Top Privilege

There has been a long time understanding between “The Gays” (the male gay community, that is) that we are divided into 3 main categories: Top, Bottom, and Vers (there’s also Vers Top or Vers Bottom, but we won’t get into those specifics here).

Throughout history it’s believed that we have coexisted, for the most part, in peace and harmony. However, when you take a closer look into these intricate gay sex lives we lead, you’ll start to see underlying issues that separate us and how sexual positions can affect our lives in very real and impactful ways. Everything from fleeting to poop shaming to HIV contraction rate, we start to see that we Tops have a kind of privilege that our Vers and Bottom sisters do not have.

STI Risk

The risk of contracting HIV and other STIs is significantly lower for Tops, and especially if they are uncircumcised. According to the CDC the insertive partner’s (Top) risk of contraction (uncircumcised) for anal sex is 1 in 906. Meanwhile the receptive partner’s (Bottom) risk for anal sex without ejaculation is 1 in 154 and with ejaculation is 1 in 70. That’s a staggering difference in contraction rate.

An additional Top privilege is the preventive steps available to them post cloital. Tops with penises can do small things like washing potential exposure areas after sex with soap and water, killing any leftover bacteria that may contribute to Syphilis, as well as peeing to reduce risk of contracting Chlamydia or Gonorrhea. It’s not as simple for Bottoms to flush said bacteria if they’re located internally. Not only that, but Tops have the distinct luxury of being able to identify symptoms of certain STIs more quickly than Bottoms, allowing them to seek out treatment right away, while it might take a Bottom a formal diagnosis to know something’s wrong.


When a Bottom isn’t on PrEP (a HIV preventive drug), a certain amount of responsibility and trust is placed in the Top to not do things like remove the condom mid-sex or notice a potential break in the prophylactic. “Stealthing” is when your partner removes their condom during intercourse without telling you, opting for their personal pleasure over your safety. Unfortunately, this a common practice within the gay community and many times a Bottom may not realize until after the fact.

Social privileges

Next I want to talk about the social benefits a Top is afforded, which might not be as medically provable, but we absolutely do see evidence of it in our community.

While two Tops or two Bottoms can hook up with one another in several non-penetrative ways — and that’s completely valid — the most common perception of sex is believed to be penetrative, and between a Top and a Bottom (you might flip positions midway, but you get what I mean). But unfortunately, there are still many people who see Bottoms’ promiscuity as something more shameful, dirty, or “slutty” than that of Tops. There seems to be different reasons people “Bottom shame” and, truthfully, all of them are dumb as hell.

I’ve come across people who celebrate and cheer on my success on Grindr, and have even noticed that it makes me more desirable.  Meanwhile, my Bottom peers with a similar sexual resume get looked down upon for the same practices. There is a false sentiment that bottoms who engage in high levels of sexual activity or with many partners, have “loose holes” which is simply untrue. If you are having anal sex and taking your time, using lube, and making sure everything is done at a proper pace, the asshole will remain tight. It’s only when the anus gets damaged that it loses its elasticity, which is mostly caused by tops who have no idea what they’re doing. One of the most despicable ways I’ve seen this attitude expressed is Tops using Bottoms’ STI contraction rates against them. Another is the old school way of looking at things we’ve unfortunately adopted from #TheStraights, is that the “catcher” is the weaker, more feminine one in the pairing. This thought process comes from internalized homophobia and sexist attitudes towards penetration. Some seem to feel like, “Sure, I’m gay but at least I’m a top.” This belief stems from residual shame after coming out, and the notion that traditionally masculine expressions of sexuality are somehow more valid. Luckily as I’ve gotten older and delved into more sexually liberated groups of gay people, I encounter less and less of this. But every now and then I’m reminded that there are plenty of people of all ages who still feel this way.

Paint shaming

Lastly, I’d like to speak on a topic that I believe isn’t given enough attention within our community, and that’s paint shaming. For those of you who don’t know what painting is, it’s a slang term to describe when a Bottom isn’t all the way cleaned out and a little something is left on the Top’s penis! Now, I personally think Bottoms are made to upheld completely ridiculous standards, not only dietary wise but also supplementary! I’ve seen threads upon threads of tweets and Facebook statuses about what Bottoms can do to make sure they have pristine anuses for their Tops. Some people go to certain extremes as taking 6 fiber pills a day, using multiple Fleet enemas, and not eating for hours prior to a hookup. And while this humble Top is no nutritionist, I can’t imagine that’s healthy!

