Legend would have you believe that once you’ve earned your gay card, a Harry Potter–like ceremony occurs where, instead of the Sorting Hat, a giant magical butt plug divides all gay men into two houses: tops or bottoms.
This is clearly not the case, especially for those people who consider themselves versatile (HIYA). But often, penetrative sex can feel divided into rigid binaries that make being a top or a bottom seem like a cult you’ve signed up to for life, and one that you have to declare as soon as two (or more) consenting men decide to take their clothes off and rub up against each other. These two subdivisions have their own rules, stereotypes, and in-jokes, and can sometimes seem as if they’re at war with each other, rather than both working together for mutual sexual pleasure.
All of this can make trying different things daunting, especially if you’re a baby gay venturing into this world for the first time. But it ought not to be impossible to sexually switch things up. Sure, people have a preference, but now could be the perfect time to escape the top or bottom prison you live in. So, with the help of some experts, let’s take a moment to dismantle what you think you know about topping and bottoming. It could open up a world of possibilities.
Human beings are very good at trying something once and deciding indefinitely that we don’t like it. In the case of anal sex, this is usually because of an experience from when we were young and hadn’t quite realized the importance of lube (USE LOTS OF LUBE). So how do you go about testing new waters?
“I believe in what I call taking your erotic temperature,” explains Woody Miller, the author of the books How to Bottom Like a Porn Star and How to Top Like a Stud, “which is basically having a conversation with yourself about what it is you like.”
Miller argues that gay men should examine their relationship with power. Where do you align when it comes to being dominant or submissive? One way to question this, he posits, is to approach something other than penetrative sex.
“Look at kissing,” he says. “If you initiated the kiss, you’re the dominant one. If you received the kiss, you’re the submissive one. There is no aspect of sex that doesn’t have, at its core, an aspect of power. So part of the thing that you have to ask yourself is, ‚What am I comfortable with? Do I like initiating sex? Do I like telling my partner what to do, or do I like being told what to do?’ ”
What’s important is that there might not be a right or wrong answer to this. You might like taking your car for a service just as much as servicing it yourself. That’s part of the fun, right?
Clearly, if you’ve tried topping and bottoming a few times and figured out which of them is for you, that’s great. But I believe that many gay men pick one side, stick to it, and that some of those individuals choose topping—you’ll have seen their profiles marking them as “masc dom tops” on the apps—because of its ties to traditional masculinity.
As Miller explains, there are outside forces that, dating back to the ancient Greeks, have prevented gay men from truly digging into what sexual behaviors we might actually enjoy. “What I mean by that,” he says, “is that cultural forces within the gay community prize topping over bottoming.”
The ongoing fetishization of masculinity means that the traditionally submissive role of the bottom is associated with effeminacy. “With bottoming there is the perception that you’re giving up your masculinity because receiving a penis is something that women do,” Miller adds.
Dr. Chris White, an expert in health promotion and the director and principal investigator of the Safe and Supportive Schools Project at the Gay-Straight Alliance Network in San Francisco, takes this one step further. “If you’re a bottom, you’re sometimes seen as a slut,” he says. “You don’t ever hear tops being called sluts, just bottoms. So there’s some shaming there. And it’s feminine type shaming, as well. Not only are you saying that it’s more masculine to be a top, but you’re saying that you should be ashamed to be a bottom.”
Basically, it could be time to seriously check yourself and ask exactly why you don’t like bottoming (or topping, TBH). If you believe that topping is preferable because it doesn’t threaten your masculinity, then have a strong word with yourself. Similarly, if you’re a bottom-only queen, ask yourself why. Not getting fucked doesn’t make you any less gay.
Let’s call bullshit on the concept that if two people are tops they’re incompatible, because the positions that you enjoy don’t define who you are. “I think that’s part of the problem. We’ve literally made identities out of sexual positions,” Miller says. “It’s a sexual thought prison.”
Of course, if someone knows that they only really enjoy one aspect of penetration, then let’s not discount that. But as with everything sexual, these things are usually on a spectrum that is often contextual. “It can change depending on where you are in your life, how old you are, how fit you’re feeling, and what you’re in the mood for,” White says. “If you think about people’s everyday behaviors, I don’t know if there’s a difference between someone who acts or comes across as more masculine and the role that they play in sex. We like to pretend that there are, but they’re not necessarily true.”
