HAS SEX REPLACED DATING FOR GAY MEN?
Think back to the 1990 Salt n Pepa classic ‘Let’s talk about sex’. Specifically the line where Salt raps: ‘everybody should be making love‘ to which Peppa responds: ‘Come on, How many guys you know make love?’ And replace this with my own 2019 version: gay men should be dating. Come on, how many gay men you know date?‘
Most gays don’t date, never did and never will.
Back in the pre Grindr days of 2010, when I wrote my book; Gay Dating, gay men had more physical, real time places they could go to meet other men in person. Soho was full of gay cafes, bars, shops and clubs and if you messaged a guy online, asking if he wanted to meet for a drink – you would not be blocked. Gay men were getting used to the idea of being able to date. My advice in the book was to get to know each other rather than rushing into sex straight away. I still believe that’s the right approach but in 2019, the immediacy of apps (which are the only way that men are meeting) means that sex most definitely comes first. Any suggestion that you meet for a coffee or a chat is usually met with confusion. Huh? Coffee? Why? Most gays don’t date, never did and never will. I know that there are thousands of gay men who do want to date but they feel uncool saying it and they don’t know where to start.
Is It a Generational Thing?
This is partly due to the Insta generation’s inability to function offline. Flirting, socialising and face to face conversation is truly a lost art. Asking any gay man under the age of 38 if they want to talk on the phone rather than endlessly chatting on apps is met with sheer panic (let alone suggesting a meeting). It’s just not the done thing nowadays – it would mean revealing your human voice and being venerable rather than hiding behind a screen. Although I find this sad, it’s just the direction of human development – we’re becoming hybrid human/ robots, reliant on technology and losing basic social skills. Those guys over 38 who grew up having to learn how to approach other guys in bars/ strike up conversations and flirt should know better and be a breath of fresh air but, they too, have also joined this plug in army. Dating’s not cool but sex certainly is. The interesting thing is that we all want to be loved (although not all gay men would admit that) so gays are just using sex to connect.
Gays Create Their Own Rules.
We shouldn’t forget that only around 60 years ago, being gay was a criminal offence in the UK. The only way that gay men could meet each other would be in the shadows or a public toilet – they even had to use Polari (an underground coded language) to avoid violence and arrest. Although there must have been many gay men who did find partners and get together, mostly it would have been a search for sex and then a return to the closet. 60 years is just a couple of generations and, despite the UK now having gay marriage and adoption etc, it’s not enough time to journey from the shadows to trying to replicate heterosexual courtship. That is too much of a shift and, anyway, do gay men really want to do what the straights do? I’d guess a lot of them don’t as the heterosexual system is by no means perfect. Being outside the conventional norms allows gays to create their own lifestyles and that means if they want to use sex instead of going out for a dinner or a drink then so be it.
Did Gay Dating Ever Exist?
But another reason why gays don’t date is in the terminology. Dating is an American word – it’s something that Americans do. People in the UK would say they are ‘going out’ , ‘seeing someone’, ‘they’re an item’, your grandparents may even say ‘we’re courting’ . Dating is understood but foreign (a bit like American words such as Jello or cellphone). Even worse are the relationship status options on Grindr: committed/ exclusive/ dating. I’ve never heard anyone gay or straight gush how happy they are to be exclusive with their new man and my understanding of committed is when someone locks you in a mental home. Adding new jargon doesn’t really help when we can’t even get to grips with the D word. Grindr has imposed American heterosexual terminology on their already struggling users.
So what’s a single guy to do if he is looking for a long term relationship but it seems the culture around him is set up for sex? If we put the whole dating issue aside for a moment, it’s clear that gay men are connecting through sex (they always have done). If you’re looking for a relationship, then a first encounter with a complete stranger should entail more than being naked and horizontal. Ideally you would want to get to know each other and see if you click. But, on the other hand being naked does imply vulnerability; you can’t hide anything. You find out whether there is mutual attraction (you can’t fake a hard on), whether you like his body and his touch or not and, after climax, comes either the awkward excuses to get the hell out of there or curiosity about each other and maybe a shy request to meet again. You’re also in his personal space (his bedroom or flat) so you get a clear idea about him, how he lives and expresses himself and whether you feel you would fit.
In that first encounter with this person, you’re able to gain more information and insight about him than you would sitting in a bar or chatting over a dinner table. So you could argue that meeting for sex is more efficient than going on a date. But there are two very important red lines to point out in these scenarios.
The Golden Rules:
1)Firstly, there is no point meeting anyone who is clearly just looking for a quick roll in the hay, you have to make sure they have put in their bio that they are single and looking for relationship. If the R word is not there, don’t waste your time, no matter how hot he looks – move onto somebody else who is looking for the same as you. While you are chatting beforehand, mention that you are open to more than sex and see what the response is . If he clearly says that’s not on the cards then you have your answer (and don’t fantasize about making him change his mind and fall in love with you). Make sure you are being clear about what you ‘re looking for so there’s no disappointment and you both set your expectations from the start.
2) The second red line is to stop yourself getting into a sex rut, where you get into the habit of sex meets – remember that is not your aim and that is where so many gay guys falter and end up feeling unfulfilled and jaded. Stick to meeting men who are open to potential relationships. We’re all controlled to some degree by our hormones but if you want different results, you have to be strict with yourself and modify your behaviour. Don’t allow constant, random sexual encounters become the norm for you.
The negative side of using sex to find potential relationships is that guys who are handsome or have fit, worked out bodies will obviously get more guys interested in them but guys who are overweight or not body confident need to beef up or slide into obscurity. If you can’t attract someone sexually then the plan falls flat. There’s no room for using your personality, intelligence or charm to attract Mr Right.
It’s a fact that relationships do start with sex – whether they are lasting or deep is another matter – but in today’s climate, the only other options are speed dating or striking up conversations with strangers, which is very scary to young people today. I was in Soho last night and said hi to a few cute guys I saw in bars and their response was a look of horror as if I was wielding an axe, ready to attack them. Despite all that, I hope that there are at least some guys online who’d be responsive to an invitation to coffee and a chat and it’s important to keep trying that approach as generalising doesn’t help.
I can sit here till I’m blue in the face extolling the virtues of getting to know someone and the importance of compatibility and communication but gay (and straight) men think with their dicks and the way that men are meeting in 2019 seems to have regressed to pre decriminalisation sexual encounters (wham, bam and out the door), the main difference being Grindr has replaced Polari. So, although I still think that sex is not an entry point to a relationship, in the current climate there doesn’t seem to be much choice so be wise, be focused remember your aim and you may get your man. Failing that, I hear gay speed dating is booming at the moment.