Have Hookup Apps Ruined Gay Romance?

gay-couple

Dear Gays,

I’ve noticed a trend amongst my friends. Not necessarily a new trend, but one that is growing nonetheless. A lot of people are meeting new guys, new love interests, new hookups on hookup apps. It’s not like the old days when you had to put on a decent outfit, go to a bar, and use your in-person social skills to make a connection. Now you can just go on Grindr, shop for a guy, and hookup with the best one you can get. It’s a confusing world, because the more available everything becomes, the less satisfying every interaction becomes. I have no problem with people (safely) exploring their sexuality with strangers from the internet or mobile apps. What troubles me is the disconnect I see in the Gays I know – a strong desire for love and companionship combined with an emotional/sexual ADD. What is going on with us? Why did every single gay couple I know break up last year? Why does it seem like all the Gay guys I know are struggling to find romantic success when there are so many readily available, quality guys around? I have a few ideas…

The Grindrizing of, Like, Everything

About four years ago, a long time before I met my last boyfriend, I had Grindr installed on my phone. I met one dude on it, we hooked up, and then he never spoke to me again. He was super cute. Super smart. Had a sexy profession (architect). I really liked him. I wanted to date him. I contacted him a few times afterward, but never heard back and took the hint and moved on. Being the most overly sensitive homosexual in the world, was a little hurt by it. Not like crazy hurt, but hurt enough to be like “I’m never doing that again!” Clearly, I was on the wrong app. Like it’s kind of ridiculous to expect someone you meet on Grindr to be looking for his husband, it’s a sex app.

A few months ago, at the behest of my friends and family who were tired of my lovelorn post-breakup wallowing, I joined OKCupid. The site was described by one of my friends as “the only legit dating site.” OKCupid supposedly attracts the type of Gay that wants a long-term relationship. So you’d imagine my shock and horror when the first person to message me on the site was THE SAME DUDE WHO STOOD ME UP FROM GRINDR. What?!? Right? What was even better is that he didn’t even remember me, meaning that he had hooked up with so many dudes on Grindr that they all kind of blended together, creating one big bland boy soup.

I did what any self-respecting Gay would do. I told him that my name was Logan and that I was a street artist from Palos Verdes who came from a wealthy British family that owned the majority of stock in Virgin Galactic. We chatted for weeks without him remembering who I was. Until I met him at a party downtown and he asked for my number and “Orlando” came up when he entered it. It was my little way of passive aggressively messing with him for hurting my feelings three years ago. And it felt awesome. Yes, I am a crazy person.

For me, the most troublesome part of Grindr has always been its proximity to commerce. In the Grindr economy, your body is your currency. You use the app to shop the catalogue of headless, shirtless torsos, to find one that you can afford (meaning someone who is at a similar fitness level). For someone like me with notorious body issues, this clearly presents a problem. But there’s also something kind of gross about it. Like emotionless and clinical. Totally the antithesis of romantic.

I realized from that experience that I was too sensitive to deal with apps like Grindr. I know that if I used them enough, I’d desensitize myself to the rejection. Which sounds like a good thing but I like sensitivity. It helps you feel life. I like not being the kind of callous jerk that would sleep with someone then never talk to him again. But there’s something perhaps even worse than being desensitized to rejection is being desensitized to the excitement of sex. If sex is so easy to procure, has it lost some of its luster? Isn’t the excitement of sex that it’s kind of rare, that it’s kind of a secret? Maybe I have a closet fetish or something…

Screen Shot 2013-12-12 at 12.55.57 PM

Trading Pics

Another aspect of the selfie/me/me/me culture we live in is the readiness at which prospective dates send you, often unsolicited, totally explicit pictures of themselves. I have mixed feelings about this. I mean, who doesn’t want hot naked pictures of guys sent to your phone that you can look at from the comfort of your own home, procured with with zero effort? But getting dick pics is, perhaps, the least romantic thing that can happen to you. Also, it leaves no excitement for when you, like, actually hookup. It’s the opposite of mysterious. And mystery is sexy.

When I told one of my younger, more gay-app savvy friends that I was writing this post, he was like “Um, this is way old news.” Which I suppose is true, but think about the fact that I’ve been off the market, in a relationship, for a few years. Two years ago people weren’t really using Scruff. It was just Grindr, Adam4Adam, and Manhunt. Now it seems like there’s a gay hookup app for every single Gay subculture.  The last few years have seen a huge uptick in the ubiquity of Gay-sex-right-now apps. They went from novelty to necessity in the past two years.

Gays, and people in general, have and always will hookup. Meet people at parties, go home with them, and do stuff. (Sidenote: Have you ever been to a straight party before? They’re crazy. I once saw some Straights having sex outside, in the middle of the party. It was insane). But it seems now it is increasingly more convenient, because of the advent of systems like Grindr and Tinder to hook up with randos that you’re never going to see again. Perhaps I have particularly slutty friends, but the number of them on these apps, the number of them using them regularly, puts me in the minority of uptight dorks who do not use them.

I haven’t abstained from using them because I think they’re morally wrong. I am all for people enjoying their bodies, expressing their sexuality, being free, having as much sex as is humanly possible. I abstain mostly because I don’t want what they’re selling. I have little interest in hooking up with strangers because that feels weird to me. Perhaps because I lack emotional security and am a late bloomer. And because I enjoy how awesome it feels to have sex with someone you actually love. It’s an experience that can’t be replicated through casual random sex, at least not for me. For those of you who have the intellectual detachment to do that, I salute you. I’m too much of a baby for all that.

I have more than a few qualms with gay hookup apps/sites. Mainly that they fill one void while neglecting another. While they satisfy sexual needs, they leave us blank on the emotional ones. And, I’d argue they actually make us a little more callous towards one another, more rapidly judgmental about each other’s physical appearance. In real life, if someone approaches you and expresses interest, you have to use some tact to say no. Online, all you have to do is block them, or say something rude and dismissive. Or say something racist (anyone who has seen Grindr knows what I’m talking about). Men become totally disposable. If one doesn’t work out you can just move onto the next one. It seems like a rather meaningless way of going about searching for intimacy.

tumblr_l5moov3pTH1qbuga9o1_1280

Intimacy

Intimacy. That is kind of the crux of the conversation. There is something inherently intimate about sex. By definition, it’s impossible to detach sex from intimacy. In fact, “intimacy” is listed as a synonym for “sex.” This gets a little deep into semantics, but I think it’s important. It makes sense that sex, because of physical proximity and the nature of the act itself, is an inherently intimate experience.

