A break from the politics and religion. A venture into sexual sociology (or, Matt got bored and started over-analyzing things). Note to parents, kiddies and folks who work for employers-masquerading-as-censors-and-big-brother: A somewhat mature conversation and questions, as well, though it’s almost purely academic.

Source: Wikipedia

Each of the following are headlines or bio lines from Grindr profiles I’ve seen in the past few days (obviously, I’m not sharing names, photos or locations of users; that would just be tacky, wouldn’t it?):

  • “no hook ups, send me a face picture if you don’t have on ur profile”
  • “Please have convo instead of ‘sup’ and expect me to carry the convo…friends only…sports lover here!”
  • “chilled laid back guy loves to have fun .. not into hookups at all”

They all seem innocent enough. Good guys looking for friends and chat. The ironic thing is that each of the guys’ Grindr profile photos are shirtless. And, even without the ubiquitous shirtless photo, the last bio just seems ironic in and of itself, given “fun” is usually hookup-site lingo for “sex.”

Seriously, how many times have you had someone walk up to you on the streets without a shirt or other piece of clothing on and say hello? How is that any different than your bare-chested photo being a person’s first impression of you online?

Your profile bios and profile pics are sending mixed messages, dudes.

(By the way, if you don’t know what Grindr is… research…)

Two important caveats: (1) I’m certainly not passing judgment. I’m in absolutely no position to do such a thing. Do your own thing, peeps. Your life, your body, your decision. (2) There’s no doubt in my mind that there are plenty of people who use online dating or hookup sites for chatting and friend-making. I’ve used them for finding friends and new acquaintances, too, especially when new to Charlotte or when I’m traveling.

I’m just confused over what seems to me to be a disconnect between the way people present themselves in their profile bios and photos. So, I’m posing questions. I’m sure sociologists and other researchers into LGBT life might have already asked some of these and, if not, might find them interesting:

  • Given the nature of gay male hookup sites and apps (e.g. Adam4Adam or Grindr), what’s behind the few guys who use it for “friends” and chat?
  • Of those who say such things, why does there seem to be such a high number that use shirtless or other provocative profile photos?
  • Again, of those, how many are really only looking for friends?
  • Is the anti-gay prejudice that teaches us to hate ourselves and our own desires so strong that, even in what should be a safe space for sexual expression, some gay men find themselves too uncomfortable to admit what they’re really after?
  • To what extent do differences in slang and lingo (e.g. “hookup” as seemingly innocent, flirtatious playfulness or “hookup” as casual sex, and “fun” as in amusement or “fun” as in sex) play into the  intentions of online dating and hookup site or app users?
  • To what extent do issues of self-esteem or self-image (50% of us would give up one year of our life for the “perfect” body, and one study found eating disorders disproportionately higher among men who have sex with men) play into how gay, bi or queer men present themselves online? (On a slightly related note this body image question and to the immediately preceding question, are there significant differences in how men who have sex with men define body-type descriptors like “slim,” “average,” “athletic,” “fat,” “height-weight proportionate” and so on?)
  • How many true, sex-free and lasting friendships have been initiated on hookup sites or apps?
  • How many long-term, or even slightly long-term, relationships have begun through a sex-free, friendly chat?

I think these are phenomenal questions for a study or survey of some kind, especially considering the number of couples today who are meeting online (23% according to one 2010 study from Stanford). If couples are using dating or hookup sites to meet, could it be that people are using them for “just friends,” as well? And how do individual users’ profile descriptions or bios and how they present themselves via profile photos match up with their true intentions?

If anyone knows of a study or a survey (even a survey of its own users by Grindr or another hookup or online dating site or app), I’d love to see it.

1

Domestic violence: ‘keep it quiet’

The mayor of Mulberry, Fla., was attacked by his partner in the early morning hours of Friday, June 19.

According to news station WTSP Channel 10, 29-year-old Eugene Ornelas came home at 5 a.m. in the morning with someone he met at a local bar. Ornelas is Mayor Julian Mullis’ partner. The couple has two children.

From the story:

The attack allegedly happened on a peaceful street in Mulberry early Friday morning inside the home of Mayor Julian Mullis. It’s a home he shares with his two kids and 29-year-old Eugene Ornelas.

Mullis told police that he and Ornelas are in a relationship and live together as a family unit.

