By Jesse Archer
For only one week each year, a flat nothing desert in Nevada becomes a city of 50,000 citizens bent on radical self-expression, possibility, and limitless art. At the Burning Man festival, everyone is welcome everywhere. And I do mean everywhere.
Inside the sensual circus tent of camp Comfort & Joy men lie blissed out on pillows and cushions. On one side of the tent is a sign designating a place for 'Puddles,' your courtesy bottom. This sign leaves me feeling both queasy and intrigued. Did I read it right? A courtesy bottom? By the name of Puddles?
Where was he? The idea of a courtesy bottom struck me as too, um, polite. Then again, the camp is called Comfort & Joy, and Burning Man is a cash-free culture based on gifting. Puddles, whoever he was, certainly embraced the spirit. Oddly, this realization made me feel cheap. All I brought were beads.
Burning Man sprouts out of the sand with temples, thunder domes, roller discos, and statues 10 stories tall. By night, deep-sea creatures and giant flame-throwing ducks cruise the playa. Beneath the big top at Comfort & Joy, you find dancing, body painting, sketching, snoring. In front of me two guys go at it, and I wonder, Could it be? Are they using protection? Is that -- Puddles?
I'm dying to witness this newly discovered gay genus: the brazen bottom. What's next? The discreet top? Tops have open license to nail anything that moves and shout their conquests from a mountain high. They get kudos and high fives because if a burly big daddy sires every last filly on the farm, that's one thing. (They call it a stud.) But a pass-around party bottom named Puddles? That's quite another.
Friends chide other friends for being big ol' pillow biters. Nancys. Bossy bottoms. The irony is that sexual roles, like sexuality, aren't always apparent. Testosterone levels have nothing to do with preferred positions, and yet vestigial misogyny -- harmful and unnoticed -- invades like carbon monoxide. Consider the disappointment when a swishy perceived bottom gets taken home and turns out to be a raging total top. Or consider the 'waste' of a big-dicked bottom. Certain among us have been so emasculated by their bottom/versatile natures that they deny it through false online advertising. Why the shame game? What is so funny?
Being a bottom, either complimentary or discerning, doesn't make anyone less of a man. Consider that bottoms prepare for and take on big challenges up to and including saving the world. I saw it happen. One day, during a sandstorm, I got swept up inside Comfort & Joy just in time to catch the Butthole Puppet Show. The production was called 'The American Ream' and its performers were human genitalia. Dick Cheney was a suited-up penis. Bush was a bare ass shouting 'terrorism' and 'freedom,' and in between he'd just fart.
Then, suddenly, Puddles! The fabled courtesy bottom entered amid much fanfare, including his very own theme song. The chorus was quite catchy: 'If you're horny or a loner, anyone with half a boner, call Puddles, the courtesy bottom!'
Puddles was about 30, and though I never did see his face, he was not without sex appeal. His perky butt cheeks were drawn over with a large pair of eyes with long lashes, a dab of rouge for each dimple, and all capped with a vintage frill from the golden age of cinema. In short, Puddles was a dead ringer for Ginger Rogers.
He shuffled onstage, backside front, to accuse the Bush regime of cultural imperialism, ethnocentrism, and flushing the world with the American Ream. We cheered as Puddles threatened to banish the offenders. 'Who knew that the treasure palace of my ass is also a portal to another dimension!?' he shrieked.
Astonishing. Would that be considered torture under the Geneva Convention? Puddles's proposal might be unorthodox, but a bottom action hero is something of a newcomer to the world stage. In private bottoms are celebrated and empowered, but out in public they continue to be dismissed as laughable. Wimpy. As if they can't anally teleport.
I propose Bottom Pride. The hierarchy must end! Bottoms do everything tops do, except backward (high heels optional). Bottoms need to band together and take a vow of celibacy until they get nailed with respect. Let's rally support, raise awareness, march in parades, and crush sexual imperialism. As Puddles teaches, we can pass around the courtesy. It goes both ways.
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