But “intimacy” is also strongly associated with “love.” Of course sex can be intimate without connoting love, but how intimate? Are we missing out on some deeper form of connection by allowing ourselves to have less intimate, less love-oriented sex? Does having tons of sex make up for this loss of intimacy? This I’m asking as a genuine question. Is sex without love meaningless? And if not, why does it feel so empty to have sex with someone you don’t love? Or am I a huge puritanical freak for thinking that it feels empty? Have I been so culturally brainwashed that I no longer distinguish what is natural human behavior?

I have refrained from downloading any of these apps, so all my anecdotes come from observing my friends and their approach to their sex lives as well as my limited past Grindr-ing. A rash of strangely-timed breakups last year left me and many of my committed friends single (Side note: If you live in the metropolitan Los Angeles or New York regions, are Gay, and have a boyfriend, lock him in a cage until further notice. You will thank me later). My concern is not that these apps are turning everyone into sluts. Sluts are great. My concern is for the emotional well-being of our community. I notice the same friends that use these apps feeling down and lonely, frustrated that they are not finding lasting relationships.

And yes I know how troublesome a statement that is. Describing promiscuous Gays as sad and alone has a long history of homophobia and heterosexism attached to it. For me it’s not about how many guys these apps allow you to hook up with and the ease at which it happens. It’s more about how flippant it is. How little our culture in general talks about love and intimacy. How often we talk about sex and hookups instead. And this isn’t just a Gay thing. Watch any episode of New Girl and you’ll see countless hookup references.

tumblr_mesn5jTVRa1qclifpo4_1280

There’s An App for Everything. Except, Like, Actual Romance.

Basically what I’m saying is that I think everyone should be thoughtful about how they approach using technology to find sex, love, romance, intimacy, or all of the above. My biggest pet peeve are guys who run around whining about how no one in the Gay community wants a long term relationship and yet those same whiners are on Grindr all the time, trading pics. Yes, I know you can meet guys to date on Grindr. In fact, two of my favorite readers, a couple that have been together for a few years, met that way. But I don’t think that generally speaking, the app fosters a community of guys looking for true love and companionship. They’re looking for sex. If you want to date, look elsewhere. Maybe even the old fashioned way, meeting someone at a party, like, in real life. Which is annoying because you have to leave your house and stuff, but that’s good exercise anyway.

Finally, I recognize that I am totally hypocritical here. Some people reading this are going to think I am a Gay whore because I hooked up with a stranger from Grindr. Some people reading this are going to think I am totally puritanical and uptight and super boring. You have to keep to what you’re comfortable with, and don’t feel like you have to keep up with what everyone else is or is not doing. If you’re seeking intimacy, go about it in a tactful way. Don’t be like “here’s a picture of my genitals, let’s meet up!” It’s been my experience that you kind of have to become the type of guy you’re looking for in order to attract that guy. Meaning if you’re looking for someone who is really interested in creating an actual romantic bond, you have to shut off your boy ADD and really be open to pursuing a relationship, regardless of the fact that there is an endless stream of hot guys out there to hook up with.

But have Gay hookup apps destroyed Gay romance? A lot of people I interviewed about this subject said they thought Gay romance never existed. That due to our history of being ostracized by the mainstream we’ve never really developed a sense of open, positive love affairs. Instead, we’ve sought out sex in bars or other areas we knew we could find men interested in men, and those spaces function much the same way that these apps function, allowing us to efficiently get off and avoid actual emotional connections.

This kind of means we are at a cultural crossroads. For the first time ever we are feeling enough acceptance to move on from just having the freedom to have sex to actually having the freedom to ask for emotional fulfillment. As men, this is far more difficult a matter to discuss. Talking about sex makes you sound virile and cool, talking about the need for love and emotional satisfaction has been something traditionally associated with women. Which is in and of itself problematic, considering all the sexism and gender stereotyping that arises when you say love and emotional fulfillment are for women only.

I think it is time that we acknowledge our own need for love. These apps (Grindr, Tinder, Scruff, etc) are not helping us move forward. They are allowing us to passively seek out sexual encounters, brush each other aside, and create an environment in which partners seems disposable, replaceable. I think it’s time we asked for more of ourselves and of each other.

If you want to find love, if you truly want romance, like John Cusack holding up a boom box romance, don’t go looking to a sex app to find it.

Love,
Orlando

PS: Since I began writing this post (which took me some time because it’s a very confusing topic), I joined Tinder. I haven’t met anyone from it but I have used it to kill time while stuck in traffic…

Images Via: Cute Gay Couples [Except the one from James Franco’s Instagram]

45 Comments

Filed under Life

45 Responses to Have Hookup Apps Ruined Gay Romance?

  1. I was watching Looking the other night and thanking the stars I’m not out there, still looking. I think the app-madness is linked to grass is always greener syndrome. If there’s always a possibility of something better, it makes committing very hard.
    I met my partner in the pre-app days when cheating required disappearing at a club or a whole lot of lying. We were both way too lazy for any of that so we learnt to make it work and get the best out of each other.
    If anything ever happened and I found myself single, I’d still never be brave enough to use an app. It’s like auditioning constantly- and worse, trading on things that won’t really matter in the long run. In real life relationships physical attraction inevitably descends on our list of priorities as time goes by. Being treated with kindness and care, being listened to, having our needs respected- that’s what really counts.

  2. Very poignant piece about the gay apps out there. I know I personally have a love/hate relationship with them. I’ve met some lovely guys through the apps, but it’s rare like you said to find someone who wants more than a quick fling.

  3. anergy

    Having just been dumped by someone I thought was the One because he wanted to “see what else was out there,” this article resonates with me in a tremendous way. I’ve never liked those apps as they cheapen the emotional exchange that should occur with intimacy. Plus, you can get nasty bugs in your naughty bits.

