Top, Bottom, and Versatile Anal Sex Roles in Same-Sex Male Relationships: Implications for Relationship and Sexual Satisfaction

Abstract

Across much of the gay and bisexual male research on sexual position self-label (i.e., calling oneself a top, bottom, or versatile), there exist two commonalities: (1) studies tend to focus almost entirely on individual, relationally single androphilic men; (2) studies rarely account for relationships and relationship dynamics. In response, we explored the role of self-label over sexual and relationship satisfaction among gay and bisexual partnered men. Specifically, we looked at whether adopted sexual position identities were consonant or dissonant (i.e., matching or mismatching) with enacted behavior in relationships and how that impacted men’s attitudes toward different relational attributes. Through an online survey, we sampled 169 men in same-sex relationships, asking them questions about their ideal penetrative role identities and their reality penetrative roles with their partner. We then asked them to rate their relationship on 10 sexual and interpersonal attributes. Multiple regression modeling suggested ideal-reality penetrative role dissonance was predictive of sexual dissatisfaction among tops who bottomed in their relationships and, to a lesser extent, bottoms who topped. In contrast, penetrative role dissonance was predictive of relationship satisfaction among tops who bottomed in their relationship, but not bottoms who topped. We conclude that a potential reason for this paradox among tops who bottom may be sexual altruism. That is, men may be satisfied with other aspects within their relationships, understand their partner’s anal sex preferences, and accommodate that position in response to their initial relationship satisfaction.

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Acknowledgements

Thank you to Paul Vasey, Ph.D., Kelly Suschinsky, Ph.D., and J. B. Leca, Ph.D. for hosting the Puzzle of Sexual Orientation Conference 2015. Thanks to Dr. Jason Mitchell for his initial feedback on the idea and help with measures. Finally, thanks to Drs. Michael Newcomb and Brian Mustanski for their support.

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This study was self-funded by the authors.

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Correspondence to David A. Moskowitz.

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A waiver of informed consent was granted by the institutional review board at New York Medical College.

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Moskowitz, D.A., Garcia, C.P. Top, Bottom, and Versatile Anal Sex Roles in Same-Sex Male Relationships: Implications for Relationship and Sexual Satisfaction. Arch Sex Behav 48, 1217–1225 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-018-1240-5

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Keywords

  • Same-sex relationships
  • Sexual satisfaction
  • Relationship satisfaction
  • Anal sex role
  • Sexual orientation