What it means to be top, bottom, or vers

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Some people like to top & bottom when they have sex, but what is this, who does what và do you have to vày it?

The simple explanation is that the top is who puts their penis, fingers, or sex toy in someone. The bottom is the person who has something put in them.

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It is a lot more complicated though. Someone can be a top without putting anything inside anyone. This means that someone can be a đứng đầu without having a dick. For example a woman could be a vị trí cao nhất or a bottom (or both).

It can also have a more literal meaning. Like who is ‘on top’ in a sexual position.

What’s the best sex position for you?


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It can also be about what the dynamic is about who is deciding on what happens and taking the initiative. So someone who is more active is the top và someone who is more passive is the bottom.

It can also be about control. The top might have control over the other person about things like; what kind of sex that they have, how they bởi vì it, or the relationship as a whole. This can be done with consent and it’s a kind of kink. It can also be done without consent & so is just abusive.

Find out more about kink and how it can be done consensually & safely


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Do you need to lớn top and bottom?

You don’t have to vì chưng this top và bottom thing – I’m just explaining it. A lot of people really aren’t into this.

For many people sex is much more of a sharing kind of thing where they vì lots of different kinds of things together rather than one person being ‘the top’. Many people find that they either vày a little bit of topping or bottoming, or a bit of both or are a bit neutral. Some people lượt thích to say that they are are ‘versatile’ or a ‘switch’. Also it’s totally fine for this khổng lồ change over time.

For a lot of people, sex isn’t really about the dynamic but just the kinds of sexual activities they may enjoy and working out what they do, when they vày it and how they vì chưng it.

If being a vị trí cao nhất or bottom isn’t for you, fine, but if you’re interested please read on.

See all the posts about how to have more enjoyable and consensual sex

Who is the top và bottom

Sometimes I get asked about how people work out who is the top and who is the bottom. The answer is, it depends. I think the top and bottom thing is strongly linked to lớn power và the power dynamic that is going on between the people having sex và the relationships in general.

Like I say in this post about power there are usually differences in power nguồn in relationships & one person has more of it than another.

This power nguồn comes from their identity: things like how old they are, their class, their abilities/disabilities, their race, their sexuality, their gender. For example it’s often just assumed that with a straight couple the man will be the top và the woman will be the bottom. Another example could be that with two women the more experienced woman might be the đứng đầu (because she knows what khổng lồ do).

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A lot of this stuff is based on some pretty big assumptions và stereotypes that you might not agree with

Sometimes people also decide who is the top & bottom by thinking about their different personalities. Often people who are kind, caring, compassionate, quiet, a sharing type are seen as being ‘the feminine one’ and so the bottom. Often people who are active, a leader, opinionated, outgoing, loud, a provider are seen as being ‘the masculine one’ và so the top.

As you can see a lot of this stuff is based on some pretty big assumptions và stereotypes that you might not agree with. Me either, but I’m just explaining it. Don’t get cross at me!


Who ‘should’ top and bottom

So people often rely on stories for who ‘should’ be the top and who ‘should’ be the bottom. The man. Whoever is most masculine. Which person has a penis. The dominant one. Most confident one. The older one. Or the most experience ‘should’ be the đứng đầu or will ‘top’. The woman. Whoever is most feminine. Which person doesn’t have a penis. The less confident one. Whoever is younger. Or the person with lesser experience ‘should be’ the bottom or will ‘bottom’.

This is based on a very heterosexual understanding of the world – we hotline that heteronormativity. But a lot of gay và lesbian sex partners might find themselves doing the same kind of things – which is homonormativity.

If you want to lớn learn more about this kind of thing you could take my không lấy phí Teach Yourself Sex Ed course and do the activities about masculinity & femininity in lesson 3.

Some people actually find that this works out for them pretty well. Often people find that if they just follow this script then it’s easier because they don’t have khổng lồ talk about it. Often people are just fine doing what is expected of them in this way, even if they are aware that they are relying on stereotypes. It can lead lớn them having the kinds of sex that they enjoy anyway and it can be spontaneous and exciting.

However, not everyone who ‘should top’ will want to or will enjoy it. Not everyone who ‘should bottom’ will want to lớn or will enjoy that either. For example: a lot of men find that they don’t really enjoy ‘taking charge’ but find that this is just expected of them so they have no choice. So if people don’t check in that this is what they want then it may well be non-consensual sex. Even if the sex was consensual it may well just be rubbish sex because they were both not really doing the kinds of sex that they actually find hot.