  4. Pingback: Have Hookup Apps Ruined Gay Romance? | TinderNews

  5. Dan

    “While they satisfy sexual needs, they leave us blank on the emotional ones.”

    This. Over and over again this. I appreciate that it can be hard to meet people in modern life. Either you’re well connected and constantly attending gay parties with an unending stream of people to meet, or you are like the rest of us and your venues for meeting potential partners in real life are somewhat limited. For now, I am just trying to accept that developing the kind of relationship I want is going to take a lot more effort than anything involving an app.

  6. Michael Bergen

    I feel so strongly that this is a conversation that needs to be happening, period, in our society (i mean, did you see “Her”?). as life becomes ‘easier’ through technology, we’re bound to lose the emotional impact of connectedness, as we become more connected (superficially) and less connected (emotionally) every day. But as human beings, at the end of the day, we will always desire that closeness and intimacy that appears to be slipping away as we get closer to our phones and computers. it’s eerie to watch…when does the backlash begin?

  7. Katherine E.

    As a 43 year-old, married, straight breeder (mother of three), I have to say this post really resonates with me. Not only is it beautifully and expressively written, it gets to the core of the threat posed by modern technology: it can desensitize us and remove intimacy from all of our relationships. Sure, use facebook to connect, but don’t stop picking up the phone (or even talking in person! gasp!) and telling friends and family you love them.

  8. tellen

    being lonely is the worst! the other worst is being abused/neglected/cruelly dumped,
    I always dreamt of having a boyfriend, each time I got one I ignored being treated unkindly,
    ignored one being (closeted) gay,
    self esteem and good judgement are good things to have,
    my 4th boyfriend turned out to be good and kind,
    thankfully, I’m happily married now (over 15 years),
    we met using newspaper classifieds 20 years ago,
    best $5.00 I ever spent

  9. Can I clone you? I prefer the good old days when a nice gay boy meets another nice gay boy in church, they get married in front of God and all of their loved ones, and then adopt two himilayan whistle children and a black lab named husky. That’s an exaggeration. But for serious, I agree wholeheartedly. It sometimes feels like everyone is on Grindr looking for tail, and that hunt and peck behavior seems to carry over from off-app to real world behavior. I was speaking with a friend this week about how lately I feel like I’m the only gay guy who wants something significant and lasting, let alone a family. My friend said “Somewhere out there is a guy. He’s walking down the street, or sitting in his car, and he’s wondering the same thing as you. Is there really a gay guy out there who wants the same thing as me…something significant and lasting? One day your paths will cross…maybe they almost have. Maybe you just keep missing each other. But each time you come closer and closer, until one day you both collide and the rest is history.” (cue John Cusak *when he was still a reasonably good actor*)

  10. Patrick

    I don’t know how this will go over but I’m going to be honest, as I always am.

    I’m a gay man in an open relationship, we are engaged to get married and I do honestly want to marry and spend the rest of my days with him. We have been together just over 5 years. Every month on our anniversary we celebrate it with something simple, dinner & a movie or a walk after a nice homemade meal, etc. nothing out there or crazy, just simple and intimate. We hold hands the odd time and kiss all the time, yes even in public and everyone in our lives, both sides knows of our life, yes even that part of our lives.

    We met online back in 2008 and it was on a gay hookup site. Since then we’ve slowly moved our relationship to where it is today, yes we’ve had ups and downs, which couple doesn’t? but at the end of the day we always kiss each other good night, wish each other a good sleep and cuddle until we are both sweaty and almost asleep and then we turn over and have our backs touching in bed.

    What I’m getting at is that its up to both parties ( gay and straight * the lady who used breeder was awesome, its a word I’ve always used to describe straight people myself * ) to be open and honest with each other. We are both online on the hook up sites and I’m on the apps, as well as we are both too as a couple. We set rules and boundaries for each other and we remember to keep our intimacy with and for each other only.

    This is just my view on this but I honestly think that when people post an ad online, be honest, don’t post looking for friends to see where it goes, if you are looking for a long term partner, then say just that, don’t lie behind lines of things like “friends blah blah” or “just checking it out”. You are a grown adult and as such you should be able to express yourself as such, we’re not mind readers, we the other guys you date or are going to date or even want to date, we can’t read your mind, so the next best thing we can read is what you post on your ad, either it be online or on an app, which by the way are so many out there now that a few even have the website/app combo so you can be mobile with it.

    The whole being vague is what ruined gay dating, not Grindr, no app is responsible for any breakups and cheating, etc. it is the person who used it, plain and simple, why because you didn’t post what you were looking for upfront and also don’t know how to see the signs when a guy or gal is just telling what you want to hear to get into your pants.

    Oh and just so you know this type of thing has been going on since the ability to have sex, so blaming apps, sites, etc. is a cop out, plain and simple. I’m sorry but I’ve had my fair share of being used for sex, played by exs, etc. I didn’t get cold, heartless, jaded, etc. I’ve always seen it for what it was, I don’t make it into a fantasy of what it should be, which I think most of you are at.

    Know that we make mistakes as well, its always from one side of the story, never the whole story, truthfully I bet if everyone reflects or can speak to their exes why it ended without freaking out and acting like a child, etc. I’m sure you’ll see that its a whole different story than what you paint it out to be…

    • Mick

      Sorry if no one will take advice about emotional intimacy and romance from a guy who is supposedly getting married but still fucks randoms from time to time.If you think most of these people are in a fantasy land then you’re definitely stuck in wonderland if you think this “marriage” will last lol.

  11. cellopcaul

    Great reflection!
    I particularly appreciate a comment you make early on: “What troubles me is the disconnect I see in the Gays I know – a strong desire for love and companionship combined with an emotional/sexual ADD”
    (and the emotional ADD is worth a whole separate piece!)

    I have made a number of excellent (and non sexual) connections with guys on Scruff. I actually appreciate how with these “sex apps” there’s no guess work- you can tell quite easily who wants just sex and whose looking for a relationship. I’ve had many good dates and several good relationships that were launched from scruff. And actually a scruff connection with a very caring man opened the door to a whole circle of excellent friends who embraced me quite literally the moment I landed in a new city 1600 miles from everyone I knew. I for one am very thankful for the existence of Scruff.
    I think, with like anything, these tools can do ill or good; the power is in the hands of the beholder!
    But I agree- they are, for many, setting up very unhealthy habits and expectations when it comes to meaningful connection. I’ve witnessed too many guys that do want relationship slipping too far away into sex app land to be able to healthily respond to good relationships that present themselves.

