Barry Church-Woods looks into the seedier side of online dating in this NSFW blog for LGBTicons.
I used to be a serial monogamist.
Until I wasn’t.
In the first twelve years of my adult life I had 5, what I used to consider long-term relationships.
The first was a secret and with someone from college who had a penis. It also turned out he was a penis. The second was with a woman who I genuinely loved until I started coughing up fur balls and bleeding internally due to stress. Three was a lovely man who helped me grow into myself. Four was a beautiful man who helped me lose myself all over again. Five was my saviour.
A period of a few days or weeks where they competed for my attention at the arse end of the previous relationship, until I finally caved, took them into a cupboard and got my Boris Becker on, before kicking their predecessor to the kerb.
Each of them offered something wonderful at the time and now if I see them on the street, I no longer run into the nearest shop to avoid them. In fact, sometimes I can even muster up some happy memories.
It’s not surprising that by the end of my fourth relationship I was beginning to spiral into a bit of a depression. Being with someone who only loves you part-time is soul-destroying; even if they have great hair.
At that point in my life I was already window-shopping for the next chapter and if truth be known, had dipped more than my toe in my fair share of future candidates. But then something amazing happened.
Not immediately amazing. More Kylie Minogue’s Impossible Princess era amazing. You don’t really understand it or indeed want it, but ten years later you’ll look back on it and realise it was genius.
The amazing thing that happened to me?
He left me.
Not just the going to the supermarket for groceries and not coming back left me, but the ‘I applied for a new job in a different city and got it so I’m going and I think you should stay here for a while until we figure out our options’ left me.
He left me, destroying my rather delicate ego-system in the process by preempting my next phase and taking the decision completely out of my hands.
What a cunt.
In fact, that singular act was probably the most positive thing to happen for my mental health in the twelve years leading up to that.
Without the safety net of another relationship to jump straight into, I had time to figure out who I was. 3 years to be precise.
Dating became a thing in my life.
I would meet people and we would go out for dinner. Go on actual dates. And if a month into the dalliance we weren’t feeling it, we’d quit and move on. No drama.
See, it turns out if you start a relationship with someone where you are the other man, or they are, then it’s really tough to trust them. Chances are, if they’re capable of that behaviour to end up underneath you, then they’re more than capable of doing it again to end up underneath someone else. God knows I did time and again.
So because of that I ended up having 3 years to get my shit together and figure out what I really wanted.
A LOT of navel gazing later (mine and other people’s) it turns out that who I am is someone who really enjoys being in a monogamous relationship.
I met my husband on Gaydar.
We went on a date. I took him home. He never left.
But that was 8 years ago and from chatting with my numerous friends that are still looking for Mr or Mrs Right, things have changed fairly dramatically; for everyone, not just gay men.
Tides are turning in the world of online dating.
See, 8 years ago, Gaydar was still a relatively new thing.
Of course, there was a massively sleazy element to it then, but there was also a plethora of men, young and old to every taste putting themselves out there by clicking on the ‘interested in a relationship’ tab instead of the ‘interested in hung power tops willing to breed my tight little asshole bareback’ tab.
Nowadays, it seems with the rise of Grindr, Scruff, Squirt, Craigslist, Gumtree, Tinder and numerous other Apps or GPS cruising sites that it’s difficult to clear that very first hurdle of actually just getting a date.
True, Mr or Mrs Right might be there waiting to be discovered, but they’ll be on their digital tip toes trying to be seen above the crowd of cock shots and man pussy pics (yes that’s a thing!)
My heterosexual female friends are struggling too. This new-found sexually aggressive community are now gate crashing the party on the ‘respectable sites’ and there’s a whole herd of men and women touting their wares where they would have traditionally admitted to liking Celine Dion and slow moonlight walks.
And why wouldn’t you if what you’re really missing about being in a relationship is regular accesses to privy parts?
You have loads of friends. You don’t need company. You need to orgasm.
Why would you put yourself in the position of having to pay for dinner before you get laid if there’s actually an alternate mechanism in place for anyone just wanting to scratch that itch?
More and more people I know (and not just gay men) are using what would traditionally be dating websites for casual sex and hoping that somewhere along the way, their prospective beau will not just hand them a towel to mop up, but an invitation to dinner.
And now, the whole thing seems to be a complete gang-bang of mixed messages, where people are struggling to find the marketplace right for them.
How can it be that in my own social circle there are people who will clutch their pearls and gasp at the thought of a friend reducing her age by two years to garner more interest on her dating profile and others that are heading out to meet that special someone advertising for anyone under 50 to be their butt plug for the day? And all from the same site.
A quick glance at a couple of the sites my colleagues are currently occupying shows listing ranging from a woman milking a cow and offering the lucky reader a gobble if the price is right to an 80-year-old woman looking for Edward, the gentleman she was chatting with in Waitrose last week about how best to prepare fennel in Missed Connections.
I guess this is just the next natural evolution in online dating and eventually these behaviours will plateaux and find a natural home, where we’ll know where to go to get exactly what it says on the tin.
I certainly hope so, because I have no intention of running a nursing home, and wiping the arses of my single friends in their latter years.
Though if they want that today, I’m sure they’ll have no problem finding that service on Gumtree.
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Barry Church-Woods has no good angles when taking a selfie. He lives in Edinburgh, Scotland with his husband Josef. He works for the largest arts festival in the world and is usually sick when he goes to the gym. Today he smells of Armani Diamond and SPF50. Follow him on Twitter.