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.

Douchebagsofgrindr.com 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 DungeonDiary.Blogspot.com.

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

—  Kevin Thomas

Living in an electronic world

Way back in 1995, Sandra Bullock starred in a movie called “The Net.” I watched it back then, and will still watch it again whenever it comes on TV. I am like that with Sandra Bullock movies.

Anyway, it’s about a woman, Angela Bennett, who lives practically without any personal, face-to-face interaction with anyone, other than her mother who has Alzheimer’s and doesn’t ever remember who her daugter is. She works from home via her computer and the Internet, so her co-workers don’t even know what she looks like. So when she accidentally and unknowingly ends up with a floppy disk (remember those?) that contains information about an evil plan to take over the government, it’s easy for the bad guys to steal her life — just by manipulating information on the Internet.

I enjoyed the movie (that whole Sandra Bullock thing again), but back then I thought the premise was really far-fetched. Now? well, not so much.

Now, I keep up with family and friends that live in distant cities through Facebook. Even my mom and dad, both in their 70s now, are in Facebook. Hell, I even keep up with my closest friends who live in the same neighborhood through Facebook.

And texting has become almost the primary form of communication, even with the people who live in the same house with me. My two best friends (who live within 5 miles of me) and I “watch” “Ghost Hunters” together each Wednesday via text. My partner and I talk via text throughout the day. We can be sitting in the same room and will hold a conversation via text if we don’t want the children to hear what we’re talking about.

It’s kind of frightening, really, when you think about how “social media” and electronic communication have replaced actual, human interaction in so much of our lives.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting we go back to the Dark Ages when Facebook and Twitter and texting and so on didn’t exist. But maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad idea, if every now and then, we made the effort to step away from the computer (or the cell phone or the iPad or whatever) and took time to have real, live, face-to-face conversations with people. Hell, we might even reach out and actually, physically HUG someone!

After all, we don’t want to end up like Angela Bennett now, do we?

If you are wondering what got me started on this little semi-rant, then watch this video from YouTube about the omnipresence of social media in our lives today:

—  admin