  12. MStreib

    Amen. I feel like I was a big proponent of the Grindr culture a few years ago. I used the apps, thinking I was just passing time until something real came along. It didn’t. So I gave up the apps, and have been dating through more traditional methods. Unfortunately, while I feel better about everything, so many people I meet treat reality like Grindr, as though they’re walking Sims characters. When I meet someone, they ask my age, my position preference, even my ethnicity… tell me it wasn’t always like this.

  13. SomeoneInDC

    This post resonates with me in certain ways but not in others. I think we have to know ourselves and know our minds and be self-aware. Call me pessimistic, but I think gay have a lot working against them – from the perspective that the ideal is being willing to/able to have emotional intimacy with others. But the short lived stereotype of gay relationships, is, I think, due to a myriad of factors. Many of us were told how shitty we were (overtly or subtly) most of our lives due to being gay. We had to run and hide from this for most of our formative years until we felt strong enough to come out. And many still are not out! All of this breeds insecurity, it breeds a false self, it breeds a sense of panic when you are trying to meet someone … that they will actually find out what a shitty person you feel that you are. Well, what else is left, other than to connect on a surface level – hook up, don’t get attached. NSA. All of that.

    The egos of gay men are generally, I think, quite fragile. And this makes sense given the collective experiences that we have had growing up. I find that there are some people who are well adjusted, so to speak, who are able to sit with ambiguity that comes with a relationship, who are willing to fight for the person they’ve grown to love or care for. And these are also people who are not completely disillusioned by the very idea of dating and having a relationship. Often they seem to have weathered their storms better or never had as much adversity to begin with, such that healthier messages about closeness were internalized.

    You have to WANT a relationship before you can make one work. And you have to want it without a significant level of ambivalence that often becomes activated when we start dating someone. There ARE people who mostly want that and who can, with the right partner, power through the negative parts of relationships and stick with the program. But then I think there are so many of us who are injured such that it truly makes it difficult to find and keep a relationship. We are insecure, we have insecure attachments, which make a stable, happy relationship a difficult thing to find.

    On the other hand I think we idealize relationships (but so does everyone), and think that there must be something wrong with us if we are not in one. As much as people want to be independent lately, they also fantasize about the person who will always be there for them, who will never criticize, who will only be full of good things. I’m not saying that cannot exist, but that it is partially a figment of popular culture, and that real relationships are probably much more messy than that. And we have to be willing to mourn that loss and accept others with their imperfections. No easy task.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with hooking up per se, but I will say that the invention of Grindr et al has definitely made us much more transactional. And to me, that’s what I hate about Grindr. I hated that drop in your stomach feeling when someone blocks you when you send a couple more photos. I hate how people ask me if I am “looking,” just like that. Not even a hi? What happened to common courtesy? While sex if fun, it’s a need, we are hypersexual and sexual issues are all over the place in the community. But it makes sense. We are playing out inner emotional conflicts over and over, hoping to one day fix them.

    I am very much in the grey – I’ve hooked up my fair share, but I always fancied myself as a guy who wouldn’t get around too much – and who is sort of “classy” and definitely well meaning. What’s funny is how many people seem to want to meet me, because of how I let the good parts my personality shine through the grindr filter. There ARE people who want to get to know that good person who is inside me. But I noticed that it is usually me, who stops that process. I feel overwhelmed. I feel like I cannot supply these guys with everything they want. I can offer smarts, I can offer looks, a gym body, a good sized you know what… but I can’t offer them confidence. I can’t offer them everything that I THINK they will want, and expect from me, and it leads to significant insecurity that I will be rejected (as I used to be). I’ve found that I’m a perfectionist. Growing up I was made fun of, bullied, I had to hide my sexuality from my family and the religion I was raised in. I suppose, I just wanted people to like me. And now that’s what I do. I make people like me. They love me, in fact, but I can’t allow myself to get super vulnerable with them. I used to cringe at the idea of cuddling with someone. It felt too close, too scary, too much like they liked me and I could never tell them how much I liked them back, or was uncomfortable feeling that maybe they liked me more than I knew I liked them. Over time, with exposure and maturity, I can now cuddle quite well. So you see! We can progress. LOL. But anyway, I am fortunate that I realize this and I realize these are the wounds I have to heal and the things I need to do. And there are moments now when I can take a deep breath and try something different from what I always did before. I don’t think many other people in general take the time to explore their inner worlds or to try to heal those things. Why would we? It’s excruciatingly painful to. And I do think thats a big problem we as gay men need to start solving.

    And I’ve asked myself if I am incapable of intimacy with others. I feel like that guy on “Looking,” 29, with the longest relationship I’ve had being 4 years ago and lasting 5 months. I’ve focused on my career. Brushed relationships aside and moved around a lot, due to education and career, which has made it doubly hard to date anyone. I think I can be intimate with others but it’s never been with an ‘intimate’ partner who has experienced all the parts of me. It’s never been in a way I cannot control, or that at least feels, like I am in control. So that’s my work… letting go of my fears.

    I think ultimately, it comes down to two things: To thine own self be true. We have to be in touch with who we are, nurture that person, love that person, and not act how other people think we should act. That takes courage, communication and maturity. Also, I think a willingness to work with someone who you like, on maintaining a relationship is key. Our fragile egos send us quickly to defensive postures and running away from the pain that gets activated inside us when we start to feel un-liked or un-wanted. We have to be able to sit with that anxiety and not run…. if, we want to maintain a relationship.

    I want to say that its important to realize that this discussion is based on some assumptions that perhaps having a relationship is better than being single. That sex and “lack of intimacy” is not as healthy as being able to be intimate with someONE. Two could debate these ideas all day long and find no solid answer. I think the important thing is knowing what YOU want or value, being okay with it, and living your life as authentically as possible.

