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August 6, 2008

Racial Diversity on Manhunt, Adam4Adam: San Francisco Edition
FILED UNDER: "Gay Men's Health & Culture"
TAGS: gay male culturegay men's healthhooking up onlineInternetsexual health
By Trevor

So let's geek out for a minute. This will be the first in a series of reports based on a project I'm working on using the Manhunt and Adam4Adam databases. These websites both include extremely powerful search functions, whereby users can search their users through a number of criteria: height, weight, age, dick size, etc.

Today I'm going to talk about the racial diversity on these sites, and in particular a finding that surprised me: on both sites, racial diversity decreases dramatically as age increases. Now, it's appropriate here to urge a heavy dose of caution. What I've sampled here is 17,299 profiles from Adam4Adam, and 7,823 profiles from Manhunt -- all in San Francisco proper. Profiles are not people. They are representations of people. People may have several profiles, or may be less than forthcoming in their profiles. I use phrases like "profiles of color" below to emphasize that fact.

But despite that, I believe that the data is still compelling on a trend level. That is to say, while individual pieces of data are bound to inaccurate, looking at how data changes (in this case, with increasing age) can reveal some interesting information. Let's get started.

Overview: SF versus Manhunt versus Adam4Adam

So, before we can assess anything about these websites, it's useful to know what the demographics of the city itself. San Francisco is a fairly racially diverse city, compared to many places in the United States. As the graph below shows (source), less than 50% of San Francisco's population is white, and the city has large Asian-American and Latino communities:

San Francisco General Population:
racesfoverall.gif

It's hard to estimate what the demographics of San Francisco's gay male population look like. Getting any solid population-level data on LGBT people is tricky -- on what criteria do you count them? By what method? But we'll take a leap of faith here and say that we would expect that men who have sex with men in San Francisco are probably racially distributed along similar lines to the general population in SF.

With that leap of faith behind us, let's look at Manhunt's overall racial distribution. For folks who've logged onto the site, you probably have noticed that it's a predominantly white website. So I wasn't surprised when the data sifted out to reveal that over 70% of profiles on Manhunt were labeled as white -- they're grossly overrepresented on Manhunt versus the general SF population. Similarly whereas almost one-third of SF generally is Asian of some descent, less than 10% of profiles were labeled as such. Latinos and especially Blacks are similarly underrepresented:

Manhunt San Francisco Profiles Racial Demographics:
racemanhunt.gif

This data didn't particularly surprise me, as I've said. I've been a user of Manhunt for over five years, and in every city I've been in, most guys on there have been white. In contrast, Adam4Adam (A4A) has a history of being a predominantly African-American website in many places. In most cities in the US with large Af-Am populations, A4A is crowded with Black guys. But SF does not have such a large population, so it is more racial diverse. Thus, I expected there to be a stronger showing of "profiles of color" on A4A than on Manhunt. I was somewhat surprised to find that, while A4A was less white overall, Asian-Americans were still grossly underrepresented, while to a lesser extent so were Latinos. African-Americans were about on par with the city's demos:

Adam4Adam San Francisco Profiles Racial Demographics:
racea4a.gif

Part of the underrepresentation of folks of color is the inclusion of some guys under the category of "Other." For instance, I categorized guys who identified as "Mixed" under "Other," but on a census form with one box allowed, they might have checked "Asian" or "African-American" instead. But the "Other" category -- at about 11% on A4A and 9% on Manhunt -- isn't big enough to account for all of their under-representation.

Race and Age: Age Goes Up, Diversity Goes Down

Now here's where things get really interesting! I was pretty shocked to find that, on both websites, the racial diversity among age groups decreased dramatically as age went up. Unfortunately, I don't have access to data on San Francisco's general population that crosses age with race. But one would think that racial diversity does not shift all that much across age groups -- though it certainly probably does to some extent. One would expect, for instance, increased mortality among African-Americans in SF due to the higher rates of homelessness in that population.

But the shift in diversity on these sites as age increases is far too dramatic to be explained by those kinds of trends. Let's start with Manhunt, where the trend is (not surprisingly) more exacerbated. As you'll see below, in the 18-21 year old age group, about approximately 50% of the profiles on Manhunt are labeled as white. However, by the time you reach the 38-41 age group, that number has gone up to almost 80%. The final 58+ age group is nearly 100% white.

Percentage of White Profiles in San Francisco on Manhunt, By Age Group:
racemanhuntwhttime.gif

I've included a second graph that maps out the trends among people of color, since their numbers are so low that including them in the same graph as white folks would make it difficult to see their numbers. As you'll see, while there is a strong representation of "profiles of color" in the youngest age groups, almost all non-white racial groups are reduced to near-zero by the time you get to the final 58+ group:

Percentage of "Profiles of Color" in San Francisco on Manhunt, By Age Group:
racemanhuntpoctime.gif

Now, I expected this shift to be less dramatic on Adam4Adam -- since they had a larger percentage of "profiles of color" overall. I was surprised to find similar trends however. As you'll see in the two charts below, while the youngest age groups are diverse, again the representation of "profiles of color" is reduced to near-zero on A4A at the oldest age group. You'll also notice that in the youngest age group, over 20% are labeled as "Other," which almost certainly includes a number of folks who would in a census be classified as Black, Asian, or Latino.

Percentage of White Profiles in San Francisco on A4A, By Age Group:
racea4awhttime.gif

Percentage of "Profiles of Color" in San Francisco on A4A, By Age Group:
racea4apoctime.gif

Conclusions?