I understand that most Bottoms do this to feel less worried, more prepared, and cleaner, but as Tops we have to stop demanding such perfection from Bottoms. We must be more understanding if something goes wrong, and recognize how much labor and time Bottoms put into their bodies (specifically their buttholes). They may say they do it for themselves, but we Tops reap the fruits of their efforts either way, and we do not appreciate it enough. I have heard stories of Tops kicking Bottoms out after being painted, making a big deal about it, and causing further embarrassment to the Bottom and it’s just not right. Tops should know what they sign up for, and if we can’t handle a little collateral damage we shouldn’t be playing the game to begin with. Listen, shit happens, and if we don’t start accepting that, and stop demanding perfection then I smell a Bottom revolution in the near future. Watch them stop douching all together because we couldn’t appreciate what we had. We need to cherish our Bottoms for all that they put up with and do for us. Let’s recognize our Top privilege and try and do better by them, it’s about time we checked ourselves. 

Decoding The Finsta

For many of us, checking social media has become the first and last thing we do in our day-to-day routine. On Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter we scroll endlessly to see what the rest of the world is up to. We check our accounts to see who’s liked our posts, who’s followed or unfollowed us, all while we were supposed to be living our actual lives we’re supposedly documenting. Social media has become a form of self-validation and entertainment all in one. And through this fascination, a new concept has emerged: the Finsta or “fake Instagram” account.

Although the Finsta account has been an online presence for a couple of years now, it remains a mysterious platform. For those who are not familiar, a Finsta is a second Instagram account that targets a smaller, more private audience. Almost like a diary of images in a sense — or rather one filled with unapologetic selfies, trashy memes, and tell-all posts.

The first time I heard of a Finsta I thought my friend was joking. “Why would you post about something embarrassing, like a screenshot of a conversation you’re having on Tinder or a confession that you’d hooked up with an ex ?” I vowed I would never get one. But I did not object to following the Finstas of my friends. Their accounts opened a world of intimacy and entertainment. They posted memes and selfies with long-winded paragraphs about their most personal moments. No longer did I have to wait for a weekly dinner to get the tea on their sex life, I could just open up Instagram and scroll. Then, everything changed.

In the early days of summer, I ran into a guy I had my eye on all semester from school. We were at a rooftop party held by a mutual friend. We both bonded over a mutual love for rolled joints, and mutual distaste in the party’s playlist. We hung out together the whole night. Needless to say, we hit it off.

The next morning a wave of anxiety hit me. I hadn’t liked someone in a while. Dating in a generation whose eyes and attention are fixated on their phones is hard enough, but add living in New York City to the mix and it’s nearly impossible to find someone who fits perfectly within your ridiculously busy schedule.  I felt weird, like I had a bad case of romantic FOMO. I didn’t want to mess this up. I felt like I needed to disclose my emotions, but was scared I might come off too strong. I needed an outlet.

So I logged onto Instagram, started to scroll, and realized maybe it was time to invest in a Finsta. It would be the perfect arena to disclose, confide, and release the intense emotions I had for someone I barely knew. And so my “fake Instagram” account was born.

I started following my friends and posting memes that coincided with my emotions. When I asked for advice, my Finsta following gave it. When I needed support, my following sent positive comments and emojis. And then it hit me: social media apps have become so integral that they’re now a normal outlet for disclosing our emotions. In 2018 it seems almost natural that we would resort to creating Finstas to document the most intimate parts of our lives.

For me, creating a Finsta account helped channel the anxiety I had about liking someone. That release of dopamine I got from posting and having a support system of faithful followers made me feel at ease with my feelings. Soon my feed became littered with astrology memes and embarrassing anecdotes of my day, and of course, an occasional post about the anxiety I got from a romantic pursuit.

The romance between the guy from the rooftop quickly fizzled, but through our interaction, I realized our generation’s fascination with Finsta accounts. There is something about Finstas that reveal a more real, unfiltered reality we often don’t see when we unlock our phones. I teeter back and forth on what to make of Finstas, honestly. On the one hand, it is a platform that has opened up a realm of privacy between friends never experienced before. While it can be used to check up on a friend’s mental health, a crowd-source for sexual advice, an arena of support for the tense times we live in today, at the end of the day we must remember, like a regular Instagram account, it is just another illusion — made out of signals and thousands of tiny pixels we can receive and send. Nothing more.