    To the OP, I dont think you’re boring or overly prudent. I think you’re worried, confused and yet hopeful. I think what matters is not what OTHERS think of you, but what you want. I really do think that if you put out the vibes of what you want, consistently, you will find someone. It takes time, right! But thanks for your post. Mine was almost as long it seems, but it definitely struck a good nerve with me!

  14. SomeoneInDC

    This post resonates with me in certain ways but not in others. I think we have to know ourselves and know our minds and be self-aware. Call me pessimistic, but I think gay have a lot working against them – from the perspective that the ideal is being willing to/able to have emotional intimacy with others. But the short lived stereotype of gay relationships, is, I think, due to a myriad of factors. Many of us were told how shitty we were (overtly or subtly) most of our lives due to being gay. We had to run and hide from this for most of our formative years until we felt strong enough to come out. And many still are not out! All of this breeds insecurity, it breeds a false self, it breeds a sense of panic when you are trying to meet someone … that they will actually find out what a shitty person you feel that you are. Well, what else is left, other than to connect on a surface level – hook up, don’t get attached. NSA. All of that.

    The egos of gay men are generally, I think, quite fragile. And this makes sense given the collective experiences that we have had growing up. I find that there are some people who are well adjusted, so to speak, who are able to sit with ambiguity that comes with a relationship, who are willing to fight for the person they’ve grown to love or care for. And these are also people who are not completely disillusioned by the very idea of dating and having a relationship. Often they seem to have weathered their storms better or never had as much adversity to begin with, such that healthier messages about closeness were internalized.

    You have to WANT a relationship before you can make one work. And you have to want it without a significant level of ambivalence that often becomes activated when we start dating someone. There ARE people who mostly want that and who can, with the right partner, power through the negative parts of relationships and stick with the program. But then I think there are so many of us who are injured such that it truly makes it difficult to find and keep a relationship. We are insecure, we have insecure attachments, which make a stable, happy relationship a difficult thing to find.

    On the other hand I think we idealize relationships (but so does everyone), and think that there must be something wrong with us if we are not in one. As much as people want to be independent lately, they also fantasize about the person who will always be there for them, who will never criticize, who will only be full of good things. I’m not saying that cannot exist, but that it is partially a figment of popular culture, and that real relationships are probably much more messy than that. And we have to be willing to mourn that loss and accept others with their imperfections. No easy task.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with hooking up per se, but I will say that the invention of Grindr et al has definitely made us much more transactional. And to me, that’s what I hate about Grindr. I hated that drop in your stomach feeling when someone blocks you when you send a couple more photos. I hate how people ask me if I am “looking,” just like that. Not even a hi? What happened to common courtesy? While sex if fun, it’s a need, we are hypersexual and sexual issues are all over the place in the community. But it makes sense. We are playing out inner emotional conflicts over and over, hoping to one day fix them.

    I am very much in the grey – I’ve hooked up my fair share, but I always fancied myself as a guy who wouldn’t get around too much – and who is sort of “classy” and definitely well meaning. What’s funny is how many people seem to want to meet me, because of how I let the good parts my personality shine through the grindr filter. There ARE people who want to get to know that good person who is inside me. But I noticed that it is usually me, who stops that process. I feel overwhelmed. I feel like I cannot supply these guys with everything they want. I can offer smarts, I can offer looks, a gym body, a good sized you know what… but I can’t offer them confidence. I can’t offer them everything that I THINK they will want, and expect from me, and it leads to significant insecurity that I will be rejected (as I used to be). I’ve found that I’m a perfectionist. Growing up I was made fun of, bullied, I had to hide my sexuality from my family and the religion I was raised in. I suppose, I just wanted people to like me. And now that’s what I do. I make people like me. They love me, in fact, but I can’t allow myself to get super vulnerable with them. I used to cringe at the idea of cuddling with someone. It felt too close, too scary, too much like they liked me and I could never tell them how much I liked them back, or was uncomfortable feeling that maybe they liked me more than I knew I liked them. Over time, with exposure and maturity, I can now cuddle quite well. So you see! We can progress. LOL. But anyway, I am fortunate that I realize this and I realize these are the wounds I have to heal and the things I need to do. And there are moments now when I can take a deep breath and try something different from what I always did before. I don’t think many other people in general take the time to explore their inner worlds or to try to heal those things. Why would we? It’s excruciatingly painful to. And I do think thats a big problem we as gay men need to start solving.

    And I’ve asked myself if I am incapable of intimacy with others. I feel like that guy on “Looking,” 29, with the longest relationship I’ve had being 4 years ago and lasting 5 months. I’ve focused on my career. Brushed relationships aside and moved around a lot, due to education and career, which has made it doubly hard to date anyone. I think I can be intimate with others but it’s never been with an ‘intimate’ partner who has experienced all the parts of me. It’s never been in a way I cannot control, or that at least feels, like I am in control. So that’s my work… letting go of my fears.

    I think ultimately, it comes down to two things: To thine own self be true. We have to be in touch with who we are, nurture that person, love that person, and not act how other people think we should act. That takes courage, communication and maturity. Also, I think a willingness to work with someone who you like, on maintaining a relationship is key. Our fragile egos send us quickly to defensive postures and running away from the pain that gets activated inside us when we start to feel un-liked or un-wanted. We have to be able to sit with that anxiety and not run…. if, we want to maintain a relationship.

    I want to say that its important to realize that this discussion is based on some assumptions that perhaps having a relationship is better than being single. That sex and “lack of intimacy” is not as healthy as being able to be intimate with someONE. Two could debate these ideas all day long and find no solid answer. I think the important thing is knowing what YOU want or value, being okay with it, and living your life as authentically as possible.

    To the OP, I dont think you’re boring or overly prudent. I think you’re worried, confused and yet hopeful. I think what matters is not what OTHERS think of you, but what you want. I really do think that if you put out the vibes of what you want, consistently, you will find someone. It takes time, right! But thanks for your post. Mine was almost as long it seems, but it definitely struck a good nerve with me!

  15. Ron

    What ruined gay dating is the inability people have to deal with lots of choices. Grindr, scruff and others only add options. Too many options just give people the impression of an endless supply, so most people just don’t settle, in hopes that a better one will be next.

