A genesis of my own personal and gay journey
By: Sam Shaugnessy
1 In the beginning, man created dating sites. And man saw the dating sites and he said they were good.
Kiss.com (1994), Match.com (1995) JDate (1997), eHarmony (2000), Christian Mingle (2001), Ashley Madison (2002), Plenty of Fish (2004), OK Cupid (2004), SeekingArrangements (2006), and to infinity and beyond. There is a dating site for every type of relationship, every interest, every fetish: threesomes, mullet obsessed, single parents, farmers and ranchers, diaper lovers, the exclusive elite, clowns, etc. Dating sites made virtual dating a probable possibility, offered a larger-more-exciting pool of potential lovers, and introduced the fear of catfishing.
2 Then man said, let there be dating apps: and there were many.
With the ease of smartphones and the thrill of swiping left or right, dating apps absorbed much of the market. Notoriously, Tinder comes to mind as it swept the house with 7.86 million users in the US alone. But before Tinder (2012), the gay community already had the app scene on lock with a few major dating apps.
3 And then
God Joel Simkhai created Grindr and separated those looking to get together and those “looking” to get together.
Grindr was one of these apps, and it launched in 2009 as a “geosocial networking and online dating application”, aka a hook-up app. Users are shown profiles of nearby men to interact with online before engaging offline in their desired activities. To help facilitate, the app allows users to share “precise” locations and photos of a mostly explicit nature as well as filter profiles that include: “position” with options: top, bottom, and verse; body type; HIV status; “tribe” aka the “type” of guy are you into; and the option to look for “right now”. If you’re gay and horny, your thirst can be quenched here, but you already knew that. Grindr sees over 4 million daily users (Android alone).
4 And man said, let the lust bring forth the suitor that hath be able to host, and the fellow that may commute in the open darkness of night in the pursuit of heaven.
The LGBTQ+ community has been repressed for years (forever). This is a fact. Whether the inequality experienced equates to a sex revolution, a reputation for relationship fluidity, or a higher number of sexual partners, I’m not sure. What I do believe, is that this “openness” has created a greater ability for the gay community to connect without a stigma. And I would argue, this makes LTRs (long term relationships) easier for gay men to find online.
5 And man called Grindr for the gays, and Tinder he called for everyone. And the late evening and the morning were the two most popular times for folks to log on.
Let’s break it down. The seven most popular dating apps in the US by # of users are Tinder, Bumble, Plenty of Fish, Match.com, OkCupid, Grindr, and Hinge. When someone seeking a heterosexual relationship decides to try online dating, Grindr is eliminated as it’s geared towards a more fabulous audience, like me. Tinder and Bumble are easy go to’s and offer fun swiping. Let’s say our heroine for the remainder of my TED talk picks one of those.
As Sally swipes left on the uglies, right on the hotties, her desired outcome may shift in real-time. And, that’s totally normal. It is her right to, at times, have an itch for attention, and, at other times, an itch that needs scratching. That is to say, one moment she could be swiping to find Mr. Right, and the next moment be rubbing her sweaty fingers across the screen for Mr. Right Now. All on the same platform, with the same profile, Sally is potentially trying to fill competing desires.
6 And Sally said, let us meet the next available man, after darkness: and let him have dominion over all my earth, for tonight.
Now, if we start our “pick your adventure” tale again from the beginning, but instead select “Gary” as our leading hero (a homosexual male), our story plays out a bit differently. Gary too has the competing in-the-moment desires of being smothered with love and being smothered with love. But, he has an additional resource: Grindr.
When Gary is looking for his knight in shining armor he will invest a fair amount of energy into a dating application like Tinder, or Hinge, aka not Grindr. He will spend time designing a profile with witty quotes and photos of his blonde phase on his trip to Mykonos that his parents paid for. Also, Gary will share personal information such as his full name, hometown, and whether he “smokes marijuana”. Yes, he does. Once curated to his desire, Gary will sift through potential mates’ profiles reviewing their education, profession, and interest level in starting a family. Compatibility for the long term is his focus, after looks of course.
When Gary is seeking a partner in the night, the process is likely much more spontaneous. After a stiff urge Gary logs onto a hook-up app that flaunts a torso pic, just literally a picture of his bare torso region, and his profile name “Looking for bossy 👆”. Gary will browse the menu of nameless genitalia, place his order, and end the evening full and satisfied. Compatibility for positions is top of mind.
7 And man said unto them, be fruitful but you won’t multiply because that is literally impossible.
Before I go too far, I do want to address the raised (jazz) hands in the audience. I do not mean to uncomfortably pigeon hole or generalize anyone. I hope to play lightly on stereotypes for your entertainment and possible education. I am proud to be a member of the LGBTQ+ community that has expanded so many minds on what “to love” means, including my own.
It is definitely possible to find long-term partnerships through each of these avenues. “No strings attached” flings absolutely can result in a successful long term relationship. And sometimes what may be thought to be a “destined for forever” could end up as “soulmates in bed”. Love is a spectrum and the true beauty is that you get to pick what is best for you.
8 And they saw the love that blossomed, and, behold, it was good.
Because the gay community is guided to more explicitly communicate the type of relationship they are seeking, via access to a broader variety of dating apps, they are more effective in finding long-term relationships online than their hetero counterparts. Mixed signals are avoided. F***boys are filtered. Communication is key and the gay community has found the hole to put that key in.
Sally needs to fill that void as well. She needs a new outlet to differentiate her short-term ambitions and her long-term goals. Dating apps already come in a spectrum for hertero relationships, but there is not a stand-out avenue for them to intermingle in the interim. And, even if Sally chooses to forgo the quick-fix, for moral or emotional reasons, she will benefit from the natural filtration of other halves who are only looking to get down to business.
9 And everyone said, “amen” or “hmm okay”. And I said, “a to the man”, because this a** needs to find a man. And it was very good.