Into was Grindr's award-winning queer media outlet. Its shuttering in 2019 was a devastating loss for LGBT media. This music response piece ran in May 2018.
Troye Sivan’s “Bloom” Elegantly Combats Bottom Shame
In sex between men, “bloom” can mean many things. It can be a gaping hole after that first pull-out. It can be what we call a "rosebud," which happens after rough anal sex or heavy ass play, when the lips of your hole push out and “blossom.” I love the bloom. I love when guys get me to that point and I really open up for them. When I top, I love seeing his swollen hole unable to close completely. What might sound disgusting to many people is a beautiful, carnal, intimate part of my queer sex life.
Troye Sivan is sharing that intimacy with the world. He knows the various definitions queer men have of the word "bloom" because he’s queer, and while we may never sit down together at a gay bar, we speak a common language, one of innuendo and eroticism that outsiders might not understand or appreciate. His new bottoming anthem “Bloom,” which dropped on May 2, feels like a sweet poppers rush, a confession of desire, and a rejection of the shame surrounding bottoming — and gay sex in general — that so many of us grew up with.
Bottoming is the target of so much shame and internalized homophobia that, bizarrely enough, Sivan’s song — a chill piece of background pop for a casual hookup — is the first bop about the receptive side of gay sex that I can remember. This observation is a jarring considering how many aggressive hetero-centric songs exist in the world which talk about everything related to straight sex in the most graphic and often the most demeaning ways possible.
Queer people have enjoyed increased good publicity in recent years, but few of our depictions in popular media are as sexual creatures. We've been all but sterilized. The promiscuous gay man (Brian Kenney, Queer as Folk) has been replaced by Neil Patrick Harris-style pictures of familial cuteness and marriage (Modern Family, Queer Eye). Our sex is still a threatening, underground topic in mainstream music, and men who like to get fucked still bear the brunt of so much mockery — the result of a patriarchal, misogynist culture in which feminized men get shamed, and in which bottoming is perceived by many as the ultimate act of feminization.
I love Sivan because he is fem, sexual, and honest in the way we need queer people in the spotlight to be. His devastating debut Blue Neighbourhood took us on an emotional roller coaster of first love and loss with confessionals like “Lost Boy” and “Talk Me Down.” If Sivan was recovering from the pangs of first love in his first studio album, “Bloom” suggests his as-yet-unnamed sophomore shows him jumping into more adult territory and getting frisky. It's the classic queer narrative: early pain and failed first love before you discover the gay bar and easy sex.
“Bloom” still avoids being explicit. Several media outlets including Queerty and PopBuzz note that Sivan tweeted “#BopsBoutBottoming” the day after the song was dropped (Queerty even has a screengrab of the tweet, posted on 5/3/18 at 12:29 AM). The tweet appears to have since been deleted, but Sivan’s teaser video “denied” — or, rather, confirmed — the song’s subject matter: Sivan sits up in bed, a guy sleeping next to him, looks at the camera, and says, “It’s about flowers.” LOL.
“Bloom” is not about flowers. The lyrics touch on the trust and surrender of getting fucked: Tell me right before it goes down. Promise me you’ll hold my hand if I get scared now. Might tell you to take a second, baby, slow it down. You should know I, you should know I, I bloom just for you.
And maybe it’s just me, but lyrics like, “Take a trip into my garden, I’ve got so much to show ya,” and “put gas into the motor,” suggest Sivan is into more than plain, vanilla sex. Floral imagery used as innuendo dates back to before the 17th century — the snake in the garden in Genesis itself is one of the oldest motifs for dick in history. But in our modern language, imagery of “fertilization” and “fueling” automatically suggest bareback sex. I’m not holding my breath, but I’d love to see a queer celebrity say they love getting bred (fucked without a condom), and they they enjoy hardcore, intense sex.
Because that’s me. That would reflects my life, and would pull sex out of the shadow of shame into something we can discuss and improve and acknowledge. More queer celebrities talking about sex — real sex, rough sex, whatever-you-want sex — would make us healthier, stronger, and empowered. Sivan's new single is a step in that direction.