Q&A: As A Short Man, Am I Expected To Be Submissive or “The Girl?”

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QUESTION: I'm a 27 year old man. Although I've never done anything sexually with another man I have thought about trying it. I think I would want to date or at least meet a time or two before becoming intimate if we both decided we were ready for that. What I'm wondering about is that since I am short how that effects dating with gay males? When I was a teenager I quickly learned that there was a universal rule that the boy had to always be taller than the girl. No girl taller (or many even my height) wanted to date me. Short girls though have no problem with finding boys of any height being attracted to them. In seeking to date another man will my shortness be a factor in who will want to go out with me? If he's taller - as likely he will be - am I expected to be submissive or the "girl" of the couple?

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Height Comparison

A New Question

I’ve been answering sex questions for more than a decade and it’s rare for me to be asked something brand new.

This is one of those questions – I can honestly say that until you asked me this question, no one else had ever asked me if short men are more likely to have certain sex roles when they have sex with another man. I had some thoughts about this, but no data so I asked a few colleagues and here’s what I found.

Background

Essentially we don’t know if gay men have certain expectations of men based on their height. That is, there’s no scientific data to our knowledge that says gay or bisexual men, or other men who have sex with men, expect short men to bottom or top in anal sex, or to give or receive in oral sex.

If you’re not familiar with the terms, being a “top” means that you generally perform anal sex on another person and “bottoming” means that you receive anal sex. In other words, someone who is the top partner is inserting his penis into his partner’s anus and someone who is the bottom is receiving his partner’s penis.

What We Know

One colleague told me about his research suggesting that men who are tops tend to prefer smaller, slimmer men and men who are bottoms tend to prefer larger, taller men, with men who are versatile – meaning they could either top or bottom – being in the middle of these preferences.

In a 2011 study published in Archives of Sexual Behavior, researchers from the University of Texas at San Antonio found that men who identified as tops tended to have larger penis sizes and described themselves as more masculine. But height didn’t have anything to do with it.

Sex and dating between men is different than sex and dating between women and men. Even though it doesn’t feel fair, it is true that many women prefer to date men who are taller than they are. Among men, there are tons of mixed height pairings and the researchers I spoke with who have conducted a lot of work with gay and bisexual men suggested that being short was not likely to pigeon hole you into a certain role.

Know Yourself

If there are certain sexual behaviors you’re comfortable with, or uncomfortable with, it’s worth thinking about that ahead of time. Since you want to talk with a  guy and get to know him before exploring, you can also share your desires and interests with a guy before having sex with him.

As you’ve not yet had sex with men before, you may also want to do a little reading about safer sex issues and how to make anal sex more comfortable and pleasurable, such as through the use of significant amounts of lubricant. There are numerous good websites online that share tips for safer, pleasurable, fun sex and doing a little homework ahead of time can’t hurt and might help.

Dr. Debby Herbenick (M.P.H., Ph.D.)

is a sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, Associate Director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University and author of several books including Sex Made Easy and Because It Feels Good: A Woman's Guide to Sexual Pleasure and Satisfaction.
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