Vancouver nightlight fixture/party promoter Tommy D invited me to join him for a FAG OUT podcast in February to talk about the Kiss and Tell columns (for past posts click here and here). The fact is: almost everyone I know, queer and straight, has used an internet "dating" service at least once.
The other night, I got to thinking. Judging from my long/seamy/checkered history of online experiences, I've come to the conclusion that there are really only two types of internet dates.
There's the one where you go home after meeting someone for a beer or coffee or dinner or what have you and never speak to them again.
And then there's the one where you take that two-dimensional–though handsome–LOL'er home after meeting them, have an awkward-to-mediocre sexual experience, and then never speak to them again.
Now I'm sure there's a lot of men and women who have an online hookup fetish and may have the best sex of their lives with a stranger they meet on Craigslist or Lavalife or Manhunt or eHarmony or Dlist, but that ain't me, folks. I even pulled out the black book to check names/question marks to make sure. Next I hauled out my favourite stone abacus and tallied, then extrapolated the figures and grafted a sexy pie chart (see below).
It turns out that I have only had one fantastic one-night stand–yeah that's it: ONE–and that was with someone I met in a night club.
That's not a good ratio.
Which makes me wonder: in matters of online dating, do the LOLs have it?
(I didn't actually make this pie chart, but found it here)
Kiss and Tell: Generation Y
In 2008, a number of articles began
appearing online and in print media arguing that internet dating sites have
irreparably damaged the queer community. They claim that the majority of queer
youth are now socialized online instead of though more traditional methods,
such as visiting bars or other gay meeting spaces, and that the
consequence-free online environment increases the incidence of unsafe sexual
practices across all age groups.
The World Wide Web went
commercial in 1994. By 1996, web browsers like Netscape and Internet Explorer pushed the World Wide Web
out of tech labs and into regular households—you guessed it—worldwide.
For the first time in history, with access to
a computer and dial up connection, anyone could access information about sexuality
and queer history, “no strings attached”. For queers born after 1983, this also
meant unlimited access to same-sex porn, chat sites and online dating sites from
the very beginning of their teenage years.
This online phenomenon is
unique to our time – there has been no other period in human history like it. It
also presents a unique set of challenges, particularly for the queer community
and especially for future generations of queers.
for answers, freelance reporter Sean Horlor recently conducted a series of
interviews with Manhunt.net users. To get the full story, he admits he often
had to kiss in order to tell.
scientist hunting for buddies, men under twenty need not apply
As far as jokes go, the following could be
Question: What is the nervous biology student wearing
on his first date with a reporter?
Designer “jeans” of course.
it isn’t mirth-inducing icebreaker I was hoping for. The biology student’s
hands immediately begin to worry the table edge and then skitter across the
tabletop like a drag queen on ice skates. He picks up a flier for a memorial
séance happening closer to Halloween, then picks apart the paper corners. “What
does it matter what I’m wearing?” he asks, somehow managing to sound both apathetic
and sarcastic at the same time. He starts ripping the flier. I give him my
spare pen to play with instead. “Are you a fashion reporter too?”
aside, he really is wearing a pair of designer jeans. His fitted green
button-up matches his eyes. He’s also sporting a new Guess watch on his left
wrist. Not a bad look for a first-year BSc student studying at Langara College.
Though in the dingy basement of the ANZA Club (Australia New Zealand
Association), located in the heart of Vancouver’s artsy Main Street community, nobody
gives him a second glance.
At an earlier trip to the urinal, I learned
that the other patrons in the bar tonight, a group of 50-something dart-playing
ex-pats, were all residents of that East Vancouver neighbourhood. Most of the
men were married (to women) and none of them cared about the gay reporter and
the lean, 20-year-old redhead sitting in the corner.
6’3” (his profile said 6’4”), this Generation Y-er is hard to ignore.
first sat down, he asked me to call him Bren Kennedy, a name he hopes to use
when he enters the porn industry, “sometime later in life”. Judging by the
content from our instant messaging chats, he’s completed the requisite field
work to ensure his future porn stardom.
self-identifies as gay. Born and raised in an affluent Calgary suburb, he moved
to Vancouver about a year ago. “I didn’t
want to move to a small town to study.” What he loves most about Vancouver: the
trees and the mountains. He goes on to explain that the gay scene here is “everything
I wanted. I had this idea in my head of what it would be and it exceeded my
what he does in his spare time, he stares blankly at me and says, “You’re
looking at it.” A second later, he breaks the top off my spare pen.
left my apartment, a curious female biologist friend of mine wanted me to ask
him if all male biologists are gay. “All biologists are ugly,” he tells me. “Do
you really think they’re all gay?”
career role models, Dian Fossey and Louis Pasteur aren’t on his list. George
Gaylord Simpson doesn’t ring a bell either. Kennedy does admit to having a gay
role model though: an assistant principal in his junior high. “I knew I was gay
before I met him and I thought I knew he was gay. He eventually left his wife
and 18-year-old daughter to be with men. He and I used to talk sometimes.”
