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
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.