Sure, declaring a preference if you’re on the hunt for a quickie will save time and energy, but don’t get all caught up in labels. There’s really not an eternal sparkling scarlet letter marking you with a “T” or a “B.”
According to a 2011 study by The Journal of Sexual Medicine that surveyed 25,000 gay men in America about their last sexual encounters, only 36 percent said they had bottomed and 34 percent said they had topped.
So, in reality, we’re not actually fucking all that much. It makes turning someone down if they don’t match your preference, especially if it’s just for a one-off, even more preposterous. “We seem to place more psychological importance on anal sex than physical importance, because we’re not doing it that often,” Miller says. “So why are we making such a big deal out of it?”
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Why are Gay Guys Convinced the World is Full of Bottoms?
Ask any gay man, and he’ll tell you that the world is full of bottoms. „Bottom, bottom, bottom, bottom, bottom,“ my friend Chris said to peels of laughter in reference to everyone at a recent (and very gay) dinner party. They’ll tell you that „New York is a bottom town,“ as claimed one subject of a New York Magazine piece from 2003, or that „maybe there are like five tops in the universe,“ as the author of a Thought Catalog post about the perils of bottoming had it. Similar anecdotes abound, which prompts the question: How are gay men getting any D in the B if everyone throws their ankles up in the air as soon as they get within three feet of the nearest mattress? Are there really more bottoms than tops in the world? And just how many bottoms and tops are out there, really?
Statistics, at least, don’t seem to bear these assumptions out. Grindr added the option to list one’s preferred position in their profile for the first time this September. Since then, 6 percent of daily users have identified themselves as tops and only four percent as bottoms, according to a representative; 28 percent of remaining men identify as versatile. Similarly, on Scruff, a dating app for the more hirsute gay men among us, more users identify as versatile than anything else. According to chief product officer Jason Marchant, 35 percent of US users identify as versatile, while 21 percent identify as bottoms and 19 percent as tops.
It would seem then that more guys want to present themselves as liking it both ways than exclusively preferring one position over another. It’s like what Woody Allen once said about bisexuality: „It immediately doubles your chances for a date on Saturday night.“
But only 40 percent of Grindr users and 44 percent of Scruff users list any preference at all—many prefer not to broadcast their bedroom preferences in the first place. Others still may choose not to use the apps‘ designated profile fields to tip off potential suitors about bedroom needs; many choose to designate their preferences using emojis in their screen names (an arrow pointing down, for example). They aren’t counted in those statistics.
These statistics are skewed by a more obvious factor: This is what guys say their preferred position is when they’re putting that information out in the world. That means a whole host of human behavior and social stigma comes into play—guys will fib in order to get laid, or because of what others might assume about them based on their preferences. And that might be driving the anecdotal perception that the queer world is rife with bottoms. Lots of guys claim to be tops or versatile, but at least some of them are faking it.
In a 2011 paper published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, researchers Trevor Hart and David Moskowitz surveyed over 400 men recruited via Craigslist’s personal ad section to uncover factors that lead one to think of themselves as a top, bottom or versatile. They found a similar breakdown as Grindr and Scruff—about half of those surveyed identified as versatile, and a quarter each as tops or bottoms.
However, they also followed up to see what kinds of behavior guys reported engaging in during sex, and discovered that while those who self-reported as tops or bottoms actually consistently topped and bottomed in bed, only about half of versatile guys actually switched things up. That means that when it gets down to getting down, the versatile guys surveyed weren’t nearly as open minded as their claimed preference would lead you to believe; 48 percent of self-reported versatile men were, in fact, bottoms, while 52 percent were tops.
So, all things being equal—which these statistics would seem to bear out; gay guys, all told, fall pretty evenly on the divide between top and bottom—why do we love to accuse each other (and the rest of the world) of being rife with bottoms? As it turns out, it may be a way for gay men to encourage each other to butch it up. In his cleverly titled Top or Bottom: A Position Paper, published last year in the journal Psychology & Sexuality, psychologist Dr. Andrew Reilly wrote that gay men use the word „bottom“ as a way to criticize those with feminine traits—in so doing, bullying them into conforming with heteronormative gender expectations.
