Savage Love Letter of the Day: Getting Back on the Bottom


Going out on a limb here, but might want to add if he finds someone he's attracted to he should disclose what happened. Not on the first date of course, (unless it's a hookup), but at least before they hit the bedroom. Maybe not give the gory details, but just so the date knows what's on the table. Too many younger gay guys, (I'm guessing he's younger but older do it too), act a little too coy which can be really annoying and a turnoff in itself.
LW, is that guy you had the "disaster" with still around, by any chance? I'm totally speculating that maybe it felt like you failed at sex and you were embarrassed to see him afterwards? But from what we know he sounds like a quality guy who might be happy to work patiently with you.

I can understand if you flinch at the thought of him anyway, how brains work.. but consider it if it's a possibility.

Don't ask him to be your lay counselor though. (No pun intended, but I'm gonna keep that one.) Do call and find somebody, it can help a lot, especially with how incredibly hard it is for men to talk to their friends about this. Good luck.
Perhaps HELP understands how to “top from the bottom,” but this wasn’t explained, and typically it has negative meaning in BDSM circles, as it’s seen as passive aggressive.

That might be one more reason for HELP to follow @1’s advice and provide some context to his sex partners who might be put off by that behavior, but would happily alter the usual top-bottom dynamic if they better understood HELP’s state of mind.

As for how to stay in control while being the penetrated party, HELP might peruse the writing of female tops who receive penetrative sex.
Your expert doesn't get bottoming. She says bottoming is "letting someone have control over you sexually," which may be true in some cases, but is generally not. If there's no bottom, then there's nothing for the top to top. The bottom has the power.
The part that jumped out at me is that you're seeing red flags that don't exist and parallels to your last encounter. The self-protective part of you won't relinquish control of your mind and body. The problem is anything that triggers that particular anxiety perpetuates your mind's conviction that you're right to be anxious. It's a vicious cycle and so hard to break out of. Fear and libido are very powerful internal forces and right now, fear has the upper hand.

I get that you feel alone and you want your sex life back. I suggest that maybe you take sexual encounters off the table for the time being. Yeah, it sucks but it may allow that particular anxiety to ebb. A good recovery group can help salve the social loneliness until you feel more ready to be sexual with someone.

One more thought: When you're ready, perhaps only have the sex that you initiate. If you know that the only people you'll get intimate with are those you've approached rather than those who come up to you, that may signal to your brain that you are in control of what's happening.

I don't know, of course. These are only suggestions and if they might be helpful, great. If not, disregard. I'm so sorry for all you've gone through and I hope your rapist gets swallowed by a massive sinkhole. More importantly, I hope you get the all support, healing, and great sex (when you're ready) you deserve.
@3 SublimeAfterlow: I agree that the conversation about tops and bottoms is muddled by the multiple meanings of those words, and recommendations for a "bottom" will vary based on context. The butt side of buttsex or vagina side of PIV or mouth side of oral or whatever might be the top in the BDSM sense of the word.

As for female tops who receive penetrative sex, often that's not "receiving" so much as (consensually) taking, ordering, demanding, toying with the idea because the bottom's body is their for top's amusement and pleasure; maybe receiving in the same way a god receives offerings from groveling weaklings trying to be less worthless.
Cut-and-dried PTSD, right? Anything to say other than time + therapy? IMO LW should just allow herself to be uncomfortable with having sex in the near term and not double-down on being angry at herself.
@7 i missed that LW was a guy. same advice.
I'm so sorry this happened to you, LW. Try not to worry too much about sex and romantic relationships right now, take care of yourself first. You're not inadequate or inferior or unworthy because you're suffering from crippling anxiety and PTSD from having been raped! Your mind and body are on a constant fight or flight response right now, and you're hypervigilant all the time. It's your mind's attempt to keep you safe, because your sense of safety and agency are so battered by your rape. You need to get counseling and treatment to get over the feeling that you can't trust your judgement of people you meet. Do you have health insurance? Can you go see a doctor and get on some anti-anxiety and PTSD medication for a while? Then try to get some counseling to learn coping skills for when your anxiety and PTSD spike. If you can't afford counseling, ask those resources Dan gave you about support groups. Domestic violence organizations also have resources that can help you. Rape is abuse, so don't be reluctant in contacting them. You might also think about taking a martial arts class, often community centers have them for very reasonable/low costs. Also, some Unitarian churches have martial arts classes for free (I know the one in NE Seattle does).

