Wednesday, August 13, 2008

And I Don't Even Use Manhunt

I don't usually comment on the gay issue du jour, but I was reading this guy, and he linked to this essay, which he called "fantastic." And I agree that it's fantastic, except that where I suspect M. Genex meant "very good and insightful," M. TED means "based in fantasy."

The title of the article is "Has Manhunt Destroyed Gay Culture?" But that's not really what it's about. It's about how guys are now hooking up online instead of hooking up after a half hour of inebriated conversation in a bar. I mean, the author's not arguing that people are going to stay home and cruise on Manhunt instead of, say, going to the parade at Pride. And it's not so much even about choice of venue: the author's real axe to grind is an attack on casual sex. Here's the real meat of the essay:
To pretend that the choice to have immense numbers of sexual encounters with little or no emotional context is value-neutral -- long an article of faith of modern gay life -- is a mistake. Decoupling sex from emotion is a fool’s errand, and Manhunt seems to be the fullest expression of this project. It is hard to see how it could go any further.

In addition to prudishness, the essay rests on the assumption that you learn less about people by interacting with them online than you do by meeting them in a dark and crowded room. And, clearly, that's true in some ways. You learn, for example, how they dress when they're going to bars, what they like to drink, and how good their banter is.

I've done a lot of online interacting with guys, and many of those guys have subsequently become fucks, good friends, or a partner. One guy in particular became all three. And I really don't think he would have if we'd met in a bar because I just can't do bars. I don't know what to say, and I don't like the atmosphere. I always know what to say at the keyboard, and I would venture that people who know me at all well (say, anyone who's been to a dinner party here) would agree that my personality and sense of humor are much closer to what I put out from my keyboard than what I say at an awkward bar meeting. And there are lots of guys I've met online who I like better because I read what they had to say before there was a chance to get a bad first impression.

So, at the very least, the article should be qualified with a firm YMMV. And maybe some acknowledgment that the author's morals aren't universal.

I also found the essay somewhat intellectually disingenuous. There are a lot of quotes from authors and some from social scientists (for whom, by the way, I have the utmost respect, when they perform and publish actual research) who have no research or unpublished research. There's even some sort of lamentation that more grant money isn't available to fund studies on the horrors of Manhunt. I guess the NIH is more concerned with prostate cancer or HIV or something. Where are their priorities?

It's my impression (there's not much research: damn you again, NIH!) that alcoholism is a big problem in the gay community, an even bigger problem than in the non-homosexual community (yes, I stole that phrase from you know who: suck it). If the death of gay culture means fewer men waking up and joining AA at forty, then so be it.

But don't blame your lack of a relationship on Manhunt. Gay men, by and large, aren't in relationships either because they don't want to be in a relationship, or they aren't fit for a relationship. The bigger problems are unreasonable expectations and selfishness. Lots of guys want to be in a relationship for the (very real) financial and emotional benefits and safety net, but they don't so much understand the hard work of a relationship, and they often just don't get that being in a relationship sometimes means that the universe revolves around someone else. Those who truly understand that concept are already in relationships, or will be soon.


Tork said...

One added benefit of online dating: improved typing skills. Who would have thought that nerdy typing class taken so long ago would pay off so handily. Home keys rule, baby. Funding agencies are in fact concerned about online dating because of increasing HIV seroconversion rates. Its not alcoholism vs. carpel tunnel syndrome; it's what we keep hearing about computers increasing productivity. Online dating is much more efficient than bars in terms of finding sex partners.

Mark said...

Typing skills--- of course---indeed, one handed typing skills! One can become so dexterous. But all kidding aside, it seems like an article like this comes around every so often and it is all about clutching the pearls and complaining about how slutty gay guys are. "They objectify each other! Mindless sex! Loveless mechanical poking! Oh noes!!" I just want to wack the guy upside the head. This is not a gay thing; this is a guy thing. Nature or nurture, who knows and who cares, it is what is going on. Most men, given the chance, will like to rut. Not all, I guess, but most. These scolds cannot just let sex be fun. It has to always have all this significance. Always. They also don't imagine that a man can have many partners and still be emotionally loyal to a committment to one (or more) other(s). And so, fearful, we are supposed to live in their world.

Anonymous said...

"Gay men, by and large, aren't in relationships either because they don't want to be in a relationship, or they aren't fit for a relationship."

Talk about your sweeping generalizations.

tornwordo said...

I would think that Manhunt hurts bathhouses more than bars. And so true about the alcohol in our community.