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June 4, 2009

Drafting My Hookup Guide: "Openings" Section
FILED UNDER: "Gay Men's Health & Culture"
TAGS: gay male culturegay mengay men's healthhooking up onlinesexual ethics
By Trevor

cover_draft_0609.jpg

I've begun work on my guide to hooking up online. Over the next few days, I'll be posting drafts of the various sections for feedback. Let me know what you think! Below is the first section, an introduction of sorts:

OPENINGS

Congratulations! If you've made it this far, it seems that you're interested in hooking up online. That's a wonderful thing. In this booklet, you'll find an overview of some tips and tricks and strategies I've learned over the years -- both from my own experience and from conversations with countless queer men about their experiences online. Let me take a moment here to lay out what I think you can realistically expect to get out of this booklet, and a bit about what you'll have to learn by... practicing.

Gay men have used the Internet to find sex partners since the first dial-up services began to emerge in the early 1990s. While it may seem to be a terrifying idea to meet someone you have never met before and then on top of that to have sex with them -- don't fret! Hooking up online can be intimidating for even the most experienced of us, but over time I think you'll find that many of your fears and anxieties will diminish.

The Internet put millions of men in touch with a 24/7 sexual culture previously reserved for those in major urban centers like New York and San Francisco. While public health officials and the media have tended to view hooking up and the Internet as impediments to our health as queer men, I would argue that we can use both to expand our possibilites for intimacy, pleasure, community building, and bonding. This booklet is aimed at promoting those goals.

SOME BASIC TENETS

But these lofty goals aren't achieved automatically. This guide is in part about helping you navigate hookup websites to help you have great sex, but it's also about encouraging certain standards for communication that help foster a healthy and vibrant online sexual culture. I believe that a healthy sexual subculture must have at its core several basic tenets:
1. MUTUAL RESPECT: It's the golden rule, boys. Treat others the way you want to be treated. I think we need to strive to do this even in the face of hostility. Yes, that means taking a deep breathe and closing the window when someone sends you a nasty message. But it also means respecting people's last minute decisions to cancel the hookup you've had scheduled for a week. It's a tall order, but it will make cruising online a more pleasant and enjoyable experience.

2. HONESTY: I don't believe that gay men are liars - but a common complaint against hookup websites is that they are populated by dishonest people. For instance, people often feel compelled to give outlandish explanations for their failure to show up at your house as planned ("I got in a car accident on the way over") because they are afraid to say that they're scared or that they're just not that into the other person. As uncomfortable as it may be, I find it's much better to speak the truth rather than concoct fantastical reasons for not meeting up. If you're not into them, just (politely) say so.

3. JUDGMENT-FREE ATTITUDE: This is a bit of an extension of #1, but it's an important component. Let's just face it: People are different, and they may at times be turned on or excited by things that are baffling to you. That doesn't make them a "freak" (if anything, declaring a rather queer desire should be commended as an act of bravery). You might think that he shouldn't have taken his shirt off for his profile picture - or maybe you don't share his love for golden showers. But what you think of as a dealbreaker, others find incredibly sexy (and vice versa). If you're not into him or the kind of sex he's after, keep moving.

4. SEX-POSITIVITY: I can't tell you how many times I see men on Manhunt (a website built for men to find anonymous sex)who write in their profiles that they find hooking up to be immature, disgusting, and/or pathetic. In my book, that's not much different from the Christian Right shaming us for having sex with other men. Sex can be a wonderful thing, and we should celebrate that potential. What makes sense for you sexually may not make sense for others. Similarly, what works for you ten years ago may not work for you today. That doesn't mean that the way you structured your sex life ten years ago was necessarily immature or less worthy of our respect. Where there is consensual pleasure, there is something wonderful. Don't lose sight of that.

5. NO PRESSURE: I think this includes a number of different components. First, if someone says they are not interested in hooking up, don't pressure them into changing their mind. As someone who's both tried applying that tactic, and been on the recieving end of it, it does not work. If anything, it makes you appear desperate -- which is a major turn-off. Second, respect people's limits unless they ask you to push them. This means not biting their nipples if they say it hurts, but it also means respecting a potential trick's request to use condoms. It is not acceptable to pressure someone into having unprotected sex.

I'm sure there are more worthwhile principles I could list here, but these should prove to be a great start for fostering a healthy approach to hooking up online.

WHAT TO EXPECT

While it's commonly compared to an online marketplace for sex, hooking up online can often prove more challenging than buying groceries -- particularly for those of us living in smaller cities with fewer players. While you can certainly expect to find men to have sex with, don't expect for that to happen every time you log-in. Some people need to have a few conversations before they feel comfortable meeting in person, while others are only interested in meeting up immediately without much in the way of dialogue.

The Internet has been praised for its democratizing potential, and for its ability to erase difference through anonymity. But with the near-ubiquity of pictures in user profiles today, gay hookup websites often don't live up to these lofty goals. The typical rules of attraction that operate in real life tend to operate similarly online. Do not expect to suddenly step into an idyllic wonderland where anyone will agree to have sex with you if you just ask politely enough. You will be sorely dissapointed.

This doesn't mean that there aren't numerous exceptions of men whose preferences defy normative rules in gay culture about what kinds of men are supposed to be considered hot and which are not. Indeed, there are entire sexual subcultures dedicated to defying popular gay culture's normative tendencies about body size (e.g. bears), sexual practices (e.g. fisting, S&M), and intergenerational desire (e.g. Daddy/Boy relationships). More often than not, though, I think you'll find that users whose desires fall markedly outside the narrow boundaries of conformity will identify themselves.

Don't get me wrong: It never hurts to try, for sure. But those of us with extra meat in the middle shouldn't expect a muscled out gym bunny whose profile indicates they're only interested in other hard-bodied boys to like us for our personalities (though, again, they might - my experience just tells me that this isn't a probable outcome). It may sound harsh, but its just a good idea to approach hooking up realistically and not set our sights on the highly improbable. On the other hand, if that muscle boy contacts you and expresses interest, all bets are off.

PERMALINK | Posted at 6:29 PM | Post a Comment (7)

7 Comments

Trevor, darling, sweetie, pet, this is going to hurt me more than it hurts you, okay maybe not, maybe you will call me another fine Celtic name, but this is not the right format for such an educational intervention. Who reads a guidebook about hookup sites?? My guess is they're more likely to read a blog or an agony uncle type column, and it has to be FUNNY...

Author Profile Page Daniel Reeders User Profile | June 5, 2009 3:23 AM


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