Things got heated, though, when Ornelas brought a stranger home from a club at five in the morning. Steve Peacock is the Interim Chief of Police in Mulberry and says, “It was Mr. Ornelas, who I guess lost his cool somehow, and began throwing articles inside the residence and attempted to strike Mr. Mullis at one point but missed.”

Mullis told police that Ornelas swung at him and has Jeckel and Hyde type episodes.

Ornelas was arrested and charged with domestic violence. It’s not the first time he’s been in trouble with the law. He’s faced a DUI, possession of a controlled substance and battery charge in the past.

Some nitwit, probably slightly anti-gay, told the news station that Mullis should have “kept it quiet.”

Reaction from people who live in Mulberry is mixed. Nancy Ladner says, “I don’t have a problem with homosexuality. I don’t. Everybody has their thing they have to do. But, he is a public image in our town and he needs to keep it quiet.”

Yeah… domestic violence should be kept quiet. My god, where do these people come from?

At least some level of sanity was collected by reporters:

Heidi Strickland says, “They need to concentrate on the problems of Mulberry, not the problem of Mr. Mullis and his family, okay? They’re going to have to deal with that. Just like you have to deal with your family and I have to deal with my family. But, as long as he’s performing his job to the means that he’s supposed to be doing which, so far I haven’t seen any disagreements, then that should be the issue.”

It is quite saddening that their mayor becomes the victim of a domestic violence situation and all folks care to look at or talk about is their mayor’s sexual orientation. Sad, sad, indeed.

Double-whammy: WTSP Channel 10 wasted no time playing on the public’s anti-gay, anti-transgender emotions. Their headline for the story: “Mulberry mayor attacked by live-in cross-dresser.” Shouldn’t the headline have been, “Mulberry mayor victim of domestic violence,” or something?

This is the fifth and final installment of the five-week commentary series, “Fessing Up: exploring the dirty little secrets of the gay community.” The purpose of the series, will be to open community discussion with frank and honest thoughts and debate. Ignoring problems that exist inside our community and among some of our LGBT siblings is dangerous. In order to make our community better, stronger and more equal, we have to begin taking responsibility and speaking out when our own community, personal and social health is threatened.

Although the series will deal specifically with gay and bisexual men, as well as men who have sex with men (MSM), it will contain possible truths and discussion for the whole LGBT community.

We know that issues like substance abuse, promiscuity, unsafe sex, HIV/AIDS and STD infection rates and unattainable ideals of male beauty have an impact on the sexual, social, legal, physical and psychological health of the LGBT community, but we have utterly failed at having open and frank conversation about how we can address these issues, support our LGBT brothers and sisters and make our entire community more healthy and more equal.

This week’s installment, “Gay men and ideals of beauty,” is written by Devon Hunter, a North Carolina-based artist, thinker and exotic dancer. Read more from Devon at his personal blog, www.DevonHunter.info.

adonis

The Greek ideal goes deeper than appearances alone: Although our ideals in Western civilization about male beauty are heavily influenced by Greek imagery, it should be remembered that the Classical Athenians prized excellence, and viewed external attractiveness as only one aspect of it.

As Socrates said, it is best to get specialized information from a specialist. He meant that you should get opinions about armor from armorers, war from soldiers, philosophy from philosophers, and beauty from lovers. And who would know and love male beauty better than gay men? Straight chicks are getting better about demanding something more polished from their fellas, but ultimately it is men who truly appreciate maleness and all its labyrinthine complexities. I would venture to guess that almost every man (and especially every gay man) is struggling with his own Minotaur, and that is precisely what makes us such fascinating caricatures of ourselves.

I have seen surveys that compare the priorities for male beauty as defined by men and women. Men often focus on strength, physical feats, and ripped up abs. Women tend to prefer dominant attitudes, confidence, and a more normalized body composition (as opposed to a lean, visible musculature). Very different perspectives on what makes a man attractive. Even amongst men at the superficial level, most straight men prefer bulk, and most gay men prefer definition. Given what I’ve experienced of men (straight, bi, and gay), it seems many would like their muscles to be honed to resemble the very armor that Socrates might have sent them to Pistias to have melded to their torsos. Armor in Classical times often looked like metal skin covering carved-from-marble perfection. And how not? Men, as much as women, use beauty for various purposes. But the idealized “Greek God” torso is as much a defensive tactic as it is a lure or bait.

