THIS DISCUSSION IS NOT SAFE FOR ANYONE UNDER 18, OR FOR ANYONE AT WORK! OR HOMOPHOBES! OR ANYONE SENSITIVE TO PERHAPS NOT KNOWING EVERYTHING ABOUT GAY MEN!
(Disclaimer: Please keep in mind, I can’t speak for gay men, because I’m NOT ONE. I can only speak from the experience of men I’ve known as we’ve discussed it, and years of reading gay and m/m fiction written by both men and women. So. Take this discussion with as much salt as Sam & Dean carry in the trunk of the Impala.)
First of all, I’m a veteran of very ugly fandoms. I haven’t gotten as involved with one as deeply as I was in Buffy, and I never will. So the various kerfuffles and fan nonsense I see in my peripheral vision around the SH world is nothing I plan on getting involved with.
Usually, stupid fan shit is stupid fan shit, and doesn’t have a whole lot to do with reality. But I just started searching (and searching, and SEARCHING) for decent Malec fic (STILL SEARCHING! HELP!), especially of the First Time for Alec variety. Because… hot! Magnus! Love!
But here’s what I keep running into: writers seem obsessed with the topic of “topping” or “bottoming,” and portray that every gay person chooses one or the other, and only “lets” their lover take the “opposite” role on special occasions.
It’s important to keep in mind through this discussion that the majority of the fic writers in this fandom seem to be young women. Often very young women, many of which don’t seem to be familiar with sex at all, let along sex between men. So these errors are to some degree understandable–I just wish I (or, you know, actual gay men) could disabuse them of this notion. It seems like many of them believe it and write it, and so it becomes fanon.
Of course, this all starts with the penetration fallacy. Most heterosexuals think that “sex” = “penetration.” Penis/finger—>vagina, usually. That if something on one partner doesn’t go *in* to the second partner somehow, it’s not sex.
Strike one. Sex is sexual behavior. Any kind of intimate sexual behavior. There doesn’t even have to be an orgasm involved, although we fiction writers like to have that little piece of punctuation in erotic stories. Penetration is often part of it, but, as we all know (or most of us, anyway), orgasm is easily reached without penetration. So… nothing has to go in to anything in order for there to be sexytimes.
The second m/m sex fallacy is that there is always a power imbalance. You’ll hear ignorant folks ask, “Which one is the wife?” Because apparently 1. women are still automatically subservient in bed, and 2. men who sleep together aren’t actually men.
Which ARGH! I find this one baffling. I mean… to be gay means to nurture feelings, romantic and/or sexual, for another person of the same gender. Gay men like MEN. Sure, some guys are more stereotypically effeminate than others, but not every gay man is like that, or likes men like that. Some are, and do. There are as many kinds of gay men with as many kinds of tastes as there are straight men. Some straight men like girly-girls. Some like more bad-ass, independent women. It’s all a matter of attraction.
When most non-LGBT people talk about “tops” and “bottoms,” they are putting people into traditional heteronormative “husband/wife” roles. The “top” is the husband–he likes to be in control. The “bottom” is the wife, who enjoys being taken. Many writers portray these roles in almost the same manner as those in BDSM erotica/romance, when the power exchange is purposeful and explicit–part of the lifestyle. Someone does the action, and the other person receives it and responds accordingly.
Jeeze, talking about this makes my skin crawl! It’s difficult to believe in this day and age, when there is good m/m AND BDSM fiction (NO, NOT 50 SHADES!) everywhere on the market, that people still don’t know this stuff!
I’ve known a lot of gay men in my day. Butchy guys, swishy guys, masculine guys who wear makeup and heels, more genderqueer guys who like flannel and shit stomping boots, and all kinds of guys in between.Like I said: men who love men are not that different from men who love women when it comes right down to it, with the exception of the bigotry and hatred the former have to live with every day. Every gay man enjoys something different about the man he is with.
