Out magazine is courting disaster with a scathing article about the monolithic gay cruising site Manhunt.net where it says, among other things, that manhunting leads to “abnormal” socializing due to its deleterious effects.

“If you were asked to design the perfect weapon to exploit this vulnerability as it manifests itself in attractive, urban gay men, you'd want something that would intensify our isolation, exaggerate our propensity to objectify each other, and persuade us to objectify ourselves – by encouraging us to believe that our purpose is to look good and have lots of sex,” Michael J. Gross writes.

When the Manhunt bomb exploded online it infected an offline halcyon gay culture from inside – slowly wasting it away. That, I am certain, is not the story angle company founders Larry Basile and Jonathan Crutchley envisioned when they agreed to be interviewed in their Cambridge, Mass. offices.

At one point in the story, Gross does pull his site-come-weapon theory on the pair: “When I ask Basile and Henricks to do a cost-benefit analysis on Manhunt's social impact, they don't answer directly. Instead, Henrick reverts to a narcotic platitude about the Web's power to salve loneliness for young gay men in rural areas.”

After a liberal dusting of facts about the website – it's exceptionally profitable ($2.4 million...wait for it...a month, not counting ad revenues), has a huge member base (1 million), and an amazing long time-per-visitor average (40 minutes) – Gross gets to his point: Manhunt is the devil; it has given gay men all the sex they want in exchange for their souls.

Some men are crying foul and coming to Manhunt's rescue. “Uh, speak for yourself? And seriously, talk about needy! Who feels this desperate drive for someone to tell you how to live?,” writes Choire Sicha on radaronline.com. “The other thing about Manhunt is it brings together people who aren't part of this mythical community 'we' that Gross thinks is so desperate for courtship ritual examples. Not every guy, on the Manhunt or off, is a West Hollywood and Chelsea gay looking for 'role models', is not desperately looking for someone with better abs or a better credit rating. Not everyone even wants to even be a gay. Plenty of them just want to get fucked. And really, no matter how many times you do that, it still doesn't make you part of this little cultural club.”

Yet, the evidence that Gross presents is compelling. While you cannot credit Manhunt for making men pigs and they certainly did not invent cruising, by making it so damn efficient and addictive they have altogether reinvented it and thereby altered gay culture – of that there remains no doubt.

“We need to recognize that too many of us, too much of the time, are cruising online because it is easier and feels safer than thinking about the love we are missing and the power we do not have... We need to put our heads together and try to figure out what we want normal social life to look like. Whatever the answer turns out to be, it will involve creating social structures that serve and gratify our desire to have sex with each other and also promote and support the possibility of developing and sustaining intimate relationships.”

Gross, however, neglects to inform us how to put the genie back into its digital bottle.

On the net: www.out.com.