Beauty, and the pursuit of it, can be inspirational, but it is also the fuel for many destructive fires. Beauty can be dangerous. In fact, very often danger itself is exactly what defines beauty (or at least that which is desirable in some way). We gay men very often burn with desire to possess beauty, both our own and that of others. We seek to become a physical ideal so that we can reasonably expect to obtain more of it. The desire-rejection cycle is powerful: We all desire, we all reject, we all complain about not being able to get the ones we want (while being pestered by the ones we don’t). Everyone is a 10 looking for a 12, and we’ve forgotten that 5 is average (and that most of us are therefore a 5 or 6, and that expecting an 8, much less a 10, is generally a recipe for disappointment).

Continue reading this post…

This is the fourth installment of the five-week commentary series, “Fessing Up: exploring the dirty little secrets of the gay community.” The purpose of the series, will be to open community discussion with frank and honest thoughts and debate. Ignoring problems that exist inside our community and among some of our LGBT siblings is dangerous. In order to make our community better, stronger and more equal, we have to begin taking responsibility and speaking out when our own community, personal and social health is threatened.

Although the series will deal specifically with gay and bisexual men, as well as men who have sex with men (MSM), it will contain possible truths and discussion for the whole LGBT community.

We know that issues like substance abuse, promiscuity, unsafe sex, HIV/AIDS and STD infection rates and unattainable ideals of male beauty have an impact on the sexual, social, legal, physical and psychological health of the LGBT community, but we have utterly failed at having open and frank conversation about how we can address these issues, support our LGBT brothers and sisters and make our entire community more healthy and more equal.

This week’s installment, “The Magnetic Divide and Viral Apartheid,” is written by Todd Heywood, a Michigan-based journalist, blogger and LGBT advocate. Read more from Todd at his personal blog, The Conversation Starts Here.

Not all queer men are equal — even in the confines of our self-imposed ghettos. Being gay and out is one thing; but being gay, HIV+ and out, that is an automatic move to isolation from the queer ghetto. With HIV being a more controllable illness, the question arises, why now? Why the viral apartheid and how do we address it?

In July of 2007, I was diagnosed with HIV. It was, to put it mildly, an earth shattering moment in my life. I had fallen in love with and cared for a man who had HIV when I first came out. I was there for him until he died in July 1996, having “failed” the newly released cocktails. At the time my partner was diagnosed, there was a level of awareness and connection about HIV that seems to have disappeared. At that time, HIV activism was interwoven into the very fabric of LGBT activism. The annual Pride march was preceded by a reading of the names of those lost to the HIV epidemic, and those names, placed on brightly colored ribbons lead the march. It was an honoring of the dead, and a promise to the future that we would not forget.

But then, with the miracle that were the cocktails, this began to change. We saw the fish bowls of condoms and literature about HIV disappear from gay bars. HIV itself, once talked of openly because even the most casually connected member of the LGBT community could count at least one death among associates, stopped being noted. A new reality set in — the reality of silence.

Continue reading this post…

3

Fessing Up: HIV/AIDS

This is the third installment of the five-week commentary series, “Fessing Up: exploring the dirty little secrets of the gay community.” The purpose of the series, will be to open community discussion with frank and honest thoughts and debate. Ignoring problems that exist inside our community and among some of our LGBT siblings is dangerous. In order to make our community better, stronger and more equal, we have to begin taking responsibility and speaking out when our own community, personal and social health is threatened.

Although the series will deal specifically with gay and bisexual men, as well as men who have sex with men (MSM), it will contain possible truths and discussion for the whole LGBT community.

We know that issues like substance abuse, promiscuity, unsafe sex, HIV/AIDS and STD infection rates and unattainable ideals of male beauty have an impact on the sexual, social, legal, physical and psychological health of the LGBT community, but we have utterly failed at having open and frank conversation about how we can address these issues, support our LGBT brothers and sisters and make our entire community more healthy and more equal.

The statistics are scary. In places like Washington, D.C., the facts and figures take on new meaning, as more and more people contract HIV and are left to live with the disease, the cultural and institutional stigma and health disparities.

Like many epidemics, HIV/AIDS has hit minorities the hardest. In the 1980s, the disease hit gay men and intravenous drug users. There’s no doubt many of the men and women first affected by the AIDS crisis were either minorities or poor; perhaps they were both.