And so you have it—by lending tops a position of privilege in our gay hierarchies (by remarking upon their supposed rarity, or by accusing each other of being bottoms,) we reinforce the same misogynist and patriarchal tendencies of our straight brethren. All too often, we accuse each other of being bottoms by way of criticizing perceived feminine traits within other gay men. Sure, we do it as a joke, but one with a nasty undertone.
Interestingly enough, bottom shaming may have its provenance in the AIDS crisis, when, during the 80s, bottoms began to hide out. „Top and bottom became forbidden categories in the 80s, because [being a bottom] was a death sentence,“ said William Leap, an anthropologist currently writing a book about gay slang before Stonewall. „If you said you were a bottom, it meant you had a disease.“
Those attitudes are still prevalent today. And because bottoms are maligned within our community, we may never get a truly accurate picture of just how many there are. Bottom shame is real, and less innocuous than an innocent-seeming joke might suggest. Besides, bottoms should man up and embrace who they are—after all, tops would be mighty lonely without them.
The best gay sex positions: How do gay men have sex?
As anyone who’s ever had gay sex, thought about gay sex or watched gay sex will know there are endless combinations possible gay sex positions. But where to start? What feels best? How do you gay men have sex?
This guide to the four most accessible – and we reckon most pleasurable – gay sex positions will help get you started.
Before we get stuck into how to stick it in, we’d always condone safer sex and recommend you read our guide to PrEP, and always use condoms when having sex.
How to Be a Better Bottom
When I was little, my father would drag my sister and me out in the cold morning in camouflage outfits and orange hats to sit with him in a deer stand and practice shooting his gun. This was a necessity for a young boy in the South. While his tutelage never stuck, he might be surprised to learn that I still grew up to be a hunter.
All I need is a drawstring shoulder bag carrying my keys, wallet, cell phone, and a douching bulb for emergency visits to the nearest bathroom. Depending on the environment — a dive bar versus a dance club, a bathhouse or a play party — I might be wearing more clothes or less, but the target is the same: men and anal sex.
As gay men, a good portion of some of our lives will be dedicated to the art and craft of anal sex. It is one of my favorite ways to pass an evening and one of the most enjoyable parts of my life. At its best, bottoming is a mind-blowing and carnal experience that feels really good. At its worst, it is painful and unpleasant. Clearly there is a right and wrong way to do it, and a learning curve — few guys start off as bottoming champions. You need years of practice, and sometimes you need tips from someone who knows what he is doing. Hi, I’m Alex.
The tips in this slideshow progress from beginner bottoms to more advanced bottoms, so if you are just beginning your magical bottoming journey, the advice at the beginning may be more useful to you than those in the back. Enjoy the ride.
A Word of Warning From Writer Alexander Cheves
My name is Alexander Cheves, and I am known by friends in the kink and leather community as Beastly. I am a sex-positive writer and blogger. The views in this slideshow do not reflect those of The Advocate and are based solely on my own experiences. As with everything I write, the intent of this piece is to break down the stigmas surrounding the sex lives of gay men.
Those who are sensitive regarding frank discussions about sex are invited to click elsewhere, but consider this: If you are outraged by content that addresses sex openly and honestly, I invite you to examine this outrage and ask yourself whether it should instead be directed at those who oppress us by policing our sexuality.
For all others, enjoy the slideshow. And feel free to leave your own suggestions for sex and dating topics in the comments.
Hungry for more? Follow me on Twitter @BadAlexCheves and visit my blog, The Beastly Ex-Boyfriend.
1. Consume high amounts of fiber.
The first rule of gay sex applies to bottoms of all calibers: watch what you eat.
My vegetarian friends say that they hardly need to clean before sex — they simply use the bathroom and are good to go. This is because they consume a high fiber diet, which cleanses the colon. Meat-eaters like myself benefit from fiber regimens like daily Metamucil or Benefiber to keep our runways clear. In my experience, the best fiber regimens are those that come in powder form that you mix in a glass of water, and most contain psyllium husk — a natural fiber with multiple health benefits.
Sugar-free psyllium husk fiber can be purchased on its own, and I have even seen it sold in capsule form. I have not had the same good results from fiber capsules as I have from Metamucil, but some guys might. Metamucil is part of my daily routine.
Fiber is extremely good for you, and when it comes time to clean out your butt for sex, your stools will be compact and “together,” making cleaning considerably easier. Loose, runny stool is a nightmare to clean out.