  16. Hola Orlando,

    I would write you a bible about this topic, but thats pointless, keeping in mind that you are too busy being attractive, complaining about how difficult is to be you and deciding if deep blue velvet is still trendy or not for your couch, so I’m gonna try to keep it simple:

    I’m 26 and I moved to Vancouver six months ago cause Spain is amazing but its economy is in the toilet right now and people are not interested in buy pretty things following the advice of an interior designer when they don’t have food in the fridge (poverty is so annoying for us, creatives minds). Not only because of the interior design thing, I’ve always have been like you in more than a couple of ways, one is this: I’ve never been satisfied by random hookups, not interested. No, Im not ugly, but I like to know the guy Im gonna sleep with. When I arrived here I barely knew anyone so I used Grindr for the very first time to meet people. I’ve been living with my boyfriend for two months now and I don’t understand live without him anymore.

    Most of the people get a profile on those apps looking for a deep relationship and end up joining the disappointed crowd looking just for sex because is more effective than invest time on knowing someone… But that silly voice in your head that tells you “If I am here, someone like me can be here” is totally right.

    • Ay mi niño- blue velvet is always trendy!!! And Spain isn’t so bad. You just have to listen to the Infanta who says she can’t understand why the poor people don’t just buy more money 😉
      I mean, how many nights could you have spent in Torremolinos with the money you used to go to Canada?

  17. HIDrew

    This post reminds me of the (brilliant) article by New York Magazine on the anxieties that hookup apps and dating technology have created. I had many aha moments reading this one – and it literally changed the way I approach more than one aspect of life: http://nymag.com/news/features/sexdiaries/2009/60297/

    If only we could find ways to encourage our community to take better care of ourselves, and be kinder to each other, too…

  18. RomanceIsntDead

    Thanks for sharing a really brave post, O. But I just really hate this for you:

    “For those of you who have the intellectual detachment to do that, I salute you. I’m too much of a baby for all that.”

    You’re not a baby and you’re not intellectually ill-equipped. And detachment is not an intellectual phenomenon, it’s an emotional one. And stop saluting something if you wouldn’t advise someone you love to actually do it, because that should be an emotionally-rooted (vs empty) affirmation. What’s the point? And sure sex is great, but do you think these apps are really doing what people really want them to do, even those who specify they’re not looking for romance or commitment? Those answers are complex but I think they are also pretty similar for everyone.

    But man, do I know what it feels like to diplomacize and self-efface so as not to cause waves of gay cyber-hysteria…I feel you there.

    Since college (over a decade ago), I’ve been pushed and prodded into giving my more traditional sexual proclivities more intellectual consideration. These “dialogues” always seemed to quickly get heated, leaving my closest gay friends feeling disrespected by me, and leaving me feeling moralizing, myopic and in the vast minority. Over the last decade (gulp), as we have continued to share our inner monologues around sex and intimacy, I am so grateful that the intellectualization of it all has waned, and what is left is more genuine: SOME of the values we’ve each inherited, a splash of our individual sexual tastes and our mutual compassion for each other.

    But there was such a deep sensitivity around the word “values” that I “learned” to stop using it altogether amongst friends (it’s never fun being in the philosophical minority on Fire Island while listening to Dan Savage). Did I need to cast off everything that I was given by a framework that rejected me? In reality, that question emerged sooner, when we all relocated from our small towns and brought our small town values and coming out horror stories with us to college. And of course that geographic and emotional transition leaves lifelong imprints on the entire gay community and how we form relationships, regardless of our Social Network-fucked world and the pre-Grindrization of America. Gay Romance has been suffering. For a while. Trust.

    Like you, I’d been in a committed relationship for years, so I was far removed from hookup app culture. I sometimes wondered if the safety of my domestic bliss made me more self-righteous or stodgy and less compassionate toward my single gay friends. So, after my relationship ended rather traumatically, I was terrified I was about to get my karmic comeuppance, in the form of the following realities:

    -The practical necessity of joining a hookup app – resulting in the antithesis of the ‘How I Met Your Grandpa’ story I wanted to tell my grandchildren.
    -The practical necessity of compromising my “values”, as everyone around me had told I would eventually need to do to survive.
    -Never meeting anyone who I felt shared a similar worldview or emotional makeup – at least what I would need in order to WANT to take a journey with someone again. I knew the majority I was now placed in.
    -I would discover I am self-righteous and stodgy and I deserve to be alone until Death comes.

    After dating over the past few months (via OKCupid and the real planet Earth), I am really pleased to report:

    -There is actually no need to join a hookup app at all (I did and found it was hell on a neurotic mind, regardless of how you feel about the sexual currency) – fantasy grandchildren rejoice!
    -The great thing about dating outside your 20s is feeling empowered by an understanding of and confidence in your own values system.
    -There are 14trillion gay men in Los Angeles who want to start a life with someone and plant avocado trees together…and there’s a newfound freedom in realizing you don’t need to hunker down until you feel really aligned with the right one. It’s the damndest thing.
    -I’m not stodgy or self-righteous but I’m confident in what I know and feel. But I, like you, was not above trying out Grindr or whatever platform it takes to meet a rare and decent human being. It just wore me out.

    When I initially asked some of my [much more sexually experienced] gay friends whether I should join Grindr, they said “please don’t”. Please???? But they’d always patronized me for my resistance? We laughed at this and it was awesome. In a way, I think over the course of our longstanding arguments (apps vs no apps, monogamy, gay sex and intimacy) I came to represent a sliver of bygone gay life, maybe an endangered species, e.g. “someone still believes in gay romance”. And they didn’t want to lose that paradigm, and they didn’t want me to suffer loneliness in the same way. Which I think is super sweet, and doesn’t make me feel like saying “I WAS RIGHT!!!!” at all.

    Because at the end of the day we were all just fucking lonely…but we have gotten better at sharing in that openly and supportively. I think that’s a GREAT signal for the gay community at large, and also gay romance, in terms of moving forward. I have learned to stop actively engaging my friends about apps/sex in an overly academic OR moralizing way. I mostly keep it simple, saying what does/doesn’t ‘do it for me,’ asking them what they want from an interaction, putting a little less blame on a platform or mode of connection. I think that approach has helped keep everyone involved feeling more honest and less guilty. We’ve all been gifted enough guilt and shame (thanks Mom and Dad). My friends know the advice I have to give by now; they all acknowledge sex apps are sustaining patterns they want to break; they know I will try my damndest to help them get everything they deserve. We are all changing and trying to become more direct, honest and compassionate men.