Now, about topping and bottoming. Yes, some men have a preference when it comes to instigating sex and who leads the way. Some of those are absolutely dominant, and don’t like giving up power or control–but it’s rare that this is any more than a preference. If a man absolutely cannot ever stand not to be in complete control, that is probably pathological. Or he should be looking into BDSM.
I always think of the character Brian Kinney from Queer as Folk when I think of a pathological top. As Justin got more experienced and sure of himself, he didn’t need Brian to be the “top”all the time… but Brian just couldn’t let that power go. Until he did, and that was probably one of the most touching expressions of love and trust he showed in the entire series.
Brian was a “top” in that respect because he was damaged. He had a terrible childhood, was psychologically tortured for being gay, and never had a positive male role model as he made his way. (Except Uncle Vic, of course.) He did what he wanted to do when he wanted to do it, and HOW he wanted to do it, without a lot of regard for anyone else’s feelings on the matter. “Giving in” to Justin was something he considered a gift–and knowing Brian the way he did, I’m sure Justin took it that way too.
So, when I read about Alec Lightwood, a shiny new baby gay man out of the closet about five minutes ago, talking about “topping Magnus” and “maybe letting Magnus top” in a fanfic, it just makes me grind my teeth. First of all, 9 times out of 10, the partner who has almost no experience in any relationship–gay or straight–is not going to take the reins and guide the course of the sex. Exploration, sure, but when it comes right down to it, the guy who knows what he’s doing is going to be somewhat dominant, at least for a while.
It seems to me that people (at least in TV fandom) think that the larger partner is the top, while the smaller is the bottom. Now, speaking for myself (a straight woman), I’m thinking I’d rather Magnus be in charge of things–at least at first. I mean, the guy is almost a thousand years old (in the books). I bet he knows lots of enjoyable tricks that I’ve never even heard of. Why would you not want him to map out the path?
Harry’s Magnus may be smaller than Matthew’s Alec, but I don’t buy that Alec is more dominant. Yes, he’s butch, and a warrior and all that, and Magnus is…not… but Magnus is powerful and sure of himself. I don’t think he’d be dragging Alec off to the boudoir to play “Warlock Says,” I see him being a gentle, patient lover who would let Alec do whatever felt right to him. Maybe they’ll throw each other down and have their way with each other. But I just don’t see Alec slapping on the master outfit and making Magnus beg. Yet.
Okay, I’m back.
I don’t think I’ve known a gay man who only tops or bottoms. Most gay men are “switch” — like in BDSM, their power role in sex tends to change depending on the particular situation, the particular relationship, the individual partner. Dominant men might very well like to be dominated on occasion. Less dominated men sometimes like to just throw their lover down and have at them. It’s not either/or all the time.
There is some argument about the terms “top” and “bottom”, what they mean, and how they apply in the gay community. There’s an interesting article about the labels here: New York Magazine — Who’s on Top?
Now, I admit, I haven’t “known” Magnus and Alec long. I haven’t read all of the books, and don’t plan to for reasons. It’s all head canon for me at this point, but extrapolating from what we’ve seen on the show and I’ve interpreted about their personalities, and the fact that they have only kissed once… and 3/4 times, that Alec is still struggling with his identity and what coming out will mean in his extremely conservative world, that he’s not going to be jumping on Magnus’ ass anytime soon (however SWEET it might be). I don’t feature Alec as a “top” just because he’s bigger, or because Magnus is more genderqueer or genderfluid (just because he wears glitter and makeup doesn’t make him a girl). It just doesn’t work that way.
So please, fic writers, ease up on Alec and Magnus having to claim “pole position,” so to speak, before they finally have sex. Let them be themselves and stop shoving them into boxes. I mean… Magnus fits in no one’s box. Unless she’s hot. Ehem.
I mean, let’s face it: Magnus is a bit more forward overall…but Alec can be a surprise!
What do you think about Malec sex roles? Calm discussion is welcome!