Does Anyone Date Anymore?

Four gay men — two single and two in relationships — discuss whether casual hookups have gotten in the way of love and dating.

By Kimberly Dawn Neumann

ex and love. Love and sex. Can you have one without the other? And where does dating fall into the equation? Or does it? To get to the bottom of this question, we got together four gay New Yorkers in various relationship stages. Read on for their thoughts on the state of dating in the gay community.

The Panel
John B., 31, Interior designer/singer, single
Jim N., 43, Actor, in a committed relationship for 3 years
Kenneth P., 25, photographer, single
Rob Z., 43, general contractor, in a committed relationship for 6 months

So what do you all think: Is dating obsolete in the gay community?

Jim: I think people date but I think dating starts differently than it used to.
A lot of my friends in relationships met online.
It’s not like at a bar, “Hi, I’m so-and-so.” It’s more often now that they’ve met online, they have common interests, they talk online and then they meet in person and find out if there is any chemistry. The Internet used to be, at least in our community, for sex, but that’s changed. I have a lot of friends who are in relationships that met online.

John: For me, I think what’s caused problems with the Internet is that there is always something better. So I feel like if I go out on a date with someone, am I holding his attention? Or is he just going to go back home and jump online and find another date?

Kenneth: There is this fear of commitment, and I totally believe this. I recently went out with this guy, and I let it slip while at a bar with some friends that we were “going out” and it got back to him that I thought we were in this committed relationship or something when I didn’t think that at all. For me, it's the term “we're dating” that means we’ve discussed that we want to see each other exclusively.

So sex has gotten in the way of finding love?

Kenneth: That’s a loaded question because when you find somebody special, you kind of put all the things that were keeping you from committing to someone out the window. But in the meantime, you’re by default playing this game of “Do I want to pass up the opportunity for sex with other people to be in a relationship with someone if he’s not The One?” That’s where sex gets in the way.

Jim: People will say they’re looking for a relationship, but I know a lot of people
You have to make a conscious choice to fall in love.
my age who are still “hanging out” or “hooking up.”

Rob: There are a lot of guys that are 50 and 60 running around partying and whatever the heck they’re doing and that’s fine, but the bottom line is you have to make choices in life about where you want to end up.

Kenneth: I think there is also this fear of settling.

Jim: I think it’s not just about guys not wanting to settle. For some reason a stranger saying “I think you’re beautiful” seems to mean more in your head because he has nothing invested. So with some people it’s not that they decide to settle, it’s more that they realize, “Hey, I was chasing my ego and I wasn’t really looking for Mr. Right because I knew that my ego would get fed more by a lot of different people wanting me.”

Rob: Right! I mean, I am a sexual person, but I also don’t want to be alone. There is temptation but at some point you have to discipline yourself and say, “So and so might have a fantastic body and be amazing in bed but he's not going to kiss me at 3 o’clock in the morning and say ‘I love you’—and right now that’s what I want.”

So are we mostly agreeing that the sexual aspect can get in the way of love then?

Jim: Sex addiction gets in the way of love… not sex.

Rob: I’d like to add, however, that some people go through their whole lives with regrets that they didn’t get to try certain things. I feel like I’ve tried everything that I have ever wanted to do. So in a way, rather than getting in the way, I actually think it gives you the opportunity to demystify or take the taboo out of sex so you can get past all that and find love.

John: Sex is very important though. I have tried to date someone where I thought, “Well, this guy is really great and has a great personality but the sex is not so good but maybe it’ll get better,” but it never does. So I’ve learned that the sex element is very important.

Is sex separate from love then?

Jim: Well, it could be separate from love.

John: Yes, I think so.

Jim: You don’t have to love somebody to have sex with him.

Rob: But if you love someone you want to be able to have sex with him. Because we’ve all had that experience where you’re crazy about someone you’re dating, you adore him, he's perfect and then there is nothing there sexually.

John: That’s just the worst. Terrible! I want to go back and agree with Rob’s statement, though, about making a choice. I think when you’re ready to be in a relationship, you need to say it: “This is what I want.”

Rob: When you’re in a relationship, your head is in a different place. It can be hard, and I don’t think one person can give you everything you need, but at some point you make a decision. You can fall in love with somebody but you have to make a conscious choice.

Kimberly Dawn Neumann is a freelance writer based in New York. Her work has appeared in Cosmopolitan, Marie Claireand Prevention, among other publications. She thanks John, Rob, Kenneth and Jim for their candor and help with this piece!
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