“For the first few weeks of the relationship I was topping him and it was okay – it was his first time và didn’t really know what to vì so I took the lead. When we got talking about it though I realised that actually that doesn’t even really vì chưng it for me & he’s not really getting a lot out of bottoming or even penetration at all. So we started to vì chưng other stuff like wanking, stroking & grinding which we’re both really enjoying and it’s much easier just khổng lồ kind of take turns and switch around a lot.”

When people talk about top and bottom with sex it often just assumes that one person is going to be penetrating another person – even if this isn’t something that someone likes. There are, of course, lots of different kinds of sex that people find more enjoyable than (eg) penis in vagina sex.

Talking about who tops and who bottoms

Some people lượt thích to talk about who tops and who bottoms or even whether this is important for them at all. Lượt thích I was saying before – topping và bottoming can be about a particular activity

“Before we first had sex we had a quick chat via text about some of the things that we both lượt thích doing and how. For example I said that I really lượt thích f******g (vaginally) but that I like to be on top for that so I can control how deeply it goes in và how fast we go. He really liked that.”

Or it can be about the whole sexual experience:

“It’s a turn on for me that the other person really takes control. There was this one time when the other person stopped at the beginning & asked if everything was okay – I was just lying there and she was worried that I wasn’t into it. We had a quick chat to lớn say that it’s specifically hot for me that the other person takes control. I said that I would tell her really clearly if I wasn’t into a thing and also that she will be able khổng lồ tell if I’m enjoying it – I kinda make a lot of noise when things are going well.”

Or it can be about the whole dynamic of the relationship:

“In my relationships I really lượt thích to be the person who is making most of the decisions generally – just quite basic stuff about what we do, where we go, what we vị around the house. It can be super hard to vị because I have to lớn be really aware of my partner’s needs at all times. Even though they specifically consent khổng lồ this and are really really into it, I have khổng lồ remember that they might find it harder to lớn tell me if anything is wrong. So I constantly have lớn pay attention to lớn them khổng lồ make sure they’re cool with it. It’s weird because even though I’m making all the decisions I feel lượt thích they have more nguồn than me – which is how it should be really. It’s called topping from the bottom.”

How to lớn top và bottom consensually

So if you can talk about who tops và bottoms first then that is great. But even if you vị it’s important khổng lồ keep paying attention to consent – remember that consent in an on-going thing.

Even if you’ve talked about everything before hand, or if you’ve not really talked about it before it’s important khổng lồ be constantly paying attention khổng lồ what is happening. So like I explain in this post, it’s about looking for all the ways that people communicate throughout the whole experience. Look for facial expressions, eye contact, noises, words or phrases (OMG, mmmm, um, ugh etc), how their body toàn thân reacts (or doesn’t react) khổng lồ things, whether someone is tense or relaxed, or how you both respond to lớn each other.

Thinking about on-going consent is super super important if you are the ‘top’. As I wrote in the example above (yeah, totally made those quotes up) if you have more power than another person in a relationship it’s harder for them to say what they want.

So if you are the đứng top or have more power nguồn generally it’s on you to make sure. This means paying attention lớn them but also occasionally checking in “how are you feeling?” “need a minute?” It’s also about finding ways on neutral ground (ie, when you aren’t sexing) to ask mở cửa questions about how they are feeling about things và finding ways khổng lồ keep that conversation open at all times.

Want more?

Gender –how khổng lồ work out your gender (it’s not just ‘man’ or ‘woman’)

How Consent Feels – and a simple way khổng lồ practice it

Fifty Shades of Sex Ed – the sex ed guide to ‘that’ book

Do leave a phản hồi below if you have anything you’d like to showroom or if you have questions. I moderate all comments before they go live. Click here to lớn ask me a question

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If you’re over 18 và really into sex ed I have a podcast you might lượt thích called Culture Sex Relationships.

If you want to teach about this stuff, don’t just show people a website – that’s kinda boring! check out my very popular RSE resources at bishtraining.com

Justin Hancock has been a trained sex và relationships educator since 1999. In that time he’s taught và given advice about sex & relationships with thousands of young people in person & millions online. He’s a member of the World Association for Sexual Health.