Too much fiber can dehydrate you and cause cramps and hemorrhoids, so do not take more than the recommend dose. Make sure you drink plenty of water to stay hydrated — something every healthy person should do anyway.
2. Find a cleaning regimen that works for you.
Some guys can simply tell when they’re good. These men have an uncanny ability to just know without a shadow of doubt that their colons are clear and ready for a pounding, no douching required. These men are mysteries to me. I respect them the way I respect firefighters and contortionists. I cannot quite believe they can do what they do, but they do it nevertheless.
I always have to make sure things are good down there before having sex. Some guys do a pre-sex check with a lubed finger, but I do not trust my fingers, which are shorter than most of dicks I want to take. So while a finger check might be convincing for some, I always fear there may be stuff further up. This is why I almost always clean out beforehand.
[RELATED: „30 Liquid Assets Every Gay Man Should Know“]
Let’s face a fact: douching, using an enema, and frequently cleaning out the ass would probably be frowned upon by most healthcare specialists. Some consider it an acceptable occasional practice to relieve constipation, but most would frown at the idea of douching as frequently as every week (or more).
I choose to clean frequently because I like to have mess-free anal sex, and have not had any problems from excessive douching. Many straight people have this idea that gay sex is a messy affair, but as Dan Savage wrote in his book American Savage, “You don’t have anal sex with an ass full of shit for the same reason that you don’t have oral sex with a mouth full of food. Because it’s uncomfortable and it makes a mess.”
Most guys have different cleaning methods depending on the kind of sex they want to have. Most guys begin cleaning in the shower with water and a finger, and for some that is enough. Many guys move on to using a douching bulb or enema. This works for most guys too, although douching bulbs and enemas will not clean your ass as deeply and thoroughly as hoses and shower attachments can. I use a hose — a shower attachment with a short, smooth nozzle — with slightly warm water and low pressure (high pressure is not recommended — ouch). These different cleaning methods have different benefits and different risks which I will go into in the following slides.
5. Train your butt with toys.
I have a delightful condition I call “classic bottom syndrome.” I have learned to enjoy the feeling of getting fucked and having stuff in my butt so much that my brain now links orgasm with anal. You could say that my pleasure focus point has shifted from my dick to my butt. I admittedly do not masturbate as much as I used to, and it takes me much longer to cum when I do not have something in me.
Not only are anal prostate orgasms more intense for men, but some, like myself, learn to love the feeling of the anal spinchter (the circular muscle that opens and closes at the base of the colon, which is clenched tight and shut for most of your life and opens when you have to use the bathroom) opening around an object, whether it be a penis, a butt plug, or hand. The opening and closing of this muscle on its own can be very erotic.
I discovered this sensation through toy play. Gay sex tends to focus only on the prostate, since a good top is basically rubbing the prostate with his dick. When my ex-boyfriend and I decided to start playing with toys, I discovered sensations that I had never experienced before. He started pushing a small butt plug in my ass during foreplay, and I learned that the feeling of being opened can be just as intense as being fucked.
Toy play has made me a better bottom and, for many guys, is the gateway to becoming more comfortable with sex. Toys open you up and get you used to the feeling of penetration at your own speed.
7. Experiment with lubes until you find your favorite.
My favorite lube is Pjur Back Door silicone lube. I know this after experimenting with every kind of lube imaginable, from lotions to kitchen ingredients to Elbow Grease and more. Browse my list of must-try lubes in “30 Liquid Assets Every Gay Man Should Know.”
A good lube makes a big difference. Many guys prefer spit — I do — but spit typically will not work for rough sex or extended play. When I go hard, I use silicone lube. Silicone lube is messy and stays slick forever, meaning it can sometimes present clean-up problems (avoid touching door handles), but it works fine with latex and non-latex condoms and keeps your ass lubed up longer than water-based lube. Silicone lube can also be used in the shower, since it will not wash off with water, meaning you can use it for douching and for shower sex.
11. Bareback bottoms should get tested regularly.
We now live in an age when PrEP gives HIV-negative men and women extra precaution against HIV transmission — a precaution that, according to every statistic available, is more dependable than regular condom use. But while PrEP has the potential to lower HIV transmission rates among the people who can get access to the costly medication, rates for other STIs like chlamydia and gonorrhea and syphilis are soaring among gay men.
