WARNING: This post contains sexually explicit language. Please read on at your own discretion.
Have you heard the one about the teapot? He sings, "I'm a little teapot, short and stout. Here is my handle. Here is my..." He looks to the place where there should be a spout, but there's another handle. Over and over he repeats his song until finally he gives up, saying, "Damn it. I'm a sugar bowl."
At some point the little sugar bowl convinced himself that he should be one thing when actually he is another. Why am I talking about teapots and sugar bowls, you ask? It's a metaphor for those pesky "top," "bottom" and "versatile" labels that we gays like to put on ourselves and others. We're not always what we think we are, or the way other people see us and expect us to be.
I recently read a Huffington Post blog post by Dr. Joe Kort titled "Guys on the 'Side': Looking Beyond Gay Tops and Bottoms." I found it both interesting and enlightening. Dr. Kort defines a "side" as someone who prefers "to kiss, hug and engage in oral sex, rimming, mutual masturbation ... practically every sexual practice aside from anal penetration of any kind." I love the idea of a side. I'm totally a side.
Full disclosure: I've had anal sex as both a top and a bottom. It's fine. I've enjoyed both positions at various times, but I don't love either. I know men who do, and that's great for them, but what's best for me is being relaxed with the other person and comfortable with what we're doing. I know I'm not the only gay man who enjoys using his mouth, his tongue and sensual touch. There's more than just pitching and catching. There's connecting in a way that can often be more intimate than the actual act of anal sex. Why do you think Julia Roberts' character in Pretty Woman doesn't kiss? Kissing is more intimate than intercourse.
I once found myself in a friends-with-benefits situation that lasted for about four years. I was the top. Things were great until they weren't. It was empty. The sex, both anal and oral, left me dissatisfied. Sure, I got my rocks off, but he wouldn't even kiss me. It wasn't fulfilling. I like to kiss. I need to kiss. For me, it's sensual and erotic.
Seriously, I may watch (and get off to) a power bottom taking it balls-deep in a porno, wishing that I were him in my fantasy life (I watch too much porn), but in reality I'm more confident being a side. People have always tried to label me as a bottom. Maybe I am. I've been known to wish aloud that I could let my inner bottom out. But I'm skittish about the pain and paranoid about not being clean enough. And you know what? I'm the one who has to be OK with my choices, likes and dislikes. Not identifying as a top, a bottom or versatile doesn't make me less attracted to men, less of a sexual being or less of a gay man. And it doesn't have to make my sex life less exciting either. I've been punishing myself for years for not being what I've been convinced that I'm supposed to be, when in reality all I needed to be was content with being who I am.
What I continue to recognize in my own life is the struggle I have with caring about what other people think (e.g., "Will this guy leave my house disappointed if I only kiss, suck, rim, touch, etc.?"). It's time for me to get over that bullshit! Trusting someone enough to put a part of his body inside mine or vice versa is not something I'm apt to do with a stranger, and there's nothing wrong with that. So until I meet someone who makes me feel comfortable enough to go there, I'm going to stick with what I am comfortable with doing, judgments be damned.
The sugar bowl is just as necessary as the teapot to the entire tea service and is no less important than the saucer of lemon or the creamer. They all fit together in one way or another. One just has to find the right combination. It takes all kinds of us: tops, bottoms, versatile and sides.
I'm embracing my sideness. I'm a sugar bowl, damn it! At least for now.