It turns out
that Kennedy has been out since he was 13. “As soon as people started asking me
whether or not I liked girls, I started saying no.” But his parents and older
sister still don’t know. “My mom really
wants grandchildren,” he explains.
time he got high, he took three tablets of ecstasy and a handful of other unknown
pills. In the time between then and now, he’s made his way through the drug
alphabet – Acid, Alcohol, Barbiturates, Cocaine, GHB, Ketamine, Marijuana,
Meth, Psychotropics, Viagra – from A to V and back again. “I started doing
drugs, smoking and having sex at the same time. My school was in the middle of
an industrial park. There was nothing to do.”
Kennedy thinks he started calling
gay telephone lines when he was 10 or 11. He’s
also been using online dating sites since 2001 and now uses Manhunt, Gaydar,
Dudesnude, Squirt and Gay.com on a daily basis. But how did he find out about
“I have no
idea” he admits, shrugging. “I started when I was in Grade 8. I lost my
virginity a couple days after I turned 14 with someone online. I just wanted to
lose my virginity because that is every boy’s dream. It’s just a hurdle and I
wanted to get it over with as soon as possible.”
initially reluctant to talk about what type of man would take his virginity at
the age of 14 years, Kennedy eventually confesses that he was significantly
older. “He was an army drill sergeant in his late 40s.”
defence, most online dating sites have mechanisms built in to prevent underage
users, but these are purely decorative. “Obviously
my profile said I was 18 because you have to be that old to get on sites. I
think I told [the drill sergeant] I was 16 when I met him, but I’ve always
looked a bit older.”
since when has 14 passed for 18? Or even 16 for that matter?
different for gay guys. There was that whole thing in Rome, older richer guys
would take a younger poor servant under their wing and show him sexual stuff
but also teach the business tricks that made them successful.” Did that happen
with the drill sergeant? “No.”
admits that the men who would contact him were all significantly older and that
they wrote him, not the other way around. I ask, “What would happen when you
told them you were 16?”
He tears a
piece of paper from the pad I’m taking notes on and draws for a bit with the
broken pen and tells me, “Usually by the time it came up it was too late
because I was already getting in their car.”
asked why most guys his age write on their profiles that they aren’t into the
scene and don’t go to gay clubs, yet post face pictures and self-identify as
gay, he’s temporarily mystified. “If we even have a culture or a community, the
entire thing is based around gay clubs.” He started going to clubs a week
before he turned 18, the legal age in Alberta. “They wanted fresh meat. I could
have had an umbilical cord and picked up.”
denies that the internet encourages unsafe sexual practices. But then
contradicts himself. “Getting into someone’s car who you don’t know? I
definitely take more risks.”
for unprotected anal sex, at first he says, “Never.” Then later: “There’s been
a couple times when alcohol or stupidity is involved.” Later still: “When I
have unprotected sex with someone who I think might have AIDS, I wait the
amount of time required before getting tested and then go get my blood work
asked to give advice on how to safely hook up with men in real time, he says,
“Most of the time it depends what hour of the day it is. If it’s the afternoon,
meet at a bar someplace. If it’s really late, [I tell them to] meet me at a
corner and come and pick me up.”
it’s my turn to be uncomfortable. “Before
I leave home, I take my wallet out, I take my watch off, I leave my ID, I bring
$10 cash and I don’t bring my phone. All I usually bring is my keys, my smokes
gets the same feeling meeting men this way, despite six years of experience.
scares the shit out of me, but I realized a while ago that I love it. I love
standing there waiting for him to come and being scared shitless. I just
fucking love it.”
At the end
of the interview, Kennedy stood up, all 6’3” of him, raised his arms over his
head and stretched his left side. I was reminded of one of the many trees that
along Vancouver’s shoreline. Exposed to non-stop wind, they grow sideways over the
I could have written a second interview with
everything I didn’t put in the first. When I asked him about the large scar on
his forehead, after what felt like a small eternity, he told me that his father
dropped him as a baby and then smiled.
He also told me, “I’ve never sat down and
talked about this with anyone before. It sounds really tragic and wrong. I
don’t think any part of it was wrong. It sounds a lot worse than it is.”
At one point he admitted to having no gay
friends and didn’t feel like there was a community for him anywhere.
A few days later, he wrote me to
say he was stoned during the interview. On what, he didn’t specify. He asked me
to take him out dancing. I declined.