boxboys and transitive bottoming

(Lots of plain talk about bodies and sexual practces, so not for kids or the sexually modest. But also plenty of stuff of linguistic interest.)

An ad for a Christmas sale on gay porn at an aggregation site for porn (of all sorts) that fills my mailbox with offers, most of which I just trash, but in this case… Here’s the ad, with the sale details cropped out:


We’re left with six naked guys in Santa caps (ohhh, Santa baby!), their genitals covered by the (Christmas) packages and boxes they’re carrying. They’re presented as hot gay men cruising and admiring one another’s endowments — and in the case of one man, Gay 1, reaching into his neighbor’s box to handle its contents.

(A note on the aggregation site. When it started funneling stuff into my mailbox, almost all of it was hot babes for horny guys. But somehow the software for the site began to grasp the nature of my sexual tastes, and hot guys for horny gays began to take over, until now they’re all I get. But far, far too many of them.

Oh yes, the site’s copy seems to have been written by one or more non-native speakers of English, which occasionally provides small moments of enjoyment.)

I any case, #1 is a not at all subtle play on vocabulary taken from ordinary language to supply euphemisms for explicit sex talk — notably a play on box and package (similarly, basket, junk, sack, etc.) used to refer to the male genitalia. (I do hope that someone will push the practice of giving baskets loaded with gifts for Christmas, so that we could have Christmas basket along with Easter basket. Well, basket is my preferred euphemism from this set, though package is close.) So that these guys are presented as admiring (and presumably coveting) one another’s cocks and balls. On this reading, Gay 1 is fondling Gay 2’s genitals, probably jacking him off. (The boys are wonderfully open about their desires.)

A complication for box. Menwhile, there’s a set of everyday terms for the vagina, and box is one of those — at the euphemistic end of the scale, with pussy taking us into taboo territory, and cunt at the extreme, flagrantly coarse, end of the scale.

Next, all everyday vocabulary for the vagina can be (and, as far as I can see, has been) pressed into service to refer to the male anus viewed as a (receptive) sexual organ (see my 7/26/13 posting on the phenomenon). That gives us a series of synonyms of bottom boy ‘man whose preference is to serve as the recipient in anal intercourse, man who prefers to be fucked’: from the top on down: cuntboy, pussyboy, and, yes, boxboy. (All of these have boy used for a gay man, of whatever age.)

In any case, Gay 2’s Christmas box in #1 could represent either his genitals or his anus; he could be a boxboy, and Gay 1 could be finger-fucking him (to Gay 2’s evident pleasure).

(I intend to write a caption for #1 that tells the story of the guys in it, with Gay 2, a passionate boxboy, as the central figure, but I’m putting that off for another posting.)

So we have a sexual sense for the N + N compound box boy, with both Ns used in special senses: the head N boy used in a gay context for ‘(gay) man’ and the modifying N box used for ‘male anus’ (as above), with a complex relationship between the two Ns, certainly not one of the standard semantic relations between Ns in compounds, but something more like the distant ‘(gay) man who uses his anus’ (specifically, in certain gay sex acts). (Some reflections on the complexities of the noun boy in my 1/27/13 posting “boys”.)

Back in the wider world, there is a well-attested N + N compound box boy ‘a clerk who packs groceries into cartons [that is, boxes], especially at a supermarket, as for delivery or carrying out to a customer’s car’ ( Unabridged, based on the Random House Dictionary). The head N here is boy used to refer to males performing some sort of service typically performed by teenagers or young men; I once worked with a newspaper copyboy who was literally old enough to be my father. But in any case the combination has become a fixed expression. And the semantic relation between boy and box is complex and specialized (as is the relation between boy and copy in copyboy and, for that matter, between boy and box in gay boxboy).

One more use of box boy / boxboy — well actually, Box Boy! I got to this one during a search on { boxboy gay }, which took me to a gay gamer site, with gay gamer referring not to someone who’s an enthusiast for gay video games, but to someone who happens to be both gay and a gamer ‘enthusiast for video games’. His site took me to the Nintendo game Box Boy! From Wikipedia:

Box Boy! is a puzzle platformer video game developed by HAL Laboratory and published by Nintendo for the Nintendo 3DS. The game was released on the Nintendo eShop in Japan on January 14, 2015, and in North America and Europe on April 2, 2015.

[It’s a} is a platform game in which players control a box-shaped character named Qbby as he makes his way through each level. The source of the game’s mechanics come from Qbby’s ability to spawn boxes out of his body, the number of which varies between each level.

So Qbby is a box boy in the sense that he is a box and also in the sense that he spawns boxes.

Back to gay boxboys. But back to the sex stuff, in particular to bottom boys. That took me to this wonderful photo of a guy in Andrew Christian BottomBoyWear (not that it’s called that on the AC site):


A model in an AC  jock trunk (trunk in front, jock in back, with ass open and available), advertising that he’s a bottom: underwear that screams “Fuck me!”.

(I have a past history as a bottom boy — a history that started when I was 25, no longer really a boy, and came to an end when I was 55, way way past boyhood — and I admire and applaud open and enthusiastic bottom boys.)

Now to the verb bottom. This is normally intransitive: you bottom for another man, who tops you) — with semantics that mirrors the view that bottoms are sexually passive (the subject of intransitive bottom denotes the man who plays the recipient role in the act — but note that I bottomed for him is syntactically an active, not passive, clause) and tops are sexually active (the subject of transitive top denotes the man who plays the agent role in the act). (The idea that bottoms are sexually passive, immobile — just lie back and take it up your hole, faggot — is widely disputed, often mocked. See discussion to follow.)

On to something I think is genuinely recent: transitive bottom in the slogan “I will / would bottom you so hard”, which has achieved a kind of meme status in certain corners of the net. You can even buy the t-shirt:


There are two ways to take the slogan. One way is to understand transitive bottom as a causative, glossable roughly as ’cause (someone) to be a bottom, make (someone) into a bottom’; such causatives (based on predicatives — nouns or adjectives) are very common indeed in English; many examples in earlier postings on this blog. That gives you an alternative to transitive top, with very similar, but subtly different, semantics/pragmatics: this transitive bottom highlights the role of the bottom man in the sexual act, while transitive top downplays it. “I would bottom you really hard, so hard that you become a legendary faggot, Superfag.”

The other way of understanding transitive bottom is to take it as a reference to extreme power bottoming, with the subject referring to the guy in the bottom role in the sexual act, playing the agent role extravagantly in the situation. “I would take control of the event and perform so intensely that you became merely a tool for my pleasure, a human dildo.” Power bottoming often goes this way — notably when the bottom sits on the top’s cock, giving him little opportunity for thrusting, effectively immobilizing him, but in other situations as well.

Actors notable for bottoming in gay porn (and there are quite a few, including three featured in recent postings of mine, Damien Crosse, Johnny Hazzard,  and Darius Ferdynand; Crosse is versatile, Hazzard a versatile bottom, Ferdynand a total bottom) typically perform with this almost manic intensity.

The second understanding is surely the right one in a short video (“Dick Slapping: Dildo in Ass”) going the rounds that appears with the slogan “I will bottom you so hard” attached to it — at least if the slogan is taken as being uttered by the man in the video. You can watch it here, but let me remind you that it’s totally, deeply X-rated.

The video starts with the guy (naked, fit body, notable hard-on, face not seen) in position, at the edge of a bed, to be doggy-fucked. He then backs onto a huge rubber ball and bounces on it while the bouncing makes his dick slap up and down and then round and round. Then he leans back and reveals that he has a dildo in his ass. Slides it back in, and you realize he’s using the vibration from the bouncing to pleasure himself on the dildo. Leans forward, jacks himself off until he cums in a fountain on the bed. Just over a minute.