In 2009, the face of HIV/AIDS has changed drastically. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 49 percent of all people living with an HIV/AIDS diagnosis in 2005 were African-American. Among black men with HIV, 48 percent had contracted the disease through male-to-male sexual contact; 22 percent through heterosexual contact. Among black women with HIV, almost three-quarters had contracted the disease through heterosexual contact.

Nationwide, male-to-male sexual contact accounts for half of all HIV/AIDS transmissions. Among men who have sex with men, 50 percent are white and 32 percent are black.

Continue reading this post…

19

Fessing Up: Promiscuity & Unsafe Sex

This is the second installment of the five-week commentary series, “Fessing Up: exploring the dirty little secrets of the gay community.” The purpose of the series, will be to open community discussion with frank and honest thoughts and debate. Ignoring problems that exist inside our community and among some of our LGBT siblings is dangerous. In order to make our community better, stronger and more equal, we have to begin taking responsibility and speaking out when our own community, personal and social health is threatened.

Although the series will deal specifically with gay and bisexual men, as well as men who have sex with men (MSM), it will contain possible truths and discussion for the whole LGBT community.

We know that issues like substance abuse, promiscuity, unsafe sex, HIV/AIDS and STD infection rates and unattainable ideals of male beauty have an impact on the sexual, social, legal, physical and psychological health of the LGBT community, but we have utterly failed at having open and frank conversation about how we can address these issues, support our LGBT brothers and sisters and make our entire community more healthy and more equal.

Last week, a commenter at Pam’s House Blend – where I cross-posted a portion of the first installment in this series – took issue with my plans to address promiscuity and unsafe sex, saying “do-gooder Christians” who “think they are activists” shouldn’t have a part in the conversation.

He said, “Frankly I think promiscuity in males is good and healthy and I don’t want people to be pressured to conform to “christian morality” just because some christians are willing to teach that being gay isn’t a sin – but promiscuity is.”

First, it is this kind of thinking – the misguided presumption that gays can’t also be Christian and also speak out on LGBT rights – that is damaging to discussions like these. Second, I think the Pam’s House Blend commenter is going to be slightly surprised by my opinions.

What is this installment in the “Fessing Up” commentary series about? Well, it is not about gay promiscuity. It is, instead, about promiscuity and unsafe sex.

Continue reading this post…

8

Fessing Up: Substance abuse

This is the first installment of the five-week commentary series, “Fessing Up: exploring the dirty little secrets of the gay community.” The purpose of the series, announced last week, will be to open community discussion with frank and honest thoughts and debate. Ignoring problems that exist inside our community and among some of our LGBT siblings is dangerous. In order to make our community better, stronger and more equal, we have to begin taking responsibility and speaking out when our own community, personal and social health is threatened.

Although the series will deal specifically with gay and bisexual men, as well as men who have sex with men (MSM), it will contain possible truths and discussion for the whole LGBT community.

We know that issues like substance abuse, promiscuity, unsafe sex, HIV/AIDS and STD infection rates and unattainable ideals of male beauty have an impact on the sexual, social, legal, physical and psychological health of the LGBT community, but we have utterly failed at having open and frank conversation about how we can address these issues, support our LGBT brothers and sisters and make our entire community more healthy and more equal.

In bars and clubs, online hook-up sites and gayborhoods across America, there’s a hidden – and sometimes not so hidden – social epidemic running through the gay community. Meth and alcohol are our poisons of choice, and they are harming and killing members of our community at an alarming rate.

If there is one thing the gay community doesn’t do well it is introspection. We all know there’s a serious drug and alcohol abuse problem but many of us either aren’t aware or just don’t talk about it. I’d venture to say that substance abuse is among three topics the gay community finds anathema; the others being promiscuity and unsafe sex.

Continue reading this post…

In the coming weeks, InterstateQ.com will publish a five-week, in-depth commentary series, “Fessing Up: exploring the ‘dirty little secrets’ of the gay community.”

fessingupsmallbannerThe purpose of the series, written by me and other contributors, will be to open community discussion with frank and honest thoughts and debate. Ignoring problems that exist inside our community and among some of our LGBT siblings is dangerous. In order to make our community better, stronger and more equal, we have to begin taking responsibility and speaking out when our own community, personal and social health is threatened.

Although the series will deal specifically with gay and bisexual men, as well as men who have sex with men (MSM), it will contain possible truths and discussion for the whole LGBT community.

