Power Bottom

Updated: JULY 5, 2024

A power bottom is a dominant person who favors receiving sexual pleasure from a partner. A power bottom subverts traditional sexual roles, because they are dominant like a traditional top, but prefer receiving pleasure, rather than giving, like a traditional bottom.

Origins and cultural context

The term power bottom originated in the gay male community during the 1990s as a way for people to differentiate themselves from traditional identities like top and bottom, which were coined in the gay leather subculture during the 1950s. However, the term was fairly niche until the early 2000s, when it began spreading through online queer platforms.

When it originated, the term was reserved for gay men practicing anal sex. While it’s still most commonly used in the LGBTQ+ community, people of any gender or sexual orientation may use the term power bottom as part of their sexual identity. A power bottom also doesn’t have to participate in anal sex. This term may describe someone who takes the receiving role in vaginal sex or oral sex.

Programs including “American Horror Story” and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” that appeal to mainstream viewers have helped the term become more understood and accepted.

What is a power bottom?

A power bottom is someone who is assertive and confident in their sexual encounters. They prefer taking charge of sex, even while they’re in the receiving role. They may decide on the sexual activities and direct the pace and intensity of their encounters. If these activities involve penetration, the power bottom will likely control the depth.

The term power bottom can also refer to all facets of a person’s dominance. Along with being physically dominant, they may also be emotionally or psychologically dominant.

“Power bottoms usually pride themselves in having very big butts, obtained through squats, lunges, genetics, or surgeries,” Zach Zane, a sex and relationships expert at Fun Factory, told Kinkly. “But, in my opinion, it’s not about the size of the booty as much as it’s about the mentality of a power bottom. Being a great power bottom is all about being dominant, loving anal sex, and running the show.”

“Being a good power bottom is a masterclass in asking for what you want,” certified sex educator Tim Lagman explained to Kinkly. “Power bottoms command and demand attention. They know what they want and are not afraid to ask for it. They are excellent at communicating their boundaries and their limits and telling tops when to go faster, slower, or even stop altogether. A good power bottom knows how to prepare for sex. Along with proper diet and hygiene, a power bottom knows how to take care of themselves physically and mentally. They will know how to prepare their body for strenuous activity whether it be through strength training or flexibility exercises. They will also know how to clue in on risks and dangers and able to make those calculated decisions for themselves without the influence of substances or peer pressure.”

Some people use the term power bottom to refer to a submissive person who is enthusiastic about bottoming. These kinds of power bottoms enjoy pushing their bodies to the limits and are proud about how much they can take, and for how long.

Power bottom vs. other sexual roles

Power bottoms occupy their own space in the sexual landscape, although their characteristics may overlap with other sexual roles. While power bottoms receive pleasure as submissive bottoms do, they take a much more active role in sex. They control their sexual encounters, rather than letting their partner take charge.

Power bottoms are different from switches because they chiefly enjoy receiving pleasure. In contrast, switches enjoy giving and receiving pleasure.

Dominants and power bottoms both enjoy having control in a sexual encounter. However, dominants usually dom from the top while power bottoms dom from the bottom.

There is also some overlap with power bottoms and versatile partners, or vers partners, to such a degree that some people identify as verses when others believe they should actually describe themselves as power bottoms due to their preference for bottoming. However others say that versatile is a spectrum, and people who identify as such don’t have to enjoying topping and bottoming equally.

Some people prefer using the term vers bottom to show they are versatile with a preference for bottoming. The term power bottom shows less versatility, as people that identify with this label have a clear preference for dominance and receiving pleasure.

Misconceptions and Myths

A wide spectrum of people identify as power bottoms. They may be feminine like twinks, for example, but they may also be more masculine, like bears. There is no correlation between someone’s sexual identity and their gender identity or expression. This applies to power bottoms who are gay, straight, bi, and everything in between.

“When most people think of a power bottom, they think of a very large, muscular gay man, and those guys can definitely be power bottoms, but I’ve also met some people of all genders with various body sizes who are incredible power bottoms,” Zane confirmed.

Just as power bottoms can have a variety of body sizes, they can also accept partners with a range of bodies. It’s a myth, Lagman said, that power bottoms are size queens.

“Mainstream media depicts power bottoms as always thirsty for the next biggest dick. While this may be the case for some, most power bottoms with an excellent sense of their body’s needs and wants know that size is not always the case,” he said. “Sometimes a penis may not be involved at all! Power bottoms welcome fingers, toys, tongues, you name it. If there’s one thing a power bottom loves from a top, it’s the ability to pleasantly surprise us during sex with things we never would have thought of that makes us keep coming back and asking for more.”

There is also a wide spectrum of bottoms, so people shouldn’t assume that someone is a power bottom because they identify as a bottom. Clear, open communication before sex is a better way to understand what someone’s into and what sexual roles they prefer.

Power bottoms aren’t necessarily promiscuous either. While some may have many partners, others may have far less.

“While it is not acceptable to slut shame but rather encourage the reclamation of the word to embrace our true sexual selves, a good power bottom knows that it’s not just about quantity,” Lagman explained. “Power bottoms have high levels of self-esteem which makes them good at knowing how to look for what they want. This means having a razor-sharp sense of discernment to know whether or not the next top is good enough to be able to handle the power bottom. To anyone reading this far and have not keyed in to it yet, sex with a power bottom is not for the faint of heart.”

Power bottoms are usually confident about sex, but that doesn’t mean they don’t experience pain when they’re penetrated. Foreplay and lubricant are still important to help a power bottom have positive sexual experiences. 

“While a lot of porn has depicted these lithe and willing bottoms taking just about anything they can up their ass without so much as breaking a sweat, power bottoms are able to feel pain that they should be communicating with their partners,” Lagman added. “The anus is fragile and needs to be taken care of, and only the bottom knows its limits.”

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