Sex and Love

Meeting Mr. Right (Now)

Richard Burnett
Richard Burnet
One of my best friends and I, when we lived on the same floor in the same McGill Ghetto apartment building, used to call each other Mary and Rhoda after those two tried-and-true best friends from the old Mary Tyler Moore Show.
Since I’m the pushy loudmouth, I’m Rhoda. My friend Owen – more reserved – is Mary (or “Mare”). 
“My God, Rho, we had us some fun,” said Mare. “We weren’t in each other’s faces all the time, but I’d pop over to watch TV. Or your kid brother Skye would come over to my apartment to watch Saturday morning cartoons. We had a lot of laughs, lots of good times.” 
Then after I’d been single for longer than I care to admit, and Mary had been single for a year, we decided to – no, not hook up – throw ourselves back into the dating scene.
We decided to pursue the chase online.
“I’d always met people face to face at parties or barbecues,” said Mare. “That’s easy to do, meet people one on one. I’d never done it this way [online] before. It does seem daunting, kind of like skydiving. You hope your chute opens and you land on your two feet. That’s also what makes it exciting.” 
I’m still stuffing my parachute. 
All this made me think of British actor Rupert Everett, who ruefully notes in his memoirs Red Carpets and Other Banana Skins, “We [have] become spineless virtual geeks. Cruising online for a chemical fuck, or holding hands in a mega-church praying for forgiveness. There [is] nothing in between except maybe cardio and weight
But gay urban life has always been a meat market. In Faggots, author Larry Kramer’s satirical 1978 novel of gay New York and Fire Island, the protagonist – wandering through a culture that has reduced its members to meat – exclaims, ‘I’m tired of using my body as a faceless thing to lure another faceless thing, I want to love a Person!’” 
And this was before the arrival of the virtual bathhouse.
“From my perspective, before Grindr came onboard in the day of the Internet, of the pure Internet – computers and laptops – you essentially had to stay home to use an online service,” Grindr founder and CEO Joel Simkhai recently told The Huffington Post. “So you had a binary choice. You either would go out or you would use your computer. Grindr now gives you another choice, where you can be online and offline. You can be at the bar on Grindr. So you don’t have to choose between going to the gay bar and going online.”
As for Grindr superficially reducing gay men to physical ideals, Simkhai said, “Fantastic! I love it. Absolutely. Look good. I’m very proud if Grindr has forced us to up our game. To brush our teeth. Comb our hair. Eat right. Go to the gym. Be a healthy person. Cut back on the smoking. Cut back on the bad things and look your best. We’re men. We visualize. We see before we hear, before we think, before we do anything else. That’s how we are. I haven’t changed that. That’s what our evolution has taught us to do. I certainly go to the gym more because of Grindr. I’m competing with the guy a space away from me on that grid.”
With the ability to filter potential partners by body type, likes and dislikes, and proximity, people can access what they want instantly. Montreal author Gilbert Emond, a Concordia University Applied Human Sciences professor whose research focuses on the sexuality of gay men, recently noted, “The sex can be as hot as you wish. But because you have direct access to it, you may miss what could be love.”
Emond says apps like Grindr, Scruff, Jack’d and Gay411 have altered interactions within the gay community. The social aspect of meeting someone at a bar or social event has diminished because most gay men find it easier to look for people online.
But just 20 years ago, Emond points out, it was common for people to have a mentor who would help them navigate the bar scene, give them advice and help them filter and understand the dynamic around them. This kind of friendship no longer exists and that, Emond says, is a loss to the gay community.
it save“The mentorship made the community come alive to help people come together to fight against HIV, to adopt safe sex practices and how to fight against homophobia,” Emond said. “We need community to do those things.”
Meanwhile, my online search for Prince Charming on dating websites stalled. “Rho, I went into this being serious,” Mare told me. 
“I wonder if you went into this as seriously as I did.” 
Other friends complained I deliberately sabotaged my profiles by writing such choice headlines as “I have a recipe for spacecake” and “The last time I had this much fun I was on 40 tablets a day.” 
When I changed one headline to “A bottle of fizz, some Howlin’ Wolf and a cheap motel,” I got hits from senior citizens in Maryland, South Carolina, Virginia and Mississippi. 
So I changed my headline to, “To some, I am a world of temptation. To others, I’m just another cross-dressing pharmacist.” 
Mare said I’m taking the wrong approach. Meanwhile, Mare ended up with a fabulous man named Alex whom she did not meet online. After backpacking around the world together last year, they are closer and happier than ever.
The closest I came to backpacking last summer was climbing Mount Royal. 
“We should have tam-tams for gay men,” Mare told me. “The glam-glams!” 
“We’d all finish up in the bushes,” I replied. 
Which brings me back to sex. 
About our online search for Prince Charming, I asked Mare if we would have had way more hits if we had put up our personal ads in the looking-for-sex sections. 
“Oh yeah, because there are tons of people looking for sex! We’d probably have to post different pictures too – without our shirts on. Didn’t you get a whole lot of sex hits?” 
Not really. 
Mare continued, “If you're just looking for sex, then it doesn't matter who you hook up with. If you have a penis and an asshole, fine. It doesn’t matter whether you can read or not – it’s just sex!” 
Ah, yes, just sex. 
Which has me thinking, perhaps I should change my personal ad’s headline to, “I once found the perfect match on this site but it turned out to be a personal ad I’d posted two years ago.”  
Read Richard Burnett’s POP TART blog for The Montreal Gazette at 
Read Burnett’s national queer-issues column Three Dollar Bill online at