforces the fact that the writer sees them as more feminine, (although it could just be that he sees himself as a ‘sister’ too). But for a top to introduce the idea and talk about his own ‘privilege’, before it’s become an issue raised by bottoms, feels like the editorial equivalent of Rembrandt putting the upward arrow on the main screen of his Grindr profile.
Duran goes on to highlight how it’s easier to catch STIs from bottoming than it is from topping. Although, how this is a privilege more than just a social circumstance is lost on me? Tops are not afforded an advantage when it comes to the transferral of infections, they just scientifically have one.
And if we are talking of STI rates as a privilege, and it’s statistically easier for uncut men to catch STIs than it is for cut men, do we need to talk about ‘circumsized privilege’ too?
Similarly, the idea that bottoms place “a certain amount of responsibility and trust with the top to not do things like remove the condom mid-sex”, (‘stealthing’), isn’t so much a disprivelege, as it is an inconvenience. The top would also have to withdraw to successfully fulfil that task, which does afford bottoms the right to be overcautious, and take that opportunity to double-check.
What privilege exactly, is the top exuding here? That he possesses the opportunity to put someone else’s health at risk for the sake of bareback? Sounds more like a moral trial designed to filter out the worst kind of men in existence.
He then goes on to top-splain bottom-shaming, outlining the simple premise, “there are still many people who see bottoms’ promiscuity as something more shameful, dirty, or ‘slutty’ than that of tops,” without delving much further.
“One of the most despicable ways I’ve seen this attitude expressed is tops using bottoms’ STI contraction rates against them.” Ya need a new circle, facts.
His next case is ‘paint-shaming’, which refers to the pressure on bottoms to be ‘clean’ during anal sex. But firstly, you have to ask if the top or even society is putting the pressure on bottoms, or if they are putting it on themselves?
And for a top to shame a bottom over a ‘dirty’ or loose hole, is the same as it is for a bottom to size-shame a top (something which is just as, if not, more so, common); at least the bottom can douche; there’s no quick trips to the bathtub making a top more hung.
If you really want to refer to ‘top privilege’, then you might discuss how much easier it is to get laid as a top (due to the top/bottom ratio that Duran mentions in his article), but even then, what are they getting? To have sex with more bottoms? I’m guessing the bottoms aren’t too up in arms about that one.
Or that the level of attractiveness of the men they get is higher? We’ve all seen that mis-match couple where the bottom’s a beauty and the top is a beast, and for a number of reasons (dealing with bottom-shame included), I think we can agree that on a generalised scale, bottoms tend to take better care of themselves.
So if bottoms are better looking, therefore do they not possess an external privilege over ugly tops?
I sense that Rembrandt often gets mistaken for a bottom, while prancing around the Brooklyn with flowers in his hair and a new crop-top from Out Of The Closet, (a common annoyance for ‘blouses’; feminine tops) and decided to pen an article which declares him as a top, but as a ‘bottom-caring’ top.
While I’m sure Rembrandt Duran was hoping for some revolutionary/uplifting outcome of his subtly self-indulgent article, his condescending tone hits a bum note.