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That Good, Good Vers Agenda

How @versfirst Gets to the Bottom of Top-Shaming

Miles Oliva, a Brooklyn-based sexual health advocate and educator, has spent the past three years ridiculing tops on Instagram. His real-life work is a bit more nuanced than that, but his meme account @versfirst is proudly dedicated to “top shaming, exposing fallacies, pushing that good, good vers agenda, and a bit of socialism.”

A heady combination of gay sex discourse, well-researched resources, and surprisingly literate memes, the account is a welcome respite from the flood of pages bent on encouraging LGBTQ+ stereotypes. By subverting popular meme formats, Oliva comments on the often problematic nature of gay classification and other issues of identity the community has long struggled with.

INTO spoke with Oliva about positional identity, ‘kink at Pride’ discourse, and, of course, the memes themselves.

“My ultimate goal is for people to be honest with themselves and others,” he said. “I think it’s a really weird phenomenon that we have internalized, and started to identify with, our sexual preferences. This introduces things like social hierarchies, power dynamics, stereotypes, and other pressures and incentives to act a certain way based on your specific identity.”

Every year at Pride, they’re like, ‘Y’all freaks can go have your 18+ event out back, by the alley near the dumpster where no one can see you.’

The Texas native believes this to be a result of superimposing “heteronormative ideas of sex onto ourselves” while pushing our “true desires, free from social media, the club scene, or the cultural model of listening to your friends” to the background.

“There are these innermost desires that I believe many people distance themselves from to try to fit into a prescribed social role,” he explained. “This isn’t to sound like I don’t like identity categories or want to get rid of them, I just want to be aware of how we see and treat ourselves.”

Oliva finds that people who bottom are largely looked down upon within the community, an issue he said is rooted in heternormative sexism.

“I think there is a conflation between dom-top and sub-bottom, that topping is somehow aligned with dominance and bottoming with being submissive,” he said. “That’s completely unfounded. The problem, again, is heteronormativity aligning the insertive partner with masculinity and having more power. That’s why top-shaming is where @versfirst started; punching up to a part of the culture I found toxic.”

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by versfirst (@versfirst)

“Tops are just so easy to hate. It’s like punching up, and anything that’s punching up is great. Obviously, #NotAllTops, but many tops take on this masculine, unemotional, selfish sexual persona. I love using this sort of Marxist extended metaphor of tops as the ruling class who extract labor from the rest of us.

This idea of tops as labor depreciators comes from my belief that you need sympathy in sexual relationships. A lot of people who haven’t bottomed have odd expectations of those who do and, because of that, bottoms’ labor goes undervalued. That’s yet another reason to try everything: so you can better understand your partner. If it’s not for you, fine, but at least you tried.”

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by versfirst (@versfirst)

“I find that people think vers people have a mentality that any time is the right time––that they’re like a Swiss Army knife and can do whatever you want them to do at any time. This meme follows the basic tenet of @versfirst that every opportunity you have to pursue your desire, you should take in every possible way.”

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by versfirst (@versfirst)

“The thing is, I do think identity terms enrich gay culture as a way of bonding with other people. If you are into penetrative sex, it’s an important part of your sexual life and I don’t see a reason why it cannot be a part of your life outside of the bedroom. Trying to make it not an identity seems like distancing yourself from the act. I’ve run into people who hate the idea of positional identity. They’re like, ‘you’re taking this too seriously, it’s just fucking,’ and then they end up having baggage around positioning, just like everyone else.” 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by versfirst (@versfirst)

“People who advocate for family-friendly Pride are hyper-focused on kinks, yet fully come to accept these other things that are strange from an objective perspective, like doing a whole ceremony to put a ring on their finger and be monogamous. Every year, they’re like, ‘Y’all freaks can go have your 18+ event out back, by the alley near the dumpster where no one can see you.’ It’s a symptom of the corporatization of Pride, which is supposed to be a celebration of the whole community, of our struggle, of our joy, of doing whatever the fuck we want because we can. Bring on the leather daddies and pup masks and all the freedom of expression people fought for.”♦

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