Obviously, this is fuzzy data at best. But I found the dramatic trends in racial diversity among age groups pretty shocking. How to explain this phenomenon? Are older folks of color less familiar with the Internet than their white counterparts? Do they log off the Internet at increasing rates as they get older, to return to their ethnic communities of origin? Are older men who have sex with men of color just less likely to be "out" than white guys?

As a young white gay man, I have little insight here. What do you think?

PERMALINK | Posted at 3:34 AM | Post a Comment (8)

8 Comments

simply.. there are more gay white people than anyother race.

henry | August 15, 2008 12:58 PM

Consider the fact that a host of males on A4A of African and Latin descent may in fact be bi and not gay as such. Also, economies is and economies aint.. there are more white males with computers and disposible income to afford computers than African or Latin. But maybe a real comparsion would be the number of African gays on blackplanet contra A4A? Did you sample the representative samples on Bigmuscle or bigmusclebear sites or gaydar.

Or, maybe, simply older African gay males are simply not interest in this forum or cyber stimulation and the younger ones are accessing it via cellulars and PDA devices.

from across the pond, oakland | August 25, 2008 11:47 PM

san francisco demographics are available from the US Census.

Something else you may want to consider about SF : Black people make uo only 4% !!! yup., Asians up to 60% latinos unknown due to emigration status. whites 25-30. economics play an important role here-- you've got have a college degree and income higher than the national averege. And, that the majority of the population is only here for 3-5 years--a constant flux so to be fair to us here in SF
a time delineation is paramount. On a4a aveage out a Cleveland and/or an Atlanta even LA (now that city is a racial and age et.al. socail laboratory.

Another note Young black men don't seem to be making it past 40. "The disappearing black male". And, there are more women than men in most races in this country.

The question of racial diversity has to be looked at through the dynamic of racism: who speaks who has access, where are the older populations. Please divide you findings by the survival rates of HIV in the 50-80 range and by isolating or "coupling"

Interesting study--good luck to you.

B. Thomas | September 5, 2008 9:05 AM

Some Asians decline to state their ethnicity in San Francisco A4A because of racism from other members. There are numerous profiles that state flat out "not into Asians, druggies, fats, or fems, sorry just a preference!" It's always refreshing to realize your ethnicity is as desirable as a drug addict. Of course, I don't know how anyone would get around the issue of revealing their ethnicity when eventually meeting face to face *shrug* The same racism is true on personal ads on SF Craigslist. I have a theory that the homos most racist against gays of color are recent transplants to san francisco from less diverse areas.

Mr. Le | November 6, 2008 9:46 PM

Yes, you're quite right to point out the lack of disclosure for many folks of color (Black/Asian in particular, I think) on their online profiles. And yes this is certainly a product of racist norms in online profiles, where it's perfectly acceptable to categorically say you're not into (or you are only into) this race or that race.

But do you think this varies with age group, and could explain the trends towards decreasing diversity as age increases? Or would this rather just decrease percentages across the board?

Trevor Hoppe | November 7, 2008 2:16 AM

I think the reason why the older age groups tend to be more white is because their generation was much less diverse as say the younger generations. So its not that less and less non white persons are joining online websites as they grow older, its that there just isnt very many non white persons of that particular older age group.

Dylan | January 6, 2009 6:01 PM

Times have changed and being gay is far more accessable thanks to the internet. 30 years ago being gay was mostly a white male experience, plus you had to go to a bar or bath to be gay. Now you can just log on in the privacy of your home. It has made male on male sex much more accessable for all.....

50 year Old White Guy | March 20, 2009 12:07 PM

I would like to know if you have updated your study of racial diversity in San Fran, A4A, MH, and taken any of the suggestions offered by those who commented.

I am sorry that this study was not well publicized as it has valid issues and points to make. Though not specific about geographic regions, you will find that state/city/regional differences also occur. One commentator was also correct in stating that many older AA and Latin men consider themselves bi sexual even if they have not had sex with women for years. Many know that they still have the capacity for sex with women, a fact that is not often accepted in gay communities.

It is also a fact that people of color, especially order ones, can not be as open and out as many gay members in a4a, MH, CL as communities of color have not acknowledged or accepted gay people as readily as some coastal and northern communities. In the South and Mid-South, a religious ethos still permeates and a great deal of outing still occurs within the gay communities. Factors of discrimination based on race and age are evident in online communities but also evident in at-large communities in the Mid-South and Mid-West. Younger gay people appear to befriend younger white gay AA, API, and Latino for friendships, a few in this category also choose lovers in Latino and API categories while continuing to discriminate against AA.

Additional, a number of black men on A4A, ML, and CL also discriminate against men of color and ethnicity. These assume attitude of the greater gay communities and promote stereotypes of black men as reasons for non-inclusion as potential lovers.

One additional factor leaps to my attention is the obsession of white gay men with fitness and hwp. AA, API, and Latino men do not general fall into the "same type" profiles they many seek. Often, men of color and ethnicity have physiques that difference from white males which therefore means that hwp and bmi are measured differently. Furthermore, most AA men, especially older ones, are larger frame, often referenced online as "thick."

The internet has not been traditionally designed to be accessible for men of color, especially the site listed in your study. Increasing you will also find that older white men--those over 35--are also having trouble identifying potential partners online as it seems that those near 30 years of age refer individuals around their own ages and those 31-45 prefer younger than themselves. This age trend seems to extend into the 50s to the 60s. An increasingly surprising ageist trend seems to occur especially in white gay men.

I do hope you will update your study annually or bi-annually to see if differences and similarities existsover time.

Author Profile Page Jason L User Profile | August 16, 2009 5:41 AM


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