Pace University's Study Looks At 'Dating: The Top And Bottom Of It All'

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Note: Huffington Post Gay Voices is a media sponsor for Pace University and ProofPilot's study, "How We Date, Have Sex, and Form Relationships Today." This report comes from a research study led by assistant professor of Psychology at Pace University, Dr. Tyrel Starks. It is written by research assistant, Pace Psychology Masters student Julia Bassiri, in collaboration with Dr. Starks, and is entitled "Dating: The Top and Bottom of it all."

Before diving into one last titillating bit of data from our Dating Today study, it is absolutely imperative that we define a few simple sex research-relevant terms. So! For those of you who may be less than familiar with the correct terminology for sex position preferences between two men, there are (most often) two participants: a top, and a bottom. Sometimes participants identify strongly with one position, but many men consider themselves versatile, or flexible; these men enjoy and may alternate between roles. Now, the hetero sex lingo does not provide such wonderfully literal terms to go by. She’s not a top or a bottom or a side or an up-against-the-wall. She’s more likely “passive,” or “dominant;” maybe loud or vocal. And the hetero male? He might prefer doggy style, or like to stick with missionary position—but he wouldn’t identify as a “flat on top of her,” or a “behind the booty.” No. As you read on, please keep these distinctions and differences in mind, and make of the data what you will.

With this clarification (and elaboration) out of the way, you should now understand what it means when I report that according to the participants of our study, gay men who identify as tops tend to have a slight preference for planning dates. Perhaps a seemingly frivolous statistic, but it is an intriguing one no less, particularly when compared to our polling of straight women, who seem to prefer that male counterparts take charge of the itineraries. They also—not surprisingly—were more likely (than our gay men, that is) to prefer that their dates cover the tab. Gay men, however, are a touch more even-keeled on the money front. I, personally, recommend the circumventing of bill awkwardness with hard dollars and cents. Cash in hand, it’s often easier to avoid the “no, really, let me get this,” demand.

Now, let’s segue here. Are you on top of your dating life? Are you a gay male who identifies as a top—and do you like to date-plan? Do you bottom, are you versatile? Are you straight and perhaps frequently in a plethora of ill-defined, horribly gendered positions? If you happen to be feeling less than on top of your romantic pursuits, let this next paragraph—and those thereafter—soothe your slumping soul.

Your dating life is a paint-by-number canvas. It does exist, it does have direction, and it will have color. You cross bold numbers (odd humans) off the list and gain appreciation for the weirdness that be; the quirk, the wonder, the unapologetically brash juxtaposition of colors—it all smacks you in the face and back to grounded reality: “painting” isn’t always fun, but you’re likely to have learned a worthwhile bit or two about yourself (like your near-allergic reaction to the more attentive, doting types), to have met some cool people (as well as some loveable loons), have had some good (and bad and memorable) sex along the way.

While we didn’t include a metric to assess such a robust emergence of self in our study, we did routinely inquire about participants’ sexual activity and pursuits, substance use, feelings and the ebb and flow of all things fluid (or perhaps more viscous) in their various spheres. We asked participants to think of themselves as malleable bodies and brains, capable of self-construction, deconstruction or reproduction in their malleability. Those were not our words verbatim, of course, but we did certainly explore the degree of partner participation in our surveying. For dating worlds, perhaps ironically or unexpectedly, should not exist as concentric circles; should yours and his (or hers or theirs) revolve around the same point, it may leave a sad point (potentially yours) floating elsewhere as a wholly and heartlessly neglected nothing,

And yet right there within that nothing, lies the value of studying dating today. Because in studying two people together, you’re studying two people individually and cultivating awareness and responsibility in a chaotic, incomplete, unsatisfactory paint-by-numbers landscape. It’s with this last sentiment that we’d like to thank our dedicated readers, study supporters and of course, each and every one of our participants. We thank this last group of individuals not only for helping us gather a heaping pile of data, but for their answering an extra battery of questions each week that provided for the eyebrow-raising statistics that we were able to share on here, with you.

Thanks once more. And happy painting.