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Study Finds People Can Identify Who's the Top and Who's the Bottom in Gay Couples

A study published in the April 2013 journal Archives of Sexual Behavior examined the perception of 'to' and 'bottom' roles in gay couples:

ModernfamilyIn intercourse between men, one of the partners typically assumes the role of an insertive partner (top) while the other assumes a receptive role (bottom). Although some research suggests that the perceptions of potential partners' sexual roles in gay men's relationships can affect whether a man will adopt the role of top or bottom during sexual intercourse, it remains unclear whether sexual roles could be perceived accurately by naïve observers.

In Study 1, we found that naïve observers were able to discern men's sexual roles from photos of their faces with accuracy that was significantly greater than chance guessing.

Moreover, in Study 2, we determined that the relationship between men's perceived and actual sexual roles was mediated by perceived masculinity. Together, these results suggest that people rely on perceptions of characteristics relevant to stereotypical male-female gender roles and heterosexual relationships to accurately infer sexual roles in same-sex relationships. Thus, same-sex relationships and sexual behavior may be perceptually framed, understood, and possibly structured in ways similar to stereotypes about opposite-sex relationships, suggesting that people may rely on these inferences to form accurate perceptions.

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Comments

  1. Oh, Lord. Why did I visit the blog today--with a hangover. There are going to be 105 comments on this story.

    Liberace was a TOP, and so was Truman Capote. So what.

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | Apr 8, 2013 11:16:39 AM


  2. When someone tells me they're a top or a bottom, I laugh.

    Posted by: MARCUS BACHMANN | Apr 8, 2013 11:18:39 AM


  3. I'm not sure I buy this one. Also I wonder about the validity of this study and the gay men that were used in it. Where I'm from, everyone claims to be a top but will invoke Vegas rules in the bedroom. I still don't even know who's top and who's bottom in the Modern Family..

    Posted by: Dystopian0 | Apr 8, 2013 11:21:53 AM


  4. I'm not sure I buy this one. Also I wonder about the validity of this study and the gay men that were used in it. Where I'm from, everyone claims to be a top but will invoke Vegas rules in the bedroom. I still don't even know who's top and who's bottom in the Modern Family..

    Posted by: Dystopian0 | Apr 8, 2013 11:21:56 AM


  5. Hmm... were they able to guess which couples don't have insertive sex at all? Or which ones flip? When someone tells me they're a top or a bottom, I tell them I'm sorry they haven't figured out how to enjoy the other role yet.

    Posted by: Bill | Apr 8, 2013 11:22:34 AM


  6. I prefer swinging from chandeliers while dressed in a latex Batman suit. Can they tell that by looking at me? Bite me. Study money = WASTED

    Posted by: AJ | Apr 8, 2013 11:24:44 AM


  7. WTF are we ?
    Laboratory rats ?

    Posted by: JackFknTwist | Apr 8, 2013 11:25:38 AM


  8. So... a study that depends on perceived masculinity.

    Oh that just has to be right.

    Posted by: Polyboy | Apr 8, 2013 11:26:00 AM


  9. "When someone tells me they're a top or a bottom, I tell them I'm sorry they haven't figured out how to enjoy the other role yet."

    Who are you to tell people what to enjoy? Lots of people, myself included, do get pleasure out of both roles, but prefer one. There's nothing wrong with that.

    Posted by: BenR | Apr 8, 2013 11:26:46 AM


  10. The problem with this study is they're assuming those are the only two options.

    Posted by: Chris | Apr 8, 2013 11:33:55 AM


  11. Perhaps I'm reading this wrong, but it basically says that people use characteristics that (might) identify someone as "effeminate" to infer they are also a bottom, since women are the penetrated partner in straight sex.

    Maybe there is *some* correlation between perceived femininity and bottom-hood (or whatever you want to call it) but it certainly isn't always that way. There are "feminine" tops and "masculine" bottoms and many many gay men are versatile.

    And "significantly greater than chance" is a meaningless statement without the exact figure. Does that mean they got it right 60% of the time? 75%? If a self-proclaimed psychic consistently guessed the results of a coin toss 60% of the time that would be considered significant. For a statistician like Nate Silver that percentage would be considered pathetic.