Remember, this was NOT your fault. Something egregious and horrible was done to you. You were violated. It can happen to any of us, no matter that some people want to believe otherwise. I imagine that bottoms are sometimes treated as women are often treated - some vile POS never listen to us when we say no. You've taken the first step in getting your power and your life back, please take Dan's advice and contact those resources he gave you. Get their help. Take good care and try to give yourself a break.
As much as you may mourn your former sex life, it may be better to take a break. Personally, when I tried to get back on the horse again it backfired and delayed the healing process. You may need more time masturbating and keeping it simple while you process the rest.
I'm sorry you're feeling so lonely, LW. I haven't been raped, so I have no experience of what you are feeling. If you want your sexuality back then seek help to do this.
One on one therapy, rape survival group, and perhaps even private time where you focus on reclaiming what you feel was taken. This might need a time of solitude and self pleasuring/ fantasies as hunnybunny @10 advices.
HELP describes oral and masturbation as 'encounters', suggesting to me he's doing these things during sex--sucking guys off and jerking off (or jerking them off). The thing he isn't doing, the thing that has been taken from him by the assault, is coming during penetrative intercourse. But rather than dwelling on this loss, maybe a more healing mindset would be thankfulness for what he's retained, and an understanding that they are steps on the way to a recovery, by and large, of his former pleasures, practices and gay identity.

Coming during fucking is a norm, yes, but it isn't universal among gays; there need be no sense that the LW is failing his sexual partner, even an apparent horny top, in pulling back from offering it. HELP's trauma about bottoming is a subtly undermining or devastating experience for him; but it need not be something that negatively affects a regular sex- or a relationship partner. On the contrary: HELP has a lot to offer. He is kind, in touch with his feelings; he knows who he is; he is open to love. A compassionate guy--on a basis that HELP will be able to choose--might find being with him an attractive prospect.
"We talked afterward and I revealed what had happened. It was the first time anyone had used the r-word about my experience—which was actually a watershed moment for me."

EmmaLiz, if you're reading, this is exactly what I meant by "after care" in the weekly thread.

Sporty @8: The very first sentence, "About two years ago I was raped by another man", wasn't a clue?

Rape is always awful, but even before the #metoo movement, at least female victims have had ample evidence that we weren't alone. Male victims have all the toxic masculinity issues on top of the trauma they suffer, leading them to feel they can't talk about their experiences. I hope HELP gets the help he needs.
LW, I'm so sorry this happened to you. I'm a woman, but when I experienced this, I found three things to be helpful. Therapy + time + asking a partner I trusted to perform the same acts on me with my explicit direction to sort of overwrite the negative "out of control" experience with a positive "in control" experience. It took a while (and the right partner who was a casual but supportive partner) before I was ready for step 3, but it really was helpful.
LW, I'm sorry you were raped. If you find it difficult to locate support resources for men who have been raped, you might consider contacting Mike Lew. He is a therapist and author of Victims No Longer - the first book addressing men who were sexually abused in their youth. Though you are dealing with adult rape, Mike will no doubt be able to steer you to available resources for men who've been sexually assaulted as adults. He is generous with his time, deeply caring, and also a gay man. You can reach him at or by phone 413-584-0727 ext 2. I am a survivor of sexual assault, and want to echo something other survivors have already mentioned in this thread: healing takes time. It sounds trite and tedious and disheartening, and it's also true. Everyone's on their own timetable for healing, of course ... but for many (and for me personally) re-discovering the joy and pleasure and ease in sexual intimacy can be a decidedly gradual experience. I wish you well in your healing and restoration.
I'm also a survivor of sexual violence - I'm a woman, but I've met male survivors in a few different therapy groups, so I can say that there absolutely are resources out there, although it may take some hunting to find them. I've found services by Googling and also by calling my local rape hotline. Depending on how conservative your area is, you may be able to get info about services for male survivors from your local hotline.

