Top, Bottom, Vers or Side? You Decide

By David T. Valentin


Back in the middle of May, the infamous gay dating app Grindr finally added a feature where users can list themselves neither as a top, bottom, or vers, but a side. The term is used to describe men who, according to The Guardian, “find fulfillment in every kind of sexual act except anal penetration. Instead, a broad range of oral, manual and frictional body techniques provide a release that’s rich in emotional, physical and psychological rewards.”


According to the article, the term was originally coined back in 2013 by sex therapist and author Dr. Joe Kort who had also created a private Facebook page called Side Guys where men who do not enjoy penetrative sex, but still want to get off through “outercourse,” can find others like them amongst the vast dating pool.


It’s a term much needed in the Queer community where language is not only important on a personal level to explain one’s individual experience, but to also find a community of like-minded people to know one is not alone in this experience. Even more comforting, bringing awareness to the term helps others who are not “sides” understand the preferences of their partner or hook-ups.


Some might turn to the term Asexual, a label used to explain someone who does not have sexual attraction, or Demisexual, those who enjoy sex only with people after which they have achieved an (sometimes intense) emotional bond.


There is often the misconception that Asexuals do not enjoy sexual activity, which is not true at all. To understand it better, one may like cake, but they do not have a craving to the cake. But, they’ll enjoy some cake if it’s offered.


Often in online spaces, Asexuality is muddled and gets a bad rep. Ask anyone with any experience with Tumblr and they’ll surely experience war flashbacks. But for those unfamiliar with the website and its culture, a few years back the some Tumblr users in the LGBTQ+ community were obsessed with putting micro-labels on every tiny bit of an experience all while policing who can and can’t use it judging by the way some users might have applied some of those labels.


Even more so, many of those same people would label young children, between the ages of 12 and 16, as Asexual. While I didn’t understand why it was such an issue, a year or two ago someone had explained it to, communicating that while Asexuality exists, children growing up who are still experimenting and figuring out what they like. Of course, if these children find the label fit, that’s great. But forcing labels upon people who have not yet had experiences to explore their sexuality, or presented with an experience comfortable and intimate to them; and then getting mad at them for deviating slightly from their chosen definition of these labels might push people away who find the LGBTQ+ community to obsessive over labels rather than using words to rightfully explain their experiences and understanding that such an experience and the language around it is meant to be fluid even when using labels.


Using the term “sides” widens the focus a little bit, giving people who may want to get sexually intimate but are uncomfortable, or just downright don’t like it, to express that to sexual partners so that their needs are met. Not only that but knowing there are others out there who share the same experiences that sides might share together might also make others realize there is a community of like-minded people out there that they can experience their sexual preferences in the way they enjoy without anal penetration.


Hopefully, the term sides breaks down the strange binary, and even almost homonormative binary, that we have between tops and bottoms without associating people’s sexual preferences with their personality as if we’re dealing with astrological signs.


And lets be honest with ourselves here: preparing for anal penetrative sex is WORK.


You can read more on Dr. Joe Kort blog here.