    Posted by: Caliban | Apr 8, 2013 11:35:24 AM


  12. People were generally wrong in my relationship. Now, two caveats - neither of us was especially dogmatically in one role or the other, but I did tend more to top and he to bottom; and anal sex was not part of our relationship, so THAT top/bottom parameter was not applicable. However, people looked at him, saw a 6'7", rather serious, looming, muscular figure, and just presumed he was the top. It happened over and over. A leatherwoman was giving Arne tips for about five minutes on how to dominate me before I said: 'Um, I'm the top. Please don't presume.'

    Posted by: Tim | Apr 8, 2013 11:36:02 AM


  13. @BenR.... preferring one while still engaging in both makes you versatile not either a top or a bottom. Labeling someone as a top or a bottom implies exclusivity.

    Another study gave results that 70% of gay couples are versatile.

    Posted by: anonymous | Apr 8, 2013 11:37:22 AM


  14. It's a game my boyfriend and I play on the street (in our neighborhood, Hell's Kitchen).

    "Which one's the top?"
    "Blue shorts. Obviously."
    "You're right. Such a waste of his muscle ass, though."
    "Not at all, sweetheart. I'm sure that bottom loves having something meaty to grab hold of while he's pounding him out."

    Posted by: Jay | Apr 8, 2013 11:37:45 AM


  15. @"Lots of people, myself included, do get pleasure out of both roles, but prefer one."

    OK, then which one do you prefer, Ben Dover...I mean, BenR?

    (I couldn't resist it, darlin'. It's Monday, and the vodka is still workin' on me)

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | Apr 8, 2013 11:38:48 AM


  16. Top, bottom, it'[s the ones that pick a side that should be avoided.

    Posted by: Fenrox | Apr 8, 2013 11:45:28 AM


  17. From my limited experience, couples share the role equally, depending on the mood.

    I thought most gays were versatile.

    Posted by: Tim S | Apr 8, 2013 11:50:23 AM


  18. The only reason why people need to know if you are a top or a bottom is if they are having sex with you. Otherwise, it is simply none of their business. Whether they can guess or not is of no consequence.

    Posted by: Abie | Apr 8, 2013 11:52:56 AM


  19. It's not about picking a side a lot of men genuinely don't like to be topped or vice versa.

    Posted by: Brian in Texas | Apr 8, 2013 11:55:13 AM


  20. A feminine guy is just probably more likely to own up to enjoying the bottom role. That's the problem with this self-reporting stuff.

    In my experience it's been those big muscular guys who skew most towards non-versatile bottom.

    Posted by: David | Apr 8, 2013 11:55:43 AM


  21. Yeah, yeah, we all know: "stereotype" does not mean "untrue." It means an oversimplified characterization of a group based on actual trends.

    So stereotypes are true sometimes. So we can spot tops. Big deal. Waaah.

    Posted by: Yeek | Apr 8, 2013 11:58:58 AM


  22. Jay - you sound awful. Typical Hell's Kitchen gay.

    Anyway, this study worked because they couldn't use ANY couple that's versatile. They used the (smaller) percentage of guys who MUST be a top or a bottom, and yeah, I bet it is easier to "tell." Still a stupid study.

    Posted by: Billy | Apr 8, 2013 12:06:47 PM


  23. Color me skeptical. Too little data -- too few controls -- too few options. Did Regnerus design this study?

    Posted by: Alex Parrish | Apr 8, 2013 12:12:58 PM


  24. What a waste of time, energy, and money.

    What straight people fail to grasp, and many gay men don't seem to get is that many gay men do not engage in anal sex at all, preferring oral or j/o.

    Posted by: dh | Apr 8, 2013 12:27:13 PM


  25. The lead researcher on this, Dr. Nicholas O. Rule, studies social perception and cognition at the Univ. of Toronto. His specialty seems to be studying faces and perceptions from faces and how those perceptions match facts about people.

    That's not an unimportant thing to study since we do reach conclusions about people based on their faces, don't we?

    Posted by: jpeckjr | Apr 8, 2013 12:28:17 PM


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