Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Michael Joseph Gross's Essay on how Manhunt took over the world

Michael Joseph Gross writes an interesting piece about Manhunt in the September issue of Out. Of course, my mention of all of this probably raises a couple of questions in your head: Is Happy writing another Manhunt blog entry (yes...), and why in the world is Happy reading Out?

Happy's reading Out because Ron used his airline miles to purchase a subscription from the same people who bring you the Advocate. Not to be snarky (okay, I'll be snarky) but the same banner ads run on the Out and Advocate web sites. Who knew? Yeah, I know you're shocked! And Ron subscribed to the Advocate, as well. So I guess I have plenty of reading material this winter, don't I?

Mr. Gross isn't a big fan of Manhunt, and he becomes less and less enamoured as the article unfolds (over many pages). His article describes in great detail (and Mr. Gross is a very competent columnist; I enjoyed reading this piece), how gay dating mores have evolved from the time of Stonewall until now. It used to be you would check out personal print ads in gay newspapers, and actually write letters, you'd correspond with some dude before hooking up. I remember those days well. I had some great ads going for me in those days:

Low Piscop begs indulgence seeks High Anglican for climactic Second Coming. No Anabaptists, Calvinists, Papists, Mormons, or Wesleyans. Will consider Greek Orthodox to heal schismatic tendencies. Send epistolary writ to....

The problem with that ad, and the others I wrote during those years, is that they didn't let me filter, weed, and block. Enter Manhunt.

No High Anglican ever responded to that ad, although some Papists and Calvinists did respond, and even a follower of the Mosaic Law. I got exactly seven responses, and got laid five times, which actually is better than my results with Manhunt.

Gross is worried about how socialization is short-circuited with Manhunt. He's worried that gay men are devaluing themselves, and objectifying who they are and what they are.

....When we started cruising online, neither I nor any of my friends would have dreamed we'd post naked pictures of ourselves for strangers to see. Now almost all of us have done it. When we crossed that line most of us felt we were violating ourselves. But it got us laid. We took more pictures - better ones - because the hotter our pictures, the more we got laid. When we questioned our choices, we reminded out selves, We're gay, this is our culture, Manhunt is the 21st-century gay bar, and you can't stop progress. Besides, every fuck, we rationalized, was another chance to find a boyfriend. Yet, the more we did this, the fainter grew the hope of finding something more meaningful than a hookup. As our hopes faded, we learned to see one another, and finally even ourselves, as things.

I'm not quite as pessimistic as Mr. Gross. I've had many hookups from Manhunt. Some of those have progressed to friendship. I'm always open to letting hookups be more than hookups. Having said that, I respond viscerally to where Gross's line of thinking goes, that we're objects seeking objects. Sometimes, all I want is a quick fuck and a big dick. I pause, now, and ask myself, can that progress to friendship?

Can I experience profound intimacy from the longings I have when I log into Manhunt, wanting to get laid. Of course, my heart wants that, and I wonder how out-of-sync my head is. Am I thinking with my dick, or am I hoping with my heart?

I don't think that intimacy is dead. And I'm quite sure that we're not rock-like objects appraising girth and length at the expense of truly human interaction (well, I would make a plea for height/weight proportionate, but that's probably too much to ask). Frankly, I like the hunt. I get off on the tension of opening the front door. Is he what he says he is, or is he a fraud? Am I going to give him the ride of his life, or is this going to be ho-hum? Sex, at least male-on-male sex really is, initially, about objectifying the prey, deciding who's on top, and taking charge, desiring a rut, making a score. That is exciting sex, and it doesn't always lead to Mr. Right, and happily ever after in the suburbs. But man, it's hot! No getting around it. It's hot!

What Mr. Gross doesn't discuss, but I know it happens: a day or so after that incredible sex, one of the guys logs on to Manhunt and sends a message to the other,

"Man, that was soooo hot! Thanks. Any time you want to get together let me know."

I know from personal experience that at that moment, intimacy has a real chance in the lives of these men, and Manhunt made it possible. I'm not logging off of Manhunt anytime soon. See ya there. Check out wheaton_guy.