I’m ‘That Slut’

The concept of slut is such a volatile thing. It’s usually said as a pejorative and offensively, yet there is no shortage of its casual usage in modern society. Popular among younger generations (but in no way exclusively millennial), it’s a quick and easy put-down for anyone perceived as sexually promiscuous. Ironically, it often has little to do with sex at all! Slut-shaming comes from the negative attitudes and presumptions people have about female sexuality.

So why does someone’s alleged sexuality make others uncomfortable? And how does brandishing that word affect us personally and emotionally? After all, slutty can mean so many different things. It can refer to a style of dress, a type of personality, even a sense of openness about one’s values. Have you ever seen one of those cliche movie scenes where the girl asks her friend if her outfit is too “slutty?” It’s ridiculous.

Honestly, I think when people use the word it says more about speaker than the subject.

Degrading a girl for being comfortable with herself suggests your own discomfort. I’d argue what you’re uncomfortable with is not women having sex, but rather women having sex for their own pleasure opposed to for the man’s. Slut-shaming was invented and normalized by men who want to make women feel small and powerless. What the S-word is really doing is creating an arbitrary hierarchy that pits woman against woman, girl against girl, so men can stay in control and continue to have their way. But it doesn’t have to be like this.

Is it possible to narrow down the definition of slut? There’s no point, it’s like trying to pick out a single star in a galaxy bursting with magnificent constellations. It’s an umbrella term for all the glorious possibilities that lie within the vast universe of female (and queer) sexuality. All that matters is what the word means to you.

My relationship with the word began when I was eighteen, when I learned that a girl should never be left alone in the patriarchy. She needs her mothers and sisters to equip her with strength and knowledge, to prepare her before she ventures out into a woman-hating world. Fortunately, thanks to social media, I was exposed to several women who helped revolutionize the meaning of the word for me.

Simply posting pictures of yourself online can be such a revolutionary act! Seeing female celebrities and Instagram personas like Eileen Kelly, Sarah Machan, and Elita Harkov relentlessly rejecting the norm by being unapologetically sexual online, showed me it’s okay to embrace human nature. These women encouraged me to honor my convictions, and live first and foremost for myself. I hope my story may inspire something similar within you. 

I was a shy, naive teenager who went through puberty later than most of my peers. As sex crept its way into my fifteen-year-old consciousness, suddenly I saw hints of it everywhere. I grew paranoid, convinced that everyone knew something I didn’t, and that they’d use it as leverage to hurt me somehow. I was only just maturing, and I had no idea what it meant to be a young woman or about how the world viewed me. I didn’t know what exactly I was afraid of, but I knew to be afraid. Don’t wear this, don’t say that, don’t draw attention to yourself. Fear and shame are two things girls are taught from the very beginning.

It was especially hard for me to understand this transition from child to sexualized object. Up until this point I had identified as a tomboy, preferring ponytails and contact sports to playing dress up and painting my nails. Not to say I wasn’t interested in having a feminine side, but I didn’t understand why it had to be one or the other: feminine or masculine, tough or delicate, weak or strong.

Around sixteen, I decided to explore my femininity. I wore a skirt one day, and both my mom and aunt immediately asked what boy I was trying to impress. I was embarrassed and taken aback, like I had accidentally signed up for the wrong narrative, one I hadn’t even known existed. During that time I was overwhelmed with uncertainty, terrified of the judgments people made of me.

I recall odd comments, like my mom asking one day if black tights “still meant what they used to” when I picked out a pair at the mall. When the kids at lunch criticized a girl for wearing “stripper heels,” I second-guessed my favorite pair of booties. Could a pair of shoes really make someone a slut? How could they tell? I didn’t understand how such minor details could imply so much about a person, and inspire vehemence toward a virtual stranger. Were my clothes sending a message I wasn’t aware of? Was my behavior bordering on inappropriate? I wasn’t comfortable asking my mom about sensitive issues, afraid she would get the wrong impression. So I kept quiet, not knowing what to believe anymore.

By the time I got to college I was still pretty unfamiliar with sex. Fortunately, my lacrosse teammates emboldened me to embrace my womanhood and my blossoming sexuality. Well, at least at first.

