Roles in Gay Sex — What Do Top, Bottom, Verse, and Side Mean?

Queer love

In the context of gay relationships and sexual dynamics, terms such as “top”, “bottom”, “verse” and “side” are often used to describe a person’s sexual preferences and roles. It is important to knowing these terms not only for members of the LGBTQ+ community, but also for increasing understanding and acceptance of queer relationships in society.

What Does “Top” Mean?

As a rule, in gay sexual relationships, the “top” is the partner who has a penetrative role during anal sex. However, the concept of top includes much more than just physical actions: it includes a whole set of attitudes, preferences, and sometimes emotional roles.

Physical Aspects

In physical terms, the top in a gay sexual relationship is the partner performing the penetration. This may include the use of both the penis and fingers during anal sex, sex toys, and other objects that are part of the sexual experience. It is important to understand that being the top requires a very good understanding of your partner’s comfort and limits, as well as taking care to ensure that sex is safe and secure.

Emotional and Psychological Aspects

From an emotional and psychological point of view, being the top can have different meanings for different people. For some, it means adapting to a more dominant role in intercourse and “driving” the experience, sometimes within a larger, relational context. However, “dominance” in this sense does not imply power or control in any negative way—it implies mutual respect, understanding, and mutual enjoyment of the sexual experience.

Communication and Consent

One of the key aspects of being the top is open and clear communication with your partner. This includes discussing your partner’s boundaries, likes and dislikes, and making sure you have clear consent from your partner. It also involves paying attention to and responding to your partner’s needs and comfort level during sex.

► In other words, being the top in a gay sexual relationship involves a combination of physical actions, emotional understanding, and effective communication. This, like all other sex roles, should be approached with respect, care, and a focus on mutual pleasure and safety.

What Does “Bottom” Mean?

In gay sexual relationships, the “bottom” is the partner who is usually the recipient of penetration during anal sex. However, the bottom role is much more multi-layered and includes physical, emotional and psychological dimensions that go beyond the immediate scope of intercourse.

Physical Aspects

In physical terms, the bottom is the partner who has the role of receiver during anal sex. It can be sexual intercourse or any other form of sexual activity that involves anal stimulation. Bottoming requires a certain level of physical training and awareness, including understanding your own body and how to engage in sexual activity safely and comfortably. This may include using lubricants, getting hygienically ready before intercourse (called “douching”), learning relaxation techniques, and communicating your likes and dislikes with your partner.

Emotional and Psychological Aspects

Emotionally and psychologically, being a bottom can have many different meanings and experiences for different people. For some, it may mean a kind of vulnerability and openness that requires trusting and communicating with your partner. For others, it can be a more liberating and empowering role in which they are in control of their own pleasure and how they engage in the sexual act. The emotional and psychological dimensions of the passive role are highly personal and varied.

The Stigma Around Being a Bottom

Unfortunately, there are many stigmas and misconceptions surrounding the answer in both the heterosexual and queer communities. This stigma can take many forms, ranging from stereotyping the role as less masculine or more “submissive” in all aspects of life, to outright discrimination and abuse. Such stigmas are harmful and reinforce false preconceptions and misunderstanding of one another’s experiences.

It is important that we confront these stigmas and approach the understanding of sex roles with more care and respect. A bottom role does not define a person’s personality, power, or “worth” in a relationship or society. Like any other sex role, being the bottom is part of a person’s sexual identity and preferences and deserves respect and understanding.

► In other words, the bottom role in gay sex is very complex and multi-layered and includes not only the physical aspects of sexual activity, but also deep emotional and psychological dimensions. This role should be approached with respect and care, without any stereotypes or stigmas that can harm both the individual and the community as a whole.

What Does “Verse” Mean?

The term “verse”, in the gay community refers to a person who does not identify strictly as “top” or “bottom” in sexual activities, and who can enjoy both roles. A person with the role of verse can be both the giver and receiver of penetration in sex.

Accepting Diversity

Being verse means accepting a variety of sexual roles. Versatile people find pleasure in both giving and receiving, which makes the sexual experience more versatile and dynamic.  This “flexibility” allows for a wider range of sexual activities and expressions of intimacy and potentially increases the quality of sexual life.

Communication and Compatibility

For those who identify as versatile, communicating preferences and boundaries with sexual partners becomes even more important because this conversation involves agreeing and sometimes reversing roles, within mutual consent and comfort, so that both partners’ wishes and boundaries are considered and respected. This level of communication can foster intimacy and trust between partners.

► Versatile men play a key role in challenging traditional perceptions of gay sex roles. By embracing the fluidity of sexual preferences, they highlight the diversity that exists within the LGBTQ+ community and help break down stereotypes around what it means to be ‘top’ and ‘bottom’.