My personal experience (in the urban Midwest) is that some centers that seem like they'd only serve female survivors of sexual violence also offer services to men (i.e. the YWCA in Metro Chicago offers extensive services for female and male survivors).

I highly recommend working with a trauma-informed therapist, one who is queer or queer friendly, to deal with the PTSD. Preferably someone with a background in working with survivors of sexual violence. But the key word here is trauma-informed. It's an umbrella term for approaches to treating trauma based on current neuroscience and at least in my experience, it's radically more effective than traditional talk therapy in treating trauma and getting your life and your sex life back - it's still not a quick fix, sadly, but it is possible. (For those who are interested, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk, gives a good intro to the neuroscience of trauma).

If you want a support group, I recommend looking for groups for survivors of sexual violence and also groups for survivors of trauma (whether sexual violence or not). I've found that a huge % of the people in the trauma survivor groups I've been in actually are survivors of sexual violence - plus, the techniques for recovering from trauma tend to be the same no matter the trauma. I personally prefer therapist led groups over peer led groups - I've found them to be more useful for me. I was part of a trauma survivor therapist led group at my local LBGTQ center - it was a mix of male and female identified people, cis and trans, and everyone was some flavor of queer. Two non-queer centers that I've received treatment through occasionally offer groups specifically for male survivors.
I don't know that I can be much help to the LW, and think he has good advice here already. My reason for commenting here is what the expert said: Topping and bottoming are (optimally) about pleasurable power play.

There have been references to BDSM above, and there are things that carry over from that. However, for the sake of clarity, dominating and submitting or not the same as topping and bottoming. In gay male BDSM, most doms are tops (they fuck, and are sucked) and most subs are bottoms (they suck, and get fucked), but this is not always the case. Although somewhat rare, there are dominant bottoms [the true meaning of power bottom] who will require a sub to fuck them when and how they want.
However, there need be no power exchange involved with vanilla fucking. Those who like a little power play with sex are entitled to it with a consenting partner, but saying that sex optimally involves power play is absurd. Some guys like to fuck, and other guys like to get fucked. Optimally, they find each other and enjoy.
@13 you got me
There were also the multiple references to "bottoming," the question about resources for gay men recovering from rape, and the signoff acronym.
Really, I wouldn't think there would be much point in commenting on letters one hasn't read...
A full recovery to LW, and may you regain whatever enjoyment you want.

I remembering it being more than a quarter, but times change.

It might be useful to see a close examination of straight-victim vs gay-victim rape.
The LW should definitely obtain treatment in the form of counseling and perhaps more if recommended to help him deal with this traumatic experience.

I may be misreading the letter, but it sounds like his sexual experiences, especially recently, have been casual encounters outside the bounds of a romantic relationship. If this is the case, I would recommend giving up the hookups for now, actually dating and connecting romantically with guys, and slipping into sex much more slowly than before, to help him get over the trust issues he justifiably has.
@19 you got me
@17 Thank you. The expert doesn't even seem aware of the definition of "bottom" that is limited to "receptive partner during anal intercourse." I don't think it was responsible or sensible to assume a BDSM context for LW. And if he is talking about it from a BDSM perspective, the advice -- essentially, maybe you should consider doing this thing that doms hate and is the opposite of what you want -- doesn't seem wise or encouraging.
The idea that someone being penetrated can't be running the fuck is frankly ridiculous!