Thursday, 6 October 2011

Gay men, sexual predators and other myths of our time…

In the beginning, God created Adam and Eve.  Unfortunately, somewhere along the line, Eve had a headache and Adam ran off with Steve.

And so Gay men were created!

Clearly, I’m being facetious, but having agreed with Julian that we would write this post together, and considering the complexities of the subject, it is hard to know where to start.

The subject of gay men, promiscuity, prejudice and misconceptions has become a serious topic of conversation.

Before I met Julian, I was never homophobic.  That said, I was as guilty as the next heterosexual person of having misconceived ideas about the gay community.

So when I heard about sites such as Grindr, I assumed that, as many single gay men are highly promiscuous, these sites were set up purely as a way of finding casual sex.  And I have been told by other gay men, who haven’t investigated these sites, that they have avoided doing so because they also have this mis-conception.

I was therefore fascinated to discover that, whilst undoubtedly it is used by some gay men for this purpose, there is a much bigger social side to it.

If a heterosexual man or woman goes out to a bar or club, chances are, if they see someone they like and have the confidence to approach, that person is going to be heterosexual too.  But if they’re not, they are unlikely to take offense.

Conversely, for a gay man, a regular kind of guy, who has no desire to hang out solely in gay bars, identifying someone they’re interested in, and having the confidence to make an approach is somewhat more complicated.  Even if he feels sure that the man he’s approaching is gay, there is no guarantee that he is ‘out’ and if he gets it wrong, the ramifications are serious.  Gay men still get beaten up for just walking down the street, let alone making an unwanted approach.

And this is where gay social networking sites have come in to play.  

The facts are, gay people do fall into different categories.  There will always be those whose social lives are totally focused on the gay scene.  In Julian’s experience, this group tends to be younger, have only recently come out and are trying to discover themselves.  As they get older and feel more comfortable within themselves, this can change significantly. 

Having moved to London four years ago, in a stable relationship, this was no longer an environment that Julian felt a need to be part of.  He wanted a ‘normal’ social life outside of the limits of the gay scene. 

However, had he moved to London as a single man, trying to find ‘like minded’ people in the local area would have been hard.  He no longer wants to spend his time hanging out with an entirely gay crowd (as it is, gay men account for only 30% of his social group).  So how would he have found other gay men to meet? 

Answer:  gay social networking sites.

In Julian’s reckoning, about 40% of men on the larger sites are just looking for someone to go and have a drink with, as stepping stone to dating.  Roughly 40% are looking for casual sex, with ‘no strings attached’, and the final 20% are looking to widen their social group.

I have to wonder how these figures compare to heterosexual dating sites.  I’ve never signed up to online dating, but women I know who have, have all told me that they have wasted time getting got know men only to discover that they are just after sex. 

With gay sites, it’s a lot more honest and open.  Subscriber profiles state whether the member is after “mates, dates, no strings attached, or relationships”.  I have to wonder whether the heterosexual online dating community could benefit from a bit of this honesty.

And whilst it never seems to get a mention, the fact remains that gay men have just the same emotional needs as everyone else.  But their portrayal as avid sexual predators completely by-passes this point. 

Having written 800 words already, I feel like I’ve only just scratched the surface of this subject.  But I hope that I have been able to at least make you question any pre-conceived ideas you may have.

To me, the bottom line (if you’ll excuse the pun!) is that people want two things:  sex and relationships.  And whilst people’s methods of finding either sexual or life partners may vary, it is wrong to assume that gay social networking sites are very different to heterosexual online dating.

And on that note, I’ll leave you with this clip from Brokeback Mountain, which I just watched with Julian.  Oh, and we have decided we have different taste in men….  Just as well really, or it’d be handbags at dawn….

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