At the beginning of this blessed Pride Month, the Uber-owned food delivery app Postmates announced its 2022 Pride campaign, “The Bottom-Friendly Menu.” The company, which is one the defendants in an ongoing collusion case and which, in 2019, removed a minimum-wage guarantee for its drivers, teamed up with someone named Dr. Evan Goldstein from some place called Bespoke Surgical to “bring you a menu of bottom-friendly foods, backed by science.” (In case I’m talking to a bunch of breeders, “bottom” refers to the receptive partner in anal sex — a position which is, yes, prone to pooey messes.) According to Postmates and Goldstein, what you eat in the 24 hours before bottoming can help prevent such messes. The trick, they claim, is to avoid dairy and insoluble fibers, which don’t dissolve in water and “could cause a traffic jam in your system, making a mess of your evening.” Insoluble fibers include whole grains, wheat bran, cauliflower, potatoes, legumes, and more. They recommend sticking to soluble fibers: white rice, citrus, peas, nuts, and fish, “which makes sushi a great bottom-friendly option,” they helpfully share. This is an insanely restrictive diet, so much so that people in Los Angeles and New York, inexplicably the only two places the Bottom Friendly Menu is offered, have taken to Twitter, posting screenshots of the menu. The only thing listed on it is coffee.
“The Bottom-Friendly Menu” was announced in a stop-motion video posted to Postmates’s Instagram and Twitter accounts. The video is entitled “Eat With Pride.” In it, a voiceover asks, “What are you eating this Pride?” as peaches wearing jockstraps and an eggplant wearing a leather harness hang out at the beach under a sun made from an orange round. “Well, if you’re a top, it seems like you can eat whatever you want,” the video says as the leather-fetishist eggplant feasts on a taco. “But, if you’re a bottom, you’re expected to starve?” The peaches, one with a strangely placed piercing on his butt which is also his face, gather around a bowl of melting ice cubes, the gay man’s ancestral cuisine, which bottoms, I guess, eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Then, the good word of The Bottom-Friendly Menu comes to save the day. While the voiceover discusses insoluble fibers, one of the jockstrap-clad peaches buries its snout in a can of beans. “Hold up, are you fully just diving into those beans?” the voiceover reprimands the hungry little homo. The peach, its jockstrap now soiled with bean juice, looks up at the voiceover, who I guess is God, and scurries away, ashamed.
The video makes it clear that the corollary of the slogan “Eat With Pride!” is “Eat with Shame!” Eating with shame, here, means being a poo-filled fatty. (This blithe, brutal, bitchy attitude won’t be surprising to you if you’ve ever met a gay man.) The campaign happily weds two of the more toxic, entrenched aspects of gay culture: disordered eating and the power dynamics that have long shamed bottoms (who occupy the feminine, receptive role) and worshipped tops (the masculine, penetrative role). Postmates’s Pride Month campaign is, to be absolutely clear about it, completely fucked in the head — and the fact that it came to fruition in the first place makes me wonder if we are too.
There are plenty of critiques of Pride circulating online and in the editorial world. The fact that corporations, which are by and large run by straight people, use Pride Month as a marketing tactic is, obviously, ripe for criticism. And yet, despite the ubiquity of Pride-marketing criticism, people (at least those working in the online gay editorial world) have been pretty oblivious to how obviously deranged the Postmates advertisement is. In fact, they’ve been laudatory about the campaign. Almost every article I’ve read has lavished praise on Postmates for allowing a team of BGLTQ employees in their office to conceptualize the project, according to the company. (The campaign, to be fair, does stand out in comparison to the insanely sanitized, desexualized “gay-people-are-just-like-everyone-else” campaigns that have dominated Pride marketing for the past few years and which, presumably, have been imagined up by straight people.)
In an online article about The Bottom Friendly Menu for Out Magazine, the writer Bernardo Sim calls the ad campaign “a fun initiative.” (As a rule, I don’t trust anyone who writes online articles.) Queerty, a magazine whose slogan is “free of an agenda (except the gay one),” praised Postmates for its “ingenuity” and ability “to stand out” “among Rainbow-emblazoned Pride Month campaign.” Sim summarized the simple stance of the gay editorial world in the opening of his article: “Postmates said ‘bottom rights!’” The right to what, exactly?
