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Cruising is Cruising: What Have 15 Years of Digital Sex Taught Us?

In Cruising, Freud, LGBT, Sex, Sublimation on September 25, 2012 at 8:11 pm

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by Diego Costa

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When I was cruising on Gay.com as a young teen in the late 90s and I “ran into” someone who was in his 30s or 40s (quelle horreur!) I remember thinking, or perhaps praying: Damn me if at their age I am still hanging out at such depressing dens for the embarrassingly lonely. It was a mixture of repulsion, pity, and anxiety.  Only an ugly or inept gay would make it to their 35th birthday and still be looking. Only a loser fag would by then be willing to stoop down to that level of desperation (please fuck/love/fucking love me now) in order to find a mate. The compulsion to cruise, to reach out for someone out there in the universe to come along and save us from our predicaments, was sure to be a burden of broke young boys who would eventually master the art of being alone and still alive.

This was a time when queer sex was beginning to enter its hyper-commodification phase. Suddenly we didn’t have to settle for whatever guy happened to cross our paths (a curious cousin, a drunk hetero) and, as in a fluke, not find us disgusting. Even if, at, first, we didn’t have the technology to easily exchange digital photographs of photoshopped selves, we could list our frantic likes (straight acting guys only!) and fascist dislikes (No Fems, Fats, Asians, apparently). Like a database of, in theory, easily available men, we were able to sort through, pick and choose, discriminate and reinforce the inherited prejudices of the general culture. And, somehow, demanding through exclusion passed for getting in touch with authentic desire.

By the time kids like myself, whose sexual lives coincided with the development of ubiquitous computing, got to college requesting an impossibly normative masculinity from strangers who were to commit to fucking us before having met us was part and parcel of what it meant to be a queered human being. Now we could make even more demands: photographic evidence of our potential tricks’ muscles, six-packs and convincingly well-acted straightness ad infinitum (More face pics!). The few who could “host” were lucky enough to be able to script their encounters down to their very details. Sometimes the scripting of these narratives were so pleasurable little did it matter if the countless cruising hours led up to an actual encounter or with one nutting all over the keyboard and calling it a night.

We told ourselves we would exit the chat room in 15 minutes, which soon became 2 hours, 4 hours, the entire night. The faceless screen names became too familiar, the logging on to the same old sites automatic, the disturbed sleeping patterns more constant. But what if we leave and the stranger who is supposed to sweep us off our feet and fix us arrives? It became quite hard to tell if what we were really interested was in the potential lovers the digital seemed to promise or in the endless deferral from ultimately frustrating encounters (butch in the picture, a flamer in person) that it certainly provided us.

Eventually, of course, one of these immaterial strangers would show up at the door and something would happen, generally something you hadn’t scripted or accounted for, a mannerism, an unexpected reply, a certain kind of non-desperate availability, or a je ne sais quoi-like shining on the nose, as Freud would have it, and the endless cruising would flirt with an interruption. The stranger would stay a bit longer and not foreclose the possibility for a shameful moment like this, in which horniness just takes the best out of otherwise normal boys (this is my first time on the site), to become something the straight world recognizes as meaningful. The stranger responds to you. Read the rest of this entry »