no sex in the city

published: lov, issue #6, april-june 2010

From the winding trails of Stanley Park to the next 100 postings on Craigslist, gay men have more options to hook-up than ever before. Ever since the invention of the 1-900 number in the late 1970’s, men and women have been seeking out more technologically advanced ways to get off. Now that cruising has gone online, the mating habits of the modern gay male have changed and bandwidth has become the only size that matters when it comes to a man fulfilling his every desire. From phone-sex to instant chat, text-sex to live webcam rooms, gay men in 2010 are having more sex than ever before – but is any of it real?

Once limited to the world of sci-fi, virtual sex is now a widely-recognized form of sexual interaction. Rather then exchanging fluids these days, people have started transferring revealing text-messages and low-resolution pictures instead. In 2009, the New Oxford American Dictionary named “sexting” as a finalist for the word of the year. Coined by a new generation of teenagers pushing their portable devices to the limit, the portable act has become a growing subject of controversy in the Western world as of late. Just last month, a 41-year old New Hampshire high school teacher and mother of two was charged with “indecent exposure” after she was caught sending erotic photos and texts to one of her 15-year old students.
Even though the two parties shared no physical contact, the scandal incites the same line of questions that attempt to distinguish between what is real, and what is not. Can the two still be considered to have an affair even if they weren’t in the same room the time the exchange took place? Either way, the fact remains that in the last forty years, humans have become relentless in their pursuit of achieving the real thing – without well, the real thing. In the past decades the greatest gains in this field has been via the internet.

Now that dial-up modems are a way of the past and high-speed internet has become the new standard for surfing the net, live video-chat has taken digital cruising to the next level: live sex. With higher-quality webcams being produced that are cheaper, easier and faster to use, the only thing a man has to wait to buffer these days is himself. Live-sex webcam sites such as Manhuntlive.com, Adam4Adamlive.com and GCruise are growing just as fast as the number of young men willing to strip in front of their web cams. A virtual Amsterdam, ManhuntLive features page after page of barely-dressed (and barely legal) men streaming live video-feeds twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week. Featuring an astounding roster of 565,295 registered “cam-models,” the international site has no doubt become one of the largest of its kind. With an average of nearly 1000 men online at any given time during the day, the mass appeal of the online strip club is clear: these are the young men you’d only ever dream of going home with at the bar, and now with one click of the mouse you can. Of course, nothing in this life truly comes for free, and if you want to see the goods it will cost you anywhere from $1.99 to $3.99 a minute. In other words, about sixteen drinks.

Live video has already, and will continue to, change the way in which men digitally cruise. As a steady number of hook-up sites are now offering users the option to attach their own webcam feed to their profile, it will only be a matter of time before the classic written-word and photo-profile is gone, and live video is the only option available to contact someone. This will of course eliminate the major pitfall of online cruising: not getting the package you ordered.

“A dashing forty-year old, on his profile he was debonair and well kept” recounts Jeremy Green, 24, about one of his online dating ventures. “When I met him for a drink [however] I found that he was in fact in his sixties and quite unkempt. It was the quickest date of my life.”

Live video-chat provides the screening process that user-created profiles cannot; for unless the other person is sitting in the dark or has the device pointed in the opposite direction, it is nearly impossible to hide or Photoshop yourself in front of a camera.

But if you're already at the point where you’re verifying someone’s measurements as they unbuckle on the screen before you, why stop there? Why not save yourself the trouble of traveling to the nearest restroom stall and just finish the deed online? After all no sex is the safest sex of all. No condoms, annoying clean-up or unwanted post-coital small-talk. It is like decaf, all the perks without the coffee.

However, what goes up most come down and even if your credit card is not being charged for it, virtual sex does not come without a price. “I think the internet has made men less aggressive at bars,” says Ryan Steele, a comedian and bartender at the chic Davie Street lounge 1181. “Most men don’t say hi to the guys they are interested in,” he continues, “and if you don’t hook up in the bar you can always go home, go on your Manhunt and hunt away. There are too many options now [for hooking-up] that it is actually a bad thing.” He concludes, “having the balls to [actually] say hi to a guy is great.”

Even though the queer community is more connected than it has ever been in this age, it’s ironic that the men and women within it have never been so far apart. In the wet-dream that was the post-Stonewall 1970’s, actual gay sex was everywhere: on the beach, at the park, and pretty much in any space where two men had enough room to become one. In this decade, there is no debate as to whether the love that does not speak its real name is still around, it most certainly is. Except now its moved in doors with the curtains shut, a bottle of lube in one hand and a computer mouse in the other.