Gaydar is Bad for Your Health

I met someone the other day. Well I say I met him. I didn’t meet him in any accepted human sense of the word. I “met” him online. On Gaydar. We “chatted”. No we didn’t. We typed. We had no eye contact, no tone of voice. Well, I suppose, he did have a picture (assuming just for a minute it was his picture) But did I hear his voice? No. Taste him? Smell him? I guess one day Gaydar might have a scratch and sniff app. But not yet. And Touch? No. The most sensual of all is the one so crucially missing. No hugs, no kisses, no hands. Just the unfulfilled landscape of one’s own expectations. In fact through all the useless hours I have spent on gaydar, I have been wondering exactly through which of my five senses I was experiencing any of these men. Gaydar is essentially an inhuman experience.

So why log on? Well this is the difficult bit. I feel very exposed writing it down. But here goes….. I think I have been addicted. I think it has become a dangerously invented bit of my life where I indulge in a grown up version of ‘Let’s Pretend’. I can spend hours in this Never Never land of sexual and social promise that never delivers reality. JM Barrie didn’t quite mean it this way, but Gaydar is full of Lost Boys.

The fact that I am able to write this, to put it out into the public domain, is a sign that I might be kicking the habit. At least that I am thinking of doing so. Although what just now flashed through my mind was a devilish opening filled with .. ‘I could pause and log on for a mo and see who’s there’. So I am not sure if I am over it. I know I am trying to exorcise it. But I don’t know if I I’ll succeed. I am writing a novel at the moment and, as a writer much wiser than me once said, there is a definite link between masturbation and the chapter. And I am writing a fictional diary. So the chapters are very short.

Gaydar has not been an occasional pastime over the last few years. It’s been everyday and sometimes for far too much of a day. I have found myself thinking about it on the train, on the way home, in moments during meetings. I am writing this on the way to Manchester and I am imagining what I could do when I get to my hotel room. And it’s not just me, is it? Go on. Be honest. Are you reading this and thinking that it’s also you? Increasingly I reckon this is one of the most widespread, unspoken and toxic slices of many gay men’s lives. When I look at who is in the chat rooms, every day it’s mostly the same people. Yet being in this “community” is the most isolating thing that I do.

On the other hand, it can be fun. No doubt about that. But, by and large, the fun fades when the tissue appears. It’s a classic stimulant. The highs are good and the lows are swift. It’s a drug. It deadens us. Its virtual reality is as destructive to our psychological state, and drives us underground quite as effectively, as anything society ever did to the homosexual culture when we were illegal. Virtual contact threatens to lock us away from the richness of face to face, lip to lip, body to body emotional reality. Other men on gaydar become porn. They are mirages on the horizon of our own yearning.

Of course straight men are addicted to porn too. I don’t think this is a gay thing. It’s a man thing. But it has a gay dimension. I don’t know anything about straight sites . I’ve never been on one. But I do know that when you see a man for real you know something about him from his look, his clothes, his eyes, the way he holds his glass, the way he stands and walks. We make instant judgements about every human being that we see, so fleeting sometimes that we’re not even conscious of what we think. But when we’re interested, we take in and process detail like a top of the range Police witness. And above all we know if there is chemistry. But the virtual is mere simulation. On Gaydar you are just an avatar.

Of course people have met on Gaydar and had fun and sex. I have. People have even met on Gaydar and moved in. Hurrah. But when that happens it defies the inhumanity, the coldness, the sheer mendacity of the virtual. People online are not “friends” or “favourites”. They’re just other atoms. And until we collide there is no explosion. Human contact is the only thing that produces energy. And love.

Going on Gaydar is not about being single and wanting to meet a boyfriend. That is definitely part of my life (email address on my website). That’s what I want. (Again application downloadable from simonfanshawe.com). But the likelihood of Gaydar filling that sock hanging at the bottom of my bed like some romantic Santa is up there with me going out with Johnny Depp and Iceland’s economy recovering. Gaydar is about avoiding all that. And I admit I have been hooked. I need out. But its grip is strong. Now I’ve finished writing this, I might just log on and see who’s there. And I know that many of you know exactly what I am feeling right now.

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