I do not shame barebacking because most of my sex is bare and condom-less. I am a piggy guy who loves male bodily fluids — cum, sweat, piss, spit, in that order — but I also know my sex practices involve STI infection. Most clinics and LGBT centers say that sexually active gay men should receive a full-range testing every three months. Since I am having regular bareback sex, I get tested every month, no exceptions.
Getting tested every month is not a preventative healthcare practice, but a responsive one. While I agree that most responsive healthcare regimens are less healthy in the long run than preventative care — our overmedicated society is evidence of that — I concede here that monthly STI testing and PrEP jointly face a present reality: gay men are having bareback sex, and lots of it.
The thinking goes that if you get tested regularly for everything then you will catch STIs and treat them before they become bigger problems (and let’s face it, if you are a sexually active gay man, you are going to get an STI at least once in your life). This thinking does not work so well for HIV, since HIV can stay in the body for months before it registers on an HIV test, during which time the virus is very transmissible. But for men on PrEP who make the decision not to use condoms, monthly testing is the minimum degree of self-care that you should practice.
While bareback pigs frequently incur shaming and anger from people both in and outside the gay community, stigmatizing a lifestyle does little to address its reality. Barebacking is in, and the vast majority of homos I know do it. This fact is probably a nightmare to public health workers and a damning picture of gay promiscuity to sex-phobic and homophobic people all over the world, but neither of those opinions change the fact that many of us (I am tempted to say “most”) are fucking bare and not apologizing for it. So rather than cast blame, the wisest response is for me and every health care worker and conscientious gay man to urge guys who bareback to get tested as frequently as possible.
13. Anti-diarrhea treatments will keep you clean — most of the time.
There is a trick I learned at the Folsom Street Fair a couple years ago. If you take Imodium or some anti-diarrhea treatment (and you do not, in fact, have diarrhea) it will stop everything. After cleaning once or twice, the treatment will stop your body’s poop-making processes, especially if you take the maximum dosage, and keep you clean for a long, wild evening.
Different gay men have argued the health benefits of doing this. It is probably not the best thing to do, but neither is excessive cleaning or really rough sex, which can cause hemorrhoids and fissures and other ailments. Gay men do not always make the healthiest choices — in fact, my experience shows that we tend to make a lot of unhealthy ones — but we have perfected the art of fucking.
There is a caveat to this trick: it might not work perfectly. While I have generally had good success with Imodium, over-dosage has messed up my stomach and actually caused me to have a bowel movement. It can make you feel cramped and give you a stomachache, especially if you eat food after taking it. My backup plan is to always carry a douche in a drawstring bag, but this is not always doable. I have cleaned in strange places — in the bathrooms of clubs and bathhouses, in the showers at truck stops, and once in the bar owner’s apartment over the club (the music was pounding through the floor below).
14. If you want to get fisted, do it the right way.
Fisting — inserting the whole hand into the anus — tends to draw gasps from people who are not into it, gay men included. Regardless, fisting is one of the most intimate and erotic sex practices I have ever experienced. Guys into fisting understand pleasure and ass limits in a way that few others do, and theirs is a fraternity unified by red socks and red hankies and a gleeful love of all things ass.
There are many books and websites on how to fist properly — Fist Me! The Complete Guide To Fisting by Stephan Niederwieser is a great one — but the biggest challenge for someone with dreams of being a fisting bottom is the hours of patience and practice that must come before he finally pushes past the knuckle. You will probably not take his fist the first time you try, and that should not be your goal. Get comfortable, first and foremost, with getting fucked. Then start with anal toys, gradually working up to larger and larger sizes.
When you feel you are ready to get fisted, only do it with someone with years of fisting experience. You do not want an amateur or beginner playing in your butt. Not only is getting fisted a sensory overload, but it requires more trust and vulnerability than perhaps any other sex act (with the exception of various kink and BDSM scenes). Improper fisting can cause severe rectal damage and send you to the hospital, so only explore fisting with someone who knows what they are doing and someone who is sober.
Go slowly and use lots of lube. You cannot use too much lube in fisting. While Crisco is certainly the most old-school fisting lube, J-Lube and the French product Fist Powder Tech are also recommended. Try different lubes to figure out which one you like the most.
