10 Things I Know About Online Dating As A Gay Man

Dick pics are just the beginning.

Dana Norris wrote an awesome piece about the things she learned about online dating. It is accurate and wonderful. But for gay men, some of the advice needs the RuPaul Fabulous Makeover. So, let’s see what we can add and change from her article to make it work for us.

First, Norris mentions “You’ll receive lots of dick pics.” Fact. You will. In fact, most of the gay dating apps (Grindr, Scruff, Growlr) have “locked” or “private picture” sections that a user can unlock for any bloke to whom he is chatting. Usually, they’re dick picks. But that’s not all. In my experience, 70% are dick picks, 20% are pics of a guy holding a camera up so you can see his face and his butt in the background—usually he is lying on his bed—8% are pics of him holding his butt cheeks and pulling them apart while (assumedly) someone else takes a picture of his rosebud (sorry, Orson Welles, but that’s what the gay community calls “that area” of male anatomy), and 2%…well, let’s just say they’re graphic. You will receive lots of dick pics, so weed those guys out of potential dates.

1) “Online dating profiles tend to be BORING AS HELL because they are usually written to cast as wide a net as possible so as to attract every single fish in the whole wide ocean.” Gay dating profiles, specifically on these apps, are usually funny, at least on first read. Many times, sexual fetishes are brought into them. “Into: Oral, Anal, FF, WS…” You get the idea. Also, they aren’t very creative, so they get boring after the taboo of “Oh, my God! This guy is telling the word that he finds urination sexy!”

But that’s just really the apps. If you’re looking to date, really looking, stay off Grindr and try Tinder or Plenty of Fish. Yeah, these profiles are boring as hell.

2) “Be specific in your profile.” This remains true: Be specific in your profile because this can help weed out people you might not actually want to meet. If you say, “Live. Laugh. Love.” in a profile, I will never date you, you cliché hack. If you have something witty in your profile or say #TeamAlison, I will know that we should talk because you’re funny or because we have the same favorite Orphan Black clone. Give potential dates something in which they can sink their teeth. Do not say something like “straight acting, masc.” Get over your hangups on being gay and perceptions of “gay-ness”—it’s 2014.

3) Way too many people have the following profile pictures,” which I’ve tweaked for the gay community:

  • Faceless, shirtless torso. We get it—you have a hot bod.
  • Picture of you with your fag hag. Or your lady bro. Whatever. This is a gay dating profile—you don’t need a beard.
  • Picture of you with a beer in your hand. These are a “I am gay but I like beer” admonition. Great. So do most gay men. Also, pictures of guys in the local sports team’s t-shirts or jerseys. You don’t have to prove that you’re “masc, bro.”

4) “When you do message someone, make sure your message is specific to them. Also make sure that it treats them like a human being and not a potential masturbation aid.” This one doesn’t need to be gayed-up. Spot on, Norris.

5) Norris’ fifth item talks about the men who troll for new profiles and welcome you by “proffering…template messages and/or dick pics. Ignore the dick pic welcome wagon.” The stages of coming to terms with this phenomenon are different for us gays.

  • Stage 1: Huh. I have a dick, too, but I’m looking to date, so I won’t send mine.
  • Stage 2: I’ll make a joke and follow with “lol” so he knows I’m kidding but uncomfortable with said dick pics.
  • Stage 3: He’ll send more, so I’ll save them in a folder and decide that once I find “The One,” I’ll print them all out and have an art exhibit called “Dicks I’ve Been Sent.”
  • Stage 4: OK, fine: I’ve taken a dick pic. So, I’ll examine the angles. It might look like it’s a good seven-incher, I can figure out where he held the camera and if its placement adds an inch or two.
  • Stage 5: Fuck it. I’ll send one back. Maybe our dicks can be friends. I’ll just date the next guy.

6) “Online dating as a straight woman is different from online dating as a straight man. Our society has the expectation that a man will pursue a woman and, even though online dating isn’t taking place in a Jane Austen novel, this idea is so prevalent that it’s often blindly adhered to.”

Online dating for a gay man is entirely different. Without going into sexual orientation dynamics and gender politics, know that gay men are pretty sexually active in the dating world. You’re likely to hit an “in an open relationship” status in the first 10 profiles you sift through. We’re men. We like to bone. Let’s leave that there, and mention that society kind of wants this—have you seen Queer as Folk or Looking?

I find successful online dating blossoms when both parties don’t bring up sex and don’t speak in double entendrés before meeting. The expectation is pretty much “How far will we go on this date?” The joke remains: “What do gay men do on a second date? Ask each others’ names.” Don’t be that guy that makes the joke true.

7) “Why isn’t the nice person you just met online emailing/texting/calling you back? … A relationship is real once both people agree to enter into it and all of this online pinging/liking/winking/swiping/messaging is not real.” Yup. Spot on.

8) “Sunday evenings are when online dating HAPPENS.” For us gay men, this is 2am on any day. It’s when the bars close, when your friends have found someone to kiss at the bar and you haven’t. You’ll get more messages any night from about 1am to 3am.

9) “You will learn more about your potential paramour by spending 30 seconds in their presence than you will from emailing them for three months.” Yeah, this is true. You can tell a lot by the way a person looks at you, the way he holds himself, the way he asks you questions and listens to your response, and the way he answers your questions.

10) “Finally, and most importantly: A first online date is not in any way a first date. I’m going to say it again, with capitalization for emphasis: A FIRST ONLINE DATE IS NOT A FIRST DATE.” Yup. You have to get to know the person and THEN decide if you want to go on a date. Consider that first meeting after transitioning from talking online to be Austenian courting—this is the wooing, the dance scene where you meet the other leading male and decide if you want to start something with him.

The rest of Norris’ piece works for gay men—first online dates should be treated like interviews, and you likely won’t hear back from him. Profiles make that person seem attainable—he’s looking for dates, too, so we will totally hit it off! But, that’s not the case. Maybe he doesn’t like the way you laugh. Maybe you don’t like the way he scratches his elbow. Maybe you talk about your roommate fights too much. Maybe he is just plain-ass boring.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a sense of decorum, and it’s not so different from the straight dating world. You need to tell yourself what you’re looking for and be honest about it. Know what you’re comfortable with sharing in your profile and what you want to get out of meeting someone. Don’t flirt and bring up things upon which you won’t act.

I learned a lot about myself when I was doing the online dating thing. If nothing else, online dating helps you realize how to be a better human being.

Parker Stockman is completing his thesis in Creative Writing-Fiction at Columbia College Chicago. He has told stories at 2nd Story, You’re Being Ridiculous, and The Center on Halsted for World AIDS Day.

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