THE BLOG

On Leaving the Prison of Tops and Bottoms

06/25/2014 11:32 am ET | Updated Feb 02, 2016

Language can quickly become a prison. It can entrap your imagination. Hold your subconscious hostage. Hide your true face from yourself, prevent you from seeing the authentic face of others...

For so long, top and bottom as terms, have been a prison for the sexuality of gay men.

Within this prison, one sexual act defines the very core of an individual.

Within this prison, stereotypes charade as whole sexual beings.

Within this prison, power can only be perceived in a subjugated/subjugator model, and sex can only be understood when a penis is present and entering an orifice.

Beyond the confines of these terms, another world exists. It's a world where we can perceive and hold the complexities of our own genders, where we can be seen as a full portrait and not just in puzzled pieces.

It's a world where all of us can be affirmed; whether we have penises or not, whether we are able to penetrate or be penetrated, whether we even desire to participate in those acts.

But it is not familiar. It does not hold the same binary contrast that we have become so dependent upon in order to orchestrate desire. It does not honor the shame that we have learned to hold so tightly to our chests.

To go there, to dare to traverse the boundaries of this prison, is to force ourselves to face our deepest fears. To define ourselves beyond our penises and what we do with them. To own the parts of ourselves we were taught we could not bring into the light because we were too masculine, too feminine, too "something" -- to allow the sun to illuminate us.

This is a call to close the prison.

This is a call to unseat the warden and strip the bars from the windows of our minds. This is a call to conjure language that allows us to own our principle sites of pleasure -- but does not hold us hostage to them. This is a call to create language that cannot be driven back towards stereotypes of men and women, or inflated with hierarchical models of power. Language that can distinguish the difference between subjugation, and the performance of subjugation.

It is important to note, many people have tried to renovate the penitentiary. Tried to make it kinder, gentler, broader. Tried to re-inscribe bottom, un-elevate top. But a prison is a prison. And because of this a "bottom" still means weak, and "top" still means power -- the terms themselves are so inscribed with hierarchy; they are not easily re-imagined -- and above all else, concrete does not color well.

So this is a call for a new system. A new language. New ways to name our sexual selves, and honor the erotic spirit that exists beyond the act of penetration. This is a call to invite us to become clearer to each other outside of checked boxes on grindr or stats listed on jacked.

This is an opportunity for us to envision, to imagine, what else could be possible? What other words could there be? What new frames can hold us in our entirety? What can we create to name our desires, genders, preferences when we leave the confines of the warden's prison consciousness? Only time, and you and I, will tell...