A reader, FitchLove21, asked in a recent comment whether I'd ever feared for my safety when going into the home of an anonymous hook-up. I haven't ever been in such a situation, and I told him that. I've been in a couple of situations that were unpleasant, but I've always either left or asked the other guy to leave, and that was that.
The subject of safety has been on my mind lately because of a pair of posts by Father Tony, who tells us:
We live in a dangerous world of equally malevolent gods and monsters.
He also tells us:
In any case, we are all again reminded that inviting strangers into the loneliness of one's house is not a jovial manhunt. It is a death wish.
Far be it from me to deny anyone a dramatic turn of phrase, but "death wish"? Hyperbole much? We're presented with a pair of cases, one or both of which may have involved a guy bringing a trick home. It's hard to know exactly what happened in either of these cases, particularly the most recent one, but I did some searching on the George Weber homicide, and only one account I saw mentioned the possibility that Mr. Weber was on a "male date." (This same account said that he'd been found "half naked" in bed, as if that were surprising.) In fact, to me the most shocking revelation to come to light from this case is that Father Tony follows the New York Daily News. I'd have taken him for a Times man.
I'm willing, though, to accept, for the sake of argument, that both Mr. Weber and Mr. Ellison were murdered by tricks whom they picked up and brought home. And I certainly don't mean to make light of their deaths, but a trick-related murder in Fort Lauderdale and another in New York City don't exactly constitute an epidemic.
I admit that I'm not disinterested in this argument. I hook up a lot, and it frequently involves inviting strangers or relative strangers to my home. I feel more comfortable in my own home, and I have never been very interested in public sex. Also, bathhouses are not exactly common in the far-out suburbs, and I'd have to go a long way to find even an adult bookstore with booths, and neither of those venues are very conducive to the heavily makeout-intensive sex that I'm into. Father Tony finds public sex very affirming, and I don't see any reason why it shouldn't be, but calling what I do a death wish seems like a conclusion that isn't warranted by a few examples.
Between 2004 and 2008, there were skydiving-related fatalities of between sixty and seventy per year. I don't know what the hookup-related fatalities were, but I'm guessing that if sixty people a year were killed by men they invited home for sex, I'd be hearing more about it, and I'm going to guess that there are more incidences of men hooking up with strangers than there are of men jumping out of airplanes, though, admittedly, I can't back that up with evidence. Hang gliding and SCUBA diving appear to be similarly dangerous activities, but I am hesitant to tell participants in either of these activities that their participation is evidence of a death wish.
As with most somewhat dangerous activities, skydiving appears to result in death more frequently when people aren't well trained and/or they aren't careful. We can, and I do, apply a similar logic to hooking up with strangers. There are more and less safe ways to go about it. You probably want, for example, to avoid choosing whom you're going to hook up with when you're under the influence of alcohol or other substances. And you probably want to make arrangements before you're so horny that you'll lower your standards. Some people are simply sketchy, and I always avoid such people. I know that Fr. Tony thinks that any of us can be fooled by a "charming psychopath," but I'm not convinced.
People have been hooking up from the Internet for a long time, so the idea that it's just now becoming dangerous doesn't make sense, either. We're all aware of some fairly famous cases where Internet contacts have led to violent death, but in most cases there were big danger signs that were either ignored or embraced.
I typically do my arrangements via craigslist or email, but I don't give anyone my address until I've spoken to him on the phone. I do that more to avoid annoyance (a guy knowing my address and not showing up pisses me off) than danger. Maybe it's different in a more urban environment, and maybe people should exercise additional caution there, but any sort of phone contact leaves a trail of evidence and requires action on the other guy's part, and both of those things should help screen out the very few guys out there who would as soon kill you as fuck you. There's also a delay between setting the contact up and the action, and the delay further inhibits impulsive violence.
Of course, I deal largely with married submissives, and the thing those guys fear most is detection. They're not likely to rob me, let alone hurt me. The sort of person who'd bring a stranger home and allow that stranger to, say, tie him up, is someone who clearly doesn't care all that much about his personal safety. (I always wonder about guys who say they're willing to have me tie them up on the first meeting, so I mostly avoid them.) Although, here again, what's most likely to happen is burglary: someone who steals from his one-time bondage bottom can probably rely on embarrassment to keep the guy quiet. Someone who kills him has to be too crazed to realize that he's almost certain to get caught. And, again, drug-crazed psychopaths are not so common among suburban bottoms.
So maybe if you live in New York, you're safer going to a bathhouse than inviting a drunken stranger home from a bar. But not everyone lives in New York, not everyone is drinking when he makes his hook-up decisions, and not everyone has access to a bathhouse. The gay experience is not monolithic, and neither are hook-up arrangements. No activity is without risk, but that doesn't mean that infinitesimal risks that you can reduce or eliminate are always unacceptable. Just be careful. And maybe avoid skydiving.