What Does “Side” Mean?

The term “side” is newer and less well-known. In the context of sexual intercourse, it refers to a person who does not want to engage in anal sex at all. Instead, sides may enjoy other forms of sexual expression and intimacy, such as oral sex, mutual masturbation, kissing, and cuddling.

Non-Penetrative Intimacy

Pleasure refers to finding pleasure and satisfaction in non-penetrative sexual activities. For the side, these forms of intimacy may be more pleasurable, comfortable, or emotionally satisfying than anal sex. This preference is as real and valid as any other sex role, and it once again emphasizes how diverse sexual pleasure can be beyond penetrative acts.

Opposing Norms

Prejudices and stigmas are also common towards sides, as the expectation of penetrative sex is deeply rooted in many societies. The open recognition of sexuality challenges the idea that penetration is the primary act of sexual experience. It helps us expand our notions of what sexual pleasure and intimacy mean, leaving more room for many other experiences and preferences within the community.

Accepting One’s Identity

For sides, accepting their sexual identity means being honest about their preferences and finding a partner who respects and shares their desires for non-penetrative intimacy. This is necessary to free sex from traditional, restrictive expectations and make it comfortable and enjoyable for both sexes and their partners.

Roles and Myths

  • Myth: tops are always dominant in all aspects of life. Truth: sex roles do not necessarily match a person’s character or behavior outside of sex. A person who likes to take a top in sex is not necessarily dominant in other aspects of life;
  • Myth: being top is easier and requires less preparation. Truth: acting involves understanding your partner’s moods, states and desires very well, communicating clearly, and ensuring the safety and pleasure of all involved during the act. It requires empathy, patience and attention to the partner’s needs and comfort;
  • Myth: bottoms are submissive in nature and less masculine. Truth: sex roles have nothing to do with a person’s masculinity or personality traits. Taking pleasure in a passive role does not mean that one is more submissive in other aspects of life;
  • Myth: bottoming is always painful and uncomfortable. Truth: while anal sex can be a source of pain and discomfort if you’re not careful about it, it doesn’t automatically have to be. With proper preparation, lubrication, relaxation and open communication with the partner, anal sex is very pleasant and painless for both parties;
  • Myth: being versatile means you’re confused and can’t make up your mind. Truth: being verse involves flexibility and enjoyment of both roles, which emphasizes the diversity of human desires and capabilities, not confusion;
  • Myth: versatile people are less likely to be satisfied with monogamous relationships. Truth: Being in a verse role doesn’t mean you’re unsatisfied in a monogamous relationship. The health and completeness of the relationship depends on the mutual understanding, respect and communication of the partners, not on sexual roles;
  • Myth: sides aren’t actually part of the gay community because their sexual experience is “incomplete.” Truth: sexual identity and community affiliation are not determined by what type of sexual activities a person is attracted to. Penetrative sex is a perfectly legitimate form of sexual self-expression;
  • Myth: if you’re a side, you just haven’t found the “right” person to enjoy penetrative sex with. Truth: having a preference for non-penetrative sex is not a “phase” or the result of a person not finding the right partner. It is important to respect the diversity and individual wishes of people.

Health and Safety During Gay Sex

No matter one’s sexual role — whether top, bottom, verse, or side — health and safety are key to every sexual experience. It is important to protect yourself and your partner from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and other health problems. For this, keep a few things in mind:

  • Communication and consent: open and honest communication about sexual health, STI testing, and consent are essential to any healthy sexual relationship. Ensure that all parties are informed and agree to participate in the activities;
  • Protect yourself: using condoms and other barrier methods is very effective in reducing the risk of transmitting STIs, including HIV. Self-protection is key to safe sex, regardless of gender role;
  • Regular testing: regular testing for STIs is very important for sexually active people, which allows for early detection and treatment of infections. This is important for the health of both you and your sexual partners;

► For free HIV-testing, you can go to the Equality Movement office at the following address: 19 Ushangi Chkheidze Street. Before the visit, you can contact the organization by phone (0322 47 97 48) or on Facebook. You can also get free condoms and lubricants there. In addition, you can order an HIV self-test and receive it at a desired address from the Selftest.ge platform.

  • Lubricant: appropriate lubrication (to reduce friction during intercourse) reduces the risk of cuts and injuries during sex, especially anal sex. It is necessary to select the right lubricant (intimate liquid) for the planned activity and use it in large quantities to make sex safer and more comfortable;
  • Education and resources: be informed about sexual health and available resources, such as the PrEP program (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, an HIV/AIDS prevention method that provides up to 99% protection against HIV infection), to help you make informed choices about safer sex Solutions for your health.

► Equality Movement allows those who wish to participate in the PrEP program for free. You can learn more about what PrEP is and how you can participate on the organization’s website.