What are you looking for?

Every so often I post a Facebook update in a series I call “the Wisdom of Manhunt” (or Grindr).  They’re just quotes from people’s profiles on gay chat sites that made me LOL or WTF (and sometimes both in equal measure).  I love it when someone says something spiteful, e.g. ageist or racist, in such a way that it makes them sound incredibly foolish.

These posts always get a reaction from my friends — a mix of catty, hilarious remarks and thoughtful conversation on the issues involved. Someone recently said ‘hey, you should post these on your blog’.  It has been done before, with the infamous Douchebags of Grindr.  I admit to chuckling at first, but pretty soon the posts came to seem pretty douche-y themselves; there’s no moral high ground in the business of public humiliation.

There’s another problem that’s specific to citing text from online profiles: many personals sites feature keyword search, and a canny reader can enter unusual words from the quote to locate the source, destroying the possibility of anonymity.  I see this done in research papers, especially on the role of the Internet in facilitating bareback culture, and it always makes me wince.  If you think this is implausible, go on a date with someone under 25, and see how thoroughly they ‘facestalk’ you beforehand.

But I see some themes again and again in people’s profiles and I really want to respond to them, in some way more efficient than just sending them all messages.  Here’s a recent example:

i wanna make more friends but it seems to be hard to find out here.. everyone comes then goes away with the same reason coz i couldnt accept them 4 sex in the 1st time… how ridiculous…!!!!

This is from a young Asian man. Before posting it here, I sent him this message to ask for permission:

i write a blog at http://badblood.wordpress.com.  i sympathise with the trouble you’re having making friends, and i’d like to write a blog post about it.  would it be okay if i quote your profile text in my blog post?  i won’t say your nickname but there is a small possibility someone might trace it back to you if they had a [Gaysite] profile and searched for the words in the quote.  hope you can have a think about it and let me know.

And then he didn’t reply, so I replaced the unique-ish words in his post with synonyms and checked to make sure he can’t be found by searching.

lonely, looking for friends

There are a lot of men, often (but not exclusively) Asian men, whose profile text expresses their frustration about the difficulty of making friends on gay chat sites.  The text will sometimes say they are looking for friends first, implying there may be some subsequent progression. Sometimes the text will say ‘lonely’, and this is often written with some frustration.  I can only speak for myself, but I have come to avoid messaging people with this text in their profiles.

I feel guilty about it, because I know Melbourne friendship culture is difficult to break into.  We don’t refer to friendship directly – you would never ask someone to be your friend; it’s expected to develop organically, through the discovery of sharing interests and sense of humour.

Friendship in Melbourne is ferociously homophilous: like befriends like, and likeness is judged by subtle criteria.  If you’re new in town, it will just seem like the vast majority of people are polite but not terribly interested in pursuing a friendship with you, and the harder you try, the more they back off.  Plenty of single migrants give up on Melbourne and move to Sydney or Brisbane, and I don’t blame them.

But it’s not entirely cultural — sometimes the breakdown happens at the individual level. Take the guy I quoted:

i wanna make more friends but it seems to be hard to find out here.. everyone comes then goes away with the same reason coz i couldnt accept them 4 sex in the 1st time…how ridiculous…!!!!

It’s hard to find friends on Gaysite, and he’s having zero success, but his response is to express anger and keep trying.  There are two things he could question here.  The first is fairly simple: is Gaysite the right place to look for friends, if everyone else is looking for sex?

My answer would be there are other, much better ways of meeting gay friends.  Taking part in a Young & Gay peer education workshop at the Victorian AIDS Council / Gay Men’s Health Centre; volunteering for a gay community organisation like JOY Melbourne, ALSO Foundation, Melbourne Queer Film Festival, Switchboard, Pride March, Midsumma Festival — the list is extensive and there’s something for everyone.

But there’s another possibility, and it’s encoded in the wording ‘friends first’.  Some users lament the lack of friendship but persist in spaces they themselves identify as hookup joints.  Maybe they are looking for sex.  Many recent migrants find Aussie hookup culture a bit repellent, especially in its rapidity and impersonality: “i couldnt accept them 4 sex in the 1st time”.  So they say “looking for friendship first”.

It turns out that’s just about the worst thing you can say to an Aussie guy, because we do not fuck our friends.  We might fuck first and then become friends, and there are sexual friendships, but for the most part, friend sex is taboo.

(If you disagree, tell me about it in the comments. Lots of detail, please.)

I’ve asked Asian men on gay chat sites about this and they say it’s exactly the same in their countries of origin: you would no sooner go to bed with your best friend than you would with your brother, so it’s a bit puzzling that it translates into “friends first” in Australia.

A better thing to say might be “I’d prefer to get to know you before we get it on.”  Saying it this way avoids sounding like you’re judging everyone else who does things differently.  The smart guys will adjust their approach to get into your pants, and the inflexible guys will pass you over, so you both avoid an aggravating conversation.  Everybody wins.

next week:  looking for LTR

Next Friday, I’ll post part two, on what happens when your profile text says “looking for genuine guys for a long term relationship”.  In the meantime, please feel free to post your thoughts in the comments.