Sexuality Spectrum

Beyond Tops and Bottoms: What is a Side?

In the world of sexual roles, particularly within the LGBTQ+ community, terms like “top” and “bottom” have been widely recognized. However, there’s a newer role and term that’s gaining visibility: the “side.”

Traditionally, within the context of same-sex sex, tops are those who prefer to play the penetrative role during sexual intercourse, while bottoms prefer to be on the receiving end. These roles have long dominated discussions about LGBTQ+ sexual preferences, but they don’t capture the full spectrum of sexual behaviors and identities within the community.

Continue reading to learn what it means to be a side and how to know if you might be one.

What Does It Mean to Be a Side?

A “side” is a term used to describe a person who does not prefer penetration, either giving or receiving, but instead enjoys other forms of sexual activity. This term provides recognition and visibility for those who have felt isolated or misrepresented by the traditional top/bottom binary.


Reply to @jaystylez0692 hope this helps! ❤️🏳️‍🌈 #gay #lgbt #side #fyp

♬ Insane – Summer Walker

The rise of ‘sides’ represents a significant shift in how we understand and talk about sexuality. It challenges the notion that penetrative sex is the only form of “real” or “complete” sex and acknowledges the rich diversity of sexual practices enjoyed by queer people.

Breaking Stereotypes and Misconceptions

There are misconceptions about sides, often stemming from the stereotype that real sex must involve penetration. That’s like saying a meal isn’t complete without dessert—fun as that might sound, we all know it’s not true. Sex, like food, is about personal taste. And for some, the main course might be just perfect without the sweet finale.

The term is not limited to just gay men, but can also be used by women, transgender, genderqueer, and nonbinary people.

Being a side isn’t about lacking something; it’s about knowing what you enjoy and embracing it. It’s not a stepping stone to becoming a top or a bottom. It’s a sexual preference in its own right, as valid and fulfilling as any other.

How to Know if You Might Be a Side

two male-presenting people cuddle closely together with their eyes closed

If you don’t feel comfortable with identifying as either a top or bottom, then you may be a side. Additionally, if you generally prefer activities that don’t involve penetration such as oral sex, mutual masturbation, frottage, and more, then you could be a side.

It’s important to note that everyone is different and there is no one-size-fits-all definition of what it means to be a side. Your sexual identity is yours to explore and define for yourself.

When it comes to sex, you should only do what feels right for you and never feel pressured to conform to traditional labels or roles.

If you’re interested in exploring your sexuality further, talk to your partner, a trusted friend, a therapist, or other professionals who are knowledgeable about LGBTQ+ issues. They can help provide support and guidance as you uncover and embrace your true self.

The Adoption of “Side” in the LGBTQ+ Community

The inclusion of side as a selectable position on apps like Grindr underscores the increasing recognition of this identity within the wider LGBTQ+ community. It’s a welcome move towards inclusivity and a reminder that the spectrum of human sexuality is far broader and more nuanced than traditional binaries would suggest.

It offers a vital vocabulary for expressing their sexual preferences without resorting to terms like “top” or “bottom.” Moreover, it serves as a reminder that there exist countless ways to articulate our sexuality beyond conventional definitions and roles.

By recognizing and celebrating diverse sexual identities, we create an environment where everyone feels comfortable and accepted.

Navigating Sexual Preferences: Tips and Tricks

Understanding and communicating your sexual preferences can be a daunting task, particularly if you’re still unsure of where you fit in. Here are a few tips to consider:

  • Explore and Experiment: Start by exploring activities that bring you pleasure. Whether it’s solo sex or partnered play, write down the things that make you feel good and practice them in a safe environment.
  • Open Communication: Be honest with yourself and your partner(s) about what works for you. Don’t be afraid to communicate your needs and boundaries—after all, consent is key.
  • Consent is Key: Respect the boundaries of yourself and your partner(s). If something doesn’t feel right, don’t be afraid to say no.
  • Take Your Time: Remember, there is no rush. Take the time to explore different activities and find what works for you.
  • Have Fun: And most importantly, have fun! Remember that sex should be about pleasure and exploration—not about a particular role you might label yourself with.
  • Be Safe: Always remember that practicing safe sex not only protects you and your partner from sexually transmitted infections but also allows for a more relaxed and enjoyable experience, free from unnecessary worries and concerns.

Celebrating the Beautiful Diversity of Human Sexuality

So there you have it! Being a side is just another shade in the beautiful rainbow of human sexuality.

Whether you’re a top, bottom, side or something else entirely—remember that there’s no wrong way to express your authentic self.

Sexuality is fluid and ever-changing, so don’t feel pressure to fit into any one box. Embrace the diversity within and take pride in being exactly who you are!

Subscribe to the INTO newsletter for more stories and resources related to LGBTQ+ identities, health and wellness, news, entertainment, and more.

Don't forget to share:

Read More in Culture
The Latest on INTO