“It takes a man to put me on the bottom”: Gay men’s experiences of masculinity and anal intercourse

J.P. Ravenhill, R.O. de Visser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In anal intercourse between gay men, men who are typically insertive (“tops”) are often perceived as, and may identify as, more masculine than those who are typically receptive (“bottoms”). “Versatile” men, who may adopt either position, may be perceived as more gender balanced and may transcend the gender-role stereotypes associated with self-labeling as top or bottom. The aim of this study was to explore how gay men’s beliefs about masculinity were associated with their beliefs about the gendered nature of sexual self-labels and their behavior in anal intercourse. Individual semistructured interviews were undertaken with 17 UK-based gay men. Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) identified that perceptions of tops and bottoms as gendered social identities varied depending on the extent to which gay men subscribed to the mandates of hegemonic masculinity, the dominant masculinity in Western society. The findings also suggested that some gay men differentiated between top and bottom as social identities and topping and bottoming as gendered behaviors. This had implications for gay men’s behaviors in anal intercourse. It is suggested that future efforts to engage with gay men about their sexual behavior should account for their beliefs regarding the gender-role stereotypes associated with gay sexual self-labels.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1033-1047
Number of pages15
JournalThe Journal of Sex Research
Issue number8
Early online date8 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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