Sociological, psychological, and public health studies document that many gay and bisexual men may self-label by their anal penetrative role (i.e., bottom or exclusively receptive; top or exclusively insertive; or versatile, both receptive and insertive during anal intercourse). Yet, what orients men to think of themselves as tops, bottoms or versatiles is poorly understood. We surveyed 429 men engaging in same-sex anal intercourse to investigate the degree to which anal penetrative self-identity was concordant with actual penetrative behavior. Additionally, the roles of masculinity and physical body traits (e.g., penis size, muscularity, height, hairiness, and weight) were tested as correlates of anal penetrative identity and identity-behavior concordance. Tops and bottoms showed a high degree of concordance between identity and enacted behavior; however, only half of versatiles reported concordant identity and behavior (i.e., wanting to be versatile and actually reporting versatile behavior). Generally, tops reported larger penises than bottoms. They also reported being comparatively more masculine than bottoms. Versatiles fell somewhat between the tops and bottoms on these traits. Of the six independent variables, penis size and masculinity were the only two factors to influence concordance or discordance between identity and penetrative behavior. Our study suggests that the correlates of gay men’s sexual self-labels may depend on objective traits in addition to the subjective pleasure associated with receptive or insertive anal intercourse.
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Special thanks to J. Michael Bailey, Ph.D., and Gerulf Rieger, Ph.D. Data collection for this article was supported, in part, by center grant P30-MH52776 from the National Institute of Mental Health (PI: J. A. Kelly) and by NRSA postdoctoral training grant T32-MH19985 (PI: S. D. Pinkerton).
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Moskowitz, D.A., Hart, T.A. The Influence of Physical Body Traits and Masculinity on Anal Sex Roles in Gay and Bisexual Men. Arch Sex Behav 40, 835–841 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-011-9754-0
- Anal penetrative role
- Penis size
- Gay and bisexual men