Gay men get down in a variety of ways, so if you’re not a top, bottom or vers, then maybe you’re a “side.” The term was coined right here in Michigan, by Royal Oak psychotherapist and sex expert Dr. Joe Kort. Now, thanks to Kort’s suggestion, Grindr’s gotten on board with Kort’s term, which came to him nearly a decade ago.
“I was talking with friends, and I was admitting that I don’t enjoy, nor have ever done, anal sex,” Kort told Pride Source. “They said, ‘Then you aren’t a top or a bottom,’ and I jokingly said, ‘No, I am a side.’ I was thinking about a box. Everyone laughed, including me. But then I thought, ‘Why can’t that be a word?’”
Kort could think of no good reason it couldn’t be, so he penned a piece for Huffington Post in 2013 declaring it so. Nearly a decade later, the word has caught on to the degree that gay hookup app Grindr is adding it to their sexual preference options.
“Sides today feel very frustrated,” said Kort. “They want love. Love and commitment is hard to find in the gay male community, and adding being a side makes it even harder to find.”
For years, Kort said sides suffered in shame “from other gay men,” he said. “Gay men do not support one another.”
Instead, Kort says, they sometimes attack that which they do not understand. They pressure sides by saying things such as, “So, you’re still a virgin, maybe you haven’t met the right guy, what happened to you that you don’t like it, and are you asexual?” It’s hard for a lot of traditional tops and bottoms to accept that gay men have healthy and satisfying sex lives without engaging in anal sex.
“So gay men shame sides, especially on apps,” Kort said. “That is why Grindr adding it as a position is huge.”
Kort said he felt that shame himself for years. In his 20s, when he would tell guys he wasn’t into anal sex, “many moved on,” he said.
“I did feel incredible shame because I felt marginalized not being a top or bottom,” he added. “Everyone talked about fucking, and I felt embarrassed that I didn’t.”
There has been resistance, according to Kort, to embracing the term. Gay men, he said, say that the gay sexual lexicon is sufficient as is.
“What they don’t recognize is that sides have always been around without a term,” said Kort. “Having a name makes someone feel a sense of belonging and visibility.”
Regardless if others accept it or not, Kort encourages his clients not to let the judgment of others rule how they feel about themselves.
“Stay true and authentic to yourself about what you want and don’t want in bed … you can endure this and persevere and find the right partner for you relationally and/or sexually,” he said. “It is not different from those who are kinky. They have to sift through a lot of vanilla before they find the kinks they enjoy in a partner.”
Kort runs a Facebook group just for sides. It can be found at https://m.facebook.com/groups/sideguys.