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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Academic paper on recognition of tops vs. bottoms goes viral

In response to the question 'What do you identify as?' nearly one-quarter checked top, one quarter checked bottom, and half checked versatile (a.k.a., bottom in denial)

PHOTO: In response to the question "What do you identify as?" nearly one-quarter checked "top," one quarter checked "bottom," and half checked "versatile (a.k.a., bottom in denial)." From "The 2003 'Unzipped' Sex Survey Results, We asked, you told, we got a boner," Unzipped magazine, Oct. 2003, p. 48-55 that tabulated the responses of 2,650 readers who marked their answers on a page torn out from a previous issue of the magazine and physically mailed it to the magazine. The magazine editors claim "the average age of respondents was between 38 and 42" without also giving the median or histogram of ages. (See previous posts Scientific American on gay top, bottom or versatile preferences (10/13/09) and Top, bottom, versatile "Unzipped" 2003 survey (6/7/09))

The academic paper by Konstantin O. Tskhay and Nicholas O. Rule, "Accurate Identification of a Preference for Insertive Versus Receptive Intercourse from Static Facial Cues of Gay Men," Archives of Sexual Behavior, Published online: 2 April 2013 (PDF), has recently gone viral thanks to it being referenced by some mainstream internet sites. A good summary of their research paper was provided in a gay magazine article by Brenden Shucart, "My Eyes Are Up Here. A recent study suggests that the whole world knows I'm a bottom -- and they can tell just by looking at my face," The Advocate, April/May 2016, p. 24 posted online March 02 2016 as "STUDY: Can You Tell He's a Bottom Just by Looking?".

When I first saw this article a month ago, it reminded me that I had neglected to mention the political and social issues of gay men identifying as being either a top or a bottom in my blog response to a student's general writing class essay about wanting to have control over how and when he identifies as being gay. My blog post tied it back to gay history and the "internalized homophobia" issue. (See previous post OSU 'I am gay' writing class essay printed as paid advertisement in student newspaper (11/24/15))

It is probably best that I forgot to mention it because the TA's for these English classes had all of the students read my analysis. I suspect that the top vs. bottom issue would have been too advanced of a subject for such a general audience not yet exposed to some of the theoretical work on gender roles, etc.

Another more advanced identity issue that I also avoided, which peaked when AIDS and HIV infections were still a new discovery in the 1980's, is the issue of whether gay men identify openly as being HIV-positive or HIV-negative. I am too tired to summarize the arguments, but I want to note that at one time, many gay men openly decided, out of respect, to never reveal their HIV status because it would discourage discrimination based on HIV status and encourage having safe sex always, instead of risky bareback sex. Likewise, a few gay men actually had a tattoo artist draw a big HIV- (HIV negative minus sign) on their buttock, with the expectation that the minus sign could be easily modified to be a + positive positive sign by adding onto the tattoo. They assumed that their tattoo would warn other men that they were infected with HIV. I witnessed this, in the 1980's, when I was living in San Francisco and AIDS first became visible.

A counterintuitive finding of this study was that people could identify self-professed tops significantly better than by chance, but they were only able to correctly identify bottoms less than 40 percent of the time. You can read the paper's hypothesizes why this is true, but in my opinion, the stereotypical bottom is effeminate versus the more masculine top and this is often what people trigger on, right or wrong.

This paper provides another example of the type of research that my endowed research fund has been set up to sponsor. (See previous post OSU Foundation Magnus Hirschfeld Fund Agreement (1/4/12)) Also, see previous posts: