Are You My Bottom?

(Anatomical and sexual double entendres thick on the ground, but mostly in a high-kawaii context. Eventually, talk of relationships and of sexual acts, though not at all vividly. There will, however, be explicit linguistics.)

An answer, offered by the Helsinki Athletica muscle-hunk model known here as SpoJo, in my previous posting today: “I Am Your Bottom” (referring to the bodypart, but if your mind bends in that direction, also to the role in anal intercourse).

The question, in the (recently published) pandalicious children’s book (for reading to kids 3-6) Are You My Bottom?:


(Hat tips to Kim Darnell and, especially, to Jim Graham.)

From the Allen & Unwin site, about the picture book Are You My Bottom? by Kate Temple and Jol Temple, illustrated by Ronojoy Ghosh:

A cheeky picture book about a small panda who has lost his bottom from the hilarious authors of Parrot Carrot and I Got this Hat, and the talented illustrator of the bestselling picture book, I’m Australian, Too.

Small Panda has lost his bottom. It was there when he went to sleep but now it has disappeared.

He searches high and low, and finds stripy bums, pink butts, feathery derrieres. ‘Are you my bottom?’ he asks, but none of these bottoms are his. Finally, he spots a furry bum which just has to be his – but the answer is surprising!

A cheeky story for anyone who has ever left something behind.

All that mildly naughty talk of behinds etc. is joy for kids, the endless wordplay is for adults, and the illustrations are for everybody.

The set-up:

🐼 (#2) Note: ths scene takes place in the bathroom

Then the search. (Lemurs are significantly involved.) Finally, the furry bum just like his! But…

🐼 (#3) … it can’t be his; his is …

🐼 (#4) … in the bathroom, on its hook. Forgetful panda!

Inalienable vs. alienable possession. This is all about a bodypart, the buttocks (referred to with a variety of terms). Using a noun referring to a bodypart necessarily evokes someone that bodypart belongs to; every bottom is somebody’s bottom.  So ordinarily a possessive determiner modifying such a noun — my in my bottom, Ash’s in Ash’s hand, Alfredo Garcia‘s in Alfredo Garcia’s head — will refer to that person, as an inalienable possessor (as we linguists put it, in our quaint technical way); and the possessive determiner will express (what we call) inalienable possession.

Now, most bodyparts can be separated from the rest of their bodies, but their inalienable possessors go with them: Small Panda might detach his bottom while he’s bathing, but it’s still describable as Small Panda’s bottom. (In real life, detaching a bodypart from the rest of its body is a messy severing, but not in fantasy: Small Panda’s bottom seems to come off like a snap-in part, just like the penis in King Missile’s song “Detachable Penis”, and there are jokes about buttocks that fall off when you twist someone’s belly button or unscrew a golden screw in their navel. (Hat tips to Bill Poser and Joe Fineman.))

However, someone can take (temporary) possession or assume ownership of a detached bodypart, in which case we have alienable possession: if I steal or buy Small Panda’s bottom, then I can refer to it as my bottom, with the alienable possessive my; it’s still describable as Small Panda’s bottom, but it’s also describable as my bottom. (In sex  between men, an insertive partner might declare (or merely assume) that a receptive partner’s ass/butt belongs to him, and so refer to it as my ass/butt, with an alienable possessive.)

Inalienability is a property of various classes of referents and, by extension, of nouns referring to things in those classes: in particular, nouns in certain semantic classes are inalienably possessed, or simply inalienable. From the Wikipedia article on inalienable possession:

Inalienable nouns include body parts (such as leg, which is necessarily “someone’s leg”), kinship terms (such as mother), and part-whole relations (such as top). Many languages reflect this distinction, but they vary on how they mark inalienable possession. Cross-linguistically, inalienability correlates with many morphological, syntactic, and semantic properties.

The article illustrates overt marking of (in)alienability in various languages, via inflectional morphology, adpositions, and word orders, in particular. English has no such overt indications, but the distinction nevertheless plays a role in how we use and understand nouns and possessives.

Bottoms: bodyparts and roles in sex. From NOAD:

noun bottom: 2 chiefly British the buttocks: he climbs the side of the gorge, scratching his bottom unselfconsciously. …5 vulgar slang a man who takes the passive role in anal intercourse with another man.

Sense 2 — the Small Panda sense, and the sense illustrated by the focus of photo #1 in my “I Am Your Bottom” posting — is a specialization (to the human body) of bottom ‘lowest part’, and sense 5 is a metaphor based on it, with the participants in anal intercourse understood as figuratively superior and inferior, dominant and submissive, though the fact that many common positions for anal intercourse have the bottom underneath, or below, the top surely contributed to the usage, and the fact that the bottom offers his bottom (or ass or butt) to his partner might have contributed to it as well.

Are You My Bottom? plays charmingly with sense 2; any intrusion of sense 5 is surely unintentional, but some adult readers are going to go there anyway: on learning about the book, some friends told me that this is a question they often find themselves asking.

Photo #1 in “I Am Your Bottom” focuses on the model’s buttocks (bottom sense 2 ), but my title knowingly evokes sense 5 as well: the model is offering himself as a bottom (as in gay porn ads, where rear shots convey the model’s willingness to bottom in sex).

Top and bottom.

(#5) You can watch Travis Bryant’s “Top or Bottom” video here

A strong preference for topping or bottoming, amounting to a component of sexual orientation, is common (though far from universal) in the world of gay men, and these roles are often associated (in the minds of gay men) with dominance vs. submission, and also with masculinity vs. effeminacy (though in the real world these associations seem to be weak). All of these factors combine to yield presentations of self like this one, from my 12/13/15 posting “Boyfriends”:

(#6) Sean Duran’s version of “Are You My Bottom?”

Duran and his real-life boyfriend  and porn-partner Nick Cross are (mostly) top and bottom, respectively, in sex, and they also present themselves as pretty sharply differentiated in a cluster of relationship characteristics I’ve labelled t and b (metaphorical extensions of top and bottom). Among the concomitants of the b/t distinction are differences in how the men align themselves for photographs — t exhibiting hands-on ownership of b; t positioned above b; often, b posed in front of t, as a possession of his exhibited for the world — and, more generally, how they behave with each other in public. One man’s hand cradling the other’s butt is straightforwardly symbolic of t claiming ownership of b’s body, in general and more specifically for sexual purposes: top staking claim to bottom’s bottom.

Here are Tom Daley and Dustin Lance Black (DLB) performing Hand on Butt while walking in public:

(#7) Daley on left, DLB on right

As I wrote in my 2/16/16 posting “Loving couples”, you might expect Daley to be b to DLB’s t (DLB is older, with more authority, and he’s taller), but they go to some lengths to present themselves as equals in public, or to give mixed signals (like Daley’s doing Hand on Butt above).

(On the two men. “Dustin Lance Black (born June 10, 1974) is an American screenwriter, director, film and television producer, and LGBT rights activist. He has won a Writers Guild of America Award and an Academy Award for the 2008 film Milk.” (Wikipedia) “Thomas Robert Daley (born 21 May 1994) is a British diver. He specialises in the 10-metre platform event and is a double World champion in the event” (Wikipedia))

Daley in a Speedo, looking compact and desirable both fore and aft:

(#8) P&B (pouch and butt/bottom) shot of Daley

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