The lost art of cruising

‘Electro-tricks’ may be quicker and easier, but half the fun of the hook-up was working at it

Hardy Haberman | Flagging Left

I don’t get out much — at least to the bars. First of all I don’t drink anymore, and second, I am not really looking to hook up with anyone since I am in a very nice relationship.

I do, however, occasionally meet friends out for the evening or for a special event.

When I do go out, it is most often to our local leather bar, the Dallas Eagle, and I often indulge in a little people watching. I like to watch the crowd, the way people interact with one another, the ebb and flow of what was once a favorite past time of gay men: cruising.

What surprised me was the lack of that particular gay art going on.

First, let me say this is not a reflection on the Eagle; it’s a fine, first-class leather bar. What I noticed is something I have seen in other cities as well, and it bothers me a bit.

Now for those who might not know, cruising is a delicate dance men used to perform when looking for a partner, playmate or just trick du jour. It usually began with some long, slow looks, occasional subtle signals like a nod, the touch of the brim of a cap, a purposeful second glance or even just a slight change in body language.

If two people read the signals, and actually respond, it might proceed to sending over a drink — or a more direct approach. Often before actually making contact, you would ask a few friends if they knew the man in question, and for the leather scene that would also entail asking if anyone knew more intimate details: Was he a safe player? What was he into?

Of course, we also had the hanky code. It was a more direct and cut to the chase way to let folks know what you were seeking.

I won’t go into the details here, but the basics were: Hanky in the left pocket meant you were a top, and hanky in the right pocket meant you were a bottom.

Still, even with outward signs, there was an art to the whole endeavor. If done correctly, it had an element of seduction in it and all the sexual energy that went with it.

Sadly, I don’t see much of that going on anymore.

What I do see is guys checking their smart phones. Looking a little closer, I see them using Grindr, checking Recon and texting.

That’s when I realized what happened to cruising: It has gone the way of the dodo.

What was once a face-to-face encounter that actually took some time and energy is now a fast, down-and-dirty, “check a few profiles and text enough contacts until you pull a winning number” routine.

The whole cruising experience has become an electronic booty call with no mystery, no romance and no effort.

Oh yes, it is much more efficient. You can select from the variety of “neck-down pictures” and body statistics, like you were choosing a download on Amazon.

Find Mr. Right or at least Mr. Right Enough for Now, text a few lines, set a time and bingo! Insta-trick!

All very high tech and painless. No face-to-face rejections, no appallingly awkward moments. Just on-line chat and, essentially, “booking.”

It would seem to me that applications like Grindr and sites like Recon and CraigsList have replaced the whole cruising experience, and though it might be much more efficient, it really changes to atmosphere in the bars.

The heady sexual tension that used to permeate gay bars has given way to guys and gals on their smart phones texting or cruising — the web. One bar in Florida even has a screen where patrons can text directly to the screen, sort of a visual “shout out” for all to see.

Inevitably, the whole electro-trick phenomenon has spawned something totally unexpected. My partner commented on the subject of this column and suggested there should be an Angie’s List for Grindr.

I was surprised this morning when, while researching this piece, I found something very much like that. may just be a parody, but if not it offers some insight into the whole process. Personally, I find it kind of crass, but then I find the whole “electro-trick-speed-dating-booty-call” app thing crass.

It makes me long for the days of actually having to spend a little time to pursue and attract and seduce someone you were interested in. Try that now and I suspect you’d just get accused of being a stalker.

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a board member of the Woodhull Freedom Alliance. His blog is at

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

House GOPers ‘will pursue legislation that would ban gay marriage’ in DC

We won in the courts last week when the Supreme Court refused to hear the DC marriage case. I wrote:

So, DC’s marriage law is safe from judicial attack. Now, we’ve got to keep our eye on those homophobic GOPers in Congress.

That didn’t take long. The homophobic GOPers in Congress are setting their sights on DC’s marriage law. Yes, they’re planning to use their power to strip rights from DC citizens. The Hill’s Molly Hooper reports:

House conservatives say they will pursue legislation that would ban gay marriage in the nation’s capital.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee (RSC), told The Hill that he will push for a vote on the controversial issue in the 112th Congress. The RSC has 175 members.

“I think RSC will push for it, and I’m certainly strongly for it. I don’t know if we’ve made a decision if I’ll do it or let another member do it, but I’m 100 percent for it,” Jordan said.

This isn’t far-fetched. Republicans will use the legislative process to push their agenda. I outlined my concerns about how this could play out in November:

So, here’s the scenario that I fear: House Republicans include anti-gay language in their appropriation bills. We can’t strip that language on the House floor. Sure, the Senate won’t have similar language (we hope.) But, when the House Republicans get to conference committee with their anti-gay legislation and demand its inclusion in the final bill, who in the Senate will stop them? Not only do Democrats have a smaller caucus, a number of moderate-to-conservative Democrats are on the ballot in 2012 (Claire McCaskill, Ben Nelson, Jim Webb, Mark Pryor, Bill Nelson, Jon Tester, Kent Conrad, Joe Manchin). Think any of them will want to go out on a limb for gay issues?

Conference bills can’t be amended on the floor. The anti-gay provisions will be very small pieces of much bigger, must-pass bills. Does anyone really think Democrats are going to filibuster, for example, funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, on behalf of gay marriage? And even if they tried, does anyone honestly think they’d win? And does anyone really think Obama would veto any appropriations bill “just” because it includes anti-gay language? I don’t think that’s where the White House will draw its line in the sand. I’d like to be wrong, but so far I’ve been sadly right.

Last year, Rep. Alcee Hastings tried to use the appropriations process defund the DADT discharges. The White House stopped him. Our side doesn’t play that way. The other guys do. Anyone who thinks the Republicans don’t is delusional. The Republicans will be tenacious and fight hard to include anti-gay language in any measure where it’s feasible, and the Democrats, in the Senate and the White House, will run away as far as possible, as they always do.

That’s still my concern. Unless, Obama evolves quickly on marriage and decides to fight against efforts to strip citizens of rights.

As I said in the post below, this should serve as a warning to everyone. Once legislators feel empowered to take the rights away from some, everyone’s rights are on the chopping block.


—  admin

Florida Department of Children & Families Declines to Pursue Adoption Ban

Today, George Sheldon, Director of Florida’s Department of Children & Families (DCF) announced that the agencies will not appeal an intermediate court ruling that a 1977 prohibition on allowing gays and lesbians to adopt violates the state constitution.   DCF has determined that the ruling is applicable statewide, therefore sexual orientation will no longer be a factor in uniting children with parents.  Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese issued the following statement:

“Today is a victory for children in need of loving families throughout Florida.  Every child deserves a permanent, stable home and now gay and lesbian parents can provide for some of the thousands of children in foster care across the state.  Congratulations to the Gill family. Their tenacity, coupled with stellar representation from the ACLU, led to the end of a 33-year discriminatory ban.”

Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  John Wright