Fashion Design and Merchandising professor Andy Reilly gave a keynote address at the conference “Millennial Masculinities: Queers, Pimp Daddies, and Lumbersexuals,” at Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand. The conference was geared toward scholars who examine the intersections of gender and appearance.
Andy’s enthusiastically received keynote was called “Bottoms Up: The Ups and Downs of Appearance in Contemporary Gay Men’s Styling.” As he explains in his abstract, sexual behavior among men who have sex with men can be incorporated into their identity as what is termed sexual position identity, or designation as top, versatile top, versatile, versatile bottom, or bottom. Identification as the bottom has also been associated with effeminacy, a characterization that has often been linked with gay men in general.
Using queer theory as a lens, Andy examined gender performativity, heteronormativity, hegemonic masculinity and masculinity consciousness, modes of address, and censoring using interviews and commentary on blogs and vlogs and in popular culture media. He showed that using the term “bottom” as a slur has become a means by which gay men may censure and police each other.
Internalized homophobia, among other reasons, has led some gay men to eradicate the feminine and negate charges of effeminacy by cultivating a muscular physique, an impulse that has ironically sometimes had the opposite effect as muscularity has become associated with the “butch bottom.” At the same time, recently, reaction to the “straight-acting gay” as resulted in a cultural shift that embraces femininity and identification as a bottom.