The only real heat the campaign has received is that it’s not their original idea. According to TikToker Alex Hall, who founded the company The Bottom’s Digest, which creates bottom-friendly recipes, Postmates ripped off the idea behind his company. “Queer people are always out here doing the work,” Hall said in an Instagram story “and these corporations just swoop in…and then take all the credit.” The internet sided with Hall. Input Magazine released an article entitled “Postmates’ bottoming menu might be cool if it didn’t rip off a queer content creator,” as if the only bad thing about the whole premise of restricting your food intake for the sake of bottoming were that it’s unoriginal.
The praise Postmates received for allowing its BGLTQ employees to take the lead and the criticism it received for being a copycat are based on the same belief: The single most important thing about an idea is not what it is but who it came from. Something is good for the gay community on the one condition that it is by the gay community. This belief is also at the heart of the usual maelstrom of criticism against Pride marketing, which is bad not because marketing is an amoral force driven only by money, but because the marketing and the people behind it are not quite gay enough.
It is precisely this that has allowed “The Bottom Friendly Menu” to go largely uncriticized. Whether through stealing the idea or empowering its queer employees to come up with it, Postmates has pioneered a Pride campaign that is, in one way or another, coming from gay people. The commercial thematizes this, insinuating an insider status within the queer community. The use of vernacular that is used between gay people like “top and bottom;” iconography like leather harnesses and jockstraps, which are usually seen only within the closed walls of the gay club; the quick glimpse of the pink triangle, first used in Nazi concentration camps to distinguish gay men and later reclaimed by AIDS activists; the fact that the video is narrated by the famous and “funny” Instagay Rob Anderson, a handsome, hirsute man whose humor, as far as I can tell, mainly consists of him dancing around shirtless — all of this ushers the viewer to the reassuring conclusion that Postmates is working from within the gay community.
And, in a way, it is. It’s been well-documented that body fascism, derision for bodies that are not perfectly fit and fat-free, is high in the gay male community and that, as a result, many gay men go to extreme lengths to attain an unattainable standard: excessive working out, orthorexia, steroids, starvation. The Postmates campaign not only capitalizes on this communal insecurity but idealizes it, depicting it in some cutesy paradise where pesky, human queers have been replaced by animated fruits and vegetables.
What’s most remarkable and disturbing and perhaps trendsetting about the Postmates advertisement is that it takes as a natural fact the idea that there’s a line in the sand between tops and bottoms. Top and bottom, here, don’t refer to sexual positions, but entire personhoods. Tops eat this and bottoms eat that; tops do this and bottoms do that; tops are this and bottoms are that.
You aren’t a bottom because you inhabit a sexual position in the bedroom; instead, you are a bottom because, baby, you were born this way.
Beyond being a bald-faced social construct, the identities of “top” and “bottom” are a flaccid approximation of the misogynistic roles that have forever subjugated the woman to the man in a relationship. Like women, bottoms should be subservient and dutiful and disciplined, eating in just the right way so that they can have sex with tops, who, like all men, are something to structure your entire life around, even your diet. The Postmates “Bottom-Friendly Menu” has taken the supposed identity of “bottom” one step further. By inventing a product specifically for bottoms, Postmates has turned “bottom” not into an identity category, but into a consumer category — and what could be more legitimizing than that?
What I mean to say is that, even if Postmates has capitalized on these problems this blessed Pride Month, these problems existed long before. The funny thing is that Postmates was just responding to its critics: It created a Pride campaign that, because it was led by gay employees, speaks to gay people on our own terms. What it got wrong is thinking that we like those terms, that we absentmindedly embrace them rather than critically contend with them — that gay people unconditionally love the reflection of ourselves, rather than obsessively scrutinize it. If you were to show me a reflection of my own butthole, however clean, I’d probably just want to look away.
— Former Associate Magazine Editor Paul G. Sullivan can be reached at email@example.com.
This piece is part of The Crimson’s 2022 Pride Month special issue.