Installment number three in our week-long rerun of our much loved former column. We dug up a vocab lesson for today. Maurice von Ritz’ helpful guide to gay male sex and its terminology originally appeared in issue #41, July/August 2006.
Max’s new relationship seemed perfect. Which naturally, as Max is my ex, is incredibly irritating. “I’m so pleased for you,” I replied behind gritted teeth, as he told me (again) how intelligent Fred was, what a great body Fred had and how Fred’s apple pie was “simply to die for”. (Max favours expressions also used by pre-prison Martha Stewart.) By this point I was starting to quite fancy Fred myself – despite usually steering clear of blokes who are nifty with pastry. “So what does this Felix or Frank, or whatever his name is, do?” I asked, knowing full well he was unemployed. “Oh, actor,” Max replied, avoiding my gaze. “There is just one problem,” he added. I tried not to look too eager. “He’s passive, too.” My reply of “I’m sure you can work it out” was the biggest lie in a conversation already entirely riddled with dissembling. A gay man as the Polish head of state would be more probable than two passive men pulling off a sexual relationship.
For those blissfully unaware of the tasteful terminology around what gay men actually do in bed, your innocence is about to sullied. For some readers (but probably not many) a brief explanation is now required:
1) Top: The one who fucks, otherwise known as active. He has the reputation of being in charge, more manly, and either older or with more cash. In reality he is just bossy, uptight and controlling. His status in gay society is high, and even Italian fathers can deal with a gay son as long as he active.
2) Bottom: The one who gets fucked, otherwise known as passive. He is thought to have a high pain threshold, and is often supposed to be younger and more attractive. In actual fact, he is quite lazy and just can’t be bothered getting off his back. His status in gay society is medium to low, due to the wide-spread prejudice that he is more effeminate.
3) Bossy Bottom: The worst of both worlds. Lazy but also quite domineering. Likes to be in control without actually doing anything. Status level is extremely low. Best avoided.
There are many theories about how to tell if someone might be active or passive. They range from the dubious (active men are never camp) to the downright mythical (all active men know what they are doing in bed). Which makes it tricky when you find the love of your life, or at the very least of the evening, and, instead of faking your orgasm, find yourself faking your preference. Quite literally, a pain in the butt. Short of asking, (ideally wait at least until the third round of drinks), there isn’t really much way of knowing. None of which of course helps Max. I met up with him a few weeks later and asked him how it was going with Fred the Fantastic. “It’s not. We broke up. It turns out he’s a bossy bottom as w…, I mean, a bossy bottom,” Max said, correcting himself.