    Ultimately, I think this evolution has shown us how similar we actually are. We all have values, and most are rooted more in our hearts than we’d like to ‘think’ (aka feel).

    Of course it gets dicey to underhandedly pathologize a majority (single gay men who use hookup apps) which you now find yourself out there dating amongst, e.g. “Newsflash: Grindr Is the Perfectly Acceptable Choice for Intellectually Detached Gays Looking for a Sexual Transaction, But Takes Toll on Traditional Gay Romance”. I still wrestle with that impulse too. But honestly I think this “toll” is hardly Grindr’s fault…that’s a lot of credit given to a (hiccupy) application, and the lonely gay 20th century would probably beg to differ. If anything, I can imagine Grindr helping bring us all to a collective breaking point. I think it is happening.

    The other day an OKCupid date asked me, “How would you like to go out with me again?” It was so 1950s-candid I was taken aback. “I would really like that,” I said. He also alluded to a few sex apps over the course of our date (which bothered me); however, if a person is going to be direct like that with me and speak from their heart, I will be open to it. What’s a man to do? Honest, direct and heartfelt communication is the most valuable currency to me these days.

    O, I really appreciated your post. But I also hope you’ll just continue to stand up for what you want, without hedging on heartfelt values (at the risk of being ‘self-righteous’), and expect all that big gay romance will come to you commensurately.

    There’s at least one other person out there doing the same thing.

  19. Leah

    I think those apps are sad and gross. I can’t have sex without being in love either. You aren’t boring, nor are you the only person wired that way. Keep it classy Orlando 😉

  20. Raphael

    I’d just like to thank you for writing what I’ve been experiencing and feeling myself for quite some time now. Two weeks ago, I deleted my apps (not for the first time) because I simply started becoming frustrated with the emptiness I felt whenever I would go on them.

    I’m not going to be a hypocrite here; I’ll readily admit that when I have a profile I’m a “headless torso,” namely because I value my security and I’ve encountered enough weirdos that I don’t want people who I might not even want to associate with immediately knowing who I am. It’s bad enough that after I show face pictures to people that seem normal enough, many of them go Fatal Attraction or are just letdowns. I also realize it could be sending the wrong kind of message; I’m looking for friends and the ability to meet a guy with whom something could perhaps turn serious. Many guys will assume because I have a picture up of my pecs that my words are empty and I’m just paying lip-service to get a hookup.

    At the same time, what is also frustrating is when I make clear before I meet any guy that I’m not a fan of random hookups, I get paid this very lip-service. Then we meet, and their intentions reveal themselves, and I’m looking at yet another guy wanting to get in my pants.

    I’m not saying this to go “oh woe is me.” I’m saying this because this is not what I want for my life in my late 20s. I don’t have an incredibly large network of gay friends in my city. I don’t like the club scene very much; to me, you might be better off on the apps because at least you have a better chance of meeting someone sober with their wits about them, and the pervs can’t simply grab your ass.

    I believe the apps really took off in the community because of how difficult it is for many gay men to comfortably and safely find other gay men. Unless a guy is blatantly obviously gay, many guys might hesitate to flirt with the cute barista or a guy they see at the gym. Being gay and surrounded by straight men and ambiguous men makes it a tricky minefield to navigate. You then are left with networking (and again, if you don’t have a large gay network, this makes it difficult) or clubs, or frequenting other establishments with a large gay attendance. That doesn’t work easily for people outside of large, progressive metro areas either.

    I’ve always viewed them as a necessary evil. I also have lamented that there’s nothing like a gay eHarmony. eCupid is supposed to be, but as you’ve seen yourself, elements of the ADD culture permeate on there as well.

    I think the biggest problem these apps do pose to relationships is the ease of sneaking around behind your partner’s back and the paranoia it causes. Of course, if someone is going to cheat, they’re going to cheat. But at the same time, it makes it so much easier, if not just because it provides temptation. I never understand the guys who say they’re on these things looking for “friends” while in a committed relationship. An app where you have cock pictures and naked torsos at every glance is not a place where you’re best off looking to find a friend to discuss politics and foreign film. Sure, it can happen. I’ve serendipitously met a handful of wonderful friends on these apps. But in the process, you’re getting messaged by dozens of guys who have sex in mind.

    It of course also feeds into the grass-is-greener syndrome, where everyone feels like they could perhaps do better.

    Anyway, the bottom line is I hesitate to ever criticize people for going on these apps. I think many go on with genuine interest in finding something real. Being a single gay man can be a very lonely experience. But it’s essentially looking for love in all the wrong places. I know it, yet I keep trying again and again because I hope maybe I’ll finally find the figurative diamond in the rough.

    Instead of looking down on guys on these apps, I just feel a wave of sympathy and concern for us all. We’re all like lost souls, dealing with emotional emptiness and at the same time being led this way and that by the most powerful force in the universe, the male libido.

  21. Pingback: Dating | An Anthropology of Understanding

  22. melanie

    Bravo!
    I just asked my 25 year old gay son how many dates I should go on with a guy I just met before I’m obligated to sleep with him and he told me to read your article!
    Thanks

  23. Cam

    Agree with you. I also CANNOT stand when friends constantly whip out their phones to scroll through Grindr. No texting, emaliing or Grindring at the dinner table, yo! I started using the “Grindr Blinder!” which is basically a post-it note I put on friend’s iPhones when they start to annoy me. I’m running low on post-it notes.

  24. woah, this is one of the best article i’ve read regarding this matter. one of my friend shared the link with me after i posted a very similar topic on my facebook.

    I literally haven’t meet a gay guy here in Taiwan without one of these apps, I’m possibly the only guy here that has a “clean” phone, hahaha.

