When I first decided to throw my hat in the cross country dating ring I knew one of the beautiful devils I would have to struggle with is the internet. Since I grew up in the era of the internet I haven’t known a gay world without it (back in the days of Compuserve if anyone remembers that). But even though pre-online dating was never a part of my own reality I can make some fairly safe assumptions about what it was like. People had to meet each other in the real world, what other way was there? And in the real world it’s difficult to hide yourself behind a screen of anonymity, or behind a photograph of your (or someone else’s) genitals.
At the core of my blind dating strategy has always been to disregard any form of physicality when making decisions about dates. But in order to answer the questions of all manner of gay men and women posed through “online dating (or sex, if so desired) websites” I have been able to see the front photo that each individual uses to represent themselves. It’s this “front photo” online users employ to get people’s attention, to hide behind, to express themselves, or just to say “hey, this is me.”
In the pre-internet world a person’s “front photo” was their face; it was (and in some real life situations still is) the mode of first impression potential dates would show each other. All of that has now changed! A front photo now can take the form of a bare chest, a photograph of a panda bear, a picture of an erect penis, possibly a flaccid penis, sometimes a bare ass, and in somewhat rare and special cases a photograph of an actual asshole. This is the new reality of first impressions! But I don’t want you to get me wrong, I do understand and respect all the reasons why people choose not to show their face online. We still live in a world of bigotry and misunderstanding which unfortunately doesn’t offer everyone the opportunity to be as open as possibly they would like. But what I’m asking people to think about is, given that no one would argue the it is required to post a face picture to engage in online dating, should it be a photograph of an asshole? I have had very productive and kind-hearted conversations about my dating adventure with individuals whose front photo was a spread-eagle crotch shot complete with open asshole. And while conversing with them through well phrased messages I tried my hardest not to make a snap judgement about them based on that hideous* photopgarph, but it was not easy. I kept thinking to myself that the person who was typing these intelligent and well thought out comments is not “this person” = spread eagle crotch asshole… He probably just needs better PR.
Some people will undoubtedly disagree with this assessment of cocks and butts as appropriate representations of an individual’s self. I understand that too! The internet is not an evil destroyer of all things socially acceptable. It’s a portal for people to interact in many new and exciting ways that were never before imagined in the days pre-Compuserve (who could have seen ChatRoulette coming?). An argument can easily be made that each gay man has a right to represent themselves as they wish with any photo they wish, and I will help defend that argument. My only urging from writing this essay is that each individual think for a few minutes about that front photo they have and think about whether in every discussion they choose to engage in online does that photo accurately portray who they want to be at that specific moment?