James W. Hicks, M.D.


In Sexual Types on August 7, 2010 at 7:06 pm

Versatile is a term used by male sex workers to indicate their willingness to be either a top or a bottom, but I use it here more generally as the third sexual type.

Versatile refers to both men and women who, in exchange for some benefit, are able and willing to have sex with those to whom they are not otherwise sexually attracted, male or female. The exchange could include money or less tangible compensations such as security, shelter, travel, immigration, or legal status. The derived benefits might also include excitement through exhibitionism or participation in a shared fetish. The required versatile acts range from performing in front of a camera to showing affection and providing conjugal sex during the course of a relationship. Within this category, otherwise straight male sex workers and pornographic actors are referred to as “gay-for-pay” if they engage in homosexual acts.

If you are versatile, you probably consider compensated sex to be a performance rather than an expression of desire or affection. You may improve your act, in part, by fantasizing about the gender you find attractive rather than the person (or audience) you are with. Or you may find the sexual admiration, desire, or affection of others to be sufficiently arousing, even from someone who is not otherwise your preferred type. You may also find some mechanical pleasure in the sexual act and train yourself to become aroused in situations that previously would not have interested you. You may take pride in your ability to perform your job well. Your sexual tastes may evolve and expand, and you may even come to think of yourself as heteroflexible, supersexual, or bisexual.

Many have assumed Anna Nicole Smith was versatile, because she was a model for Playboy who went on to marry a wealthy octogenarian more than sixty years her senior.

The poet and punk artist Jim Carroll hustled gay men to support his drug habit when he was a teenager.

Leaving Tangier by Tahar Ben Jelloun paints an empathetic portrait of the versatile type in telling the story of an otherwise straight Moroccan man who forms a sexual relationship with a gay Spaniard in order to escape his home country. Several other bisexual types are also deftly illustrated in the short novel.

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