The small gay dating pool

Picture this: it’s Friday night, about 11:30. A group of friends is at a party off-campus, sipping on something red they all ladled from a bucket. They agree it’s time for a cigarette break and step onto the back porch. They drink and smoke, discussing the kids they saw inside. Eventually another group of friends files out for some fresh air, and the two groups exchange greetings. They’re at the same party, so why not be cordial? These kids all have mutual friends — they know each other, if not by name, then at least by face. Eventually, everyone separates and the two groups reform. One group goes back inside to the party, but the other one stays outside to continue talking.

Picture this: it’s Monday morning, 9 a.m. Late for class and frazzled, a young College of William and Mary student speed-walks across the Sunken Garden. He’s wearing skinny jeans and a t-shirt he bought from Urban Outfitters, sunglasses, a messenger bag. He’s exhausted. It was a long weekend for this party kid. At the door to his academic building, he sees another guy wearing a similar uniform. They exchange nods, but they aren’t friends. The kid who’s late for class rushes inside.

In the gay culture at the College, these kinds of interactions happen all the time. Two gay guys meet and realize they aren’t strangers — in fact, they could list the other’s sexual history, dick size, whether he’s a top or bottom, etc. And if not, he could definitely call a friend who could. When two gay male William and Mary students meet at a party, they often know everything about each other without ever having talked.

So why does this happen? Why do we size one another up from across a crowded party? Well, think about it. We’re swimming in a pretty small dating pool, and a very incestuous one. If you cram a bunch of horny queens into a college campus, resources tend to dwindle. If we all want the same thing — sex with another dude — how are we going to get this?

An uneducated observer might just say, “Duh, just screw each other!” Oh, don’t worry. We do.

We relegate other gay guys into one of three categories: lover, friend, or enemy. Your lover is the guy you’re sleeping with. Top, bottom, vers, whatever. Maybe he’s your boyfriend, maybe he’s just a boink-buddy. Either way, for most of us, having one of these means there’s some sort of emotional connection. It’s a romantic relationship, one way or another.

Next, there are your friends. These are your ‘girls,’ the kids you watch “America’s Next Top Model” with, the kids you party with. You might not really have much in common with them, but the fact that you’re all gay is certainly a strong unifying factor.

Finally, there are your enemies. These are the gay guys who travel in a circle other than your own, with their own network of friends, lovers and ex-lovers. And these are the guys on the receiving end of the piercing glares you and your friends send off. Just because they’re not in your clique doesn’t mean you don’t know their sexual history, fetishes or fantasies. Remember, it’s a small dating pool. There are no secrets among gays.

So, we gotta ask ourselves: in the claustrophobic dating pool of gay William and Mary, are we all just screwing each other — not just in the obvious sense, but in the bigger picture? It’s hard not to treat each other as only sexualized beings — even our friends, with their rival libidos and urges just as strong as ours, can be seen as competition — that circle each other like sharks in a tank. Let’s put the teeth away, ladies. Let’s start thinking of each other as individuals, rather than cards in a mental sex rolodex.


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