I approach this subject with several assumptions in mind that might not necessarily represent the entire gay population. I build this argument on the foundation that gay men, regardless of whether they are single, taken, married, partnered, or other, generally want to appear attractive to other gay men. We keep our bodies in shape to appear healthy, engage in intelligent conversation to convey to others that we possess a brain, and to some, we divulge both verbal and unspoken sexual cues to showcase our erotic prowess. I am also assuming that most gay men would find it preferable to appeal to a wide variety of other gay men, and as a result have a diversity of intimate partners to choose from. Given that most of us are sexual beings who enjoy intimate human contact, I extend the application of this argument to most gays.
What I mean by sexual rigidity is the expressed opposition to sexual versatility. This is a unique gay-specific dilemma given the common discussions, debates, and potential partner filtering that occurs by virtue of its existence. Tops and bottoms do not exist in the straight world.
We all have those friends who are adamantly opposed to inserting themselves into someone else. Perhaps you are that friend. There is nothing wrong with having a preference; this can dispel awkwardness, save time, and make partner-finding more efficient. Additionally, it would be unreasonable to force someone to take a position they do not like. However, rigidity and adamant opposition to trying anything else can obviously have limiting implications.
What I find strangely counterintuitive is that many gays openly express this rigidity, both verbally and over social networking/hookup applications. Proclaiming one’s status as a “strict top” or “bottom only,” especially on static sites that allow for no further elaboration, displays this person as a less viable option for those who are seeking sexual partners, friends with benefits, or even long-term relationships.
We all shape the way we talk, interact, and dress to influence our impressions on others. Impression management is a goal-driven process in which we control our relationships with others by changing their perceptions of us. When applied to sexual viability, our body cues and social profiles shape these perceptions others have of us.
Again, I am assuming that most gays would prefer to be seen as sexually viable for a large proportion of men. If this is the case, even if one prefers topping over bottoming and considers himself a “vers-bottom” or “vers-top,” would it not make more sense to advertise oneself as simply versatile? How could this be done without deceiving a potential mate and causing awkwardness later on?
In one page outlining eight steps to build a personal brand, Monster.com includes that it is important to not only identify your core values and passions, but to also identify your talents. These include things you are good at, what you personally enjoy doing, and relevant skills.
Although this might seem odd, what if these same principles were applied to marketing oneself as a sexual/intimate/potential boyfriend brand? How can one convey preference, talents, and skills without shutting out potential interest?
Specialization vs. Marketplace Versatility
Specialization in business is the agreement within a group or brand under which the members who are most suited for a specific skill or activity take on a greater responsibility for the execution of that skill. Most brands thrive off using this model, to a certain extent. Spreading oneself too thin makes for average general performance. Why not focus on the things one is good at or enjoys?
However, focusing too intently on one skill makes for lowered versatility in a given marketplace. If Apple only focused on producing the iPhone, they would be missing out on billions of dollars of profits from the production of other products. If human interaction (sexual or otherwise) is viewed as the profit in this case, the individual does not have to excel at all sexual functions. Even if someone is not truly 100% versatile, why not initially appear to be in order to increase the frequency of interactions? You might not know what you are missing out on.