  25. Silas

    This is very true. The gay culture is increasingly becoming very sexualized and as a gay man myself I choose not to follow it. I am my own person, I don’t need to follow trends or take part in subcultures that split us apart even more. I think it’s rather embarrassing with all the hookup apps/sites out there, it sets a bad example and doesn’t illustrate us well. You see the Gay Pride Parade with men in their underwear or in fetish gear, penis balloons and lollipops, condoms being thrown around, gay porn stars, men fondling each other on the street while families and children are nearby. I don’t get what any of this has to do with being gay, it’s more of a sex convention than celebrating our accomplishments and our rights. I don’t know but the whole gay culture is screwy, it’s not just hookup apps it’s just very shallow behaviour being more publicized and I really doubt it’s going to decrease anytime soon. I would like to see people challenge this though. A popular dating site or app strictly for LGBT people but without the hookups, a community of people who reinforce individuality and set a good example for the community, people being good role models for gay youth.

    • Bryan

      There really does seem to be two gay realities and frankly I’m tired of the duplicity. We want to be treated like humans, get married and all of that but act like pigs. Then when called out, we come up with all sorts of convoluted psychobabble instead of just admitting that we choose to be screwed up. I personally don’t blame apps or sites because the disease is within. That’s why I cringe when I see someone peddling the idea that there are right or wrong places to meet people. Give me a break. When the culture at large is lost, it wouldn’t matter if you meet at a bar or church. There are bound to be sex fiendish low lives in both places. Frankly, I think those who try to play the diplomat by condoning or being “non judgmental” to this sad state of affairs, are just as bad as the participants. Criticize every chance you get, I say.

  26. I LOVE EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS ARTICLE! I’ve posted about similar topics on my blog. 🙂

  27. Pingback: Rethinking Casual Sex | Pride & Equality Post

  28. Pingback: Adventures in Journalism | Young Prose

  29. Pingback: Adventures in Journalism | Claudia Marina

  30. diegonofx

    I don’t think romance and hook-up are hand to hand. I like websites and apps which are specialized and offers something specific, like: http://www.cock4jobs.com or http://www.cocksurfing.com Is not only hookup make more sense.

  31. Daniel

    I settled down with a great guy almost 10 years ago at 24. Back then, all I had access to was gay.com, two local gay bars, and a dating pool so small I once drove an hour into the middle of nowhere Georgia to watch a meteor shower with a guy who had NO PIC. Did I wonder from time to time if the grass was greener in a bigger city with bigger selection? Sure. But there’s a sweet spot when it comes to choice and variety, and beyond a certain point, it becomes paralyzing or warps your sense of reality.

    From what I’ve seen, apps haven’t made things any easier. I can remember talking with friends in the early 2000s about how someone should turn a Tamagotchi into a gay-dude locator and make it vibrate whenever someone with similar interests is nearby. Now, the magic gay sex Tamagotchi is here and yet, somehow, it hasn’t helped everyone find their perfect partner through the miracle of geotagged pectoral muscles.

    What I don’t get is why hasn’t someone created a gay version of eHarmony? Where’s the dating site for gay guys who are really serious about finding the one? Is OK Cupid already filling that void? Are we afraid of being as depressingly dull as those couples on the commercials, so we just stick to what we know?

  32. Pingback: Love at First Swipe | Claudia Marina

  33. kris

    This blog is absolutely right. How and where I can find my true love? I dont want to loose hope but is there really someone there for me?

  34. TrAcEtHiS1

    I absolutely love this article and couldn’t agree with it more. Glad to see there are gays out there that have a mentality like this and wish there were more as well.

  35. robotaille

    I have yet to read a more insightful article on this topic. Thank you. I agree entirely with everything you said. Here are two more reasons to be cautious with apps like Grinder. The CDC has linked them to significant increases in STD’s, including a steadily rising rate of new HIV infections. Additionally, since many employers are responsible for providing health care coverage for their employees they have begun to monitor these sites to see who is using them. Learning which of your employees are using apps like Grindr is not difficult. These employers are now beginning to track their employees who use these sites and are able to legally fire them for misrepresentation and/or terminate healthcare coverage for behaviors that increase the cost of medical care. This is where we are headed. Locally, a huge medical company will no longer hire people who smoke. And I am not talking about just at work, they may not smoke period! In fact, employees must submit to random drug screens for nicotine. Happy cruising!

  36. DaveLaguy

    It is true people have to be careful with apps, but be prudent is nothing new really. I did read though that apps are a big concern, even with the straight community, because it is all so fast without any real thought. We are now a “swiping” society when looking for dates, lol. I do think thought it is best to use sites like http://gayboyz.com/ that do the research for you and give reviews of online sating sites. Yes, it takes a little more time than Grindr, but it is so much safer and it works. And hey, it could be for intimacy or whatever a person wants. And it can be used to kill time, but better not to so in traffic. 🙂

  37. I’m 25. I’ve never dated. Probably never will because of these apps. The gay culture has turned sluty. It’s not just some of them. It’s the majority. Sorry for not being politically “correct.” I can’t find an app for relationships other than Mench’d and like no one uses it. I’m sick and tired of the whole sections of one’s profile being dedicated to fetishes and extreme sexual details. Gays aren’t really looking for a relationship. The dating profile is a sex resumé. It would be fine if even 50% of gay men were into this so that I had the other 50% to pick from. Unfortunately, I have like no one to pick from. It’s either I join the sexcapades or be single. I’ll be single.

    • Sean- I’m very sorry to hear about your experience. But I have had tremendous luck using one of the apps to find interesting people to meet for dates. I’ve forged some good friendships through the use of “hook up” apps. And I see plenty of guys on my app who have non sexual profiles and who claim to be looking for connection and friendship before sex.

      I agree that the rise of apps has made it harder for some men to “settle down”… it’s easy to fall into that trap of, no matter how awesome the guy you are with is, wondering about the scores of others available… “what if one of them is EVEN BETTER?”… that’s a horrible and lonely path to take.
      But these apps have not ruined life as we know it.

  38. Michel

    Hey, at first I avoided hookups with strangers because fear of std. So at first I thought to find a boyfriend and a relationship or so…

    After 10 dates or so with 3 played hot and cold to me, I decided to stop looking for a relationship with a guy. The asian guys I met were all horrible. To the point I am no longer interested to gay guys, but prefer to stick with fellow bisexuals and embrace the hookup culture.

  39. Chris

    Wonderfully written article, with one exception – stop apologizing and putting yourself down for not being a slut.

Leave a Reply