If you turn on your Grindr or Scruff or any other hook-up app, you will see your screen littered with torsos within small boxes. I would say that a large percentage of these profiles will state things like, “Masc only,” or, “No fems,” or, “Be a real man,” etc. Others will state, “Masc guy here,” or, “Athletic,” or, “Real man,” blah, blah, blah. You get the picture.
In gay sex masculinity is hot right now, and it has been for a long, long time. And beyond all these declarations of a desired gender performance, you will see another word float around with frequency: “top.” This is as in, “Top here” or “Bttm looking for top” or “You be a top.” and so on and so on. Top. Top. Top.
It seems that everyone is a top on Grindr. If some anthropologist in the future only looked at today’s Grindr profiles for information on gay men, then they’d think bottoms were on the brink of extinction. This is obviously untrue, and I believe the use of “top” on online profiles is more a way to bait people into responding to a message sent on one of these platforms. It’s like a worm on a fishing hook.
Tops are highly desired not only because of the sexual aspect of topping but because many see the “top” identity as synonymous with masculinity or being a “real man.”
The patriarchy tells us that to be a man is to be the penetrator, the phallus, etc. And in this line of thought, bottoms are seen “less than,” “feminine” or “the woman” because they are the taker of the phallus. A notion too many of us buy into. Tops in the gay world are seen as ideal men, and not just because of what they do in the bedroom but because of what they represent to society: a “real man.” That means that we have some self-loathing to work through. So is top privilege a thing?
It seems that by using this term we are actually describing bigger issues at hand, things that have to do with gender, power, and desire, things that transcend just sex or our Grindr profiles and deserve more attention and analysis than crassly labeling how one uses his penis a privilege.