Note on butt boy / butt-boy. Not generally interchangeable with bottom boy. I haven’t tried to do an exhaustive search on examples, but the compound seems to be used widely for submissive or subservient men, especially in construction with a possessive determiner (Bruno’s butt-boy,  my butt-boy); it isn’t necessarily sexual, and it can be used in an extended sense for someone the referent of the possessive just treats as worthless.

Culture clash. Bottom boy can be abbreviated to b-boy, in which case it potentially clashes with the African American and Puerto Rican vernacular English usage b-boy for a break dancer (who engages in b-boying or breaking); and with a somewhat wider use by African American gay men for a type of homiesexual.

Wikipedia has a substantial page on b-boying.  For the other use of b-boy and of homiesexual, it turns out that I did a Language Log posting “Homiesexuals and guys on the down low” on these back in 2004, inspired in part by James Earl Hardy’s fine 1994 novel B-Boy Blues. The book cover:


I wrote back then about

James Earl Hardy, author of (among other things) B-Boy Blues (1994), “a seriously sexy, fiercely funny Black-on-Black love story”, as the front cover says; the back cover tells us, in a burst of -in‘, that the protagonist had “always wished, hoped, and dreamed for a RUFFNECK — a hip-hop-lovin’, street-struttin’, cool posin’, crazy crotch-grabbin’ brotha”. Very sweet book, in fact.

… Homiesexuals are quite clearly Black, gay, out, proud, and identified with ghetto/hip-hop culture. They’re not flamboyant, in the sense of outrageous, ostentatiously effeminate, campy, etc.; they’re home boys — queer home boys, but still home boys, with all the displays of hypermasculinity that go along with the homey identity. Hardy starts chapter 3 of B-Boy Blues with a little lecture on this role from his protagonist, who has a jones for these guys:

…[Raheim’s] a B-boy — or banjee/banji/banjie boy, or block boy, or homeboy, or homie, or as MC Lyte tags ’em, “ruffneck.” [pages of exposition follow, ending with…] They are the boyz who are the true hip-hopsters, the gangstas, the menaces 2 and of society, the troublemakers, the troubleseekers, the hoods, the hoodlums, the hood-rocks, the MacDaddys, the DaddyMacs, the rugged hard-rocks…

Mitchell is educated and middle-class, with a good job; he’s also simply and uncompicatedly gay. He hangs with other black gay men like him but he has a serious jones for B-boys. He’s had relationships with two B-boys and then (eventually) hits the jackpot with Raheim. All three of these B-boys take men exclusively as their sexual partners, and all are strictly tops, so B-boys are very much not bottom boys (for his part, Mitchell’s happy getting fucked, but he also likes to fuck guys), and none of the three think of themselves as gay. Yes, Raheim is physically substantially bigger than Mitchell, tougher and more aggressive.

In the climactic scene, Raheim asks Mitchell to fuck him, and Raheim turns out to have just the sort of asshole that Mitchell likes to fuck (the sex scenes are explicit and very hot). Raheim admits that Mitchell is his first, and that he asked Mitchell to fuck him because he loves him. (Of course Mitchell loves Raheim.) How sweet is that? (Oh yes, they have cute lover names for each other, Pooquie and Little Bit.)

The book was adapted for the stage and was successful in that version. Plans advanced fairly far on doing a film adaptation, but as far as I can tell, the film hasn’t been made.

4 Responses to “boxboys and transitive bottoming”

  1. rjp Says:

    First picture reminded me of the classic Lonely Island + Timberlake song.

  2. The Boxing Day special | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] from my 12/29/15 posting “Boxboys and transitive bottoming”, […]

  3. SEW Says:

    Christmas basket: There’s the British tradition of Christmas hampers (boxy baskets) and here in the States, I’ve seen Christmas fruit baskets sent yearly by managers to their staff.

    (Hint: if you have your assistant send baskets, make sure to give a separate gift for them. They will not think “and get one for yourself” shows sufficient holiday gift giving spirit.)

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