As an impressionable freshman, I eagerly bought into their progressive paradigm: have as much sex as you want with as many people as you want, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! While I didn’t know if I really bought into the concept of virginity, I was inexperienced and starting to get curious. Soon I realized virginity wasn’t the mental prison I thought it was — there was no mystical aura emanating out of my genitals, no aspect of my disposition that could betray my value as a human being. This understanding empowered me to experience pleasure and desire, to embrace a newfound passion in life. But it turned out not everyone was as supportive as they seemed.

As a result of my open nature, I discovered what this word had to do with me. I had been cast as “the slut” among my peers, and I wasn’t sure if I liked it. My girlfriends were excited to hear about my sexcapades, and at first I thought they were being supportive. But I later found out they were retelling my stories in a negative light, and the longer it went on, the worse it became.

In places like high schools and small communities, even ones considered liberal or accepting, someone is bound to receive this stigma. The so-called “slut” doesn’t usually have a say in it, but still, some choose to embrace the title rather than let it control them. When it happened to me, my trust was betrayed and my faith was a little shaken. But, like any life lesson, in time I was able to see the positive side, recognizing the true friends who stood by me no matter what. Who, at their own pace, also did whatever they wanted with their bodies. I realized that I didn’t have to be the victim — none of us were suffering by having awesome sex lives or by sharing with each other. We were defining our own version of feminism, and we were proud no matter what anyone said about us. 

But it’s not always that simple. Criticism can hurt, especially when it’s coming from those close to you. Without reclaiming the word, occupying the slut stature can ruin a real friendship, can poke holes in a family, can sever the strongest bonds. And sometimes, it can sabotage a person’s identity like it did mine.

Towards the end of college I came to renounce my reputation. I longed for the purity and innocence of childhood, a place where sex had never existed, and so I thought, neither had sin. I came to view sex as a dirty act, could not recall wherein lied its virtue.

Upon entering a serious relationship following a long period of isolation, I yearned to connect with my partner, as well as reconnect with my own sensuality. But in the midst of intimacy, I found myself confessing I didn’t deserve to feel good. I didn’t even want to. Deep down, my body still desired pleasure, but my mind would not have it. I felt so ashamed, I convinced myself I needed to earn the right to enjoy sex again. I viewed my past sexual experiences as wrongful and degrading, even though I hadn’t felt wronged or degraded in the moment. In actuality, it had been exactly what I wanted, yet for that ridiculous reason, I somehow felt guilty. What I was taught, and what I had sworn I would never fall victim to was suddenly my reality. 

So you see, slut-shaming is not so much about what a woman is or isn’t doing; it’s misogyny, sexism, jealousy, fear, and insecurity. Those who stay true to themselves are easy targets for haters and cynics; people are often jealous and frustrated so they project onto others. Because men want us as property, they attempt to convince women that they don’t deserve agency. That they should only exist in the ways men want them to. Navigating life as a non-male is difficult enough without creating divisions within the margins. To make our own decisions is to reclaim the power that has been stolen from us. We must advocate for each other as human beings, sluts, virgins, asexuals, and everything in between. 

It took a lot of self-love for me to unlearn that societal hatred. I was unaware how strong of a hold it had on my psyche. I had to work to feel worthy of fun once again. Sex is innocent, I realized. It is not dirty, it is not a sin. Safe, consensual, gratifying sex is healthy and natural. 

Girls are taught to be quiet, meek, and agreeable at all costs, but self-sacrifice is a mighty high price to pay. Individuals are too diverse to be confined to strict societal standards. Be who you are, sexually and otherwise. Do what you want with your body, mind, and soul. Let the gossipers set the example of what not not be, and free yourself from self-restraint. You don’t have to fall into the victim mindset perpetuated by the patriarchy. You don’t have to live by anyone’s rules but your own. You are the one who knows yourself best.

So if you choose to use the word slut, be conscious of how you use it. Who benefits from it? Are you building someone up, praising their choices? Or are you contributing to a harmful pattern, continuing to treat women as lesser?

I know who I am, and I’m living my truth. I am a slut! Well, sometimes. I’m also a writer, language enthusiast, Netflix aficionado, agent provocateur, sister and daughter, along with many other things. But most importantly, I am honest with myself. I try to be as loving in all parts of life as I am in the bedroom, and I try to pass on what I have learned. Anyone who discourages my truth is missing out on theirs. But hey, that’s their problem.