The five-week series won’t deal specifically with HIV/AIDS, but each of its five subject areas will have a lot to do with the crisis. In a way, each of the subject areas offer us a chance to move forward on the goal of ending the out-of-control HIV/AIDS crisis:

  1. Substance abuse in the gay community
  2. Promiscuity and unsafe sex in the gay community
  3. HIV and STD infection rates
  4. The social and sexual disenfranchisement and stigmatization of HIV+ gay, bi and MSM men
  5. Ideals of gay masculinity and beauty

We know that increased risks of drug and alcohol abuse in the LGBT community contributes to promiscuity, unsafe sex and increased risks of contracting HIV and other STDs; that many gay, bi and MSM men are having a lot of sex, but doing so unsafely and with high risk; and that HIV and STD infection rates have skyrocketed, and will continue to skyrocket, inside the MSM community. We know that HIV+ gay, bi and MSM men are being cast to the side, despite the fact that many of the HIV- men doing the stigmatization are engaging in some of the very same risky behaviors that might well mean they will contract the disease. Finally, we know that nearly god-like ideals of male beauty and masculinity can leave a debilitating scar on gay, bi and MSM self-esteem, body image and self-worth.

And, while we know that all of these issues have an impact on the sexual, social, legal, physical and psychological health of the LGBT community, we have utterly failed at having open and frank conversation about how we can address these issues, support our LGBT brothers and sisters and make our entire community more healthy and more equal.

Look for the first of the five-week series in a few days.

All is not calm on the American Family Association front. Their “news” website, OneNewsNow.com, published a “story” (read: horrible piece of journalism) on the issue of comprehensive or abstinence-only sex education in North Carolina.

While the writer, Charlie Butts, gives plenty of speaking time for the N.C. Policy Research Council’s Jere Royall (nice guy, by the way) to spout out some talking points, Butts fails to mention why the story is even a story: The N.C. General Assembly is currently hearing a bill called the Healthy Youth Act. It has already passed through some preliminary committee hearings. If it becomes law it will replace North Carolina’s abstinence-only education with abstinence-based comprehensive sex education.

But, the real story of the OneNewsNow.com piece lies in the comments. It seems all the blind sheep at AFA’s propaganda machine aren’t all blind:

Preaching abstinence is not education, it is preaching. And it does not work. All the information that is available needs to be supplied to children. The role of the parent and educator is to supply information and teach them to make good decisions, not to withhold information.

More sticking their heads in the sand as states with abstinence only educations have the highest teen pregnancy rates.

In Gaston County, North Carolina, 500 teens became pregnant 2007. Gaston County students are only exposed to abstinence education, and contraception options are not added to the curriculum. Even the Gaston County Health Director, Colleen Bridger, admits that without better sex education, teen pregnancy numbers in the county will not drop. Bridger goes on to say: “Counties in North Carolina that teach comprehensive sex education have lower teen pregnancy rates than Gaston County. Research shows abstinence-only education doesn’t work, and I think it is time for Gaston County to try what the research shows works.”

Oddly enough, 9 out of the top 10 states with the highest teen pregnancy rates were red states which leaned heavily on abstinance-only education. They also were southern “Bible-belt” states.

There’s really no way to know if these are conservative folks making comments or progressive folks. I’m just suprised they haven’t been censored away yet.

0

D.C.’s HIV blame game

Two D.C. bloggers are battling it out over the new HIV number released for Washington, D.C. Three percent of the total population there is now living with HIV.

Black Informant says the cause is risky sexual behavior among the gay and lesbian community. The Washington City Paper‘s Sexist blogger says the cause is more complex than that, pushed upward by increasing rates of new infections among heterosexuals.

I wonder how Black Informant would feel if someone took these numbers and twisted them to say African-Americans were to blame:

And continuing a grim trend from the 2007 report, African Americans are bearing the brunt of this epidemic: 4.3 percent of African Americans in the District are living with HIV/AIDS; 6.5 percent of black men in the city have the disease, and African Americans account for 76 percent of HIV/AIDS cases in the District.

This HIV blame game is stupid and dangerous. It is the reason why the federal government ignored the crisis for so long in the 1980s. Anyone can find a number or statistic, put it in bold text, twist it and use it to attack a minority or community. But that’s not being brave, as Black Informant suggests. Being brave would mean actually doing something to end the crisis, not increase paranoia and prejudice.

While Black Informant is busy trying to find a scapegoat, people are getting infected and infecting others. His energy would be better spent finding a way to end the crisis.