17. Celebrate being a bottom!
There is a lot of bottom shaming in the world. Invariably bottoms are the ones that get teased and mocked the most in gay discourse, and tops glorified. There is a very ugly, misogynist, heteronormative reason for this that invariably comes from the idea that guys who fuck are a step closer to being “straight” and even “male” while guys who get fucked are automatically feminized, degraded, “gayer,” and a step closer to “women.” The deeply misogynist and homophobic tones of this discourse should not be surprising, since misogyny is no stranger to gay culture and some of the worst homophobes in the world are gay men who direct this hatred at themselves and their own kind.
When I first came out of the closet, I announced myself as a top. I did this so that the straight men around me would see me closer to being an equal. I was afraid of femininity and afraid of what I perceived as gay stereotypes and “flamboyance,” and I did everything I could to appear differently — including calling guys “bro” and topping only (badly, I might add).
My topping phase lasted through two brief college relationships before I accepted a truth that I had known all along: I was a bottom. And not just any kind of bottom. I wanted to be unable to sit afterward. I masturbated to the idea of using Preparation H after a rough night to decrease the swelling. I wanted my hole wrecked.
When I finally tried to carry out these fantasies, I could not take anything bigger than a pinky finger. But I worked at it and learned by body and made mistakes, and now I can enjoy hours of marathon sex and go exercising the next day — no Preparation H required. I am a bottom without shame or apology. I love my butt, I love men, and I love men being in my butt.
The next time you go hunting, do so with confidence and self-love. You are not lucky to find a good top — a good top is lucky to find you.
[RELATED: Marriage and Beyond: 26 Relationship Possibilities for Gay Men“]
Anal sex positions
Most of these gay sex positions are anal sex positions, but there are some non-penetrative sexual positions at the end too.
If you’re after more anal sex reading, here’s another general guide on how to have anal sex that covers douching, communication, lube and some other stuff.
Top, bottom or versatile?
We’re going to look at gay sex positions from the point of view of a top and a bottom.
If you’re versatile (and we encourage you all to be), lucky you, you can do both. In some gay sex positions the top leads the action, and in some the bottom takes the lead.
Interested in finding out why some guys are top and some are bottom? Here’s a scientific study from 2017 that talks about it.
Try the gay missionary position first
This gay sex position may sound boring, but it’s not, we promise. It’s one of the easiest positions for a top, and not especially difficult for a bottom.
During gay sex, if you’re engaging in foreplay and sucking his cock while he’s laying down, keep licking, kissing and sucking as you move your mouth down towards his balls.
Then go further, toward his perineum (the bit between his balls and his ass) and then his butthole.
Bottom: if you’re enjoying this, give him a few moans and wriggle your asshole a bit closer to where his tongue is.
If he’s keen, keep eating his ass. Open his ass cheeks and get in there deep with your tongue. If you can, and body shapes and sizes depend on this, lift his ass up a bit.
Seeing eye to eye
The gay missionary position is good for maintaining eye contact and clear communication during anal sex.
You can penetrate your partner slowly and carefully, keeping an eye on the target. You can build up a momentum that you’re both comfortable with. And it’s easy to get back in if you slip out, because you can see everything clearly.
Now try riding a guy’s cock
If you’re new to getting f**ked, or nervous about taking a big dick, this gay sex position could be good for you, because as a bottom, you’ll have the control.
It’s a good one for gaining confidence when it comes to taking cock – if it starts to hurt, you can slow down, and lower yourself onto him at your own pace.
You need a certain amount of athleticism to be able to ride your man. You want to be going up and down, and slightly back and forth, at the same time. A bit like riding a horse.
If you’re bigger built than your top, or if you’re a bigger guy in general this one can be tricky as gravity is against you. Be careful not to crush the chap under you or he’ll be at risk of losing his erection.
1. Avoid constipation
For many gay men, the joy of bottoming remains elusive because they struggle with ongoing constipation. Part of this relates to the fact that most Americans – over 50% – are regularly backed up.
The reason is fairly simple; most of us aren’t getting enough fiber. If this has been a challenge for you, see our post on bottoming and constipation.
If you are a gay bottom man, you owe it to yourself and your partner to learn all you can about digestive health. A great book to consider is by Mike Miller.
Believe it or not, preparing to bottom begins well before your top man even shows up!