On NZ Dating the other day, an 18 year old asked me to do cam sex. 18 .
I told him he was a bit young for me (didn't even look like he shaved) but he said "It's just cam and I'm horny". I said thanks, but no. It just would have felt...icky. Yes, I know, he's legal at that age, and maybe he goes for older men. I know I did. But still - it just didn't feel right. And truth to tell, I'm not really big on cyber-sex anyhow. Being on cam doesn't do it for me usually, although the voyeur in me doesn't mind watching others if they want to show the world. I just get too self-conscious to do it myself.
There's no doubt that the net has changed our lives. So many gay men spend so much time there - there are so many sites. I did my MA thesis on how we were using it, and focussed on the chat rooms in gay.com. Remember gay.com? It used to be pretty popular, but now I never even think of it, though it still exists and has followers it seems. When I started using it I don't think there were photos - this of course, was before broadband - just chat. And we did chat. And we hooked up.
When the net started up, there were all sorts of excited cries from academics in universities about how this form of communication would finally take us beyond our obsession with bodies and physical appearance, now we would meet as mind-to-mind, in cyber-space, and no one would know or care if you were a man or a woman, ugly or drop-dead gorgeous, 25 or 85 - using the net we'd just, you know, meet in this pure and perfect manner. This idea was, it has to be admitted, largely based in thinkers from the more obscure edges of gender studies, with a vested interest in showing us just how the physical body doesn't matter. Once again academia got it wrong.
One of the interesting things about online socialising/cruising, I think, is the way we try and show ourselves, how we present ourselves to this mysterious audience. In the best possible light of course. I've taken and re-taken photos until I thought I had one that I could stand, being one of those typical people who can't bear their own photos. Make sure the light is flattering, try and lessen the flabby bits, emphasize the good points, all the usual things. In fact, for what is such a transitory and technology dependent place, we really put a lot of emphasis on the body. The internet is utterly overflowing with representations of the physical. But even so, I don't imagine I'm going to do anything more than chat to a few guys and very rarely pick up in there. In fact, I can't think of the last time I pulled a guy online. I just tend to use both nzd and gaydar as letter boxes now. Even for sex, I find the net less and less useful now, or perhaps I'm just satiated. I think I'm far more likely to pull in a bar than online these days.
But when you flick through the profiles, and see so many guys pretty well saying the same thing - in essence:"Done the scene, looking for a partner" - I have to wonder just how effective the net is for really meeting men for more than just a shag. I have heard of some guys who've met and settled down after meeting online, but they seem the exception rather than the rule to me. As for straight acting, well, there is a surprisingly large number of "bi-curious" or "straight" men who hang out on these sites as well. You can't help but wonder how long they just look, and how many jump the fence. I'm sure part of it is the way the net exposes us and de-sensitises us to so much, not least of all sex. I'm guessing a fair number go from looking to trying at least once or twice, even if they don't take it up full-time.
Looking at some of the profiles, they are like shopping lists. you must have these interests, this age-range, this weight-range, skin-colour, ethnicity, etc. Perhaps this is how match-makers work? You give them a list and they go and find the nearest thing? But how long do you hold out for perfection? And of course "Straight acting". Seeking perfection online - it just isn't going to happen that way. And when I look at the solid, long-lasting relationships I know in the gay world, the guys are not perfect, except to each other. These lists seem self-defeating and self-deceiving as well. If the mythical perfect Mr Right suddenly left a message in your mail box, would you really be able to follow through, or would it be like a dog that's been chasing cars for years and finally catches one and goes "Now what?"
And what do you make of a guy who has his hard cock as a profile pic, and says he's "Looking for love" - I mean, is he joking, or does he really think love and sex are the same thing? If you're really after a partner, do you need to show them your hard-on? Or is it just maximising your time use "Yeah, I really really want a lover, but while I'm waiting, I'm horny." Somehow I doubt this strategy is going to work.
Does this whining mean I'm going to stop going online and looking around and chatting to total strangers? Hell no! Because maybe this time I'll get lucky and fall in love, or at least, get laid.