Gay Men: Your Face Pic Reveals If You Are Top or Bottom (Study)

gay top face pic

Research study reveals that others guys may be able to tell what you are into just by seeing your face in a profile pic.

By: John Hollywood

Did you know that other gay men looking at your profile pic online can easily tell if you are a bottom or top? According to research, it’s true.

Well, that is if you believe in peer reviewed research journals.

In a paper published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior entitled: Accurate Identification of a Preference for Insertive Versus Receptive Intercourse from Static Facial Cues of Gay Men, the authors make the case that stereotypes exist for a reason

The researchers also infer that within gaydom, masculine and feminine perceptions live strong.

In short, this means that gay men often tie the “look” of someone to what they prefer in the bedroom.

In a two part study involving  people with a medium age of 35, participants were able to correctly identify if a man was a top or bottom that regressed against the mean (stats talk) in a way that’s considered “better than chance”.

How the study was conducted

Hypothesis blind research assistants downloaded 200 photographs of men who identified as gay from online dating profiles from across the United States.

One hundred of the pics were guys who self-identified as “tops” and the other 100 as “bottoms”.

As a group, the 50 participants correctly identified the sexual role of the individuals at a rate of 64%.5%, which ended up being the study’s mean. This was an important fact that some websites left out of the original reporting.

And there are some interesting take-aways from the study. One except reads:

“Consistent with our hypothesis that sexual roles may be related to generalized concepts of gender, it is possible that perceptions of the sexual roles of gay men could occur via processes similar to those underlying perceptions of sexual orientation.”

Masculine features a determining role

One of the determining factors in how research participants were able to correctly identify if someone was a bottom or top connected to their perceptions of masculinity.

“The analysis revealed that participants relied on facial masculinity to accurately infer men’s sexual roles,” reads the section under the study’s results area.

What wasn’t mentioned in this paper was a working definition of masculine or how the participants perceived masculinity, which we are the first to say may be ripe with bias.

Related: Why there’s no shame in being masculine

The study does seem to confirm a long standing issue within the gay community on the role of stereotypes. Specifically, it appears some people in gaydom borrow from heterosexual ideals of what constitutes masculine; which supports the larger issue of heteronormativity.

In the discussion area of the paper, the following appears:

“These findings are interesting because they suggest that people may tend to generalize their stereotypical perceptions of heterosexual gender roles too other forms of sexual relationships.”

Flaws with the study

The certainly are potential flaws with the study; something that the researchers speak to directly in the “limitations” area of their work.

Some of these include:

  • Personal online dating profiles often contain stereotypical bias
  • The study doesn’t confirm if someone is a total bottom or top.
  • Other research contradicts “top or bottom” exclusivity.

There are other flaws as well that we would like to point out. One glaring one is the relatively small sample size (50) with part 1 having just 23 participants and part two having 27, respectively.

Parts one and two also contained a fairly high number of females, with 7 in the first group and 11 in the second.

It is our belief that making the case for top or bottom roles based on pictoral perceptions within the gay community should only have included gay men.

The final part of the study offers the following summary

“Perceptions are somewhat accurate and communicated by a very rich, yet limited, source of statistical information: the human face.”

But can we really generalize to the general population based on this kind of study?


Given the content of this post, we thought it might be kind of interesting to ask the following in the form of a poll:

Can you tell a top or bottom from their face pic?




  1. Oh, what a sensational headline! But don’t buy it hook, line, and sinker, boys… I don’t think you can necessarily trust an outlet that, first of all, can’t spell the name of the journal that published the study. The “Achieves of Sexual Behavior?” Really? I mean, come on… that doesn’t even make any sense. The journal is called the “Archives of Sexual Behavior.”

    Admittedly, it’s true that the findings are pretty interesting… to a point. If you click over to the study itself, the first thing you’ll notice is that it was published in 2013. Wow. What a vital story… only took three years to break on a gay website!

    Beyond that, if you’re lucky enough to have access to the full article via a library, there are some problems with the study. First: only 23 people participated… including SEVEN WOMEN. Second: the photos of the so-called tops and bottoms were taken from dating websites, and we ALL know that people who claim to be “just” one or “just” the other are almost always lying. Third, and most important… here’s a direct quote from the study… “Identifications of bottoms, however, were significantly lower than chance guessing.” THANKS FOR PLAYING, BUH-BYE.

    • Yep the study was published in 2013 and yep we linked to it with the date obviously on the article. Duh!

      Nothing was hidden here.

      And yep a “Gay website” misspelled a word. My husband and I run the website. We’re honest – we make typos. And in case you didn’t see it, this article was published in July.

      Finally, we walked through the flaws of the study and poked fun at it (as evidenced in the writing and poll),

      So much for your snarky points. Buh bye!

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